Wednesday, 21 May 2014

John Key & the GCSB [update 2]

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.

UPDATE 1:  Russell Brown updates subsequent events at Question Time this avo:

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.


  1. For once I am on John Key's side; ever since he scratched and ruined my cigarette lighter (long and fairly surreal story) I haven't had much time for Mr Key so to be supporting him on anything should surprise everybody.

    It could be a very simple logical explanation that goes something like this -

    Mr Key... doesn't want to know

    If I was the Prime Minister of New Zealand there are certain matters I really wouldn't want to know about regarding the security services (SIS and GCSB); to put it bluntly I would rather not know about "the James Bond stuff".

    If you were the PM would you want to know either?

    Just stop and consider for a moment that question; would you really want to know about some of their activities?

    1. If they spy on people - do you really don't want to know?
    2. If they have a file on you or me or your next door neighbours or political opponents - do you really want to know?
    3. If they do have a file on you - would you really want to read it? (and dredge up all that embarrassing stuff you thought nobody knew about haha!)

    And now for the World Cup of questions -

    Would you really want to know....if they kill people?

    Please do not misunderstand me, I have no reason to think they do kill people and probably they don't; if I had to make a judgement call I would say they don't, but they may well do so.

    Do you really want to know about it? be a party to murder?

    Would you really want to have to explain why you weren't dialling 111 and reporting them?

    Would you really want to have to explain to 'ordinary people' that... "oh you know how murder is illegal? well guess what - some people are above the law and can kill whomever they like and tell the cops to get stuffed if they start investigating"

    Really want to carry the can for that going on?

    It may well be that John Key doesn't want to either.

    It may well be Mr Key ensures he simply doesn't know what they are upto; wouldn't surprise me if he gives them signed, blank pieces of paper authorising various things - for them to fill in later - because he would rather not know..... and have to live with himself later.

    Consider this scenario (slightly exaggerated to make a point)

    You are the PM of NZ; the Director General walks into your office and says ...."Prime Minister we have located a terrorist cell operating in Mt Roskill, but no need to worry - just sign this document and we will round them all up, shoot them in the back of the head and dispose of the bodies way up in the High Country somewhere. All these buggers look the same so no one will miss them."

    Do you -

    1. Sign the document and be a party to murder

    2. Refuse to sign and let a major terrorist act be carried out killing large numbers of people

    3. Attend the funerals of the dead and give their grieving relatives - and a shocked and horrified nation - a big wankfest lecture on 'civil liberties' and the sanctity of human life for terrorists - (I am sure everyone will be all ears and will join in with enthusiasm)

    4. Have to explain why you were told about it, and told how to nip it in the bud in 5 minutes flat, and did nothing (only a really naïve person would think the security people wouldn't leak their request for 'authorisation' to the media)


    5. Having given the Director General several signed, blank pieces of paper a few months never have to know.

    Just a thought.....

  2. Yeah. That way you can be a murderer by omission rather than by commission. In both situations you have mens rea.

    Why does anyone think that this secret stuff could possibly be a good thing? If it has to be hidden, it is not good. If the government has nothing to hide and what they are doing is to protect us all, then there is no reason for all the secrecy. Surely they have nothing to fear from letting their own citizenry know what they are up to.

    Place your trust in politicians..... Yeah.


  3. I take your point Mr Lineberry, except: The GCSB has no parliamentary oversight, and is overseen solely by the office of the PM.

    Therefore it is not his choice to know or not, but his duty.


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