Here’s today’s required reading (so far) in the ongoing spy scandals that are swirling around John Key and his fiasco of a government.
Andrea Vance speaks out:
Spy scandal journalist speaks out
In other circumstances, I could probably find something to laugh about in revelations that the journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats.
Let alone the irony that the reporter previously worked for the News of the World, the tabloid at the centre of a privacy violation scandal. But I am that journalist and I’m mad as hell.
Anyone who has had their confidential details hacked and shared around has the right to be angry. My visit to Speaker David Carter’s office on Tuesday left me reeling. …
Now the Speaker and Prime Minister John Key claim a cock-up (by a low-level contractor) over conspiracy.
Forgive me if those assurances ring hollow. …
What has got my goat is the casting aside of something we journalists hold very precious: press freedom. …
Key insists that he “values the role of the fourth estate”. He might well cherish the opportunities it gives him to beam into our living rooms at teatime, but it has become rather obvious that this government has a casual disregard for media’s true role as an independent watchdog.
Journalists were dismissed in a tantrum as “knuckleheads”. The teapot tapes fiasco – when Key laid a complaint about eavesdropping on a personal conversation – led to police raids on newsrooms. This week, the Defence Force stood accused of monitoring the phone calls of war correspondent Jon Stephenson, a man whose credibility Key has previously impugned. That contempt for the press continued yesterday with the obfuscation around what Henry had actually requested. …
I don’t want an apology. But I wish both men would do New Zealand’s media the courtesy of taking responsibility for the unreasonable activities undertaken by that inquiry, which undermined the freedoms I and my colleagues hold so dear.
Vance’s admission that this burns so much because it happened to her personally is crucial. We all feel this way, more concerned about our own well-being than others. Journalists, with the greatest of respect, you need to see this government as an attack on you personally, and do a better job at informing the public about what is really going on.
Next up, Claire Trevett:
GCSB saga becoming National’s version of hell
There have been more plot twists in the saga of the GCSB, the leak to Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance and the Parliamentary Service than in Game of Thrones.
Not quite as many stabby deaths though, so I guess that’s a mercy.
Once upon a time there was an inquiry into the spy agency the Government Communications Security Bureau. Then there was an inquiry into the inquiry after the first inquiry was leaked to Vance in advance. Now there is yet another inquiry, by Parliament’s privileges committee, into the issues thrown up by the second inquiry, which was the inquiry into the inquiry.
Perhaps if the Privileges Committee enquiry goes bad we can get the GCSB to conduct an enquiry into that, and thus complete the circle?
Nonetheless, the GCSB bill’s critics have used the Vance case to highlight their claims that the Government cannot be trusted with the personal details of New Zealanders. It couldn’t have been worse timing for the Government, which has been on the charm offensive trying to persuade voters that it could indeed be trusted. …
It was the 2001 Twin Tower attacks in New York that prompted the overhaul of security at Parliament and transformed it into a place in which staff and the media who work there need to swipe if they so much as wish to blow their noses. That system was put in place to protect against security threats. But, as has become clear, the information gathered under it is used for completely different purposes.
“Completely different purposes”. New spying powers in NZ won’t be used on non-existant terrorists, they will be used on journalists, activists, anyone that the government-of-the-day doesn’t like.
Let’s move on to the always excellent Gordon Campbell:
Gordon Campbell on the Vance phone scandal
Pity the poor Prime Minister. The phone records of Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance? Don’t look at him. Once again, John Key has been let down by his minions, or by the people who were misled or intimidated into compliance by his staff’s overtures, either through fear or ignorance. Not Key’s fault either way. Scout’s honour, he never asked for, looked at, or did anything improper with respect to that woman. Even though his own chief of staff Wayne Eagleson had asked the hapless Parliamentary Services staff to supply all of the relevant information being asked for, to the Henry inquiry. Nothing to do with Key. Eagleson must have gone rogue. Or David Henry – can we blame him? Some faceless Parliamentary Services contractor? Anyone?
Thus we have the latest example of alleged prime ministerial ignorance of what is happening in his own office (over Vance) in his own portfolio areas (over the GCSB’s involvement in an unprecedented FBI /NZ Police raid) and in his own electorate, over the presence of a certain German billionaire. Didn’t know, can’t remember, not his call, don’t blame him. Quite some time ago, these professions of prime ministerial non-responsibility became literally incredible. Do we really have a PM and SIS/GCSB minister whose attention span on the job seems comparable to Homer Simpson at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant? Pass that man another doughnut.
There’s a simpler explanation. Whether you read the Vance phone records scandal as (a) the product of a hands on, top down attempt to nail the culprit who leaked the Kitteridge report, or (b) as an error sparked by a bullying demand emanating from the PM’s office – Key is ultimately responsible. Either way, it illustrates just why the GCSB Bill should be scrapped or sidelined. Because plainly, the current political masters of the security services cannot be trusted not to use private information for their own political ends. …
While the media has a special role in a democracy – one we can always perform better – the violation of Vance’s privacy is a prospect now facing every citizen in the country under the GCSB Bill. The boundaries of privacy are being erased for no discernible reason, and in the abscence of any proportionate threat. Peter Dunne, who holds the casting vote on the legislation, feels OK about that. But who will be watching the watchers? Why, it will be the same kind of people – in key respects, the very same people – who brought about the Andrea Vance scandal.
As usual, Campbell nails the big picture. This piece should be required reading for every MP in Parliament. Hey Peter Dunne, are you really going to vote for more GCSB spying? Really?