National’s getting a reputation for not being able to keep its secrets secret.
When it’s National’s political plans (Hollow Men, “we would love to see wages drop”, secret tapes, tea tapes) it’s a public good when this info gets out.
When it’s free and frank, and classified, communications with a minister about our diplomatic relations, that’s a risk to NZ.
As we see a taste of the McCully emails, we wonder when Key’s going to hold his minister to account for his disregard for security.
Now, if you believe the Nat spin line, so faithfully reproduced by Farrar, then you’ll be saying ‘what’s the problem? These emails are dull as!’.
Well, these are two risks to New Zealand’s interests here:
1) the undiplomatic language in these emails. They’ve clearly been selected to show that they have got hold of some very frank exchanges, some of which may offend other countries. You see, New Zealand’s foreign relations are pretty dull on the whole, not much of substance will surprise in the emails, but the tone and the opinions voiced about other nations may give diplomats a headache.
2) other countries share sensitive information with New Zealand all the time. Classified information, valuable intelligence on a wide variety of issues from Australia, the US etc is entrusted to Mfat, which uses it for its own purposes and similarly exchanges classified information with them. These countries are not going to be so free with sharing information with New Zealand if they know the minister is leaving this stuff on his personal email.
And there’s a personal risk for McCully. Word is he started using his private address for communications with the ministry so that certain communications with a certain press sec could be off the record…
Update: the initial email released by the hacker group Comrades was from John Hayes. The most interesting line in it is reference to the need to “resist China”. This is what I was talking about in point 1). We all know that China’s rising power is a challenge to our own objectives in the Pacific. Not least of all because we can no longer effectively sanction bad rulers; they just turn to China instead and sell their UN voting rights in return for no-questions-asked aid. But for a Parliamentary Private Secretary, a member of the government, to be caught stating our objectives in relation to China in such antagonistic terms is going to be a problem.
Various people are suggesting this isn’t really foreign hackers. On the evidence, I agree. Pissed off insider, methinks.