Getting excited over, well, nothing

The PM has said he wasn’t told about the OIA release from the but his staff were.

NewstalkZb discovered a three year old letter from the SIS Director to them where he said he did advise the Prime Minister.

This got people all excited, but I never saw this as a contradiction as I have worked in Government and in a PM’s Office.

When officials say they have advised the Prime Minister, they generally mean they have advised someone in the PM’s Office.

In my experience it would be very very rare for a Government Department to talk directly to a Minister, let alone the Prime Minister, on an OIA request.

And my assumption has just been confirmed as the then SIS Director has confirmed to media that his 2011 letter was referring to having briefed the PM’s staff, and that he never had a conversation with the PM on it.

Also on the wider issue, of someone tipping off Cameron Slater to ask for the document, I’d also point out that in terms of motive, it may not be someone in Parliament. Phil Goff had incorrectly claimed the SIS had been derelict in their duty and never briefed him on an issue. I could imagine that there were a number of people in the SIS upset about this, and would have been quite happy for the briefing notes to be made public, if requested under the OIA.

I genuinely don’t know who tipped off Whale, but I do know agencies get pretty unhappy when politicians accuse their boss of incompetence or dereliction of duty, and many people at SIS would have known that Goff had been briefed, despite Goff claiming he hadn’t been.

UPDATE: I should add on that I think it is a good thing that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is investigating. I’d also point out that while it involves the SIS, this is an issue about a document that was suitable for release under the OIA, not secret material. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue here, but there is a difference between alerting someone to ask for a document suitable for public release, and alerting someone to something classified.

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