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GCSB cover-up an “operational matter”

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, March 21st, 2013 - 19 comments
Categories: accountability, john key, Spying - Tags: , ,

3 News’ Patrick Gower seems to be incensed by the latest Dotcom revelations:

Dotcom: A systematic cover-up by police and spies

It is sad to say, but it is becoming increasingly clear there was a cover-up by our spies and the police in the Dotcom scandal. I want to make my opinion perfectly clear here: the police and spies are donkey-deep in bureaucratic butt-covering of the highest order. I base this on a reading of the email trails between police and spies as seen in my story last night. …

The police and spies appear so arrogant they covered-up their illegal spying from everyone in the country from the Prime Minister down. …

Even those out there who don’t like Dotcom should be concerned that the police and spies were, in the own words of one of the police officers on the case “a bunch of clowns walking roughshod over the law”. The spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the police Organised and Financial Crime Agency (OFCANZ) appear to be in cahoots in trying to cover up an almighty blunder.

It is quite simple and it works like this: spying on New Zealand residents is illegal. It is a basic rule. It is in the GCSB’s own law. Now on December 16, 2011, the spying started. ON THAT SAME DAY, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Grant Wormald personally received documentation showing Dotcom was a “Resident”. I have that documentation on my desk right now. …

The documents that Labour obtained in the Court of Appeal also show the GCSB also knew from February 20 that Dotcom was a NZ resident – thanks to reading media reports.

  • So the cover-up could have been for nine months (if Wormald turned a blind eye in December 2011).
  • The cover-up could have been for eight months (if police turned blind eye in January 2012).
  • And the cover-up was definitely for seven months (from when the GCSB learned in February).

… The documents show the crisis that ensued from February when the illegal spying was widely realised. After a flurry of worried emails, the GCSB’s legal adviser Hugh Wolfensohn came up with a wrong definition of the GCSB’s law – that made it appear as if the spying was OK, and everybody relaxed. …

Labour has always attacked John Key with the “how could you not know” line. Well the sickening truth now is that there may have been a cover-up by the police and spies – so Key didn’t know, and neither did anybody else.

The reasons why Key should have known have been well covered here before – not least because he is the Minister in charge of the GCSB, and should know what they’re up to. But according to Key:

Mr Key was asked by reporters whether the GCSB should have told him as early as February. He replied that it was an operational matter and he is never involved in operational matters.

Everything that the GCSB does is an “operational matter”, if Key isn’t briefed on “operational matters” then what possible oversight can he provide? What point is there in having a Minister who knows nothing? I think we can safely assume that Key’s predecessor Helen Clark was well briefed on GCSB “operational matters” – but then she was a much better PM than Key.

(Update: Key’s excuse is ridiculous – in fact he was briefed on this “operational matter” – the only question is when.)

19 comments on “GCSB cover-up an “operational matter””

  1. karol 1

    TS is playing up for me. Can’t access a usable version of open mike, other posts were missing the latest posts, though that is better now.

  2. karol 2

    On 3 News last night, Gower fluffed his lines and said “Labour says it’s a stuff up; Key says it’s a cover up”. Maybe Gower really does know, deep down, that Key is covering up….?

    • Anne 2.1

      Well, it was a stuff up and a cover-up by all concerned, and it’s a pedantic point when they actually stuffed up and when they covered up. 😉

  3. GregJ 3

    There’s really only 2 conclusions you can draw from this whole saga – either:

    1. Key has failed in his oversight of GCSB (& oversight of the Security Services is one of the few things the PM actually has to do – aside from chairing the Cabinet) in which case he is incompetent and should resign

    or

    2. He has deliberately mislead the House and the New Zealand Public in which case he should resign

    And I’m not being frivolous or “political” about the above – this should be a matter that people are incensed by (glad to hear Gower is actually doing his job properly on this) and they should be demanding accountability and responsibility from the politician in charge – it’s a serious matter and strikes at the heart not only of our freedoms but also at democratic accountability. This is not a matter of politics – it is a matter of integrity.

  4. Anne 4

    Martyn Bradbury sums it up nicely:

    The arrest of Dotcom is an attempt by the US to establish their jurisdiction over cyber space and and cement intellectual property interests of Hollywood into our culture.

    http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/03/21/what-is-really-behind-the-kim-dotcom-case/

    • Anne 4.1

      Now why did the PM miss the funerals of three NZ soldiers killed in combat?

      Because he had far more important business to attend to in Hollywood before travelling on to his son’s base-ball game.

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    The story that they’re sticking to is that a senior legal guy in the GCSB stuffed up, and didn’t know who the GCSB is legally allowed to spy on.

    Now that’s pretty damn implausible right off the bat. It’s not like it was an arcane point about alloawble methods covered by a warrant or some shit. It was about as basic as you can get. “Residents; can we spy on them?”.

    But that’s the story the IG accepted and the PM is sticking to, and as long as they stick to it they are golden as far as that goes.

    The problem is that spying on people is a crime. They have admitted that they broke the law in spying on residents. Their defence of it all being abit of an oopsie isn’t as strong here.

    The police don’t have to take your word on that for starters, and to top it off, ignorance of the law is no excuse (even if you did help write the law, ffs). This should go to a jury to decide IMO. Officers should be charged and the evidence heard in court.

    After those verdicts come in we could decide the political accountabilities of the matter, and work out whether Key’s oversight was good enough before and after the events, bearing in mind that he felt no police investigation was necessary.

  6. ghostwhowalksnz 6

    Well Key does have “operational oversight”

    Every warrant the spooks need – which is “some” per year according to the GCSB’s annual report – has to be approved by Key.* The legislation says that he has to exercise “control” over the spies.
    http://thestandard.org.nz/key-needs-to-read-the-gcsb-act

    • ghostwhowalksnz 6.1

      One extra bit;
      From the Act.

      “(3)The performance of the Bureau’s functions is subject to the control of the Minister.”

      • handle 6.1.1

        About Key’s “operational” excuse: Russel Norman was reported last year saying Ministerial involvement in this portfolio is more intrusive than all others, hence that unique “control” wording you noted. Time to repeat that point.

        • Pascal's bookie 6.1.1.1

          Yeah see. If they had of acknowledged it was illegal and decided to fess up, that would have been something they’d need to bring to the attention of the PM, but once they decided to put in in a box in the corner and lay a blanket over it, it remained an ongoing operational matter that would be inappropriate to talk to him about.

      • xtasy 6.1.2

        We know that in corporations, other business, same as large and not so large government departments, it is very common to punish the “underling” involved in the coal face work for anything going wrong, rather than have the superiors, let alone guys at the very top, disciplined and punished.

        So yes, Key is applying exactly what he learned through his corporate banking and other careers, deny all responsibility and knowledge, and pass the buck.

  7. xtasy 7

    Yeah right, I just got annoyed with someone at the bus-stop, so told another guy sympathetic to my concerns, to kick the nuisance creating individual in the shin. I am not responsible, as between the kicker and the kicked, that was merely an “operational matter” between the two.

  8. Treetop 8

    On 20 January 2012 the NZ Police raided Dotcom’s home.

    Key knew that the GCSB had worked with the Police on the 20 January 2012 operation when he was at the GCSB on 29 February 2012 because reference was made, that the bureau had a role.

    What did Key think that the GCSB were doing for the police that the police could not do themselves?

    Possibly surveillance because of the High Court decision being on a case by case basis when it came to using footage/intercepting phone conversations on private property being permissible at trial.

    So police got it wrong, GCSB got it wrong, Key got it wrong that GCSB could lawfully spy on Dotcom.

    A full inquiry is required to establish where the accountability stops.

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