Radio NZ and Hager

July 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A reader has sent me this OIA response from Radio NZ regarding their collaboration with TVNZ and Nicky Hager. It outlines how taxpayer money was spent on paying for an exclusive that turned out to be a fizzer. Remember all this information was being released publicly anyway. They just spent taxpayers money on trying to get an exclusive.

I wouldn’t think they should hold out hope for more funding the next time they make a budget bid!

Key points of interest are:

  1. The idea to pay Hager seems to have come from Guyon Espiner
  2. Despite all the talk of how restricted their funding is, they had their chequebook ready to go from the beginning
  3. They appear to have both paid the ICIJ to become a “partner” and paid Hager as an “independent investigator”
  4. They appear to have offered setting up Gmail addresses for people
  5. They have with-held some info on the basis of it being a trade secret!

UPDATE: Just had a phone call from Guyon Espiner who has clarified that he did not propose paying Hager. His e-mail references are about Radio NZ joining the ICIJ, not hiring Hager. I accept this entirely. The e-mails I got sent are a partial set, and it was not clear what the references were in relation to.

Update2: A fuller set of e-mails has been released to me and can be viewed here.

Radio Nz OIA by David Farrar on Scribd

Hager warrant ruled unlawful

December 18th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The police search on the home of investigative journalist Nicky Hager has been found unlawful by the High Court.

In a judgment released today, Justice Denis Clifford ruled against the way police went about obtaining the search warrant used to search Hager’s home in the hunt for identity of the hacker Rawshark who supplied information for the Dirty Politics book.

Justice Clifford said there was “no explicit reference” in the warrant application put before a district court judge to “Hager’s status as a journalist”, to legal principles around search warrants executed on journalist, to the legal rights journalists had under the Evidence Act or to the way those rights were explained in the Search and Surveillance Act.

He said Parliament would not have intended for a judge to be kept blind to the possibility of journalistic privilege in an application for a search warrant. He said Parliament would also not have intended for a judge to not be informed about the principles which arose as a result.

Justice Clifford said it was important not only for the judge to be aware but for judges, when deciding to grant warrants, to be satisfied police were also aware of the issues and had appropriate steps in place to deal with information on which privilege was claimed.

The result, said Justice Clifford, was “a material failure to discharge the duty of candour” by police.

Basically the Police should have been more fulsome with the Judge. If they had, they may still have got a warrant, but by not disclosing the relevant info, they warrant has been found to be illegal.

A pity that the criminal who did the hacking may never be identified and charged.

Hager may be charged?

October 28th, 2015 at 1:59 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager may face criminal charges over accepting the hacked material used to write the bombshell book, according to documents obtained by the Herald.

Police will not say whether the investigative journalist is again a suspect, instead of simply a witness, after a pivotal Supreme Court decision which ruled computer files were property.

Documents show the new definition from the court puts Hager back in the frame over the computer files he was given by a hacker which he used as the basis for his book.

If computer files are not deemed property by the Supreme Court, then yes Hager could be in trouble.

Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis said the Supreme Court decision was focused on one small part of the Crimes Act. But he said the logic behind the court’s decision would likely “follow through” to the way the courts handled other parts of the law – including receiving stolen goods.

“Rawshark will have obtained property in breach of [the law]. If Rawshark obtained property it’s hard to see those files are not still property when they get passed on to Mr Hager.”

This will be very interesting. Personally I’m in favour of people being discouraged from hacking computers and planting spies in offices. The only illegal activity uncovered in the book, was the actual hacking used that the book was based on.

du Fresne asks if Hager is a journalist

July 28th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

Central to the case, it seems to me, is whether Hager is entitled to call himself an investigative journalist.

That’s apparently how he prefers to be described, and most of the media oblige him by using that term. The court heard that the Crown accepts he is a journalist.

This ishelpful for his image because the word “journalist” conveys a sense of professional impartiality.

But to my knowledge Hager has never worked as a journalist in the commonly understood sense of the word, and I resent him appropriating the description.

Journalists follow certain rules. They are expected to approach issues with an open mind and to report them in a balanced and objective way.

(Some people dismiss objectivity as unattainable, but in fact it’s a wise and perfectly workable principle that has underpinned mainstream journalism for decades.)

Ideally, if not always in practice, journalists are expected to maintain a certain detachment. Where there’s another side to a story, they are expected to report it.

I think that last part is key. Journalists are meant to tell both sides of a story.

Everything he does is calculated to challenge and undermine what we loosely call “the establishment”.

Sure, he uses journalistic skills, and uses them very well. He could show journalists a few things about digging beneath the surface and uncovering information that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

But that’s partly a reflection of his motivation, which is that of a doggedly determined Leftist crusader.

What he does is entirely legitimate and even praiseworthy in an open democracy, providing it’s done lawfully.

Hager’s books make an important contribution to informed debate and help voters make decisions on important issues, such as state surveillance and honesty in government.

But does that make him a journalist? I don’t believe so.

He was more accurately described in police documents as a political author.

You could also call him an activist (which he apparently dislikes), a campaigner, an annoying pebble in the shoe of the establishment – but not a journalist.

I think author is the best description.

We spy on China and China on us

April 19th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Our spies and America’s top government hackers cooked up a plan to crack into a data link between Chinese Government buildings in Auckland, new Edward Snowden documents reveal.

The project appeared aimed at tapping data flowing between the Chinese consulate and its passport office in Great South Rd — and using the link to access China’s computer systems.

The revelation is the most explosive of the information about New Zealand revealed in the Snowden documents — and has sparked a firm Chinese diplomatic response giving rise to concerns our security relationship with the United States is impacting our trade relationship with China.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman told the Herald on Sunday: “China is concerned about relevant report. We attach great importance to the cybersecurity issue.

“We will firmly safeguard our security interests and continue to guarantee our cyber and information security with concrete measures.”

Everyone who travels to China knows they will be spied on. The Chinese Government spies on every official they can of other Governments, and of course we try to spy on them. While we have a positive relationship with China, their interests are very different to ours, and the job of the GCSB is to gather foreign intelligence.

The difference is that if someone in China published details of the Chinese Government’s programme for spying on NZ and the US, they would be regarded as a traitor and executed.

I’m glad we live in NZ where media can publish what they want, without sanction from the state. However I do wish they would consider whose interests are served by publishing such details.

Should National knight Nicky Hager for services to journalism?

February 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An MP suggested to me yesterday that the National Government should knight Nicky Hager for services to journalism and the nation. Their reasoning:

  • His Seeds of Distrust book in 2002 stopped Helen Clark getting a majority
  • The Hollow Men in 2006 effectively propelled John Key to the National Party leadership and victory in 2008
  • Dirty Politics in 2014 helped National increase their seats in Parliament and gave National and ACT a majority

Surely that is enough to offer him a knighthood?

Don’t believe the spin

October 7th, 2014 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hager told Radio New Zealand that he accepted the police had the right to be at his home, but he was critical of the “rather draconian” Search and Surveillance Bill passed in 2012 that allowed the raid.

That’s just Hager once again misleading people to try and score political points. I’m 99% certain the Police had the powers to search his house under pre-existing laws. The Search and Surveillance Bill was more about harmonising the powers of other agencies – the Police have always had the power to search and seize for the purposes of a criminal investigation – if a Judge or JP signs a warrant.

Similar raids had not been made in response to a police complaint by the Greens into hacking on the Labour Party’s website allegedly involving National Party staffer Jason Ede, as detailed in Dirty Politics, he claimed. “That is a real crime.”

In Hager world, accessing a website that was left wide open on the World Wide Web is a crime, while hacking someone’s Gmail, Facebook and other accounts is not a crime.

If National had been stupid enough to leave their credit card donation website unsecured on the Internet so you can access it without a password, then I suspect Hager would have published a conspiracy theory book which listed every donor to National and how 65% are members of Rotary or something. Give Whale Oil some credit that he never published any of the names that Labour left unsecured.

Hager’s hypocrisy

September 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I thought an article in Critic provides some useful illumination into Nicky Hager’s hypocrisy.

Hager attacks me for having criticised the OUSA President for her support of the Tom Scott song expressing a desire to kill John Key and fuck his daughter.

So it is important to note that Hager has no problem with someone urging the assassination of the Prime Minister, and a desire to use his daughter as an act of political revenge. This behaviour doesn’t warrant any criticism by Hager.

Now imagine Helen Clark was Prime Minister, and someone on the right promoted a song which said Helen Clark should be assassinated, and that they want to fuck her niece to get revenge on Clark. Hager would be decrying this as nasty politics, and probably calling for the Police to investigate.

The OUSA President’s salary is funded by all students at Otago. I’d say a third of them at least support National. Her condoning of the Tom Scott song is deeply offensive to many people. The notion that she should not be criticised for what she said is basically the left saying that people on the right should not be allowed to criticise.

Hager has the check to say I have selective morality:

Hager considers Farrar to be operating with “selective morality,” and that the criticism is a “subcategory of attack politics … they know their commenters are mad dogs. They empower their commenters to attack people; they have enabled this.”

Hager argues the commenters, who have made thousands of contributions to the Kiwiblog website, are to be expected; and Farrar’s manipulation of Sycamore-Smith’s column does nothing but add to the “feeding frenzy” his more inflammatory posts incite.

Has Hager ever looked at the comment sections of The Standard or the Daily Blog? His selective morality means he has no problems with the hatred and bile that is often found there – because of course it is generated at people like me.

Hager notes, “they do it in quite a systematic way … basically anyone who speaks up on the side of politics that are a hassle for the National Party gets hounded. It’s a deliberate tactic, and it means over time that all kinds of people feel shocked and chilled and potentially pushed out of politics.”

Again the selective morality is massive. Let’s take criticism of journalists. Hager could go ask almost any press gallery journalist about what sites has the most abuse about them. Anonymous authors (some who now work for David Cunliffe!) at left blogs (note authors, not commenters) regularly savage press gallery journalists who write things that displease them. I have certainly critiqued stories that I don’t agree with, but I doubt anyone can find me personally attacking journalists. On the contrary, left blogs run vile stuff against many journalists and commentators. John Armstrong is savaged almost weekly by Martyn Bradbury, but hey Martin is mates with Nicky Hager so that is fine.

Laura McQuillan makes this point today:

Anonymous Twitter accounts are popping up by the day, apparently for no purpose other than to attack political journalists’ integrity and accuse them of bias.

These trolls may have mastered social media, but they get a Not Achieved for their skills in the English language. The F-word does not for an intelligent political debate make. Journos are used to accusations of being “repeaters” and “churnalists” – those words usually levelled by Slater himself. But now, it’s web-based troglodytes accusing every journalist, no matter what the story, of spinning the National Party line. I guess that’s the result of getting your news from The Daily Blog?

It’s the same intimidation tactic Slater himself has used in the past, in cahoots with Carrick Graham et al. The rabid anonymous lefties should take a moment to wipe the foam from their mouths and reflect on how they’re just like the blogger they hate so much – the only difference being people actually want to read what Whale Oil has to say.

And Cameron blogs under his own name.

This has not been the first time a student politician at Otago has been the subject of the attack blogging strategy. Critic editor Zane Pocock published an editorial in Issue 21 relating to Dirty Politics -style revelations about previous Otago student, Beau Murrah. Involved in a 2012 scandal, Pocock points to a “deep sense of political angst” about Murrah’s role as a student politician. So much so, that the leaked documents Pocock was referring to revealed Cameron Slater’s agreement that “the little cunt is a Winstonite,” and he was “going to hang him out to dry.” Importantly, Slater revealed knowledge that “Farrar is clocking [Murrah] tomorrow.”

Here again we see a partial truth. If you read this, you would think that Murrah was attacked because he was a Winstonite. He was attacked because he went on Cameron Slater’s Facebook page and asked him if he had considered pulling a Charlotte Dawson yet? So the guy who advocated a political opponent go kill himself is the good guy, and because I decided to criticise him for his comments, I am part of Nasty Politics because I was appalled Murrah had advocated Cameron go kill himself and told Cameron I would be attacking Murrah for this.

What Hager actually believes in is that people on the right should not have a voice, and that people on the left can advocate suicide, promote songs that advocate murder and rape,and there should be no criticism of them for that – because that is bullying.

Incidentally this is not something I have revealed before, but while I did criticise Beau at the time for his advocating Cameron kill himself, I was approached by either Beau or someone on Beau’s behalf a few weeks later, and asked if I would remove my post so searches for his name would not remain high in Google Search. I did so, because I thought he had learnt from his mistake. Again in Hager world this makes me the bad guy.

Hager considers both of these responses to be problematic, because they ignore a couple of glaring issues: first, Hager does not operate under a left-wing agenda

I can’t believe she wrote that without giggling!

Hager, like many on the left, seems to resent the fact that the right now have voices, and some of us have strong voices. He demands in his book that I shouldn’t be used by media as a commentator on politics. The left have tried to organise boycotts of advertisers on right blogs, and have sent letter campaigns to media demanding that almost every voice on the right be dropped from their media spots.

There was a time a couple of weeks ago when I thought about giving this all up. But that is what Hager and many on the left want. They want a world where the right have no strong voices. Where there is no criticism of people on the left who say stupid things. Well I’m now more determined than ever to maintain and build these voices.

Inquiries galore

September 2nd, 2014 at 6:52 am by David Farrar

There’s now three major inquiries underway in relation to the e-mails published in the Nicky Hager book, and subsequently.

Here’s my take on them.

  1. Police inquiry into the hacking of Cameron Slater’s messages. This is pretty straight forward in that the hacker has clearly broken the law, and off memory could face charges with a maximum seven years imprisonment if identified and convicted. What is less clear is whether Hager has broken any laws. Legal friends have suggested a case can be made for receiving stolen property.  IANAL so don’t know where this will end up.
  2. IGIS inquiry into the OIA release showing Phil Goff had not told the truth about being briefed about the Israelis in Christchurch. The Inspector-General has issued subpoenas and is taking evidence under oath, using the new powers granted by this Government and Parliament. I have confidence it will be a robust inquiry. I would point out that the inquiry is not about classified or secret information. It is about information that was deemed suitable to publish under the OIA. I’m not totally surprised that some people in Government *may* have got a bit talkative when informed that a document was going to be released directly contradicting a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition.
  3. Some sort of high level inquiry into the behaviour of the Minister responsible for the SFO in relations to the then Director Adam Feeley.  This is an appropriate issue for an inquiry, as it is about behaviour of a Minister in relation to their ministerial duties. It is not a criminal or legal matter. Arguably it could be an employment issues. The inquiry sounds like it will be robust headed by a retired Judge or QC, and have the ability to take evidence under oath.

Now David Cunliffe is calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into basically the entire Hager book. With respect, this is breathless hysteria that verges on McCarthyism. Labour thinks that the fact a press secretary and some MPs have had conversations with a blogger, is something that needs a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Seriously? Where would it end? Should this Commission of Inquiry require evidence from every media outlet in NZ, requiring their journalists to disclose under oath all their dealings with Whale Oil? Should all Labour MPs and candidates be required to do the same, or just National MPs? Why just dealing with one blogger? Should the inquiry include people who have ever talked to me? How about people who have talked to left wing blogs? You see why I call it verging on McCarthyism.  And this is from the party that won’t even confirm how many staff who work for David Cunliffe have blogged under a pseudonym at left wing blogs.

That is not to say some of the revelations in the e-mails are not disturbing. I don’t know if Mark Hotchin was involved in trying to undermine the SFO, because he was under investigation by them. If so, that is very serious. But it is a potentially criminal matter that the Police are capable of investigating, and I presume are already assessing the evidence to make appropriate decisions.

How Hager got it wrong on The Princess Party

August 22nd, 2014 at 5:10 pm by David Farrar

One section of Nicky Hager’s book stated I had organised a Princess Party, and had dialogue from some unnamed people about getting girls drunk, with an implication I was part of that conversation.


I was not the organiser of the party, and was not a party to the conversation. Yet Hager published this as fact. It is reasonably defamatory as various people have smeared me over it.

I did attend a party in 2011 in Palmerston North held the day before a party conference. I was not the organiser. I invited two friends along, of similiar age to myself. Off memory it was called a Princess Party, because the Royal Wedding was occurring around then. As a Republican, I’m an unlikely organiser.

The e-mails have been released by Whaledump, and I quote from then below. I’m redacting the names of the participants, but of course the source e-mails are on Whaledump.

Name 1, 4/26, 12:02am

my email doesn’t get read


Apparently Pinko is the main driving force behind the Princess party

Now this e-mail is presumably why Hager thought I was the organiser. But he gets it totally wrong. They are laughing at the fact that someone thinks I am the organiser. This is the problem where you write a book on stolen e-mails, and don’t verify, fact check, or interview a single person for it.

One must note the irony of the comment about e-mails not getting read though 🙂

Name 2, 4/26, 12:03am

well i was going to say i have cleared the field for you, given you the most likely targets and will get them drunk for you
Name 1, 4/26, 12:03am

he has invited [REDACTED] to it and to the one the next night
Name 2, 4/26, 12:03am

righto, good cleint recruitment

he asked if he can bring Name 3, which i said yes to

Yep, I got invited to a party, and invited two friends to it – both of a similiar age to me – one male and female. I had no role in the conversation reported in the book. Yet the book reports me as the organiser, and implies I was involved in the conversation.

If Mr Hager is doing reprints of his book, I would appreciate it if he could make the appropriate corrections.

And perhaps this is a lesson to everyone out there, not to take everything in the book at face value. If he has got this wrong, what else has he got wrong? Again this is what happens when you don’t verify anything or give people a chance to respond.

UPDATE: I actually blogged on the party in 2011. To quote me:

Had a very fun night in Palmerston North last night (a sentence which some might say was unlikely to ever be uttered by me) watching the Royal Wedding. Yes I’m a Republican, but I can still enjoy a good wedding. The dress code was tiaras for women and black tie for men.

It was a hilariously mixed group of people. Three out of the five Kiwiblog editorial team were in attendance, plus I’d guess half the Don Brash coup committee. A wedding can be a good uniter :-)

We also had members of the Monarchist League and Republicans, so it was a very good fun night. Debating the constitutional reform at 1 am is so much more tolerable after many bottles of champagne.

Somewhat sad that it was a party, and I’m debating constitutional reform at 1 am at it. Also a very different impression to what Hager’s book implied.

A journalist on the “Dirty Politics” book

August 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The e-mail below was written by a current journalist who has worked in radio and print for over seven years.

Several years ago I received a tip-off from an anonymous email address alleging that a police car had run three consecutive red lights, with their lights and siren blaring, and then pulled into a KFC drive-through. They were then seen eating chicken in their car just around the corner. I phoned the KFC but no one on duty was willing to talk to me. The manager wasn’t there. I called the police and spoke to the duty sergeant who confirmed two policemen had indeed been at KFC at the time alleged. He didn’t have the details but would endeavour to find out why they were there. He didn’t get back to me before deadline. I didn’t file.

I had more justification to write that story than Nicky Hager did to write his book. But if I had, I would have been rightly destroyed by the police, as it turned out the two policemen were responding to an alleged assault inside KFC. As it transpired, it was just a push and shove and the blokes involved had left by the time they arrived. So while there, the two cops got some dinner.

Two parts of the tip-off were accurate. It looked bad, but it was entirely legitimate. So as a journalist, I look at what Hager has done with this book and am dismayed. Not just that, but the wider reaction of the media, with a few exceptions, has been woeful. As an industry, we have always been loathe to hold ourselves to account. That needs to change. We shouldn’t accept that Hager can use the cloak of journalism to run, what is effectively, a political attack.

Dirty Politics is not journalism.

As a journalist, the most basic principle we must uphold is that of fairness. That is not to say that what we write or broadcast is always fair, but that whomever we are challenging on an issue is given the opportunity to respond. Some choose not to comment. But they are at least given that choice.

Hager did not corroborate a single accusation in his book. He did not seek comment on the accusations. He did not give his targets a chance to defend themselves, provide context or refute his allegations. Had he, he knew the courts would have likely granted an injunction and the book would not have been published.

Is that a reasonable excuse? In the event the material he had proved categorically illegal behaviour had been undertaken or was being undertaken, yes it would be. But it doesn’t. At worst, it could cost Judith Collins her future in Cabinet for passing on Simon Pleasants name to Slater. The rest is all either old news, gossip, or the blowhard ravings of a blogger and his pals who seriously over-estimate their importance.

I admit I was fascinated to learn Slater gets paid for a lot of what “he” writes by corporates. It explains why he has written so vociferously on several issues, including attacking Simon Bridges over Part 6A and his obsession with plain packaging for cigarettes. I think the public deserve to know corporates pay for his vitriol. But it still doesn’t justify rushing a book out in the manner Hager has pre-election.

Yes, Slater’s blog is nasty and vindictive. So is Martyn Bradbury. So is The Standard. If you think they’re not fed gossip by Labour/Mana-Internet/Greens you’re dreaming. Typically in their case it’s about destroying their own team so no one cares.

What concerns me most is how my colleagues have reported on this so breathlessly. They have repeatedly used the term ‘hacking’ to describe Jason Ede accessing an open website. And accepted without question this idea that it’s like walking through the unlocked door of a private house. It’s not. It’s more like a young Nat heading to the Labour Party’s booth at a university political rally, scanning through their leaflets and finding a clear file stashed in the back marked ‘donors’. Clearly it’s not meant to be there but, well it is. So they read it, take some snaps on their iPhone and humiliate Labour with it, rather than just quietly telling them about the mistake. Politics. 

But what is most disturbing about this, is that the majority of media think it’s acceptable to hack Slater’s email and Facebook, for no reason other than that we hate him. Hager even justified the break-in of Mark Mitchell’s office as just how leaks happen. He is an MP. It is unbelievable that anyone can think it’s acceptable, simply because they have opposing politics.

Hager doesn’t want to know where this material has come from. He believes the hacker’s motives aren’t political. For a smart man, at best he is being willingly ignorant. There is no doubt in my mind that Hager is being played. The problem is he doesn’t care. A real journalist would.

We get tipped off all the time to stories. We have PR people pointing us in directions and press secretaries running lines daily. But we always know what their agenda is. We don’t report blindly. Mostly we try to counter it.

Slater is adamant Dotcom is behind this. That it’s a play to buy/screw an election. If he is, he’ll get away with it. I don’t have the skills needed to nail him, or whoever it is, and the majority of media don’t have the inclination. 

Sure, I expect the ‘left’ will dismiss this column as just part of the broad campaign to destroy Hager’s credibility. In reality, anyone with half a brain can see he’s done that to himself. Dirty Politics isn’t journalism. It’s political activism, enabled by crime. We have to question it.

I would point out that I’m not aware of comments by Hager on the break in at Mark Mitchell’s office.

People sometimes say jerky things in e-mails

August 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Yesterday there was some excitement over some e-mails from the Hager book which made it look like Cactus Kate had published Nicky Hager’s address so the Chinese triads could kill him, over his work exposing money laundering.

I know Cactus well and she is an unlikely assassin.

The reality is that people sometimes say jerky things in private e-mail conversations. I suspect most of us have done it. I’m sure I have. Go through what must be over 100,000 e-mails from me, and I am sure you’ll find some where I have said offensive and jerky things.

Cameron often says things in e-mails about how the Headhunters are going to deal to this person, and the triads to this person. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen a reference to this. People often boast and skite in e-mail, and that doesn’t mean it represents what actually happened. With Cameron the proportion is perhaps a bit higher than for most of us. Rodney Hide writes in the HoS on how it took him just 10 minutes to check and verify the claims about him being blackmailed were false. Basically a couple of people heard some gossip, talked about using the gossip, but of course never did.

Hence it is easy to take a few dozen of the worst e-mails from someone, and make them sound like they are a major criminal figure, or the such.

Take for example, me. I’m generally not a vengeful person. But if you were tape recording my phone when I worked out that someone had planted a spy into my office (and one that appears to still have been there maybe just three weeks ago), then you would have heard me swearing and promising bloody retribution.

Then 24 hours later I was fine, after going for a run, which is a great way to calm down. But if you had hacked my phone and heard my initial thoughts, I’d look really bad.

I can’t recall if I ever say the e-mails talking about Hager and triads or something. But if I did, I wouldn’t have been taking them seriously. Its preposterous.

When a threat is real, I will take action. A few years back there was a nasty guy who made death threats on his blog against Sue Bradford. His blog was hosted by Google, so no way to work out his identity. I realised he had once or twice commented on my blog, so I proactively went to Sue Bradford’s office and told them I had info which could help identify him. They told the Police who contacted me, and I gave the info to the Police. Sue’s politics are not my own, but I despise political violence. But people mouthing off on e-mail about the triads doing “chop, chop” is not the same.

There’s also been some focus on the case of Simon Pleasants, a former Labour staffer who worked in Ministerial Services, who some thought might have leaked details of ministerial housing. I do remember that exchange, and I said that I knew Simon well, regarded him as a good guy, and do not think he would have been involved  in any way. My advice was not followed, because well Cam doesn’t tend to be the advice taking type.

But also worth putting this in context. It was unfair to blame Simon just because he was a former Labour staffer. But when a former Labour staffer leaks cabinet papers from MFAT to Phil Goff, then people get suspicious of all former political staffers. When people stick spies into my office, I wonder if I need to start vetting my staff (I won’t). What I’m saying is that because of the actions of a few extremists, people like Simon do get suspected because of their former political role. If you know them, like I did, then you’ll say Nah would never be him. When you don’t, and some information has been leaked, then they do become the number one suspect – unfairly. Blame the former Labour staffer who leaked the MFAT cabinet paper as much as you blame others.

So again, people say jerky things in e-mails. I am one of them. I can’t recall anything horrendously jerky from me, but I’m sure if you go through 100,000 e-mails you’ll find some, and they will get published somewhere someday.

Meanwhile it appears the spy may still be in my office. A closer reading of the book reveals stuff from barely a few weeks ago. So he or she has been stealing scripts for many months. Is he or she just stealing scripts? Is he listening to conversations and passing it on. Is he or she trying to access the office computer? Are the scripts going just to Nicky Hager, or being shared with other political parties? How much of my company’s information has been stolen by this person? What fun questions I’ve got to grapple with.

Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to interview people before publishing?

August 15th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former ACT party leader Rodney Hide says he ‘laughed out loud’ over allegations he was blackmailed into standing down as leader of the ACT Party.

Jordan Williams, the Wellington lobbyist who features heavily in Nicky Hager’s latest book, also says the suggestion is “utterly false”.

In his book Dirty Politics, Hager claims that Williams was part of a campaign to pressure Hide to stand down, including claims that he was blackmailed into resigning over him sending “inappropriate text messages to a young woman”.

The book published an exchange between Simon Lusk, a political strategist previously aligned with the National Party, and WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

Lusk to Slater: “Cam we an f… up rodney. …Jordan is talking to a girl that Rodney has been sending dodgy texts to.”

Slater: “Get the texts….I can get them to Jonathan Jarshall. Just the sort of grubby shit he would be into.”

“Trying. Problem is that Jordan needs to get them first, probably Wednesday night, but at the same time we can use this to our advantage.”

Slater: “Drop them hard this Fri. No coming back from that.”

Hide said he “laughed out loud” when he read the allegations and referred to Lusk and Slater’s conversations as “two guys who email each other sort of like they’re standing around in the pub talking bullshit…”

Rodney is right. I would have thought an investigative journalist, would follow up the e-mails, and ask if any of the stuff talked about actually happened. People often get boastful or hyped up on e-mails. The entire book is based on e-mails to or from Cameron (plus some material stolen from me), and they take as the literal truth everything said on e-mail.  Just because someone boasts that they will try and get the Minister to move a prisoner for them, doesn’t mean it ever happened – and in fact it can’t happen.

I doubt there are many people who can say they have exaggerated or boasted a bit on e-mail. The blackmail of Rodney never happened. If it had been attempted, he would have gone to the Police.

The book would have been far less sensational if there had been some actual investigating. Instead it is just a book of e-mails, and a theory wrapped around it. No actual interviews with anyone, or substantiation beyond the e-mails.

Ian Wishart points out the hypocrisy:

In his new book Dirty Politics, Nicky Hager reprints allegations contained in stolen private emails – theories about a wide range of people. Among the allegations he has printed are that former Act leader Rodney Hide was blackmailed into quitting because he had been caught sending inappropriate text messages to a woman.

Additionally, Hager reprinted emails alleging Auckland mayor Len Brown was having sex with prostitutes.

Neither Brown nor Hide appear to have been asked to comment on the truth of the allegations. In fact, Hide has definitely confirmed he was not approached, and that the allegations are false and without substance.

Yet here is what Nicky Hager testified to the Wellington High Court in a defamation case last year:

“I believe the more serious the allegations we write, the more care that is required to ensure we have got things correct. I say to myself that no one can ever criticise me for things I haven’t written, so that if I am not absolutely sure of something, I don’t publish.

“Research is something that can take months or years. In this case the allegations were serious and personal. I would not include allegations like those in my work if there was so little time for proving the facts…

“I was struck by the fact that the sexual allegations appeared to rely entirely upon the words of the plaintiff’s ex-wife. As a journalist, I would feel very uneasy about publishing, let alone putting my name to, sexual allegations from an ex-spouse unless I had done a lot of work and found very strong corroborating evidence.”

In Nicky Hager’s new book, he has no witnesses at all; no prostitutes admitting to sleeping with Len Brown, no ex-spouse, no woman saying she was sent inappropriate texts by Rodney Hide. Hager’s entire ream of “evidence” is actually hearsay gossip, which is usually inadmissible in court.

“There are issues of logic in investigative journalism,” Hager told the High Court. “In particular we have to be careful that our evidence actually supports our conclusions…

You might not like Wishart, but he is quoting Hager’s own words.

I’ve either been hacked or spied on

August 15th, 2014 at 7:40 am by David Farrar

I started reading more fully the Nicky Hager book yesterday, and the footnotes in the book. To my shock I realised that Hager had info in the book that could not have come from the hacking of Cameron Slater, but could only have come from my computer, my apartment or my office.

Specifically he refers to copies of two scripts used by my company, Curia Research, this year. There is absolutely no way they could have come from Cameron Slater’s computer systems, as Cameron doesn’t have them. No one has them but me and my office.

I thought about how this could have happened. The two most likely scenarios are that my computer systems have also been hacked, or that someone physically removed the scripts from my office (or possibly apartment). All of these scenarios make me feel sick, and make me worry about the security of the 100+ staff working for me.

Some of the material is very recent – from June 2014 – just two months ago. I think the most likely thing is that someone joined the staff (we recruit often) with the purpose of acquiring material from my office. There’s no evidence of a break in, and I tend to keep my computer systems fairly secure.

I am sure the official explanation will be that the scripts just turned up in an envelope somewhere, and they have no idea how they got there. I think that is bullshit. Most of my staff are young students, who I can’t imagine would suddenly decide to send a copy of my scripts to Nicky Hager in the post.

I consider this outrageous, just as I hope people would if someone from the right infiltrated the offices of the Labour Party pollsters, to steal their material.

There is no public interest defence to the stealing of the material belonging to my clients. There was nothing sinister or inappropriate in it.  In fact one of the scripts detailed in the book is of some questions we did for Family First, who published the results on their website, including the full questions. But I know Hager has a copy of the script as he has quoted the question numbers, which are not included in the published results.

I do not accept that because I am a blogger, and my company has National as a client, it makes it all right for me to be hacked or spied on, and material stolen from me.

This is the second Hager book that has e-mails from or to me. In 2008 (off memory) a left wing activist gained entry to a social function I was at, and covertly tape recorded conversations. My office has been infiltrated. To be honest, I’m pretty disgusted at the moment as I consider the pattern over several years.

I don’t hold the left generally responsible. I have many many friends involved in politics on the left. I’ve appreciated their support in recent days. They are good people. I think most Labour and Green MPs are good people. But there is an extreme segment of the left who do think that it is okay to hack, steal, record and spy on others, because we are of the right.

My gut reaction last night was to give up politics, if it means that I am going to have to worry about spies infiltrating my company, my communications being hacked, people recording private conversations with me. I regard my family, friends and loved ones as far more important to me, than my involvement in politics. But I’m not going to do that in haste.

Instead with huge regret I’m going to have to stop being so trusting. I’m going to have to pay what will be possibly a fair bit of money to check my apartment, my office and my computer systems for anything that shouldn’t be there. While my assumption is that the scripts came from someone who had physical access to my office, I can’t be sure. If people regard hacking and stealing as fair game, I don’t have the confidence they’ll stop at that.

I could introduce systems in my office where staff get personalised copies of scripts, that must be handed in,and have security cameras to record people. But I’m not going to do that. I value my staff too much to insult them. All but one of them will be as offended as I am, by the fact someone has betrayed their trust by stealing material (if my assumption is correct).

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the cleaners stole it. Should I check out my cleaners also? I hate the fact I’m even having to think about this. I’m sure again that there will be some official version offered in which no one did anything wrong to acquire those scripts, but pardon me, if I have some disbelief.

Dirty Politics

August 14th, 2014 at 6:01 am by David Farrar

Isn’t the most dirty trick exposed in Nicky Hager’s book, the revelation that Hager reveals that he received six years of stolen e-mails, hacked from Cameron Slater’s Gmail and Facebook accounts?

Is it not ironic that so many on the left have marched and protested against the right of the GCSB to assist the SIS or the Police to intercept communications, if a Judge or retried Judge agrees that there is enough evidence of criminal or national security issues to give out an interception warrant. They protested for weeks and months.

Yet when we get evidence of a massive criminal hacking of six years of personal communications, then they do not see that as dirty politics. They celebrate it, because it occurred against someone they do not like. Does this not suggest a large degree of hypocrisy and faux outrage over the GCSB changes last year? Are any of those anti-GCSB protesters going to condemn Nicky Hager and his unknown associate/s for the hack and publication  of Cameron Slater’s Gmail and Facebook?

Do all those journalists who wrote dozens and dozens of stories about the GCSB Bill, have a view on whether it is okay to criminally hack someone’s private communications, because you don’t like what they write? Is this where we want politics in New Zealand to go – partisans from the left and right trying to hack each other’s communications?

The book does expose dirty politics in New Zealand, the dirty politics of those who criminally hack private communications, and publish them. They’ve just had journalists in the UK go to jail for publishing stories that they knew were based on hacked voicemails. Here though, you get to make royalties out of them.

UPDATE:John Armstrong has got very excited and said:

Hager’s allegations are many and varied. They are extremely serious. But one stands out. The allegation that one of John Key’s minions hacked into the Labour Party’s database is – to put it bluntly – the modern-day equivalent of the 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party’s national committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington.

This is factually wrong, and somewhat hysterical. There was absolutely no hacking of the Labour Party. The only person who has been hacked is Cameron Slater.

The Labour Party had the technical competence of a five year old and had their credit card database lying openly on their webserver for the world to see. No hacking needed, no passwords needed. They placed the data openly on the world wide web. 

Someone noticed this and e-mailed Cameron Slater. He of course delighted in their incompetence and prepared to blog on it. He mentioned it to a few people, who had a look around, including Jason. That’s not hacking, that is not burglary. It is curiosity. Again – this was information they had accidentally made publicly available.

The question arises of course as to how Cameron’s communications were hacked. The suggestion that it was related to the DOS attack on his site is a red herring I believe. His Facebook messages are not linked to his site, and I doubt his Gmail is either. Someone must have hacked both his Gmail and his Facebook. So who could have done this? Can we think of anyone who is a known successful hacker who hates Cameron? Someone who had a lackey blogging before the book came out, that he knew what was in it? Not hard to connect the dots is it.

UPDATE: Cameron Slate has alleged Kim Dotcom was responsible, but Dotcom and Hager deny this strongly. I have no direct knowledge of who is responsible, and as usual take people at their word until there is proof to the contrary.

The Hager book

August 13th, 2014 at 8:13 pm by David Farrar

Rather bemused to find an entire chapter of Nicky Hager’s book is on me, and also how banal it is. Almost everything in there is in the public domain, as I live a pretty open life. But what Hager has done is wave his normal conspiracy theory through everything and make the fact that bloggers and other talk to each other, some sort of sinister thing.

Basically the chapter is a revelation that I am a member of the National Party! I didn’t realise this was a big secret.

He seems to have no curiousity at all over all the bloggers on the left who don’t blog under their real names, and are rumoured to actually work in Parliament. He also doesn’t worry about one blogger who has been on multiple party payrolls and never declared it, until outed.

What is very interesting is that his source is once again stolen e-mails. In The Hollow Men, he claimed they were leaked to him by an insider. In this book they are obviously hacked from Cameron Slater, which to my mind raises huge disbelief over his claims that the previous set of e-mails were leaked.

I’ve had a quick read through the chapter on me, and a few things I’ll point out.

  • Hager thinks my setting Kiwiblog up was due to my involvement in the IDU. That’s nuts. I’ve been debating politics online since 1996, originally through Usenet. I set Kiwiblog up because I like debate. It was not encouraged by anyone, and I was surprised it has turned out influential. In fact in the early days quite a few in National put pressure on for me not to blog.
  • I get e-mails from numerous people, including Jason Ede, pointing stories out to me, or suggesting things I may want to blog on. I get them from lots of ordinary blog readers, from friends, from some staff, and sometmes even an MP. But I decide what I blog, and they always accord with my political views.
  • A tiny proportion of what I blog comes from National sources. Way under 5%. I write Kiwiblog, and people send me ideas – and this is somehow a conspiracy. Very very very occasionally I might proactively ask for some info – maybe every couple of months, if that.
  • Most of what I blog is pro-National, as you would expect. But most weeks there is an issue I disagree with them on. I did multiple posts attacking the Government on the proposed copper tax, and even had Kiwiblog join an aggressive campaign against National on this. I have several times lobbied minor party MPs not to support National on bills or amendments. I recently said I think John Key should have accepted Gerry Brownlee’s resignation.
  • When Curia first set up, it of course had only one client. Since then it has grown nicely. At last count around 60+. The initial staff were mainly people I knew through National, as I took over what had been some internal polling, but today we have well over 100 staff and I don’t think any of them are Young Nats. The 2ic for Curia is a Labour supporter who told me the first time we socialised together that for a right wing bastard, I’m not totally bad. We poll for many clients, whose politics I do not share. I’ve polled for former Labour and Alliance MPs. I’ve polled for Family First, and disagree with them on 90% of their issues.
  • Nicky seems to think it is a secret I am National’s pollster. A bloody badly kept secret. It’s on my website. It is referred to often.
  • He is also excited that my staff do some canvassing work for National candidates or MPs. Yep. It creates extra work for my staff which is great. But we don’t just do it for them. While most of our work is polling, if people want to utilise our call centre, and pay for it, they can. Just last week I had one client contract our call centre to make 18,000 phone calls on their behalf – this is a totally non-political client. I’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays (so long as not a conflict of interest)

Most of the book is on Cam. Cam does some great stuff and he sometimes does some appalling stuff. Cam does not work for anyone, or even take guidance from anyone. He is his own force of nature.

Hager basically doesn’t like the fact the right now have voices. He basically says no media should ever use me as a commentator. He is threatened by the fact we finally have one organisation (Taxpayers Union) arguing for less government spending, to counter the 2,000 or so that argue for more.

My final comment is to note that people thought his book may be on the NSA and GCSB intercepting electronic communications. It would seem the person who is the biggest recipient and publisher of intercepted electronic communications is in fact Nicky Hager. If someone published a book of e-mails between a group of left-wingers, he’d probably call it a police state, and demand an inquiry,

Hager’s book

September 2nd, 2011 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Two different takes on Nicky Hager’s latest book. John Armstong writes in the Herald:

Those who think Nicky Hager is just another left-wing stirrer and dismiss his latest book accordingly should think again.

Likewise, the country’s politicians should read Other People’s Wars before condemning it.

Whatever Hager’s motive for investigating New Zealand’s contribution over the past decade to the United States-led “war on terror”, it is pretty irrelevant when placed alongside the mountain of previously confidential and very disturbing information his assiduous research and inquiries have uncovered.

With the help of well-placed informants and thousands of leaked documents, Hager exposes the cynical manner in which the Defence Force has purposely misled the public by omission of pertinent facts and public relations flannel.

This is particularly the case with regard to the “candyfloss” image the military has built around the deployment of New Zealand soldiers in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan.

That image is of our soldiers acting more like peacekeepers armed with nothing more dangerous than a shovel.

The last couple of paragraphs do resonate with me to a degree. People forget that Helen Clark sent soliders into both Iraq and Afghanistan. With the exception of the SAS deployment (which she simply wouldn’t talk about), they were portrayed as just being engineers and builders who happen to be soldiers. Their role we were told was purely to help the locals, and nothing to do with those nasty wars.

Fair enough. But the Defence Force has sought to paint this deployment in a completely different light. Hager has cut through that pretence with the evidence to prove what has always been surmised – that the real reason for such deployments was not to help the inhabitants of Bamiyan but to impress the hawks in Washington.

Hopefully it is a mixture of both, but I’ve never doubted that Clark sending troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan was about keeping the US and to a degree the UK happy.

Vernon Small has a different take at Stuff:

A speed read of Nicky Hager’s latest book shows his usual impressive access to detailed documents and meticulous sourcing.

The insiders’ claims about ministers being kept in the dark may be true; the SAS in particular is obsessive about secrecy to the point that even a description of the ceremony farewelling Corporal Doug Grant was refused.

But the lens Hager uses gives a different view of New Zealand’s base at Bamiyan than one gleaned from a week-long visit there last month.

For instance, he claims that, despite media visits and hundreds of soldiers passing through the base, the military managed to keep secret the fact that they shared the Bamiyan camp with a United States intelligence base.

In fact, I, and other reporters before me, were introduced to US intelligence and communications staff at Bamiyan and at other Kiwi forward bases and ate and chatted with them. The stars and stripes flies alongside the New Zealand flag at Bamiyan to advertise the US contingent.

I’ve said before that Hager has good research skills, but his failing is he sees (or portrays) everything as a conspiracy or deep dark secret.

It was not a surprise that New Zealand is plugged in to the US-Nato intelligence and communication system across the war-torn country. It is something this reporter was specifically briefed on, although with a request not to publish details for operational security reasons.

Suffice to say that, from my observations, the information Kiwi troops glean is far more extensive than anything that flows the other way. Was the CIA there? I don’t know, and Hager only surmises.

The links tell New Zealand forces where other coalition forces are operating and let them call in US air support, both key factors in a multi-national force. Problems getting air support were highlighted in the report on the attack that killed Lieutenant Timothy O’Donnell.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Hager also points to a lack of understanding among the public about the Kiwis’ role in Bamiyan; that coverage was all airbrushed PR spin showing “friendly New Zealand soldiers handing out gifts to smiling children, building schools and wells”.

He may have had a case in the early years.

But for almost three years now, after the 2009 attack on the base at Do Abe and the first Kiwi casualties caused the military to upgrade its armoured vehicles from Hiluxes to LAVs, there has been no shortage of coverage highlighting the risks and the dangers.

Far from trying to cover that up, the soldiers on the ground I talked to were eager for the New Zealand public to know they were fighting in a dangerous war zone.

I think this is right. Early on things were somewhat sugar-coated, but I think in recent years we’ve come to understand better how the Bamiyan mission is not some safe engineering operation.

Kiwi Wikileaks

December 12th, 2010 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

Nicky Hager and the Sunday Star Times have had Wikileaks hand over to them 1,500 cables mentioning New Zealand.

The main article reveals that last August saw the US Government restore New Zealand to full intelligence-sharing status.

They have a 53 page pdf of the cables here.

A story on journalists who have got state department visits is here.

Another story on the anti-nuke laws.

Danyl at the Dim-Post has sorted some of the cables into separate text files, with keywords.

Simon Lyall blogs on how one cable explicitly names the Deputy Director of the NZ SIS, which is a breach of the NZ SIS Act 1969, specifically s13A(1):

Every person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000, who (except with the written consent of the Minister) publishes or causes or allows to be published in a newspaper or other documsent, or broadcasts or causes or allows to be broadcast by radio or television or otherwise, the fact that any person is a member of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service other than the Director.

I guess the Sunday Star-Times decided that a maximum $1,000 fine is not much of a deterrent.

Having googled the name of the Deputy Director, it is fair to say that his involvement in the intelligence community is not exactly a secret – however his current role is.

Brash e-mails remain a mystery

March 8th, 2010 at 11:26 am by David Farrar

NZPA report:

Police have failed to find the source of the leaked Don Brash emails.

A police review of the investigation, involving almost 200 interviews, into the publication of the leaked emails from the then-leader of the National Party has been completed and the source of the emails could not be established. …

Almost 200 interviews were conducted with parliamentary employees, including I&T, security, messengers, cleaners and contractors, along with a number of other people, to corroborate information gathered in the original investigation.

Although no suspect leads were identified, the interviews did provide evidence of unsatisfactory security on the third floor both in terms of access to the floor and offices and to individual computers. These afforded opportunities for access to a range of documents, both hard copy and electronic.

We may never know the truth. I did ask Nicky Hager, when I last saw him, to consider revealing who did it and how, after that person/s has died, as he has a duty to history to reveal.

The Police have noted there was unsatisfactory security on the third floor. I believe the most likely way it happened was someone who does not work on the third floor, got in there and swiped the e-mails. It would have taken around two minutes to stick a flash drive in a PC and copy the Outlook file over.

Nicky’s new powers

January 6th, 2010 at 4:41 pm by David Farrar

In the SST, a story from Nicky Hager had the headline:

NZ’s cyber spies win new powers

Like many, I wondered what law change had been quietly passed into law in late 2009, without us noticing.

NEW CYBER-MONITORING measures have been quietly introduced giving police and Security Intelligence Service (SIS) officers the power to monitor all aspects of someone’s online life.

The measures are the largest expansion of police and SIS surveillance capabilities for decades, and mean that all mobile calls and texts, email, internet surfing and online shopping, chatting and social networking can be monitored anywhere in New Zealand.

Oh my God. When did this happen? Actually back in 2004. Not exactly new.

And it is not giving the SIS and Police the power to monitor themselves – it gave them the power to get a warrant to get a telco or ISP intercept communications – just as they have had the power for many decades to get a warrant to have phone calls intercepted.

Now this doesn’t mean I necessarily support the 2004 law change. I’ve blogged a series of articles highlighting draconian provisions in the Search and Surveillance Bill before Parliament. Nicky’s article would have been more useful however in 2004, than in 2010.

Police and SIS must still obtain an interception warrant naming a person or place they want to monitor but, compared to the phone taps of the past, a single warrant now covers phone, email and all internet activity. It can even monitor a person’s location by detecting their mobile phone; all of this occurring almost instantaneously.

Police say in the year to June 2009, there were 68 interception warrant applications granted and 157 people prosecuted as a result of those interceptions.

What would be interesting is the details of those 68 warrants – were they for all Internet activity, or just some?

The measures are the consequence of a law, the 2004 Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act, which gave internet and network companies until last year to install devices allowing automated access to internet and cellphone data.

Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear had earlier 2005 deadlines, and new cellphone provider 2degrees installed the interception equipment before launching last year.

So these “new” powers have actually been in place for four to five years, for 95% of the Internet population.

In an associated article, Hager says:

Not long ago, police and Security Intelligence Service (SIS) interception meant tapping your landline phone or bugging your kitchen. Now, under a new surveillance regime ushered in by the 2004 Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act, a basic interception warrant also allows them access to all your emails, internet browsing, online shopping or dating, calls, texts and location for mobile phones, and much more – all delivered almost instantaneously to the surveillance agencies.

To catch other sorts of communications, including people using overseas-based email or other services, all the local communications networks are wired up as well, to monitor messages en route overseas.

Interception equipment built permanently into every segment of the country’s communications architecture will provide the sort of pervasive spying capability we normally associate with police states.

Now Hager is right in that all telcos and ISPs have to have the capability to intercept all Internet communications by a user, if presented with a warrant. However what is not made clear in the article is that the ISPs themselves do the intercepting, and forward the data onto the appropriate authority. The article almost implies that the Police/SIS/GCSB can merely push a switch remotely, and hey presto your data flows to them.

The law gave network companies five years to install the intercept capabilities and the five years was up last year. Many network companies dragged their feet about installing the new surveillance equipment, despite government subsidy of the cost. After four years of inactivity, a consultant with police and SIS ties attended the NZ Network Operators Group conference in Dunedin last year to read them the riot act.

Dean Pemberton, who had previously set up and run “lawful interception” equipment at TelstraClear, told the roomful of network specialists what “the agencies” expected from them and said the agencies expected them to install devices that could intercept data and forward it to the agencies “on a minute by minute basis”. If companies didn’t have this gear in place, they risked a $500,000 fine and “should get a lawyer”, he said.

This part of the article is rather misleading, and I can speak from first hand knowledge as I was at that conference when Dean spoke.

The first thing people should understand is that Dean is what I call an alpha geek 🙂 He is one of the guys who built the Internet in New Zealand and he attends and presents almost every year without fail to the NZNOG Conference.

In 2008 he spoke of his experiences with the Interception Act requirements, and what you had to do to comply. I doubt a single person in the room saw this as Dean “laying down the law”, let alone the implication he was speaking on behalf of the SIS or Police. Dean was doing what he normally does – sharing his experiences with the technical community.

There’s some good research in Nicky’s article about how the FBI were a prime mover in the request for NZ to have the interception capability, and it is true many NZers will be unaware of the interception capability. However the article would have been a lot more useful in 2004 when the law was being considered, or in 2005 when the big telcos implemented it.

Next I await a story about how the Post Office has been given new powers to intercept and read postcards 🙂

The ASPA Awards

September 14th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I was one of the judges for the Best Website section of the Aotearoa Student Press Association Awards, so went along to the awards ceremony on Thursday night.


Barry Soper (left) was the Awards MC and Guest Speaker. Laura McQuillan was the Awards organiser.

I knew a few of the other Judges, and got to meet some I hadn’t already met, such as the Dom’s Post Greer McDonald, and Nicky Hager. No doubt Whale and Cactus will expel me again from the VWRC for fraternising with Nicky. I did ask Nicky to consider revealing one day in the future (as in many decades time after the people involved are dead) who or how he got the National Party e-mails,for the sake of accurate history.


The Salient team accepting the Publication of the Year award, with editor Jackson Wood next to Barry.

The full list of awards was:

  1. Best Website – Craccum
  2. Best Headline – Critic for “Students spitroasted at CoC fight”
  3. Best Cartoonist – Robyn Kenealy of Salient and Maria Brett of Critic
  4. Best Original Photography – Clinton Cardozo of Debate
  5. Best Sports Writer – Brad Kreft of Critic
  6. Best Education Series – Joshua Drummond of Nexus
  7. Best Humour Content – Joseph Harper of In Unison
  8. Best Reviewer – Joseph Harper of In Unison
  9. Best Columnist – Dr Love of Magneto and Liz Willoughby-Martin of Critic
  10. Best Cover – Salient
  11. Best Editorial Writer – Ryan Boyd of Debate
  12. Best Feature Writer – Sarah Robson of Salient
  13. Best News Writer (unpaid) – Jessy Edwards of Salient
  14. Best News Writer – (paid) – Stacey Knott of In Unison
  15. Best Feature Content – Nina Fowler of Salient
  16. Best Design – Chaff
  17. Best Small Publication – Magneto
  18. Best Publication – Salient

Was a fun night. It wound down a bit before midnight when some headed into town. Thanks to Fairfax for sponsoring it, and well done to the winners and finalists.

Not wrong

May 20th, 2009 at 1:48 pm by David Farrar

At the weekend I blogged agreement with Fran O’Sullivan that the Police inquiry into Don Brash’s stolen e-mails was a disgrace (and headed by the same officer who cleared Labour of ther $400,000 overspend in 2005 despite it being an offence of strict liability!).

However I disagreed with her that John Key and Judith Collins were somehow being unhelpful by not ordering an inquiry, pointing out the Police Act explicitly prevents the Minister of Police from giving directions over the investigation and prosecution of offences. You can be sure if that clause did not exist there would be new inquiries into Labour’s 2005 overspending!!

Whale Oil originally agreed with me, but now has done a backflip, saying that in a word first, he is wrong. He says:

In fact, Fran was right and I was wrong.

According to the Cabinet Manual and the Department of Internal Affairs’ very useful document “ Setting Up and Running Commissions of Inquiry“, any Minister, including the Police Minister, can set up a Commission of Inquiry. Commissions of Inquiry can inquire into any matter of major public importance or concern to the government of the day. Any Minister may propose an inquiry, but must consult the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General first, prior to submitting the proposal to Cabinet. Before giving its approval, Cabinet should seek advice form the relevant Minister’s office, the relevant department, DPMC and the Crown Law Office. …

PS. Over at Kiwiblog, Farrar made the same mistake. Will he admit he was wrong, and join WOBH’s call for an inquiry?

But I disagree with Whale. Neither the Police Minister nor the Prime Minister can set a Commission of Inquiry. The Cabinet as a while has to agree.  Fran said “It is within Key’s powers to direct an independent review of the police investigation” and it simply is not. The PM is not the Cabinet, and Cabinet have been known to over-turn PMs (except Muldoon). Lange for example often lost at Cabinet.

You can argue that Fran was right in saying [Police Minister Judith Collins] “has not asked for a review” but this implies her status as Police Minister allows her to do so. It does not. Sure she can ask the Cabinet for a commission of inquiry, but if you take it literally, and member of the public can ask for a review. The implication was that Collins had some special power to get a review. She does not.

Now people may say, why not a full Commission of Inquiry? Well 4.83 of the Cabinet Manual says:

While it is appropriate for inquiries to investigate instances of impropriety, they should not cut across the role of the police or the role of the courts in determining criminal or civil liability.

Now you could argue for a Ministerial inquiry – but they have no powers to compel witneses to tell the truth, so would be useless.

So I stand by my original post – neither Key nor Collins have the power to inquire into the Police investigation. I have little doubt both would love to know who stole the e-mails.

Nicky Hager has said that he got the information from six National party sources, all concerned about the party under Brash. I have always thought that beyond improbable. No one from National would choose to give e-mails to Hager, as oppossed to say the media. And while one can never rule out one disaffected staffer, the fantasy of six people all leaking to Hager is well a fantasy.

But here’s a challenge to Nicky. If he stands by his story, why doesn’t he agree to do a Deep Throat and pledge he will reveal how he got the e-mails in x years, or have the so called sources reveal it in their wills. Then one day the truth will be known.

Nicky Hager reveals …

February 18th, 2009 at 5:43 pm by David Farrar

Over at Pundit, Nicky Hager reveals:

Leaked Cabinet plans list the government’s infrastructure projects and show that even facing the worst economic crisis in half a century, the government intends to restrain its spending

Oh my God, the Government is going to be restrained with its spending. Shock, horror.

Personally, I regard it as an entirely laudable thing that the Government is restrained when spending my money.

Two interesting law suits

November 24th, 2008 at 8:45 am by David Farrar

An article in the Herald on public law and lobbying, mainly focused on Mai Chen.

That said, about a third of the firm’s work is litigation, and her current workload includes two particularly high-profile cases. She has been hired by former Auckland District Health Board member Tony Bierre to sue former Prime Minister Helen Clark for defamation over comments she made during the Labtests fiasco. Chen is also acting for National Party advisers Crosby/Textor, who are suing journalist Nicky Hager over comments he made to Radio New Zealand.

Both those law suits look fascinating.

The hollowness of the Hollow Men

July 25th, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

This is a long detailed post. Half of me says I shouldn’t bother doing this, but I think it would be useful for the record to illustrate that the very deceptive practices that Nicky Hager condemns in The Hollow Men, are in fact used by Hager in The Hollow Men.

The material I am going to focus on has been used by Nicky Hager in the Hollow Men, and has featured in the play and in the just-released film.

If you attended the Wellington premiere of the Hollow Men last weekend will have been given a flyer for the film. On the front page it features a quote from what is said to be an email from Peter Keenan to Don Brash. The line is: “Political war is about evoking emotions that favour one’s goals….while mobilizing passions of fear and resentment against your opponents.”

That rather nasty quote, along with others in the book, is used to introduce the alleged malicious intent behind the Orewa speech on Treaty issues. Hager would have you think Keenan was telling Brash that this is how he should operate and in Hager’s book (refer bottom of p85) this line is presented as Keenan “quoting with approval United States Republican strategist David Horowitz”.

But, as with pretty much everything in the Hollow Men, Hager stripped out the context of the quote to distort the meaning. In fact in this case he manages to reverse the meaning entirely.

What Hager failed to mention was that those words were actually from a six page bullet point summary, sent as an attachment in an email, of essays in two books by David Horowitz. The attached document was a straightforward summary of what somebody else had written. Those that want to check what follows can simply get the books: The Art of Political War and other Radical Pursuits, and How to Beat the Democrats, and other Subversive Ideas. They are interesting essays, regardless of what your political views might be.

The so-called quotes from Peter Keenan, are actually direct quotes from the summary he compiled of the Horowitz articles. This was not an instruction or advice from Keenan to Brash on what Brash should do, but part of a six page book summary.

It turns out that, in the articles summarized by Keenan, Horowitz was describing how the political left conduct their political battles, and pointing out how hopeless the political right is by comparison. He is reminding conservative politicians that they need to engage at an emotional level if they want to be as effective politically as the left. The quotes attributed to Keenan are in fact Horowitz describing how those on the left operate.

Here are a few more quotes from that bullet point summary to give you the flavour of what it was about. Hager didn’t use these. To put this in an NZ context, I have substituted “the left/left-wing” for Democrats, and “conservative” for Republican.

“The right often seem to regard political combat as they would a debate at the Oxford Union, as though winning depended on rational arguments. The audience is not made up of academics. You have 30 seconds to make a point. Even if you had time to make an argument, the audience in the middle (the ones you need to reach) are not paying attention or would not get it.”

“The left come to party politics out of socialist organisations, trade unions, and an assortment of social crusades (abortion, racial grievances, and environmental concerns). They are combat-ready before they begin their political careers. Conservatives train in boy scout troops and graduate to chambers of commerce and rotary clubs. Except for the pro-life missionaries in the conservative coalition, Conservatives are innocents abroad when it comes to political war.”

The so-called Keenan “quotes” that have been referenced in the Hollow Men book, play and film, are drawn from a section which summarises what Horowitz calls the Four Principles of Politics: ie. politics is a war of Emotions, of Position, is about Fear, is about Hope. Hager pulls quotes from the summary explanations of these points. I will give you the full quote (which was itself a summary of a fuller treatment by Horowitz in his book), and highlight what Hager used:

Politics is a War of Emotions: For the great mass of the public, casting a vote is not an intellectual choice, but a gut decision, based on impressions that may be superficial and premises that could be misguided. Political war is about evoking emotions that favour one’s goals. It is the ability to manipulate the public’s feelings in support of your agenda, while mobilising passions of fear and resentment against your opponent.

Politics is about Fear: You must not only convince a majority that you are their friend, you must get them to fear your opponent as their enemy. Anger, fear and resentment are the most potent weapons in the Left-wing arsenal. They are powerful emotions that drive voters to the polls, and if they are not countered these emotions will bury your Gold Stars every time.

Horowitz used the term “Gold Star Republican” to describe the typical managerial type of conservative who thinks he can have a calm, rational debate on policy and win the day.

Thus, by stripping all the context from this “quote”, Hager completely misrepresents Keenan.

If you look at the e-mail in context, the obvious and reasonable interpretation of all of this was that Keenan was warning Brash what he was up against, and encouraging him to try and connect emotionally with the audience, use less technocratic language, and so forth. In the fuller treatment in the book, regarding the politics of fear, Horowitz writes:

“No matter how much conservatives may deplore such tactics, no matter how fervently they wish that electoral contests would turn on good policies and good principles, it is not in their power to change the reality of political war”.

Lets finish here with another couple of bullet points from that summary document, quotes that Hager could have used, but for obvious reasons did not.

“The left rely on Bribery and Fear. Much of the electorate has an enthusiasm for big government. Voters look to government for entitlements, looking to the political left to supply them. And the left recruits its supporters through taxpayer-funded programmes that buy their votes. The obstacles to this tendency is the individualism of the culture, the bankruptcy of most of the left’s programmes (poor incentives, no allowance for individual responsibility), and the political right itself which is infused with middle-class energy and entrepreneurial values and collectively represents the politics of reform.”

“Marxism may be dead, but a Marxist morality play provides the ordnance for left-wing political attacks…..In political battle the political left provides the search and destroy teams that accuse the right of racism and sexism, of polluting the environment and of abusing old people, women and children. The passions that motivate the political left are self-righteousness and hate.”

Looking back at the Labour Party’s 2005 campaign, and the way Hager has operated here, this analysis looks rather perceptive.

What is clear from all this, is that the use of that quote in the flyer for the film, and in the book, and in the play, was shamefully dishonest. Hager in his book, Dean Parker in the play, and Alister Barry in the film, all feature this astoundingly dishonest so-called “quote” – deliberately out of context and misapplied – to cast a malicious light on some simple briefing material forwarded to Brash.

Hager and Barry, if they wish to display the integrity they claim to champion, should order the current flyer to be shredded, and the film reworked to be at least marginally more honest.

Although integrity seems to be in short supply here. Some centre left bloggers have noted with disapproval that the film uses some covert filming of Peter Keenan. Grant Robertson said:

The only bum note in the documentary for me was the use of what appeared to be covert filming of Brash’s speech writer Peter Keenan.  Shots of him opening his curtains in the morning, and reading the paper just felt a bit creepy to me.

I am yet to see it, but when I heard about it, creepy is indeed the word for it.

And Danyl at the Dim-Post:

Even more ill-conceived are the other shots of Peter Keenan. One of the most interesting characters in Hager’s book the former economist privately disagreed with his leader’s racial policies even while he was writing the speeches promoting them. Keenan’s emails are quoted extensively in the film over shots of him wandering around inside his home watering his plants and reading the newspaper. The footage is hand-held and appears to have been shot covertly from a distance; Keenan does not seem to know he is being filmed and these sequences all have a queasy, paparazzi-cum-stalker like quality to them. Instead of questioning Kennan’s ethics as a speech-writer I found myself doubting Barry’s ethics as a director.

Danyl also noted:

As with his previous films, Barry makes extensive use of archival footage accompanied by voice-over narration; various experts including political scientist Jon Johansson and Christchurch Press political editor Colin Espiner provide additional commentary (although Espiner agreed to be interviewed by Barry he was not told it was for The Hollow Men).

Stephen Stratford at NZBC comments:

Why on earth would Barry not have told Espiner the purpose of the interview? And having interviewed Espiner, why did he not interview Keenan instead of stalking him in this, frankly, creepy way?

If you won’t front up to your subject and talk to him, you shouldn’t pretend that what you do is journalism. And if you don’t tell someone whom you do talk to what the real purpose of the interview is, you are engaged in deception. Isn’t that what The Hollow Men was all about?

The irony is rich isn’t it? A deceptive book and a deceptive film that take the moral high ground to lecture on deception?

Finally let’s finish on a lighter note. The flyer to the film also features a quote from a Keenan email to Brash, this time a genuine one. It is “the secret of success is sincerity and conviction…once you can fake that you’ve got it made”. That quote is so obviously Peter winding Don up, with a joke that reworks a well-known line by Groucho Marx, that it is amazing Nicky Hager didn’t get it. So Hager quotes a Groucho Marx joke as if it was serious political advice.

Hager, Parker and Barry need to get out more. Those on different sides of politics hold different views about which policies will build a better nation. When you start assuming that people who hold different views from you are in some way evil, then what you need is to get counseling – not write a book, play or make a film. But hey when the Government will give you money to do so, one can understand some of the motivations.

Now this all raises a wider question: given the scale of misrepresentation in this instance, it is impossible to take anything else in this book at face value. If you can make something sinister out of material like this, you can do it with anything. Removal of context is the simplest way to deceive.And unlike blogs where you can link through to the full quote, Hager’s works leave you blind as to the context.

Hager subtitled his book, A Study in the Politics of Deception. It was indeed – but maybe not in the way he intended.