Friday 19 October 2012

White Knights, Dark Arts.

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself: What would a true master of the dark arts of politics have made of the actions of the Ira Bailey and Keith Ng, who told the MSD about the acute vulnerability of its IT systems? Or of David Shearer, whose bungled handling of leaked information about John Key's visit to GCSB headquarters snatched ridicule from the jaws of embarrassment?
A MASTER of the dark arts of politics would shake his head in disbelief. A former staffer in the Prime Minister’s office and a radical environmental activist discover a “hole” in the Ministry of Social Development’s IT network – and they immediately inform the Ministry, the Privacy Commissioner and the public.
The first question our black political magician would ask is: “Why?”
Because it wasn’t a little hole that IT specialist, Ira Bailey, and investigative journalist, Keith Ng, discovered. No. It was a vast portal; a royal road to virtually every piece of information the MSD possessed.
“Did it never occur to either of you that this discovery invested you with extraordinary political power?”
The tone of incredulity in the Political Wizard’s voice is easily imagined.
“Have you any idea what even an absolutely useless Opposition politician could have done with this information? Can you not imagine the havoc it might have created? Paula Bennett would have been beside herself. The paranoia levels in the MSD would have gone off the scale. Properly managed, this discovery could have seriously destabilised John Key’s government. At the very least it would have destroyed the Minister’s career.
“But what did you two upright citizens do? You told the MSD about their IT vulnerability. You told them! At least you, Mr Bailey, had the wit to enquire about an incentive. But you, Mr Ng, did not. Presented with an extraordinary opportunity to do real political damage you acted pro bono publico – for the public good. Honestly, words fail me!”
Could there be a better testimonial to the basic honesty of ordinary, decent New Zealanders than this extraordinary incident? Because our Master of the Dark Arts, in identifying the huge opportunity for political mischief-making Mr Bailey’s and Mr Ng’s discovery represented, is not mistaken. All of us, with a little thought, will be able to think of at least one politician who would have exploited the MSD’s massive failure without hesitation - or mercy.
We should be proud of Mr Bailey and Mr Ng. Their public-spirited behaviour was so very different from the sort of behaviour exposed during the Leveson Inquiry. Would a journalist working for The News of the World have handed such a treasure-trove of confidential and potentially damaging information over to the UK Privacy Commissioner? Would Julian Assange have contacted the US Department of Defence and offered to identify a potentially devastating security breach?
What do you think?
The Bailey/Ng revelations weren’t the only example of less-than-perfect state security to enliven the past week. It would seem that the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) has more than its fair share of “disgruntled former employees” – and maybe even one or two still on staff.
Once again, however, the recipients’ exploitation of covertly acquired information was enough to make our Master of the Dark Arts throw up his hands in horror.
“This is, quite simply, unbelievable!”
We must imagine at this point a shame-faced David Shearer shifting uneasily in his office chair.
“It’s Political Destabilisation 1-0-1, Mr Shearer. Page One of The Beginners Guide to Political Scandals. Evidence first. Evidence second. Evidence above all else. You never – and I mean never – launch a political scandal unless you are in possession of all the evidence required to prove it. Do you know what I’m talking about, Mr Shearer? No? Then, let me spell it out for you.
“If you claim the Prime Minister joked about Kim Dotcom’s arrest, in a cafeteria full of GCSB operatives, and there’s video evidence to prove it, what do you absolutely, positively, have to have in your possession, Mr Shearer? That’s right, you have to have the bloody video!
Did you have the video, Mr Shearer? Did you have any evidence to back up your claim? No, Mr Shearer, you did not. You walked out to confront the most popular Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history holding nothing but an accusation. By the battlements of Barad-Dur, Mr Shearer, what were you thinking!”
To which those past masters of the dark arts of politics: Michael Laws, Richard Prebble, Pete Hodgson and Rodney Hide would undoubtedly add: “Amen”
An idealist might argue that Mr Shearer’s ineptitude in these arcane matters is rather endearing.
A realist would simply conclude that the next victim of the dark arts is likely to be Mr Shearer himself.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 October 2012.


jafapete said...


Jigsaw said...

Ira Bailey and Keith Ng were not naive they hoped to make money from the knowledge they had. That is surely why Ira Bailey went into a kiosk witha data stick to see what he could find and to use that information to make money. When he failed he passed it on the Keith Ng so he could try. Doesn't seem very noble to me-more like blackmail. If you ever needed proof that David Shearer is unsuitable to be a leader of any political party surely you now have it. Listen to his interview with Rodney Hide for confirmation-he was simply ripped to shreds.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Jigsaw.

Your despicable characterisation of Ira's and Keith's motives identifies you as one of the Far Right's willing accomplices.

You're banned from this blog.

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, your take on botched opportunities to embarrass the other side of the House is both illustrative and amusing. But what is becoming less and less amusing is the media’s obsession with off-the-ball point scoring.

I accept that a certain amount of entertainment is probably necessary if audiences are going to be gathered together for the purpose of force feeding them with inane advertising, but stern-faced political editors analysing the latest round of Gotcha! day after day and night after night does not serve the country well. Where is the substance? Where is the policy? And, when a politician does occasionally get something right, where is the acknowledgement?

Does the Left not have any policy? Or does Duncan Garner just not find it as interesting as the fact that John Key may have had one of his socks on inside out on the 17th of August? (Or was that on the 23rd of September?)

Jigsaw said...

So much for robust debate!! You really do disappoint me. I think you will find that in coming days the evidence will point more and more in that direction.
I shall continue to read your interesting socialist point of view - a point of view that I long ago found wanting in almost every respect. Socialists are great at banning people who don't agree with the party line aren't they?

Chris Trotter said...

I stand rebuked, Jigsaw.

But can you please explain how alerting both the MSD and the public to this huge failure in securing client privacy can be construed as anything other than acting in the public interest?

Keith Ng passed all the material he had accessed over to the Privacy Commissioner as soon as he broke the story. Ira merely enquired as to whether the MSD offered an incentive payment for people who helped to identify weaknesses in its IT system - as many large organisations do - was told "No" and left it at that.

It is very hard to read your earlier post without feeling that you are acting in the interests of the National-led Government and its right-wing backers.

Your conduct falls squarely under the heading of Political Distraction. Standard Operating Procedure when a political party, corporation or large bureaucracy of any sort finds itself in the unwelcome glare of the media spotlight.

That you behave in this way under the cover of a pseudonym (in sharp contrast to Mr Ng) only heightens the suspicion that your claims and motives would not survive the sort of scrutiny to which you demand Mr Ng and Mr Bailey be subjected.

If you had the courage of your convictions, Jigsaw, you would remove your mask and let us see your face.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Chris, I urge you to stick to your guns and consign all jigsaws and other disgusting reciprocating tools with tiny flaccid blades to the cesspits they deserve.
It's a general tolerance for blatant lies and calumny originating in the sewerblogs and talkback hatefests over recent years that's led to the current insanity of tolerance for blatantly lying Prime Ministers and the disgusting, deliberate Helenhate pogrom.
A wanton abondonment of values by the very hypocrites who have the gall to assume moral superiority based on nothing more than the size of their exploitation-swelled wallets.
Ask any persecuted race down history: filth and lies can have serious consequences, and in the interest of societal salubrity their purveyors deserve nothing less than instant and severe condemnation and exorcism.


Jigsaw said...

I am not acting in the interest of any other person or organisation and indeed I don't belong to any relevant organisation or have any connection with any. To suggest that is simply a red herring. My point is simply that as I understand it Ira Bailey is not a customer of MSD and yet went into an MSD kiosk with a download stick looking for information and on finding material that clearly should not have been there rang MSD looking for money. Now however you construe that is for me largely dependant on what he did next. If you intercept information that is clearly not intented for your eyes then you either return it or destroy it and he did neither. If his intentions were honourable at the beginning he could have made the phone call before he visited the kiosk. Ira Bailey did not as you claim 'just leave it at that'.
One of the most alarming aspects of this whole episode is that the journalists have largely avoided the digging that is needed. One is once again left wondering at the lack of balance in our news.Not investigating the obvious flaws in this matter amounts to a sort of censorship.
Roger Strong

Jigsaw said...

Chris I shall be fascinated as to how - and indeed if -you reply to ak-perhaps he really doesn't have a name...apparently debate is something to be deplored and there is only one point of view ever to be had. Personally I look forward to a reasoned debate no matter how much I disagree with the opinions expressed and to hold the feet of any and every government to the fire in search of what really happened.
I don't know of any convenient cesspits and I certainly don't have a huge wallet. Substituting rage for reason never seems a good idea.

Chris Trotter said...

I am intrigued, Jigsaw, by the dramatic change of tone in your commentary.

Now your appeal is all to sweet reason, hard evidence and general civility.

The sudden elevation of discursive style is, of course, very welcome.

Long may it continue.

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued, Jigsaw, by the dramatic change of tone in your commentary.

Sadly, Chris, an all-too-common modus operandi of the neophyte right-wing Scribe: viz; utter a false and highly calumnous assault upon the innocent (in this case an accusation of extortion/blackmail) and when rebuked cry copious crocodile tears over the lack of decorum and condemnation of his "reasoned debate"!

Best recent example of this nauseating pathos was the son of a National Party president pausing from publishing pornographic images with the then current Prime Minister's head attached - to the entire world - to pose as a deeply-offended Miss Manners and defender of decorum when she wore trousers instead of a frock!

Consistency's all we ask for Jiggy. Either contine to baselessly impute evil motive and persecute the innocent, or expect to be taken seriously. Can't do both, sorry.