14 Aug 2014

SIS allegations under deep scrutiny

10:19 pm on 14 August 2014

Labour's former leader Phil Goff says it is very clear that blogger Cameron Slater and the Prime Minister's office teamed up to get information released from the Security Intelligence Service to embarrass him.

In his latest book, Dirty Politics, Nicky Hager claims government ministers and staff have fed damaging information on its opponents to right-wing bloggers. One of the most serious allegations is that John Key's office tipped off Mr Slater about secret documents held by the SIS.

Phil Goff.

Labour MP Phil Goff. Photo: RNZ

It came after Mr Goff and John Key had clashed about suspicions of spying by Israeli backpackers caught up in the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. One of them died and the others hurriedly left the country.

Mr Goff criticised Mr Key's comments on the matter, but then had to admit he had been told about it by SIS director Warren Tucker. However, Mr Goff said nothing of substance had been said - otherwise he would have remembered it.

In the book, Mr Hager writes that this gave the Government the opportunity to further embarrass Mr Goff by releasing details of the secret intelligence briefing. He says the Government could not make the attack itself, so chose Mr Slater to do so. Mr Slater was then able to put in an Official Information Act request, which provided him with the information to attack Mr Goff.

TVNZ screengrab. Blogger Cameron Slater.

Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. Photo: TVNZ

Phil Goff told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme today that the quick release of the OIA to Mr Slater makes him sure that John Key's office was involved.

"Nobody ever gets documents immediately under the OIA, and generally, you don't get any documents at all from the SIS. I heard from the head of the SIS that he was going to release the material the day that he received the request.

"He had clearly been instructed to do that. That is not normal practice, it's never happened before, would probably never happen again."

Prime Minister John Key, who's also the Minister Responsible for the SIS, said today that neither he nor his office had anything to do with it.

"I had made comments about that Israeli position. I'd said that Mr Goff was briefed. Mr Goff refuted that, they're in the public domain. And then what happened was the head of the SIS said that he'd briefed them. So that was why an OIA request was put in - it's nothing to do with my office."

Claim attack on Cunliffe planned

In another example, Nicky Hager's book says during the Labour Party leadership contest last year, National Party research staff were asked by the Prime Minister's office to prepare an attack on David Cunliffe and the other contenders' policies.

That was then published on David Farrar's Kiwiblog website the next day.

Mr Hager says it proves that the Government has co-ordinated attacks on its political opponents using bloggers. He said Mr Key and his colleagues knew it was a risky approach, but believed they could keep it secret.

The emails and other online communications were only leaked to him after Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater made offensive comments about a West Coast man who died in a car crash.

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