Two politicians are having lunch together. All of a sudden
one stands up and shouts: “You’re lying.”
“I know,” replies the other. “But just hear me out.”
Circumstance and coincidence, as Russell Brown observes, but there’s a hell of a lot of both about.
Last night's Campbell Live report on the complex story of the GCSB, the Prime Minister, Kim Dotcom, Ian Fletcher and the Americans may have left a few viewers scratching their heads last night. What, exactly, was Campbell saying and what was its import?
… Certainly, the report was principally a re-stating of previously-aired facts. But its new claims were not immaterial.
The most interesting of them was that in December 2011, incoming GCSB director Ian Fletcher took leave from his job in Queensland and flew to Wellington for meetings with John Key, acting GCSB boss Simon Murdoch and Hugh Wolfenson … in the same week that the surveillance of Dotcom began, but we continue to be told that neither Key or Fletcher had any advance knowledge of the surveillance operation or the raid. Key has said he did not know who Dotcom was until the day before the raid and up till now we've thought that Fletcher only came into the picture when he officially started at the GCSB 10 days after the raid.
The programme also went back over the series of misleading statements [and memory losses] Key has made over his relationship with Fletcher and the circumstances of Fletcher's recruitment…
For a Prime Minister who Fran O’Sullivan reckons is “world class” -- speaking without notes, “completely fluent,” “very much in the mode of a former top-flight international businessman,” “the guy who served on the board of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve” – he continues to have a heck of a lot of very convenient memory loss.
“But he’s such a *nice* man…” He wouldn’t lie, would he. (Well, only about his achievements and about tax cuts and raising GST and smacking and his share ownership and complementary medicines and manifesto promises and Maori seats and whether or not his GCSB bill will enable them to spy wholesale on all NZers and where he was when the Springbok tour was on (or was that just another memory loss?).
And what of the meeting on
March 16, 2011, a week after it was announced that [former GCSB head General Jerry] Mataparae would be moving on from the job of New Zealand's top spy, [when] US director of National Intelligence James Clapper flew into Wellington for meetings with Key and others. … [And] another meeting, over dinner at the home of British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell on October 11, 2011, where the guests were Key, his head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Martin Wevers, SIS chief Warren Tucker, Ministry of Foreign Affairs CEO John Allen, Defence Force chief Lt Gen Richard Rhys Jones -- and Ian Fletcher, four months before taking up his role at the GCSB. All of them have declined to comment on the purpose of the meeting.
The meeting at Treadell's home may simply have been a get-to-know-you for Fletcher. That wouldn't be unusual. But it does seem unusual that Fletcher, having been brought into the loop so far in advance of starting his new job, and then having flown over yet again for a meeting in the same week that surveillance of Dotcom actually began, remained innocent of what was a notable and legally perilous operation on behalf of the US government.
As Russell says, “Campbell Live may turn out to have grossly over-reached, as critics insist. But there seems every reason to keep digging.”
And to keep asking why foreign officers of the law like the FBI were given complete carte blanche to operate within our borders, with our GCSB acting apparently as handmaiden.
Key has just been pressed on the issues at Question Time.
- He has admitted that *both* meetings with Fletcher were organised by his office.
- But he insists he didn’t discuss the GCSB role at all with Fletcher at the breakfast meeting.
- Asked about his false statement that Rennie came to him with the proposal to hire Fletcher: "that was
my recollection at the time".
- He “can’t be sure” whether DPMC briefed him about Kim Dotcom on December 14.
The last one is absurd. He’s been repeatedly pressed on his foreknowledge of Dotcom and insisted he’d never even heard of the guy until January 19. Now he says he hasn’t even checked to see whether he got a briefing on Dotcom from his own department?
How on earth does he get away with this stuff?
UPDATE 2: Dim Post:
But Kim Dotcom is only one of 88 instances of illegal spying that we know about, and the GCSB were, presumably, also conducting some surveillance that wasn’t against the law. Kim Dotcom is their only operation we’re aware of so I think there’s a temptation to build narratives around him. If we didn’t know about Dotcom and instead knew, say, that the GCSB had illegally spied on New Zealand based friends and relatives of Daryl Jones, the dual New Zealand/Australian citizen assassinated in a drone strike in Yemen in November 2013 (there’s no evidence this happened but it’s not unlikely) then we’d be looking at it all very differently and try to find meaning in Fletcher’s appointment there.
Because Fletcher’s appointment is weird. Why did Key shoulder-tap this guy with no background in intelligence to be head of our signals intelligence agency and then repeatedly lie about it? Even if you don’t buy into the Campbell Live narrative and – like DPF – think its all an absurd conspiracy theory, that’s still a pretty relevant question.