John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: An apology that could easily backfire

Kim Dotcom speaks to the media outside the High Court. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kim Dotcom speaks to the media outside the High Court. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Paul Neazor's report on the unlawful bugging of Kim Dotcom is not so much a whitewash as washed out.

In a political culture where sheeting home accountability usually means a mild slap over the wrist with the old wet bus ticket, Neazor's report sets a new low.

Sure, Neazor had to conduct his inquiry within very narrow parameters set by the Prime Minister.

Those boundaries may have been deliberately set tight to constrain the retired High Court judge from speaking out, thereby stopping him from overshadowing John Key and allowing the Prime Minister to pick up any brownie points on offer by getting stuck into the GCSB.

Given Neazor's watchdog role as Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence, however, you would have thought he would have used some equally strong language in his report.

His report instead delivers a mechanical account of what we largely already knew - that the police and the GCSB misunderstood Dotcom's residency status and thought he was a foreigner who could be legally monitored by the spy agency.

If only someone had phoned the Immigration Service to check ...

Missing from Neazor's report is any reference to the apparent communication breakdown in the Beehive which has left questions as to why the Prime Minister was not told about the eavesdropping for months - especially as Key is the minister responsible for the GCSB.

Key's handling of the Dotcom affair came in for some stinging criticism from Opposition parties during a snap debate in Parliament yesterday.

Key sought to regain the moral high ground by apologising to Dotcom. Many will be wondering why. It could backfire badly on Key if the internet tycoon seeks and wins hefty compensation at taxpayers' expense.

- NZ Herald

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John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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