After 12 months and $250,000, an inquiry into leaked Foreign Affairs Cabinet papers may never see the light of day.
In the High Court at Wellington yesterday, the lawyer for a person known only as “A” said the report by inquiry head Paula Rebstock voiced a “strong suspicion” that his client was responsible for the unauthorised disclosure of sensitive Cabinet documents, but offered no evidence to back it up.
The identity of Person A is well known around Wellington.
It is rare for a leak inquiry to actually determine who did it, or probably did it. It’s good that Rebstock appears to have been able to do so.
Labour have been calling out for months that the leak inquiry should halt. This to me reinforces that they know their source had been identified.
It is worth reflecting upon the fact that you will never get cast iron proof of whom leaked unless you capture them on video handing the documents over. But what you can establish is whom they scanned, copied or e-mailed documents with no valid reason for doing so.
Lawyer Jason McHerron told the court it was clear Ms Rebstock intended to proceed to find that “A” was responsible for the unauthorised disclosure of two Cabinet committee papers at the centre of the leak inquiry.
That was despite “A” denying being responsible.
Last month, Justice Dobson agreed to an injunction to delay the completion of Ms Rebstock’s report pending a judicial review. He also issued a gagging order against Ms Rebstock and State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, who ordered the inquiry.
As I said the identity of Person A is well known, and even if they win their court case, I suspect their identity will not remain a secret.
The court heard yesterday “A” scanned and copied Cabinet documents but had repeatedly denied distributing them. A forensic examination was unable to find any evidence “A” sent the documents to anyone else. Without such evidence, the allegation should not be repeated, Mr McHerron said.
If you scanned in a cabinet document without being asked to do so, you’d better have a bloody good explanation for doing so.