Thursday, 21 August 2014

Simply Not Credible: Dr Tucker's "Clarifications" Are Only Making Things Worse For John Key.

Bullshit: The idea that the Director of the SIS, Dr Warren Tucker, would proceed with the release of highly sensitive political information to a right-wing blogger without his boss's, the Prime Minister John Key's, express approval is simply not credible.

THAT DR WARREN TUCKER, Director of the Security Intelligence Service in 2011, agreed to the release of politically sensitive material – thereby intervening in an on-going contretemps between the leaders of the National and Labour parties – without receiving the express permission of his boss, the Prime Minister, John Key, is simply not credible.
 
The release this morning of a letter written to Newstalk-ZB Chief Political Reporter, Felix Marwick, by Dr Tucker, states unequivocally, that:
 
“I notified the Prime Minister (in accordance with my usual practice to keep the Minister informed on a ‘no surprises’ basis) that I was going to release redacted documents in response to the request from Mr Slater. I advised the Prime Minister that I had received legal advice that there were no grounds for withholding the information given the public disclosures already made about the existence and some of the content of the briefing. I informed the Prime Minister that I had informed Mr Goff of my decision to release the information.” (My emphases.)
 
Shortly after 10 o’clock this morning, Radio New Zealand-National informed its listeners that the former Director, Dr Tucker, had issued a statement “clarifying” the information contained in his letter to Mr Marwick.
 
The crucial two sentences of Dr Tucker’s latest statement assert that:
 
“My practice under the ‘no surprises’ convention relating to Official Information Act requests was to brief the Prime Minister through his office. The reference to the PM in this context means the PM’s office.”
 
To which, I believe, the rest of the country is entitled to call – “Bullshit.”
 
The person under scrutiny here is a former Director of the SIS. In this role he would have been well aware (if he was doing his job!) of Cameron Slater’s identity; of the political complexion of his Whaleoil bog; and of the close relationship existing between not only Mr Slater and the PM’s Office but also with the senior Cabinet Minister, Judith Collins.
 
That he was about to expedite the release of sensitive political information to Mr Slater – a decision without precedent in the experience of the mainstream news media – was, of itself, extremely unusual and highly controversial. Especially so, considering the Director’s decision not to release the information to any other media outlets – in spite of a least one formal OIA request to do so. In other words, the Director of the SIS was planning to provide Mr Slater’s Whaleoil blog with a “scoop”.
 
All this, and we are being asked to accept that the Director was willing to rely on the people working in the Prime Minister’s office to just pass along the information, you know, when they had time!
 
I have spoken to two people who have worked in ministerial and prime-ministerial offices and both of them have told me that this is a preposterous suggestion. Ministerial and Departmental Chief Executives (not to mention SIS Directors!) do not mistake or conflate the Prime Minister’s Office with the Prime Minister him or herself. They do not put their jobs and reputations on the line – as Dr Tucker undoubtedly did when he organised the exclusive release of sensitive political information to a notorious right-wing blogger – without hearing the voice of their boss, or receiving a signed instruction, giving them the go-ahead.
 
Unless.
 
Unless the intention of the Director was to provide his boss with “plausible deniability” by deliberately not seeking express (i.e. spoken or written) prime ministerial approval. And if that is the case then it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Dr Tucker was behaving in an entirely inappropriate and highly politicised fashion.
 
He must have known that what he was proposing to do was extremely unusual and open to serious question, and yet he is telling us now that he handled Mr Slater’s OIA request in a way that, should his own actions be subjected to official scrutiny at some point in the future, the Prime Minister would be protected from any and all ethical, political and legal repercussions.
 
But that would have entailed Dr Tucker abandoning his role as a neutral public servant and becoming the Prime Minister’s political accomplice.
 
And that, if true, would be an utter disgrace. Even worse, it would be subversive of New Zealand’s democratic system of government.
 
This essay was posted simultaneously on the Bowalley Road and The Daily Blog blogsites on Thursday 21 August 2014.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scratch the 2014 election. Let's just become a protectorate of Fiji.

Politically corrupt tinpot dictatorship just isn't the same unless its centrally coordinated by a military junta.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I doubt that the SIS has ever been but politically neutral. Those of us who are old enough to remember it's right wing leanings from the 1960s and 70s. It allowed Muldoon to Muldoon use it as a political weapon as I remember. And of course is descended from the English parent body, and we all know about their attitude towards the left, (particularly Harold Wilson) – with some justice I guess since they were heavily infiltrated by it :-).

Debbie Sullivan said...

please tell me THIS will be next weeks article for the Press...

Charles Etherington said...

You read as a wee bit angry Chris?
Why would that be I wonder?

Perhaps because it destroys the only slightly serious little bit of dirt in Hager & Co's whole conspiratorial dirty politics campaign.
If it's game over now with Tucker's evidence the left will have to tout its policies to try and gain ground on this extraordinarily popular and sound government. And that won't do it.
Only muck raking, in time honoured tradition offers the left any hope.

Further it will not be lost on more balanced folk that what you are foaming about ignores the origin of this whole little spat: Goff lying during an election. Bit strong? Well you are saying the former head of the SIS, a very senior Civil Servant is a liar.
Sort of the same thing Slater is notorious for eh?

And re the haste of the SIS disclosure: It was in an election campaign that someone wanting to win the PM's office was lying. Kind or urgent to get the truth out and so good on the SIS. Perhaps they worried they would be dumped on as was routine with Ms Clark's regime was it not?

Anonymous said...

The media has become so totally hysterical and headless as to whether the SIS told Key about the information release.

So much so that they've totally lost sight that whether Key was told, not told, or simply forgotten, has zero relevance to the accusation that he somehow organised it and sped it up.

There are 1000 things in the election campaign that are more important then this.

The fact that an irrelevant detail from years ago is today's top news story, is proof of the disarray and appalling quality of NZ media.

But is that a surprise when a teapot story was fabricated into three weeks headline news for three weeks of the last election.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"There are 1000 things in the election campaign that are more important then this."

So said Richard Nixon after Watergate. :-) Of course to the right there are far more important things than exposing corruption. The right thrives on corruption.

Chris Trotter said...

There is nothing irrelevant or untoward about attempting to determine, in the middle of an election campaign (surely the ideal time!) whether or not our Prime Minister is telling us the truth about an incident that raises serious doubts about the integrity of our democratic system.

And you, Mr Etherington, will have to provide us with more than blind acceptance of everything those in authority tell you if you wish to be taken seriously at Bowalley Road.

Your notion that public servants are incapable of distorting events to suit the purposes of their political masters is naïve in the extreme. That the directors of the world's security agencies have never told and will never tell lies is even more risible.

Then again, the old adage "there's none so blind as those who will not see" presumably arose because the past has been filled with Charles Etheringtons. And considering the tragedies their wilful blindness has made possible down through the ages, we can only lament that the breed is with us still.

Tim Mallory said...

Oh dear Charlie, somehow Hagar's actions are "Dirty" but Slater's are not? Serious distortion there!

The SIS involved as well! They are supposed to be a-political. Does it ever occur to you that John Key could well be lying? His teflon coat is wearing thin.

Politics are a very dirty business but it can still be honourably dirty. There is nothing honourable in this saga.

That the SIS released the info to Slater within a day when it normally take three weeks to get it definately smells like Johnny ordered them to do so. Every SIS request has to be cleared by the PM even if he is in Hawaii.

Victor said...

I love the way acolytes of the right are now telling us that nothing about "Dirty Politics" et al matters all that very much.

No, not even the use of the state's security organs to undermine the constitutional opposition!

No, not even those organs' effective collaboration with some of the blogsphere's more toxic pond life!

No, not even the Justice Minster's close relationship with the pond life and use thereof to smear the reputation of a respected public servant!

And this from the same political tendency that thought it mattered more than anything else on earth when Auntie Helen attached her signature to someone else's painting at a charity junket, when she took a ride in a rather fast car or when some of her underlings recommended strangely shaped light bulbs to us.

I do not answer to the name of Alice. But this is surely Wonderland!

Look out for white rabbits in a hurry!

Kat said...

Mr Etherington, surely you can see how difficult it is to talk about the core issues in this election campaign when the Prime Minister is leading the charge in ideologically driven suspicion and name calling.

Mind the Prime Minister has just dropped 8.5% in PM popularity in todays Herald digi-poll.

Why would that be I wonder?

Debbie Sullivan said...

and Im fairly sure there are telecommunications with Hawaii....even on the golf courses

Armchair Critic said...

Hi Charles, how's things on Planet Key. Have you worked out whether the ship of fools in National's advertising is looking forwards and going backwards, or just looking backwards and is about to founder on a floundering whale?

It's neat that you think that Dr Tucker's evidence means the game is over. So cute. Remember last election where Mr Key upset the media over the teapot tapes? That was a little fuss in comparison to this one; the media won't be letting this go so easily because a much larger number are involved. And of course, unlikely the teapot taper, the leaks of information can't be injuncted this time, so they'll keep coming. Game over? Not likely. I'd note that in addition to this, National have two further disadvantages this time. First, their main mouthpieces have been silenced. Second, they're lost control of the narrative.

Your idea about having to talk policy is a hoot. National have been well outpaced on policy release, to date, and in any case most of their policy boild down to "the rich get richer, the poor get the picture" and that's not really a vote winner, especially when your main mouthpieces have been silenced and you've lost control of the narrative. Sure, they'll release policy over the weekend at their campaign launch, I'm especially interested in their justice policies. I hope the Minister fronts with something. Anything. She's no shrinking violet, right?

Your sentence that says

Only muck raking, in time honoured tradition offers the left any hope.

is brilliant. Muck raking like whaleoil, do you mean? I guess you missed off the /sarc tag. It's quite clear who the real professionals, the ones who get paid, in the field of muck raking are.

Further...what you are foaming about ignores the origin of this whole little spat: Goff lying during an election.
Dr Tucker says when he said "Prime Minister" he meant "Prime Minister's office". John Key says they are one and the same. AC says that the PM has repeatedly proved he is unreliable, and it's much more likely that Dr Tucker told the PM directly, and avoided speaking to Mr Goff directly, speaking only to his office instead. That makes Dr Tucker and Mr Key liars.

Sort of the same thing Slater is notorious for eh?
Gotta say at this point I'm not a fan of Mr Trotter's opinions, but trying to construct an equivalence between whaleoil and bowalley road is totally wrong. There is no comparison and I think that until you can show instances of Chris tolerating vile abusiveness and hatred, racism, sexism, death threats, threats of violence etc. your credibility is gone. It may be gone for some time.

Anonymous said...

Chris says "Your notion that public servants are incapable of distorting events to suit the purposes of their political masters is naïve in the extreme."

So you think the director of the SIS must be telling lies for Key.

And you think the ex-director of the SIS is telling lies for Key.

And you think the ombudsman is telling lies for Key.

Whether Key was told about the OIA request, not told, or has forgotten, has no relevance to the accusation anyway.

Goff couldn't remember (or lied) about a recent SIS briefing from just weeks before. But Key is supposed to remember one of dozens of bland notifications of OIA requests that were OKed from years ago.

The media were hysterical today about something that had no importance. And they were wrong anyway.

They are being played like a fiddle. I feel embarrassed for them - such appalling quality of work would get any first year student a fail in journalism 101.

Charles Etherington said...

What the ...!?, Read my post again. Read my words not the prejudices in your angry minds. Tucker may be bullshitting, but his evidence (legal term) is that he is not! You accuse him of lying, not me. Slater accuses too. That's all. Of course you are not him.

Neither you nor I know the truth, and can't know. Ours are merely opinions. My main point, some of you fail to pick up is that it's over now, this attempt to distract the electors, thanks to our media over doing it and now looking silly, to use a apposite word.
You see the normal public person, (we are not normal), now figures the probability of who is lying or fudging, is less that it's Key, the SIS blokes & the Ombudsperson, so they are moving on. So I'm moving on too.

Back to policy & sound governing then. Who has the better plan and team? The better rowing team. Seen that brilliant ad? Says it all and sticks in the head. Hire that person.

I'm afraid, however irrelevant you think that is, the record & who to pick for the next 3 years on policy, counts.
On these minor points in an election, it seems from yesterday's poll that National are 100% ahead of Labour and nearly 400% ahead of the Greens as preferred party.
Or is maths on the left different? Like MRP damned by Shearer for 'huge' profits yet if you read their spreadsheet, earnings increased 3% & prices declined 4%. And they have a two year consumer price freeze on. Woops, Labour spokesman looks silly & financially illiterate. Parker will be fuming as he does know his maths, even though he is a lawyer, like me. Good man Parker. Vote for him next time.

Finally on poor Hager's saga, waning badly now, wasn't Rosemary McLeod's gentle demolition of him in her piece yesterday exquisite! She is that wise older woman who has seen this before. You have too Chris and you wrote well in the Press as much the other day. But above, you have lost any semblance of wise detachment in this last bit. Come on, calm down & cheer up. There are weeks to go!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting that they have now found a statement from Key from 2011 saying he WAS told :-). Tangled webs anyone?

Anonymous said...

Whether or not Key was told that the OIA was being released has no bearing on the accusation that he had previously interfered politically in the timing of the release.

Funny that Phil Goff is accusing Key of politically interfering with the timing of the release when he admits he "hit the roof" (his own words) at Tucker and got him to delay the release by days.

But the media are in such hysteria about irrelevant minutiae, that they keep missing the elephant in the room.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Rosemary McLeod's gentle demolition? I just read it, it's nothing of the sort. Besides – Rosemary McLeod jumped the shark years ago. She used to be funny and relevant, now she's just the opposite :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well actually, whether Key knew or not is relevant in that he denied knowing. So either he is lying or not. And if lying then that's definitely relevant.

Anonymous said...

It is now clear that Mr Goff is not a liar nor incompetent.
When Mr Tucker passed the information to Mr Goff, he meant he passed it to Mr Goff's office.
That either makes Mr Goff's office staff dishonest or incompetent, or Mr Tucker, Mr Key and Mrs Wakeman dishonest. The common threads are Mr Tucker and Mr Key. Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

The media are crucifying Key in an attempt to show he interfered politically with the timing of the release.

The media are silent on Goff ACTUALLY ADMITTING interfering politically with the timing of the release.

He said he "hit the roof" at Tucker and got him to delay the release by several days.

The media have lied blatantly that only Whaleoil got an early release of information, when days ago a left wing blog said they got it the same day as Whaleoil.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You seem to think that attacking Phil Goff's honesty will somehow annoy me? I regard Goff as about as right-wing as Key, so water off a ducks back. And I don't know what media are you guys use but I've heard plenty about Goff delaying the release. (Faux news mayhap?) And I really would like a link to the left-wing blog and got the information at the same time as whale oil, because there are lots of decent journalists out there saying that they had to wait days after the oily whale got his :-).

Anonymous said...

Did the SIS release the information to both offices in the same manner? Goff was personally attacking Dr Tucker calling him a liar - a good reason to expedite the release of the documents perhaps? Goff brought it on himself for attacking the credibility of a well respected public servant.

Kat said...

"Is it not incredible that the Prime Minister did not know in advance of Slater’s Official Information request and had not been consulted about it, either directly by the SIS or by his own office.

Has anyone asked Key this question?