David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

GCSB link to Labour leader's adviser

Damien Rogers.
Damien Rogers.

Press secretary's partner revealed to be former employee of spy agency in row over alleged leaks

The partner of the chief press secretary to Labour leader David Shearer has been drawn into the row over alleged leaks after being exposed as a former GCSB spy agency employee.

Dr Damien Rogers is an academic who lives with former New Zealand Herald and TVNZ journalist Fran Mold. She now works as an adviser to Mr Shearer.

Yesterday NewstalkZB reported Dr Rogers was the source for Mr Shearer's claims the Prime Minister had joked with GCSB staff about Kim Dotcom in the agency's cafeteria.

Ms Mold and Dr Rogers did not respond to messages.

Dr Rogers grew up in Christchurch, studied International Relations at Victoria University in 2002 then worked in the public service in Wellington. He earned his doctorate at the Australian National University writing a book on small arms from pistols to automatic rifles and rocket launchers.

The book studied the way nations attempted to control the arms trade and how arms dealers avoided those trying to shut them down.

Dr Rogers' Facebook page in August shows the Labour Party listed among his "interest and activities". He also commented on the Labour Party page about a poster highlighting the wage gap between rich and poor. "Awesome graphic," he wrote.

The Weekend Herald has been told Dr Rogers was not at the GCSB on the critical dates in the scandal. The Weekend Herald understands he was seconded to another government agency at the time of the Dotcom spying and during Mr Key's visit.

The GCSB investigation has yet to establish whether a leak occurred. GCSB director Ian Fletcher said last night he was looking beyond his own staff to conduct the inquiry.

"To ensure we can carry on with our business as usual as much as possible we will be bringing in appropriate external expertise to help conduct the inquiry."

If it establishes a leak, the GCSB's legislation carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.

John Key's visit to the GCSB on February 29 has caused embarrassment. He was briefed by the spy agency about its co-operation with police leading up to the arrest of internet tycoon Kim Dotcom.

Next week he faces telling Parliament he forgot about the briefing and was wrong when he said he had not heard of the agency's involvement with the case until told in September they had illegally spied on Mr Dotcom.

The new claims would mean Mr Key not only forgot hearing about the case - but forgot talking about it.

Mr Key said Mr Shearer needed to produce evidence and called on him to release the recording.

He referred to the meeting in the cafeteria as a "private chat to staff". He said there had been talk about recording the visit before he arrived at the agency. "I'm advised by the GCSB they considered that when I went over for my meeting because I was addressing the staff ... in the end they decided not to do that and not to bother taking the recording."

Mr Shearer has refused to reveal any detail about his sources. He said last night the GCSB had searched for the recording for three days leading up to when he first claimed it existed.

"They have turned GCSB upside down. They have seized hard drives of staff members.

"Whether (the video) still exists now as a result of the searches that GCSB has made, I can't tell you."

He also gave more detail of Mr Key's comments. "He mentioned the good work they had done with the Kim Dotcom case. There were a large number of people at that meeting who heard John Key speak."

The Dotcom case has pulled the GCSB into the public eye and it has brought in experienced public service media handler Antony Byers.

Dotcom's lawyer, Paul Davison, said yesterday he was seeking testimony by affidavit from the GCSB about their actions. He said the court had appointed lawyer Stuart Grieve to act as the independent figure to sift information from the agency to establish relevance.

The FBI this week refused to reveal whether it had involved the United States partner in the Echelon network, the National Security Agency, in the Dotcom investigation.

The Echelon network binds intelligence agencies for their nation's collective benefit. Its members are New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the US - which seeks Mr Dotcom's extradition on criminal copyright charges relating to his Megaupload business.

In 2004, the NSA secured its own presence in the GCSB. A cable to the US Embassy in Wellington - captured among the WikiLeaks data - showed its staff member was known as a Special US Liaison Officer. The cable stated: "The new position will advance US interests in New Zealand by improving liaison and co-operation on vital signals intelligence matters."

Kim Dotcom has called for whistleblowers to come forward with information.


Crunch dates

February 29

Prime Minister John Key visits the GCSB. Kim Dotcom case discussed.

September 17

Date cited initially by Mr Key as when he first heard of the agency's illegal spying.

- NZ Herald

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