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Who texts the PM?

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, January 16th, 2015 - 87 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, Dirty Politics, john key, national - Tags: , , , , ,

(Originally published at Boots Theory.)

An OIA request for information about the Prime Minister deleting his text messages is back (hat-tip to @eey0re) and Wayne Eagleson has found another wafer-thin excuse for the wholesale deletion of his master’s cellphone records:

With the large volume of text messages received and sent by the Prime Minister every day, these need to be regularly deleted not only for security reasons but also to ensure that the Prime Minister is always able to send or receive messages by preventing the cellphone exceeding its memory capacity.

What I always like to do with issues around newfangled technology is compare them to an old-school, “real-world” situation. In this case, let’s imagine that Treasury has been OIA’d about documents relating to a policy decision, like cutting taxes. And let’s imagine that the response says, “We can’t produce those papers, because we destroyed them.” And when people say “I’m sorry, what the hell did you just say?” Treasury responds,

With the large volume of documents received and written by the Treasury every day, these need to be regularly incinerated to ensure the Treasury is always able to receive and write documents by preventing our filing cabinets exceeding their capacity.

Yeah, that’s not how it’s meant to work, and they know it.

My view on this issue from day 1 has been: sure, you don’t want to keep sensitive material on a cellphone in case it gets nicked. Sure, cellphones only have a limited memory capacity. But if you are a senior civil servant, or an experienced politician, you know damn well that there is a set of principles and rules around preserving that information for the integrity of the state.

Maybe those rules aren’t completely up-to-date with all the new nifty ways we have of communicating. Maybe there’s not a specific “how to deal with a ton of meaningless text messages about when the car’s arriving” guideline.

So you ask. If you appreciate the need for transparent and accountable government, that is.

Unless, of course, it’s very convenient for you to just go “oh whoops, there’s no guidelines around deleting thousands of messages sent and received by the Prime Minister’s Prime Ministerial cellphone, guess we’ll just erase them.”

Because then no one would ever be able to prove, to pick a random example, just how often he contacts Cameron Slater.

87 comments on “Who texts the PM?”

  1. peterh 1

    I bet Bea B, texts him all the time, just to say how right ,they both always are

  2. Tom Gould 2

    The rules do not apply to Key or his circle. They are higher beings. The privileged elite. Rightfully in charge. Integration of the best interests of the National Party and the best interests of the public is now complete.

  3. Harriet 3

    “…..What I always like to do with issues around newfangled technology is compare them to an old-school, “real-world” situation…..”

    Very few people in government ever had to record their phone conversations.

    Why then would they have to now record txt messages?

    • Te Reo Putake 3.1

      Txt messages, by their nature, are ‘recorded’. They exist until deleted. The PM is required to keep such communications and given how easy it is to do, he has no excuse not to comply.

      btw, does anyone know if he is still wiping them? Given that he’s now aware that he shouldn’t delete them, it would be incredibly arrogant if he was still doing exactly that.

      • Tracey 3.1.1

        and do we know how many cellphones he now has. Do they have labels… PM phone, Johnny phone, PM office phone…

        • The OIA response indicates he only has one, or at least, doesn’t have a “personal” one.

          • tracey 3.1.1.1.1

            he wouldnt lie though.

          • TheContrarian 3.1.1.1.2

            If he did have a personal one (I would have assumed he would) would the contents of it fall under an OIA?

            • Stephanie Rodgers 3.1.1.1.2.1

              I am uncertain, though back in 2012 when Murray McCully’s Xtra account got hacked, No Right Turn suggested it would be an ineffective way of dodging the OIA.
              http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/there-is-no-escape-from-oia.html

              • tracey

                my understanding is their personal accounts would be subject to backing up because it would be unlikely that a personal email or phone account would NEVER have public interest info on it. Therefore back it up/keep it and argue over the release later pursuant to exemptions.

            • RJL 3.1.1.1.2.2

              Legally texts sent to the PM’s personal phone, if he has one, are subject to OIA if they met the usual criteria (i.e. if the content is OIA-able).

              Whether or not something is OIAable is about the information content, not the medium or device used to transmit or store the information.

              The only “advantage” of a private phone is that he can hide/deny the existence of it and any OIAable information it contains. But if he did so he would be breaking the law around OIA.

      • disturbed 3.1.2

        Bloody good subject Stephanie,

        Te Reo Putake,

        John Key is the symbol of arrogance!

        So he wont change is character when he wields such power as he lives power and privilege now until someone spots some flawed chink in his armour.

        He will cover his tracks with the litter of politicians he has sacked along with the civil servants he has destroyed also as he continues to cover his tracks.

    • framu 3.2

      compare txt message to written document – they both contain written words after all, and phones already record txt messages!

      you actually have to go and delete them or set the phone to not keep them

      wow harriet – keep it up. Your a shinning star amongst a sea of fools (/sarc)

    • And before 1980 no one had to record their emails, either. 🙄

      Besides, they will have records of the times, dates, and recipients of those phone conversations. You haven’t watched season 2 of House of Cards, have you?

    • Tracey 3.4

      can you cite your source for knowledge that phone calls to Ministers and PMs were not recorded? Heck, the oval office was recorded back in the 50s.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.5

      Very few people in government ever had to record their phone conversations.

      Well, IMO, it’s time that every politicians conversations were recorded. And, no, it really wouldn’t be an imposition as ministers conversations while on government business are already recorded by a stenographer.

  4. Colonial Rawshark 4

    The NZ intelligence services or their foreign counterparts will have full copies of these communications.

  5. Rob 5

    He needs to get a contemporary cell phone
    They have so much memory even his huge number of texts could be kept forever

  6. Treetop 6

    A lot of people must know Key’s confidential phone number for the system to possibly crash.

    Can the phone memory be transferred each day into a computer?

      • Neil 6.1.1

        Key must have a dumb phone & cant back it up

        • Rawsharkosaurus 6.1.1.1

          If someone’s phone messages are so important that OIA requests cannot be answered without them, but that someone is incapable of backing up said messages, then maybe it isn’t the phone that is dumb…

      • lprent 6.1.2

        Depends how it is configured.

        My work laptops, phones and tablets are pretty encrypted and that explicitly limit doing easy backups to insecure devices and systems. So are my personal ones both because they talk to work, and because I’m mildly paranoid about my data anyway.

        Somehow I don’t think that parliamentary services will hand out wide open devices doing backups to anything. They will usually require explicit permission by the user to backup as well with security codes etc. What is the bet that they frequently don’t get done by the illiterates who frequent parliament?

    • Neil 6.2

      The phone memory could be backed up to a PC everyday or whenever the phone is full, all you have to do is plug the phone into a PC via a usb cable, then after a couple of mouse clicks its done, but hey that’s in the to hard basket for our PM to do.

      • Colonial Rawshark 6.2.1

        Sheeezus, do it transparently using your 3G or 4G data service and store it in the cloud. That’s what the NSA does with your txts.

      • Treetop 6.2.2

        Would a lap top be enough?

        When it comes to using technology to back up texts, for some reason it is taboo where Key is concerned.

        • tracey 6.2.2.1

          A lap top? Although it would make him an ordinary bloke, our PM doesn’t go to those kinds of places.

    • Chch_Chiquita 6.3

      And he must be spending so much time on txt messages it makes you wonder when he has time left for anything else.

      Every child today will snort in laughter to that OIA reply and say – have it automatically backed up to the cloud, stupid.

      • Lanthanide 6.3.1

        “Every child today will snort in laughter to that OIA reply and say – have it automatically backed up to the cloud, stupid.”

        Yes, but children are stupid and don’t understand the complexities of business or government.

        Do you think Barrack Obama relies on iCloud to backup his phone contents…?

        • David H 6.3.1.1

          “Do you think Barrack Obama relies on iCloud to backup his phone contents”

          And do you think that Barak Obama would get away with deleting all his texts ?

  7. Tracey 7

    the GCSB just released a 500+ page manual on techincal stuuf around protection of IT and data… and they dont know how to backup a cellphone?
    BULLSHIT, and most readers of that excuse who have smartphones know it. This shows how dumb Wayne and john think their fellow kiwis are.

  8. adam 8

    Silly question but can’t we just ask the NSA for these text messages. I’m sure they have a copy.

  9. Neil 9

    Crikey our PM must have a real low end phone if it hasn’t got enough memory in it. I vaguely remember reading somewhere that you can plug a 64gb memory card into your phone if you’re short on storage, oh that’s right on planet key they don’t have memory cards, come to think of it on planet key the inhabitants don’t have memory of anything they have done or said.

  10. weka 10

    ” But if you are a senior civil servant, or an experienced politician, you know damn well that there is a set of principles and rules around preserving that information for the integrity of the state.”

    yes. But I still haven’t seen comment on what everyone else is doing. Does anyone know?

    • tracey 10.1

      Funny thing weka, when I do searches to find that out, all that keeps coming up is the rushed western government laws to trace and intercept public texts etc…

      However here is something about the Dutch Pm’s phone use… including one that can’t be intercepted and a personal one that can.

      http://electrospaces.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/the-phones-of-dutch-prime-minister.html

      • weka 10.1.1

        By who else, I meant who else in the NZ parliament. Yes Key is being an arsehole as per usual, but I want to see that in context of what his peers and colleagues are doing. Who says txts should be kept? It’s not like cell phones, or even smart phones are new, so has anyone thought about this before now?

        • tracey 10.1.1.1

          I don’t understand what you are asking? IF the texts are covered by the Official Information Act, then everyone has to be keeping them and having them backed up, not just john key. This includes Government departments and employees when they relate to public business.

          • tracey 10.1.1.1.1

            “public office—

            (a) means the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Government of New Zealand; and

            (b) means the agencies or instruments of those branches of government; and

            (c) includes (without limiting the agencies or instruments)—

            (i) departments as defined in section 2 of the State Sector Act 1988; and

            (ii) Offices of Parliament as defined in section 2(1) of the Public Finance Act 1989; and

            (iii) State enterprises as defined in section 2 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986; and

            (iv) Crown entities as defined in section 7(1) of the Crown Entities Act 2004; and

            (v) the Parliamentary Counsel Office; and

            (vi) the Parliamentary Service; and

            (vii) the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives; and

            (viii) the New Zealand Police; and

            (ix) the New Zealand Defence Force; and

            (x) the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service; and

            (xi) any person or class of persons declared by an Order in Council made under section 5(1)(a)(i) to be a public office for the purposes of this Act

            public record—

            (a) means a record or a class of records, in any form, in whole or in part, created or received (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) by a public office in the conduct of its affairs; and

            (b) includes—

            (i) a record or a class of records declared under section 5(1)(a)(ii) to be a public record for the purposes of this Act; and

            (ii) estray records; but

            (c) does not include—

            (i) a special collection; or

            (ii) records created by the academic staff or students of a tertiary education institution, unless the records have become part of the records of that institution

            record means information, whether in its original form or otherwise, including (without limitation) a document, a signature, a seal, text, images, sound, speech, or data compiled, recorded, or stored, as the case may be,—

            (a) in written form on any material; or

            (b) on film, negative, tape, or other medium so as to be capable of being reproduced; or

            (c) by means of any recording device or process, computer, or other electronic device or process”

            So, does a text from a cellphone fit the purpose and definitions described above?

          • weka 10.1.1.1.2

            “IF the texts are covered by the Official Information Act, then everyone has to be keeping them and having them backed up, not just john key.”

            Are you saying that you know that all MPs and relevant staff at parliament are making backups of their phones? Txts and voicemails? And it’s just John Key that isn’t?

            • Tracey 10.1.1.1.2.1

              no. i am saying they ALL should be. along with every phone user in all the other categories. That they are not beggars belief because the wording looks very clear to me that texts are a public record.

              IF they all were NOT deleting texts wouldnt some parties have issued press releases to show how out of step PM is.

              I spent too much of today trying to find this out. It shouldnt be this hard in an open and transparent society

              • weka

                Yes, that was my point. We’ve heard all this about the PM, but nothing about what is common practice within the rest of parliament.

        • tracey 10.1.1.2

          The Chief Archivist was conducting an investigation following Green Party complaint. Maximum fine is $10,000. The Archive sits under the Public records Act and the Minister for Archives is Mr Peter Dunne.

          If nothing else, the fine is out of date. A quick cost benefit analysis and our PM will be laughing.

          Who isn’t covered by the Pubic records Act?

          Examples of organisations not covered by the Public Records Act include:

          Privately Owned Companies
          Political Parties
          Charitable Trusts

          Always start at the Purposes section

          “Purposes of Act

          The purposes of this Act are—

          (a) to provide for the continuation of the repository of public archives called the National Archives with the name Archives New Zealand (Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga); and

          (b) to provide for the role of the Chief Archivist in developing and supporting government recordkeeping, including making independent determinations on the disposal of public records and certain local authority archives; and

          (c) to enable the Government to be held accountable by—

          (i) ensuring that full and accurate records of the affairs of central and local government are created and maintained; and

          (ii) providing for the preservation of, and public access to, records of long-term value; and

          (d) to enhance public confidence in the integrity of public records and local authority records; and

          (e) to provide an appropriate framework within which public offices and local authorities create and maintain public records and local authority records, as the case may be; and

          (f) through the systematic creation and preservation of public archives and local authority archives, to enhance the accessibility of records that are relevant to the historical and cultural heritage of New Zealand and to New Zealanders’ sense of their national identity; and

          (g) to encourage the spirit of partnership and goodwill envisaged by the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), as provided for by section 7; and

          (h) to support the safekeeping of private records.”

          electronic records are defined as ” includes electrical, digital, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, biometric, and photonic
          estray record—”

          • wearerevolution 10.1.1.2.1

            10 000 max fine. That’s pocket change for these fraudsters. It’s like fining your average New Zealand ‘slave’ (sadly almost all of us are modern day slaves enslaved by the puppet politicians and their globalists masters) 50 cents for robing a bank of $100 000. They are immoral and sick sociopaths.

    • tracey 10.2

      There was this back in 2012 in UK

      http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/oct/01/ministers-private-text-email-foi

      “.. “Official information recorded on mobile devices, including text messages on mobile phones, or in any other media, may also be considered to be held on behalf of the public authority.” However, officials have blocked attempts to obtain them using exemptions written into the Freedom of Information Act. Attempts to access ministers’ texts and emails sent from private accounts could still be blocked using exemptions.”

      This would, on the face of it, suggest it must be held, stored, backed up and not deleted.

  11. aerobubble 11

    People who txt and recieve txts with Key do back them up, so its essential Key does. Its not like a phone call where parties must know its being recorded, since txt are by default. Maybe Key should call the US spy agencies they have them.

    • Lanthanide 11.1

      “Its not like a phone call where parties must know its being recorded”

      Actually only 1 party needs to know it is being recorded:
      http://www.lawspot.org.nz/privacy/can-i-surreptitiously-record-a-conversation-if-i-want-proof-of

      From wikipedia: “Recording of phone calls by private persons falls under interception-related provisions of the Crimes Act 1961, which has a general prohibition on the use of interception devices. An exception is made for when the person intercepting the call is a party to the conversation. There is no requirement that both parties be aware of the interception”

      Crimes act: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1961/0043/latest/DLM329814.html
      “Subject to subsections (2) to (5), every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally intercepts any private communication by means of an interception device.
      (2)Subsection (1) does not apply where the person intercepting the private communication—
      (a)is a *party* to that private communication; or”
      emphasis mine.

  12. tracey 12

    “He gave Slater his new number.

    Key’s explanation for this was he gave his new number to “every member” of the press.

    There are any number of journalists without his number who could argue this point, and those that do have his number can attest to not always receiving a reply.”
    editorial in http://www.stuff.co.nz November 29 2014

    lest John forgets

  13. fisiani 13

    The impotence of the Left in regard to John Key is plain to see “Show us your texts!!!” Get a grip. Meanwhile the economy is booming, wages are rising, and people are happy. When Key retires after six terms it will be 2026 and a current back bencher will take over. Given the prosperity that will increase in the next decade such trivial issues do not resonate with real people.

    [Stephanie: you’re trolling with a bunch of meaningless, unsubstantiated spin messages. Go away.]

    • b waghorn 13.1

      Brilliant I needed a laugh 6 terms ha ha ha the only way he would get six terms if he became a dictator .

      • Jones 13.1.1

        Don’t tempt fate… Dictator Key could happen. A few false flag terrorist attacks is all it could take…

        • McFlock 13.1.1.1

          6 terms of key and we’d have a peasants’ revolution, which is probably a touch too far the other way.

        • b waghorn 13.1.1.2

          I started the comment as a laugh and that horrible thought “dictator key” hoped into my mind and squirmed out through my fingers .

  14. “With the large volume of text messages received and sent by the Prime Minister every day”

    Do we know how many?

    It seems weird that there is a ‘large volume’ – does he give his number out willy nilly, does he conduct the affairs of state through text, is it part of his popularity offensive – just seems very strange to me.

  15. Draco T Bastard 15

    With the large volume of text messages received and sent by the Prime Minister every day, these need to be regularly deleted not only for security reasons but also to ensure that the Prime Minister is always able to send or receive messages by preventing the cellphone exceeding its memory capacity.

    That’s a load of bollocks.

    A text message takes up 140 characters, also know as bytes, plus a little for overhead. Being generous lets say that it takes up 200 bytes of memory total.

    My Samsung S2 has 48GB of memory which is quite capable of holding 240 million texts. Of course, my memory isn’t standard and has a 32GB SD card.

    I’m also not taking into account the memory that the OS and other apps uses. Once we take that into account we can expect a standard 16GB phone to have 10GB of memory left. With 10GB of memory available the phone is still capable of holding 50 million texts.

    Now, he may not be using a modern cell phone but there is that lovely selfy he took with his son that says otherwise.

    And that doesn’t even take into account that they should all be automatically backed up to the governments server.

    • Lanthanide 15.1

      160 chars for a text message + overhead.

      “Now, he may not be using a modern cell phone but there is that lovely selfy he took with his son that says otherwise.”

      Which was most likely his personal cell phone, not a government issued one.

      • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1

        Do you really think the government is going to issue a ten year old phone considering the benefits of a modern smart phone?

        And it doesn’t matter anyway. As someone points out above – if it’s government business it’s still OIA’ble and should be recorded.

  16. The Murphey 16

    Q. How are the text messages deleted ?

    Q. In what sense are the messages ‘deleted’ ?

    Q. What about messages stored by telco providers such as those often used in court cases ?

    Q. The ‘ spooks ‘ ?

    Q. Does digital technology ever ‘truly’ become deleted ? – under regular conditions

      • Tracey 16.1.1

        good, but seemingly too hard for the media…. paddy gower was busy reading of mice and men for rnz. cliff notes?

      • The Murphey 16.1.2

        Once a digital trail or footprint is created it could be considered an impossible task to remove every trace instance of the ‘trail’

        The text messages exist in multiple locations and will remain so in perpetuity

  17. Truth Will Out 17

    “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” ~ John Key.

    • Tracey 17.1

      funny how judys facebook entries disappeared too…

      so that is collins and johnny with stuff to fear…

      • idlegus 17.1.1

        all facebook stuff is kept in back up, if you delete your account then a year later rejoin all your old emails are still there, its quite a wake up call when you realise its all stored somewhere~!

  18. Neil 18

    I bet cam slater has a back up of all keys texts to him, in case he needs to dish dirt on key.

  19. Truth Will Out 19

    Why won’t John Key live up to the same standards of transparency he holds the rest of us to?

  20. Truth Will Out 20

    Why do so many John Key’s supporters exonerate him for not living up to the same standards of transparency and accountability he is holding every citizen to?

    Why are they entitling him to be above the very laws he has been pushing through under urgency?

    Do they believe he is above the law?

    If so, why? What is their reasoning?

    What entitles him to impose laws upon us requiring complete transparency and accountability from us when he is clearly refusing to live up to his own standards and his own laws, the very standards and laws he is demanding the rest of us live up to and obey, by force if necessary?

  21. Gruntie 21

    “experienced politician, you know damn well that there is a set of principles and rules around preserving that information for the integrity of the state.”

    that would be great but John Key has proven time and time again he has no integrity, and neither does his government

  22. Penny Bright 22

    I for one, totally dispute that the PRIME Minister John Key, is not in that role 24/7.

    Check for yourselves the Cabinet Manual.

    And why is politically-partisan, CHIEF ‘Spin Doctor’ / ‘Minder’ for John Key in his role as Leader of the National Party – Wayne Eagleson replying to OIA requests, when that is supposed to be the role of the DPMC (the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet)?

    If you’re in public office – particularly at the highest levels – you’re effectively in a goldfish bowl, and the public are entitled to ‘transparency’.

    Interesting questions arise as to where the line is drawn as to the rights of those in public office to ‘privacy’ and, in John Key’s case, what information can be officially requested from him in his capacity as Leader of the National Party?

    Thus – when, if ever, can texts / emails / phone messages be lawfully deleted?

    High time for an ENFORCEABLE ‘Code of Conduct’ for MPs – which give clearer guidelines as to the contradiction between public’s right to transparency’ for those in public office, and ‘privacy’ for citizens?

    Think it’s high time for some serious debate on these matters!

    Penny Bright

  23. disturbed 23

    1000% Penny,

    “High time for an ENFORCEABLE ‘Code of Conduct’ for MPs”.

    I say for FJK and his faceless Government,-

    “Time for an overhaul”

    Credit goes to the movie “The Mask” Jim Cary.

  24. Conversations and recollections are covered by the Official Information Act. But of course these can be “forgotten”.

  25. Penny Bright 25

    Which is why the Public Records Act 2005 needs to be spelled out in the Cabinet Manual – that ‘full and accurate records need to be CREATED and MAINTAINED’ – which was NOT the situation last time I looked.

    If the Public Records Act 2005 was implemented and enforced as it is supposed to be by LAW – then – in my considered opinion, transparency in NZ would be transformed.

    Penny Bright

  26. Lloyd 26

    If the SIS and the GCSB aren’t recording all the PMs txts, are they doing their job?

  27. A Voter 27

    Well thats the biggest crock o’shite I heard since Watergate
    He could alway use Mega if hes run out of server storage cause privacy wont matter wikileaks is still running isnt
    What kind of moron would be believe Eagleson anyway everybody knows payday is eagleshit day
    His argument is like pouring water into a colander and expecting it to not run thru

  28. wearerevolution 28

    Who would trust anything that this Globalist puppet says? Hasn’t he already been proven to be dishonest and a liar? We do not need to be reminded about his NZRail share trading among so many other immoral and law breaking activities. Puppet Presidents and Prime Ministers don’t represent us, instead force the policies handed to them by their Elite masters and thei institutions (the IMF, Wrold Bank, UN, etc.

  29. wearerevolution 29

    A long jail sentence awaits you John Keys soon to be ex-New Zealand prime minister.

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