Parliament is defending its computer security that is screening and blocking MPs emails if they contain words like “sensitive” or “classified”.
An urgent investigation has being called for by Labour’s Chris Hipkins after an email he was trying to send to a Fairfax journalist was blocked on Monday night.
In an email exchange between Hipkins and Parliamentary Service, which provides administrative and support services to MPs, Labour’s chief whip was told his email was blocked because it had “trigger” words in it.
Parliamentary Service told Hipkins the email he tried to forward was picked up by the secure system because he “sent it to a domain that does not use SEEMail” – in this case, Fairfax.
SEEMail is the agency used by Parliamentary Service for MPs and staff emails.
“SEEMail is an all of government secure messaging system that we subscribe to. SEEMail classified messages can only be sent to-from approved government departments and agencies,” Parliamentary Service wrote.
Parliamentary Service went on to confirm they had blocked the email because the attachment he was trying to send contained the words “SEEMail” and “sensitive”.
Hipkins says this is a “clear breach of parliamentary privilege”.
On the substance of the issue I have to agree with Hipkins. The Parliamentary Service is not a government agency. It is a parliamentary agency. No security system should interfere with outgoing e-mails from MPs.
“That’s outrageous, they have no right to be screening the emails being sent by Members of Parliament. It shouldn’t matter where I got the information from, they’ve got no right to monitor my emails in the first place.”
They are not screening or monitoring in an active sense. It is an automated filter, just as you might also have to prevent malware or spam. However one based on keywords is inappropriate.
“I know that National is now cosying up to (Fiji Prime Minister) Frank Bainimarama, but that doesn’t mean they can adopt his dictatorial, anti-democratic methods here in New Zealand,” he said.
This is where Hipkins gets hysterical. It is nothing to do with the Government, and he knows it. He is in fact a member of the Parliamentary Service Commission that oversees the Parliamentary Service. He has a very valid issue, but spoils it with his desire to paint John Key as a dictator. Labour still think the same failed tactics of the last ten years will work.
Parliamentary Service says the SEEMail system which scans MPs’ emails was introduced prior to 2007.
— Claire Trevett (@CTrevettNZH) September 13, 2016
Oh dear. If correct this means that Chris Hipkins is saying Helen Clark adopted Frank Bainimarama’s dictatorial, anti-democratic methods!!