Goff tried to suppress the fact he was briefed

August 22nd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

He said Dr Tucker told him about Slater’s request for the documents on July 26, the day he received it.

Mr Goff said Dr Tucker said he intended to release that day, “and I hit the roof”.

He had told Dr Tucker it was “unbelievable that you would contemplate doing anything like that – that draws you right into the political arena”.

He said Dr Tucker then agreed to delay the release for a week.

Now think about this.

Phil Goff told the media and the public he had not been briefed on a security issue.

He had been.

The SIS told him that they planned to release the briefing note, after redactions, as it had been requested under the Official Information Act, and there were no legal grounds to refuse it.

Goff hit the roof and heavied the SIS into delaying the release. He thinks that documents showing he was briefed when he claimed not to have been, should not be released to protect him.

And Labour are trying to claim some sort of moral high ground!!

 

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Getting excited over, well, nothing

August 21st, 2014 at 10:09 am by David Farrar

The PM has said he wasn’t told about the OIA release from the SIS 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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No PMO involvement in SIS OIA release

August 19th, 2014 at 6:08 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

The Security Intelligence Service says neither Prime Minister John Key nor his office played a part in the release of controversial documents to blogger Cameron Slater.

The documents were released to Slater six days after he requested them and posted on his Whaleoil  website.

They confirmed the SIS had briefed then-Labour leader Phil Goff about Israeli backpackers who left the country after the Christchurch earthquakes.

In answer to questions from Fairfax Media today, referred from Key’s office to the SIS, a spokesman said the director was responsible for responses under the OIA “and made the decision to release, and what to release in this case”.

“Under the ‘no surprises’ convention the director or a representative would normally inform the minister’s office about what is being released under the OIA. That’s what occured in this case,” he said.

“Neither the PM nor his office expressed a view as to whether the information should be released, or to whom, or when,” the spokesman said.

So the story about Collins getting a prisoner moved is dead, as is this story it seems.

The SIS Director is the former Cabinet Secretary, a role with the utmost integrity as they directly serve PMs and Cabinets of all political persuasions. If Rebecca Kitteridge says there was no involvement of the PMO in decision making, then that would have been the case.

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Two reports by the Inspector-General

May 30th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security has published two reports, both interesting.

The first report is into the incorrect data in the GCSB annual report. It had previously been disclosed and corrected. This was a pretty serious error, and to be honest if it occurred again you’d expect the responsible staff to resign.

Frustratingly we are not told how the error occurred. The IG says “any worthwhile account of the processes involved carries severe security risks”.

The second report is about the SIS and their interactions with a resident whose house they had a warrant to search. The resident is not named, but it has been widely reported to be Rajesh Singh – a former Fiji Minister who was suspected of being involved in a plot to kill Commodore Frank Bainimarama. It is somewhat ironic that the official policy of the NZ Government is that the Commodore is an illegitimate traitor, yet they also help protect him from assassination plots (which is the correct thing to do).

Anyway Singh has multiple complaints about the SIS behaviour during the raid. The Inspector-General dismisses all but one of them, noting that the evidence of Mr Singh is less credible than those of the two SIS agents and two police officers.

The one thing the IG does ping the SIS for is Agent A saying:

“would not tolerate [redacted] whether in New Zealand or not. Anyone involved in planning would be dealt with by the NZ police … A told [the complainant] he should be careful who he spoke to about the topics which had been discussed.”

The IG says that the role of the SIS is to gather intelligence only, not enforce security.

Basically the SIS agent should have got the Police officer to tell Mr Singh not to get involved in assassination plots, rather than tell him directly. It’s not a huge issue, but it is important to have the roles clearly defined.

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No Right fibs

May 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn said:

Meanwhile its worth noting that our MPs enjoy no such protection from the SIS (and hence from GCSB). If John Key wants SIS to spy on his political opponents, all he has to do is sign a warrant

That’s a pretty outrageous fib.

Here’s all the people who would have to be involved in breaking the law in such a way (a warrant to spy on MPs would only be legal if they were taking part in activities prejudicial to security. Section 4AA specifically outlaws the SIS taking any action to further or harm the interests of any political party. So be very clear a warrant to spy on MPs would be illegal. So who would have to be involved in this illegal activity:

  1. The SIS Director who must apply for the warrant. The PM can’t just make up his own warrants. The SIS Director is Rebecca Kitteridge – the former Cabinet Secretary – about as neutral an official as you can get,
  2. The Commissioner of Security Warrants who must also authorise the warrant. That is former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Bruce Robertson. He was appointed to the judiciary in 1987 by Labour, and his appointment as CSR in 2013 was agreed to by the Leader of the Opposition.
  3. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security who would be notified of the warrant. That is Cheryl Gwnn, former Deputy Solicitor-General. She was appointed after consultation with the Intelligence and Security Committee. She was appointed Deputy Solictor-General in 2003.
  4. The half dozen or so SIS staff who would be involved in implementing the warrant.

So the statement that the PM can spy on his political opponents by just signing a warrant, is outrageously false. Idiot/Savant does many good insightful blog posts (even if I disagree with them). But sometimes he just gets hysterical.

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Hefty?

February 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

But for two agencies that prefer not to spill their secrets, the SIS and GCSB have racked up a hefty bill for communications advice.

A hefty bill? How many millions have they spent?

In the 2012/13 year a contractor was paid $10,155 for three months’ work.

$10,155 for three months? That must be the most lowly paid contractor in the history of contracting.

The SIS also spent over $8000 printing three brochures since 2009, including ”A Guide to Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Around $2,700 per pamphlet. $8,000 over five years. Frugal, not hefty, is the word that comes to mind.

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Kitteridge to head up SIS

November 12th, 2013 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Prime Minister John Key today announced the appointment of Rebecca Kitteridge to the position of Director of Security, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

Ms Kitteridge will replace Dr Warren Tucker, who is retiring next year.

“Ms Kitteridge is a highly respected and professional public servant with experience in senior roles,” Mr Key says.

“She is currently Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council at the Department of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (DPMC), and has served under four Prime Ministers and four Governors-General while at DPMC.

“Ms Kitteridge was also seconded to conduct a high profile compliance review of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) late last year.

This is an excellent appointment.

With the increasing focus on the intelligence agencies, public confidence is critical. Kitteridge’s background as a totally impartial Cabinet Secretary, but also as someone who is meticulous about following the law, due process, good procedure etc is just what the SIS needs.

The PM is obviously very determined that there be no more stuff ups of the Kim Dotcom variety.

Both the SIS and GCSB have tended to be headed up by those from a military or foreign affairs background. Now both are headed up by long-term career civil servants.

Also Kitteridge is the first woman to head up the SIS, and I suspect will be the youngest Director also by a considerable margin.

Slightly ironically, Kitteridge is going from one job where she can not talk publicly about most of her day to day work, to perhaps the one job where you can talk even less about what your day in the office was like. At least she’ll be used to it!

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A confused story

October 4th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Domestic spying agency the Security Intelligence Service is looking for a new deputy chief executive who will advise Prime Minister John Key on internal and foreign threats.

No they’re not.

It is not an SIS job. The job is for a Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, who will oversee their Intelligence Coordination Group (ICG), National Assessments Bureau (NAB) and the Security and Risk Group (SRG).

While the SIS is New Zealand’s domestic spying agency the successful candidate will provide leadership and coordination of both the domestic and external security sector.

Again the job is not an SIS job. It is a DPMC job.

 

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Another terror plot

April 23rd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Canadian security forces have thwarted an al Qaeda plot to blow up a rail line between Canada and the United States, police and intelligence agencies say.

US security and law enforcement sources said the suspects had sought to attack the railroad between Toronto and New York City. Two men had been arrested after raids in Toronto and Montreal.

With this plot and the recent terrorism in Boston, it seems a very bad time to be arguing that there should be no capability to do intercept domestic communications in New Zealand. One professor was recently in print saying that this would make us a totalitarian state in a hysterical rant.

Of course any domestic spying must be strictly controlled and have rigorous oversight.  But those who argue New Zealand never has and never will have domestic threats are dangerously naive.

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Labour and GCSB

April 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s some very interesting questions about the passing of the GCSB Act in 2003, and whether Labour lied to New Zealanders about what the Act would do, or if they told the truth and Helen Clark allowed the GCSB to break the law.

Grant Robertson was Clark’s second most senior advisor, so he may be able to assist!

The GCSB was created in 1977. From the beginning its role has been focused on foreign intelligence, but we have been told that for some decades it has also assisted other agencies (SIS and Police) with communications intercepts when those agencies have gained warrants authorising them to do so.

In May 2001, Helen Clark introduced the GCSB Bill to give the GCSB legislative backing. Helen Clark said:

In the absence of a legislative framework for GCSB, for example, some have wrongly inferred that the Bureau’s signals intelligence operations target the communications of New Zealand citizens; that the GCSB exists only as an extension of much larger overseas signals intelligence agencies; and that the Bureau’s operations are beyond the scope of Parliamentary scrutiny.

For the record, I reiterate again today that the GCSB does not set out to intercept the communications of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Furthermore, reports of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security have made it clear that any allegations to the contrary are without foundation. The Inspector-General has reported his judgement that the operations of the GCSB have no adverse or improper impact on the privacy or personal security of New Zealanders.

Now we know that after this law was passed, the GCSB continued to assist the SIS and Police with interceptions – where those agencies had gained a warrant.

This means there can be only two interpretations of what Helen Clark did.

  1. She misled New Zealanders on the GCSB. She knew that the GCSB assisted the SIS with interceptions. She should have said that the GCSB doesn’t intercept communications of NZers, except when acting on behalf of an agency that has gained a warrant to do so. She made a conscious decision not to mention this, and misled Parliament on what the GCSB does, and Parliament voted on a law not aware of what the GCSB does.
  2. She ignored the law. She was aware that the GCSB had traditionally assisted the SIS, and knew the law would stop them being able to do so legally when it involved a NZ resident. But then after the law was passed, she allowed the GCSB to break the law.

My belief is (1). I think Clark misled New Zealand and Parliament by not explicitly mentioning the fact that the GCSB did intercept communications of NZers, when doing so for the SIS who had gained an interception warrant.

I can understand the annoyance of people that the Government had not been explicit that the GCSB prohibition on interception communications from New Zealanders, doesn’t stop them assisting the SIS and Police if they have gained warrants.

The issue going forward is should the GCSB be able to assist the SIS. Labour’s position is, as usual, God knows. The Herald reports:

Labour would consider allowing the GCSB to spy on New Zealanders in limited circumstances but only if that was recommended by a full independent review of intelligence agencies, party leader David Shearer says.

Another clear concise and brave policy.

There are basically four options when it comes to communications interceptions. They are:

  1. Neither the SIS nor GCSB should ever be allowed to intercept communications of New Zealanders. 
  2. The SIS can intercept the communications of NZers if they gain a warrant to do so, but the GCSB can not assist them.
  3. The SIS can intercept the communications of NZers if they gain a warrant to do so, and the GCSB can assist them.
  4. Both the SIS and GCSB can intercept the communications of New Zealanders

The first option is what one might call the Keith Locke position. We would of course be the only country in the world that basically bans the intelligence agencies from being able to well, do their jobs. I doubt any party in Parliament except possibly the Greens would support this.

The fourth option is also not supported by any party or MP, as far as I know. Mind you, Labour seem to suggest they might go along with that if a review recommended it!

So really it is a decision between options (2) and (3). Do you require the SIS to spend what could be tens of millions of dollars on duplicating the GCSB systems in order to do around six interceptions a year?

You can argue, yes we should. That there should be purity of separation. That the GCSB should be like the CIA and never ever intercept domestic communications. Except that actually the CIA is authorised to do so in some circumstances so the comparison is not correct.

What I think is important is that the GCSB can’t just help the SIS with any old request. That their assistance is limited to cases where the SIS has gained a warrant due to security concerns. Let’s look at the SIS Act for the criteria. That:

the interception or seizure or electronic tracking to be authorised by the proposed warrant is necessary for the detection of activities prejudicial to security

And what does security mean:

  • the protection of New Zealand from acts of espionage, sabotage, and subversion, whether or not they are directed from or intended to be committed within New Zealand:
  • (b)the identification of foreign capabilities, intentions, or activities within or relating to New Zealand that impact on New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being:
  • (c)the protection of New Zealand from activities within or relating to New Zealand that—
    • (i)are influenced by any foreign organisation or any foreign person; and
    • (ii)are clandestine or deceptive, or threaten the safety of any person; and
    • (iii)impact adversely on New Zealand’s international well-being or economic well-being:
  • (d)the prevention of any terrorist act and of any activity relating to the carrying out or facilitating of any terrorist act

So it is important to recall that the 88 cases cited in the Kitteridge report, all had warrants authorised under the SIS Act because they met one or more of the criteria above. The issue is not that they should not have legally had their communications intercepted – but whether the right agency did the interception.

If you do not amend the law, then there will be no reduction in the number of NZers who have interception warrants issued against them. The only difference is the SIS will do the interception directly, rather than use the GCSB.

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A tale of two leaders

October 4th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

We’ve seen an interesting comparison of two parliamentary leaders who have both not recalled a mention of an issue in a briefing or presentation.

In July 2011, then Opposition Leader Phil Goff said that he was “not aware of the allegations” around the Israeli hitchhikers.

More recently John Key said he was unaware of the GCSB involvement in the Kim Dotcom case until a couple of weeks ago.

It turned out in the case of Phil Goff he was briefed personally by the Director of the SIS in March 2011. A contemporaneous file note states that it was on the agenda, that Goff asked a question about it, that it was “discussed at length” and notes that Goff was shown the investigation paper and that Goff read it.

In the case of John Key, the GCSB has said that the PM was not briefed on the case until September 2012, but that at a visit to the GCSB offices in Feb 2012, he was given a powerpoint presentation where the Dotcom issues was briefly mentioned, and an image of Dotcom was one of 11 in a montage. The Director says he does not recall the reference, but his staff say it was mentioned briefly.

Now I have to say I believe both Phil Goff and John Key, in that they didn’t recall their respective issues. I would point out that SIS meeting with Goff was a one on one meeting specially to brief on intelligence issues – not a general “this is what we are up to” type presentation. But regardless both men have hundreds of meetings a month.

Where there is a stark difference, is when documents came to light that highlighted there was a briefing or mention.

Even though there is no written record of the matter being mentioned to him,, and even though the GCSB Director says he doesn’t recall it, John Key has said he accepts the recollection of the other GCSB staff – and at the first opportunity has made public that fact, and has said he will correct the record.

Now compare that to what Phil Goff did.  Phil Goff accused the SIS of lying, and inventing things, and said he would refuse to meet them in the future without witnesses. Even to this day, he refuses to admit his memory may have been faulty.

I think that speaks volume about character.

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Mark T. al-Rahman

September 1st, 2011 at 8:53 am by David Farrar

The case of Mark Taylor, or Mark T. al-Rahman, is an interesting one.

You have to trust the PM and the SIS presumably, when they say Mr Taylor is no threat.

However the official explanation he gave of trying to attend a wedding, for his attempt to enter an al-Qaeda military camp in Pakistan has always been highly dubious.

But it is innocent until proven guilty and as Mr Taylor says, he has not been charged with any offence. But having said that, I’d be a bit nervous if he moved in next door to me!

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No Right Turn on SIS

August 5th, 2011 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Idiot/Savant by his own words hates the SIS and hate Whale Oil. So when he concludes the SIS have acted entirely appropriately, it is worth quoting:

There’s a lot of shit going round the blogosphere this morning about the SIS’s release of a document which made Phil Goff look bad to a sewerblogger “in preference” to the media. … But it turns out that its nothing of the sort, and there is a very good reason for the difference in timeframes. From Stuff today:

Mr Slater was given the documents five working days after he made the request. Fairfax Media, who made a similar request, received the document last night along with a letter from Dr Tucker which said: “Your request differs from Mr Slater’s in that you have also requested reports prepared for the prime minister”.

Which seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation.

If you want to see some hysterical rants, check out John Pagani who has blogged six times in a row on the same issue, each time claiming the SIS have committed treason, by obeying the Official Information Act. How desperate can you get to distract people from the substantive issue, that Goff lied.

Matthew Hooton blogs:

I find it difficult to believe he is not lying about the meeting with SIS Director Warren Tucker on Monday 14 March.  If he is not lying then his memory faculties and/or his ability to multitask must be seriously in doubt. …

Mr Goff would have it that these documents are fakes.  Mr Tucker wrote things down, and prepared agendas and minutes, that were untrue. He then gave these false documents to the Prime Minister’s Office and to Whaleoil in order to discredit Mr Goff. 

This is an extraordinary allegation for Mr Goff to be making, even implicitly.  How credible is it that Mr Tucker would behave that way?  My intelligence sources tell me he has always been the ultimate straight-shooter and has done more than any of his predecessors to bring openness and transparency to the intelligence community.  Any personal political views he may have are, I’m told, completely unreadable and, as outlined above, he has maintained the confidence of every New Zealand prime minister from Muldoon, to Lange, to Bolger, to Clark to Key. It is impossible to believe he has now risked his reputation to take a cheap shot at Mr Goff, who he served loyally when he was Foreign Minister, Defence Minister and Trade Minister through the 2000s.

Isn’t it far more likely that Mr Goff, having previously said the matter had not even been mentioned to him at all, has been caught lying and is now forced, Nixon-like, to maintain the lie – even if it requires implicitly attacking Mr Tucker’s integrity to the extent of suggesting he has behaved illegally?

The sad thing for Goff is this is totally self-inflicted. It was of little political consequence whether or not he had been briefed or not. But because Goff was so stupid as to attack the SIS, rather than check with them, he has now been forced into a position when he is seen as dishonest rather than merely forgetful.

Idiot/Savant again notes:

As for the actual issue, Ministers and MPs receive a lot of information, and I would not be surprised at all if they forgot something mentioned in passing. And I’d expect them to be aware of that problem, rather than arrogantly assuming they have total recall of every document which has ever passed their desk

Unless you believe the paranoid conspiracy theory that the SIS has fabricated the briefing notes from March, it is obvious that Goff was briefed, and at a minimum had a quick read of the report.

He was distracted by the Darren Hughes scandal, and it is not a big thing that he doesn’t recall the briefing. but his arrogance is proving his downfall. In a measure of his credibility vs Warren Tucker, he doesn’t come out of it at all well.

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The SIS Document

August 4th, 2011 at 6:22 pm by David Farrar

SIS-OIA

Embedded above is the OIA response from the SIS. The documents:

  1. notes the Investigation into Israeli Nationals in Christchurch was an issue to be discussed with Goff on 14 March
  2. says that Goff asked “What do we know?”
  3. notes it was “discussed at length”
  4. again notes the briefing on 14 March on the agenda for 6 April
  5. has a copy of the actual investigation paper dated 8 March
  6. notes it was discussed with Goff
  7. also notes that Goff read the investigation paper

And look at all that, and then be reminded by Whale that Goff time and time again claimed in different media he had never been briefed – that in fact the first he heard of the Israelis was when the Southland Times ran their story

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Goff still can not admit he is wrong

August 4th, 2011 at 1:36 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

A fresh political row has broken out over Israeli spy allegations after Labour leader Phil Goff accused  SIS head Warren Tucker of misleading the public over what he knew about an investigation into the death of an Israeli citizen in the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.

Goff today disputed a notation by Tucker on a briefing note - released under the Official Information Act - which suggested the opposition leader had seen the briefing of the Israeli “spy” investigation.

Goff disputed the notation and accused Tucker of calling his credibility into question.

“In future, I will only meet with Warren Tucker or representatives of the SIS if there is someone independent in the room to keep a true and accurate record of what is discussed.”

Warren Tucker incidentally was appointed Director of the SIS by Helen Clark in 2006.

The notation he made on the briefing note that Goff has seen the briefing paper would have been made in March, when he met Goff. Back then there would have been no thought that this could become a public issue.

Tucker is a long serving intelligence professional. He would have done hundreds or thousands of briefings, and I doubt would be in the habit of being careless about his notations, or would forget to hand over a paper he had with him.

We now have an Opposition Leader who is so arrogant, and so unable to simply say “I stuffed up” (unlike the Prime Minister) he is now claiming the SIS Director is a liar, and incredibly has said he no longer trusts the SIS and will never meet with them again without witnesses. And this is the man who wants to become their Minister.

This fiasco was entirely avoidable by Goff. When it was first reported that Goff had been briefed, he could have checked quietly with the SIS before shooting his mouth off in public. but once he had publicly stated he had never been briefed and knew nothing of the Israeli issue, he has refused to concede he was wrong, and simply didn’t recall the briefing as he was in the midst of the Hughes scandal.

The public forgive MPs who say they made a mistake. Goff though has dig himself a hole and keeps digging.

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Goff keeps digging

July 26th, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

People will think this is whack Phil Goff day. I’d rather blog on something else, but he keeps digging. His arrogance and refusal to admit black is black is beyond belief. Let us look at the transcript of Goff with Larry Williams:

LARRY WILLIAMS:         All right. Prime Minister, I think, says if it is an act of global terrorism but anyway, let’s go on to other things. The Israelis, the Prime Minister said his understanding from director SIS, Warren Tucker, that you were briefed and it seems that you were.

PHIL GOFF: No, I wasn’t briefed. He said that I’d received the same document that he had received. I saw no document. There were three documents. I have seen none of them. Briefed is not a description that I would give.

He is effectively calling the SIS Director a liar. Just because one may or may not have received written reports, is not the same as denying you have been briefed. An oral briefing is a briefing. Warren Tucker has said he orally briefed Phil Goff, and Goff’s only response is he doesn’t remember it. That does not mean he was not briefed.

Goff said he was unaware of the issue. He was wrong. The SIS Director had at a minimum orally briefed him. What is Phil Goff incapable of acknowledging he was wrong? Does he think it will make voters like him more?

LARRY WILLIAMS:         Tucker’s an honourable guy, isn’t he? Were you given the papers or not?

 PHIL GOFF: No, I wasn’t given the papers and nor – nor will Warren Tucker say that I definitely received those papers. I would have recalled reading the paper had I been given it. I was not given it.

From my recollection of working in both a Prime Minister’s Office and an Opposition Leader’s Office, the SIS don’t tend to leave copies of their papers behind. Generally you are given it to read, and then sign it, and give it back.

But regardless of whether Goff was given a copy of a paper to read, he was orally briefed on the Israelis. He simply forgot or didn’t pay attention.

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The key difference

July 26th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday how Phil Goff was wrong with his claims he had not been briefed by the SIS on the Israeli backbenchers.

Looking back at the chain of events, I am staggered by the degree of either incompetence or arrogance that Goff has showed. Let’s go back to the Q+A interview with John Key.

GUYON Did you brief Phil Goff?

JOHN  Phil Goff was briefed, yeah, that’s right.  I personally didn’t brief him, but my understanding from the director of SIS, Warren Tucker, is that he was briefed and he was shown the same note and report that I saw.

Now let us imagine you are Phil Goff, and you hear the PM saying that. And also let us be generous and presume that Goff honestly doesn’t recall being told about it by the SIS Director in March.

Wouldn’t your first thought be, on what basis would the PM say you have been briefed. Well John Key actually said the magic words “my understanding from the director”.

So at this stage, your options are:

  1. The PM has lied about what the SIS Director said to him
  2. The SIS Director has lied to the PM
  3. The SIS Director believes he has briefed you

Now wouldn’t anyone with a shred of intelligence, decide to check with the SIS Director before mouthing off in the media how upset he is at the PM and the SIS?

I can’t imagine how his staff didn’t stop Goff from insisting he had not been briefed, without checking with the SIS first. Maybe they tried to, and Goff would not listen.

But he didn’t. In fact he boasted how he had told off the SIS Director by text message. And then the SIS Director came and met Goff, and pointed out he had briefed him in March. And I bet your bottom dollar there is a file note recording this, taken at the time. which is why Goff them acknowledged he had been briefed.

But here is where there is such a key difference between Goff and Key. Key didn’t handle the initial response to the Israeli story that well. And when asked about it, he acknowledged:

So, look, at the end of the day, I mean, I realised by the morning, you know, the impression that I had left wasn’t sustainable.  If I replayed the video and did it all again I’d probably start where I ended six hours later, but it comes with the territory.   Sometimes you don’t get it perfectly right in the first moment.

So Key is willing to acknowledge he could have handled something better. Note that unlike Goff he didn’t actually say anything untrue. He didn’t claim others were wrong, when in fact only his memory was wrong. But still Key is willing to concede he could have handled things better.

While Goff is the absolute opposite. He has been caught out clearly wrong. He said was not aware of the allegations, and he was. He said he was not briefed, and he was. He said the PM was mouthing off without checking the facts, and in fact it was Goff who mouthed off and was wrong.

But will Goff admit in anyway he is wrong or stuffed up? Nope, not one bit. And it is this arrogance which is why Goff is massively unpopular, and the converse is why Key is popular.

 

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Goff wrong on SIS briefing

July 25th, 2011 at 4:05 pm by David Farrar

Phil Goff claimed this week he was not briefed by the SIS on the Israelis backpackers. He said the PM had lied about it.

Now Goff has admitted, after meeting the SIS Director this morning, that he was briefed in March. He says it must have been insubstantial as he doesn’t recollect it. More likely is he was distracted by the Darren Hughes scandal at the time.

This is incompetence of the highest level. Sure we can all forget things, but forgetting an SIS briefing?? Worse though, Goff could have checked his diary or checked with the SIS. Instead he accused the Prime Minister of lying, and impeached the integrity of the SIS.

Let us look at his words. First Danya Levy in the Dom Post reports:

I was not aware of the allegations.

And then today TVNZ reported:

Goff is furious over the Prime Minister’s entire handling of the affair, including claims yesterday that the Labour leader was kept in the loop.

Goff insists he was not briefed before, during or after the investigation and says he has texted the head of the SIS to complain about John Key’s comments.

And further he said:

He said the prime minister has to understand the responsibilities of his office and cannot “mouth off” without checking his facts first.

This is especially ironic. Goff now stands as the one who mouthed off, can’t even recall an SIS briefing and was too lazy or too incompetent to even check his diary or with the SIS, before he repeated his claims.

Goff incidentally did not just falsely attack the PM, but also attacked the integrity and independence of the SIS. Section 4AA of the NZSIS Act says:

(3) The Director must consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition for the purpose of keeping him or her informed about matters relating to security.

So Goff effectively accused the Director of breaching his statutory duty. A very serious charge. Again someone with an ounce of competence would double and triple check before claiming he “was not aware of the allegations” and that he was “not briefed before, during or after the investigation”.

 

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Charles Wardle

April 10th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Field in Stuff has an interview and profile with Charles Wardle, who claims to have worked for the SIS, spying on Muslims in NZ. He was previously a jihadist himself.

While one can not be certain, I find his claims of working for the SIS to lack credibility. He has not one shred of proof that he did, and can’t name who he dealt with. Some extracts:

Testimony from a man serving a life sentence for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks revealed a Kiwi connection. Michael Field meets the man who once trained to be a terrorist before becoming an SIS spy. 

THE WAY Charles Wardle tells it, a warehouse converted into a mosque is where jihad might some day be launched on New Zealand.

Wardle’s quietly told story is almost beyond verification but it has left New Zealand’s 36,000-strong Islamic community severely embarrassed and distressed that the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) is targeting them over claims of a holy war they say does not exist.

The story is beyond verification, so why does the article state as a fact he became an SIS spy? Shouldn’t it say he alleges he was??

Wardle signed secrecy provisions of the Official Information Act and said he had no contract, was paid in cash, starting at $25 per hour and later $450 per week. He was told his pay was tax-free and it would not affect his student allowance.

As far as I know the SIS do nto have an exemption from the Tax Act. And why not keep a copy of what you signed?

Wardle said he would meet his handler each month at a restaurant.

Which restaurant? Do the owners confirm this? They tend to remember regular customers.

The policeman I talked to said there were big egos

So the Police were involved too? What was his name?

Other than a business card and phone numbers, Wardle has no proof he worked for the SIS. But he wrote to Intelligence and Security inspector-general Paul Neazor in 2009 complaining the SIS had not paid “the annual bonus and travel that had been verbally contracted”.

Neazor replied he would discuss the matter with the SIS director “and once I have sorted out what I can properly deal with, will respond further”. So far Neazor hasn’t.

Well this is wrong. Wardle has the response from Neazor on his own blog.

Wardle seems obsessed with the SIS. He has done videos about them, and has posted his “story” on multiple discussion boards. One lengthy one is on Indymedia. One extract is:

My de facto partner, who I claimed falsely to be Christian, a virgin prior to having been with me, and to be my wife, also followed numerous restrictions. We often walked separately when outside and she followed conservative restrictions on what she wore and how she behaved in public. I tried to keep the SIS informed of what was going on.

What sort of person just drops that into a public letter?

I don’t know whether or not Wardle had dealings with the SIS, but there seems to have been no attempts to verify his cliams, which might disprove them.

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SIS failed with Wilce clearance

January 28th, 2011 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

The SSC report in the vetting of Stephen Wilce has been released.

The State Services Commissioner notes the following lapses by the SIS:

  • that NZSIS did not check with counterpart overseas agencies to see what they knew about Mr Wilce. This was contrary to standard practice in cases where the applicant for a security clearance had worked overseas;
  • that NZSIS did not follow up on Mr Wilce’s failure to disclose convictions once the Police check had revealed that he had convictions; and
  • that NZSIS did not record or follow up on information received on Mr Wilce after the announcement of his appointment in the NZDF

I have to say these are pretty massive lapses. I mean they discover he had undsiclosed convictions and they did nothing. They had information supplied to them he wasn’t legit and they did nothing.

The SSC concludes:

The Director of NZSIS accepts the findings of both Mr Walter and the Court of Inquiry. He also accepts my finding that the anomalies occurring in Mr Wilce’s vetting process amounted to failings by the NZSIS in the provision of a professional security service.

That is a pretty big slap.

John Key notes:

“The State Services Commissioner has said further action needs to be taken to demonstrate confidence in the vetting system, and he will report back to me in the first half of this year. I have also asked a group of senior officials to closely monitor progress around this issue,” says Mr Key.

Two key initiatives will underpin the programme of action. An independent, international review of the current vetting system, along with other work, will be started in order to provide better information on the vetting system’s performance. In addition, the Director of Security is currently sampling 5 per cent of the Top Secret vettings undertaken at the time Mr Wilce was checked to provide an assurance that the failures were an exceptional event.

We were lucky that the failures only let through a braggart, rather than someone hostile to NZ’s interests.

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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.

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The SIS Amendment Bill

December 7th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The PM has introduced an SIS Amendment Bill to the House. I’ll turn to the substance in a second, but first a matter of process. Some of the usual idiots are complaining that any submissions on the bill will be heard in private.

It is actually against the law to hear the submissions publicly – unless there s unanimous consent by members of the committee. I quote s12(2) of the Intelligence and Security Committee Act 1996:

The proceedings of the Committee shall be held in private unless the Committee by unanimous resolution resolves otherwise.

The substance of the changes are:

  • clarify that the warrant framework does cover the use of electronic tracking devices:
  • provide a clear framework for facilities to be the subject of surveillance (such as telephone numbers or IP addresses).
  • authorities provided to the NZSIS also require clarification in the area of computer-based
  • clarify protections in the Act for persons acting in accordance with a warrant:

They have also published a regulatory impact statement.

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Simon Ewing-Jarvie

August 22nd, 2010 at 6:19 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday has an interesting piece on Simon Ewing-Jarvie.

I haven’t talked to Simon for a few years, but have chatted to him a few times in the past – like myself he is very much into technology. On a personal level, always found him very relaxed and interesting. But around six months ago I started to hear stories that were less than flattering. I don’t have enough first hand knowledge to say who may be at fault, but the HoS story raises some interesting issues:

The Security Intelligence Service withheld security clearance for Simon Ewing-Jarvie, a former New Zealand Army lieutenant colonel, shortly before he took part in an Act Party insurrection. …

Early this month, SIS officers working on a standard investigation into the adviser’s background decided he should not be allowed to see or access classified material.

In the first week of August, Prime Minister John Key’s chief of staff Wayne Eagleson was sent a document stating that Ewing-Jarvie’s status had shifted to “non-access to any classified material”.

Security checks are usually straightforward, with SIS officers checking disclosures by staff against paper records, tracking an individual’s life to the present. Any variation results in closer scrutiny.

SIS officers had been attempting to carry out the clearance work on Ewing-Jarvie for most of the year but had difficulty pinning him down to discuss details.

It is rare indeed to not get an SIS clearance. Even I managed it! :-)

It is almost incomprehensible that one could work for a Defence Minister and not have security clearance.  One can only wonder why clearance was not given.

Political confidantes of Roy have expressed concern over the advice she has been receiving from Ewing-Jarvie and the depth of their relationship.

The Herald on Sunday observed Roy leaving Ewing-Jarvie’s home yesterday morning.

Her car, which was parked outside his house at 10.30pm on Friday, was in the same place at 7am.

Well that’s subtle.

The SST also has a story, where Ewing-Jarvie admits to leaking the Roy dossier. This is no surprise, as Whale Oil has already outed him for it.

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The intelligence agencies review

May 12th, 2010 at 4:45 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on the 23rd of March about the renaming and focus of the External Assessments Bureau to the National Assessments Bureau. I was mainly rebutting hysteria that the PM was getting a private spy agency, and pointing out that the EAB/NAB do analysis only – they do not collect intelligence or “spy”.

However I did note:

I am interested in the rationale for change, and think there should be a fuller understanding of what “gaps” in analysis there were, that this change will plug. To that end I have just filed an OIA request with the DPMC for any information about the change of name and mandate for the EAB to the NAB.

I got a partial response from DPMC which I blogged on 7 April. It revealed that NAB is now tasked with establishing quality standards for intelligence analysis across the entire NZ intelligence community, and that they are moving into the same office building as the SIS and GCSB.

The request was also passed into the SSC who did the review of the intelligence community, and today I received a response from the State Services Commissioner – 2010 05 12 letter to mr david farrar re murdoch review and oia release.

I was not expecting a great deal of information, due to the nature of the agencies concerned – probably a lot of blanked out lines. But the SSC has prepared and released a summary of the review of the intelligence agencies done by Simon Murdock (former DPMC and MFAT head). The summary is here – 2010 05 12 summary of murdochreview released under the OIA.

This is a welcome level of openness, The SSC also advises the PM is going to make a public statement on the review late afternoon.

People can read the review for themselves, but here are the parts I found interesting:

  1. The current shape of the NZ intelligence community (NZIC) is due to historical legacies, rather than design, and mainly modelled on overseas.
  2. NZIC was predominately focused on foreign intelligence. Post 9/11 there is a greater “homeland security” focus
  3. A need to have a balance between intelligence which is about risk mitigation, and intelligence which reveals and helps understand medium-term trends and intentions. In other words strategic and tactical intelligence.
  4. That the EAB Director should have his role to set quality control standards across the NZIC revalidated.
  5. Encourage NZIC agencies to pool corporate and back office functions
  6. Against merging SIS and GCSB as they have different cultures and centres of excellence. “They both collect secret information, but in very different ways”. Also they have different requirements for what they do and do not share with overseas partners.
  7. That the SIS and GCSB Directors should be subject to performance reviews (they are currently outside the state sector CEO framework)

What I find interesting is that the Murdoch review does not explicitly recommend the change of name and focus of the EAB to the NAB. It fits in with with the Murdoch review, but is not explicit.

So how did the decision arise. Well, I look back to the TVNZ story in March:

It is now called the National Assessments Bureau and it has a new mission – to look at both domestic and foreign security risks.

Security for events like the Rugby World Cup is one of the factors driving the change.

“Of course we would engage our intelligence agencies to make sure we can provide the appropriate level of protection for New Zealanders and international visitors that come for the Rugby World Cup so in that regard it is a National Assessments Bureau as opposed to purely external,” says Prime Minister John Key.

As the change is not explicitly states in the Murdoch review, I wonder if the idea came from the PM himself. The RWC is a major focus for him, and he would want to make sure that intelligence and security for the event was not falling between different agencies – hence giving the EAB a wider focus, to cover all intelligence, not just foreign intelligence.

Personally I think the change is quite sensible, and good to see that not even the intelligence community is immune from the drive for efficiency and cost savings. The NAB’s role is purely analysis, not collection, so it doesn’t mean greater “domestic spying”, just that foreign and domestic intelligence will be analysed by the one agency.

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SIS checks

March 29th, 2010 at 10:53 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Prime Minister John Key will seek assurances about the Security Intelligence Service’s vetting of recruits to highly sensitive government jobs after it failed to spot the doctored CV of a former Immigration boss.

Mr Key said he had not been aware of the failure till Friday, when Mary Anne Thompson was fined $10,000 and sentenced to 100 hours’ community service for falsely claiming to have a London School of Economics PhD.

He believed SIS checks had been improved but it sounded “very sloppy” and he would seek assurances it would not be repeated.

“… I will raise it with them and satisfy myself that they have covered off that particular situation so we don’t see a repeat of it.

“If someone’s at a level where they require an SIS check for their job, then by definition, they are either in an important position or a sensitive role and, on that basis, you’d expect a thorough check to be performed by the SIS, and that’s certainly my expectation.”

I wonder if the PM is being too harsh on the SIS. I’ve undergone and been a referee for those undergoing SIS checks.

My assumption was that the SIS are not a glorified employment agency, and it wasn’t their job to check every detail of someone’s CV. That can be done by well an employment agency.

What the SIS checks tend to be about is checking character, referees, any Police involvement, travel to unfriendly countries, excessive drinking etc.

I just think it is somewhat a waste of SIS resources to have them ringing up universities asking for confirmation of degrees – that is a job that can be done by anyone.

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