Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Goff airs suspicions about spy briefing

Labour leader Phil Goff. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour leader Phil Goff. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour leader Phil Goff says questions remain over how a right-wing blogger asked the SIS for a confidential document about a briefing he had with the spy agency.

Questions also remained over why the SIS released the material with such urgency - four working days after receiving the request under the Official Information Act. Most requests are either rejected outright or take at least three weeks to action.

Central to the issue is whether Mr Goff was briefed by SIS director Warren Tucker about the suspicious flight of Israeli nationals from Christchurch after the February earthquake.

A document released to blogger Cameron Slater on Thursday by the SIS titled "Investigation into Israeli Nationals in Christchurch" (and heavily blacked out) has a diary note on the top corner "read by/discussed with Mr Goff 14 Mar 11".

Slater, who writes the WhaleOil blog, requested, among other things, "copies of diary notes made at the time or subsequent to the March briefings to [Mr Goff]".

Mr Goff said last night that at that meeting on July 25, Dr Tucker acknowledged he might have "flicked the issue" past him and might have said there was no substance to it.

The Labour leader said he was puzzled about how Slater asked for such a specific document.

"What contact was there between the Prime Minister's office and Cameron Slater? I don't know."

Mr Key suggested yesterday that Mr Goff had simply forgotten the briefing. "Phil Goff is a busy man; I'm busy. People forget things. It happens."

But Mr Goff insists he would have remembered if Dr Tucker had raised it. He said Dr Tucker rang him last week to tell him he was releasing the document to Slater.

"I said, 'What - I haven't even seen the bloody document."

He said Dr Tucker told him he had a legal obligation to release it. Mr Goff asked to receive it in advance but thinks he got it at the same time as Slater.

A spokesman for Mr Key said last night that he had not contacted Slater about the matter.

"At no stage did the Prime Minister's Office direct how the SIS should treat the OIA request."

Documentary evidence

July 24: John Key says the SIS briefed Phil Goff about the behaviour of Israeli nationals in Christchurch. Mr Goff contacts SIS director Dr Warren Tucker to say he had not been briefed.
July 25: Mr Goff and Dr Tucker meet to discuss the matter.
July 26: Cameron Slater asks the SIS about the issue.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n4 at 30 Jul 2014 10:13:01 Processing Time: 661ms