More GCSB issues

The PM has announced:

The review of the files found the following.

  • The Prime Minister was not briefed by the on its role in the Dotcom matter, nor any issues of potential illegality, until Monday 17 September.
  • The Prime Minister was not briefed by any group or official within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the GCSB’s role in the Dotcom matter ahead of the 17 September meeting. Roy Ferguson, Director of the Intelligence Coordination Group, was made aware by GCSB of its role in the arrest of Mr Dotcom the day of the raid but only after it occurred in January 2012. Mr Ferguson has advised the Prime Minister that his records indicate he did not subsequently brief the Prime Minister on the matter. It is not Mr Ferguson’s role to brief the Prime Minister on operational matters.
  • The Prime Minister visited GCSB offices on 29 February for a briefing on the broader capabilities of the bureau, and to meet the staff. A paper prepared as talking points for the staff member conducting a presentation contained a short reference to the Dotcom arrest a few weeks earlier, as an example of cooperation between the GCSB and the Police. The presentation was an electronic slide presentation. The cover slide was a montage of 11 small images, one of which was of Mr Dotcom.
  • A short briefing note provided to the Prime Minister prior to the 29 February visit contained no reference to the Dotcom matter. The talking points paper was used by the staff member at the briefing, however neither that paper nor a copy of the presentation was provided to the Prime Minister either at that time or subsequently.
  • No written record was kept of the meeting.
  • In advising the Prime Minister of the talking points note and the electronic presentation, the Director told the Prime Minister that he had no recollection of the Dotcom matter being raised at the meeting but accepted the assurance of his staff that it was mentioned briefly, in the context of a much broader presentation.
  • At no point was any reference made to questions about residency status.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the findings of the review and has made them public at the earliest opportunity.

“I have been clear from the outset that I received no briefing on the operation from GCSB prior to 17 September, and this review confirms that,” says Mr Key.

“While neither the GCSB Director nor I can recall the reference to the Dotcom matter being made during my visit to the bureau back in February, I accept that it may well have been made.

“Given the public statements I have made in Parliament and in the media, it is important that I take this opportunity to provide this additional information.

“I will be correcting my answers to the House when it resumes on Tuesday 16 October.”

 It is always messy when you have to correct an answer given. The Opposition will claim of course that it was deliberate, but of course it wasn’t – if it was, why would you, knowing you have to correct it later. I think most people will appreciate a failure to recall a brief mention, which wasn’t noted down.  But don’t get me wrong – still messy and a bad look.
There’s also been an audit of the 58 cases since January 2009, with three of those 58 having issues around them.  GCSB say they merely provided technical data, but the issue is whether their actions were authorised under law.
The report of the Inspector-General into these cases will be eagerly awaited. The Government needs to consider what they need to do to restore confidence in the GCSB.

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