John Key put on a scary display of incompetence – like resignation-level incompetence – in the House yesterday over the Dotcom spying affair. He claimed not to know a laundry list of basic facts that, if he didn’t know them before, he bloody well ought to have been briefed on by now. In some instances, his memory failed him (much as it failed Banks) over Dotcom. Yet he then showed he could recall exchange rates from 20 years ago. I think he’s lying. The alternative is too scary.
The Herald has supplied a list of the things that Key claimed not to have known or to have been unable to remember.
Prime Minister John Key has demonstrated a lack of knowledge about key aspects of the Dotcom case including:
• He did not know who Kim Dotcom was until the day before the January 20 police raid despite the tycoon living in the luxury Chrisco mansion in Mr Key’s Helensville electorate.
• He did not know until two weeks ago that the GCSB, which is under his charge, was eavesdropping on Mr Dotcom and his associates on behalf of the police – seven months after the surveillance ended.
• Until this week, he did not know about the ministerial certificate or suppression order to prevent details of the GCSB’s role being made public during a court hearing last month – despite that order being signed by his deputy, Bill English, who was acting on his behalf while Mr Key was overseas.
• Yesterday when asked, he did not know if his own department – including two key intelligence groups – had been briefed on the GCSB’s Dotcom spying.
Mr Key appeared to become confused when asked by NZ First leader Winston Peters when his chief of staff was first told of the Ministerial Certificate issued in Mr Key’s absence last month by his deputy Bill English.
Mr English issued the certificate to prevent details of the GCSB’s involvement in the Dotcom case emerging in court.
“I do not exactly know, but to the best of my knowledge it was on Monday the 17th when I knew,” Mr Key said. He later returned to the House and made a personal statement saying it was only this week that he learned of the document.
It smells like lies right from the start. How could Key, a man obsessed with personal wealth and audacious displays of it, not know that the most expensive mansion in the country, which is in his electorate, was inhabited by a flamboyant German worth hundreds of millions – a man who had had dealings with many of Key’s ministers, was one of the few people given residency under his ‘visas to rich dudes’ scheme, and about whom his electorate office had twice been approached?
And any of you have had dealings with the public service know that there is no way Key’s ministries would have kept him in the dark. They take no surprises very seriously. Key was meeting with the head of the GCSB more than once a month. They would have mentioned that they had been involved in the Dotcom spying at some point. The SIS and the DPMC would have told Key by know whether they were involved or not too. He will have had a briefing in the past couple of days. No question. Unless he has gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain plausible deniability – but is that really credible? Would none of his staff put this information before him? Why would he and his staff want such willful ignorance? What would be the point of it?
Then there’s the fact that we’re meant to believe it took until this month for the GCSB to realise that Dotcom is a permanent resident. I don’t believe that for a second. They’re incompetent wannabes – but they’re not that incompetent.
And there’s the lies told under oath by the senior OFCANZ officer who said that the GCSB wasn’t involved. If he was lying, isn’t it more plausible that all this stuff has been a cover-up?
That would explain why Key was unable to remember that, in the narrative the public has been fed, he only learned of the Ministerial Warrant signed by English on his behalf this Monday – rather than a) at the time, b) when he is supposed to have learned that the GCSB had been illegally spying on Dotcom Monday before last, at which point he would have received a comprehensive timeline of events in the case. If Key is lying about when he knew facts in the case, that makes explains why he could confuse the dates. He undoubtedly has a formidable memory – as he demonstrated yesterday by reeling off the history of the Yen/USD exchange rate.
The scenario that Key would have us believe – that his spy agencies are illegally spying on Kiwis and he not only fails to monitor them but fails to get briefed when it all blows up is not credible (and a resignation level offence if true – I’m surprised no-one has called for him resign at least his security portfolios, yet), even if only because officials would have ensured it didn’t happen.
So why lie and fake ignorance? That’s a good question. I keep on thinking of Key’s new slogan – ‘ignorance gets us nowhere’. As with the Banks.com affair, feigning ignorance allows Key to stymie lines of questioning. He can pretend not to know, he can give contradictory answers, then he can refuse to see the contradiction. It’s no way to run a corner dairy, let alone a country, but it makes it hard for the media and opposition to dig down into the story.
But why, what, at the bottom of all of this is Key trying to hide? It’s obvious why Key is lying over Banks.com – his political imperatives are transparent. But what does he have to lose over the Dotcom spying? It’s hard to fathom.
Is it a lie that ballooned on him – was he initially just trying to deny any link to a alleged criminal? Did he try to avoid asking questions when the GCSB told him they had spied on Dotcom to keep his distance from the man?
Or is there something more sinister at play?
Dotcom has long hinted that Key knows him more than he let’s on. And, so far, the msn wanted by the FBI and arrested in an armed police raid has proven to be the only honest man in this affair.