Journalist swipe cards

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

The journalist who was leaked a sensitive report on the nation’s foreign spy network had her movements tracked by a government inquiry.

The MP forced to resign over the leak, Peter Dunne, said inquiry head David Henry detailed to him the movements of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance in and out of the parliamentary precinct.

The conversation related to Vance’s movements the day before the leaked report was published and appeared to be based on Henry having access to records of when she entered and left the building using her security swipe card.

Parliamentary Service confirmed last night it released ”metadata” and other security records to Henry for his inquiry but said only after it was satisfied ”that ministers had agreed to cooperate with the investigation”.

It said it would be expected that all swipe cards were reviewed ”if there is a security incident”.

Fairfax can confirm that Vance did not give her permission to hand over her records to the inquiry.

Group executive editor Paul Thompson said last night it would be worrying if the movements of journalists and MPs were being tracked through a security system that was supposed to protect people working within the building, not be used to watch over them.

I think this was the wrong decision by The Parliamentary Service.

Actual employees of a parliamentary agency have no expectation of privacy in their swipe card use. But MPs and journalists are not employees. They are part of the democratic process, and their swipe card data should not be released externally, unless it is under warrant or judicial demand.

Parliamentary Service has said it is expected to review swipe cards if there is a security incident. To look at this claim, we need to differentiate between two types of security incidents.

If the security incident is related to Parliament itself in a physical way, then yes Parliamentary Service should look at swipe cards records. Examples might be if something is stolen from an office, or if there is vandalism to a painting.

But this was about the leaking of government information. It was just an inquiry under the authority of the SSC and DPMC – not a fully empowered ministerial inquiry or commission of inquiry which has the powers to demand evidence.

The Henry inquiry had no power to get that data. It was entirely appropriate for David Henry to ask for it, as it would help his investgation. Parliamentary Service asked Peter Dunne if they could release his swipe card details. He agreed, so they did. They should have also asked Andrea Vance, and only done so if she agreed.

If that wasn’t acceptable to the Henry inquiry, then they would have the option of seeking more powers to demand the data. but Parliamentary Service should not have just handed it over without the permission of the journalist.

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