Fran O'Sullivan: Campbell's dot-connecting GCSB 'revelations' fail to pin details on John Key

105 comments
John Key. Photo / Natalie Slade
John Key. Photo / Natalie Slade

Here's the kind of storyline that any experienced editor worth their salt would immediately spike and tell their reporter to "Go and find Deep Throat".

Intro: "On Tuesday, May 20, TV3's John Campbell aired his three-year investigation 'revealing' John Key had met the incoming Government Communications Security Bureau boss in the same week that GCSB's illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom began.

"Later that night Kim Dotcom tweeted: 'Ready to resign John Key. What more will it take?'

"In another Dot Con-necting investigation it has been confirmed that Kim Dotcom's legal representatives are from top-flight firm Simpson Grierson. Further we have uncovered that Simpson Grierson has represented TV3 on some high-profile media cases.

"Ipso facto: We believe that John Campbell's prime source must be Kim Dotcom's lawyers.

"It is also clear that Kim Dotcom would not have made such an imprudent tweet unless John Campbell is his media connection.

"Why else would a three-year investigation be broadcast in the same week that Dotcom gives evidence against MP John Banks over the latter's anonymous donations ..."

Of course, this is a made-up storyline. It is not intended to impugn the reputation of either TV3 or John Campbell, or my very clever friends at Simpson Grierson.

It is meant to demonstrate how journalistic dot-connecting exercises can result in circumstantial facts being strung together which plant suspicions in viewers' minds.

A fully-fledged investigation would not only have "joined the dots", but it would have given us full details of what went on during the various meetings which Campbell detailed. Unfortunately it didn't.

Key inevitably whacked back at Campbell accusing him of conspiracy theories over the clear insinuations in his Tuesday night show that he and GCSB boss Ian Fletcher knew about the unlawful surveillance of internet mogul Kim Dotcom by the spy agency in December 2011.

This is relevant to the upcoming extradition hearing for Dotcom. If Dotcom can prove that Key knew about the GCSB surveillance exercise ahead of the January 2012 raid it would likely result in the Prime Minister being hauled in front of Parliament's privileges committee.

Watching the TV3 investigation had me pondering how good was Campbell's own source - let's call him/her Shallow Throat?

Was his informant the same so-called rogue GCSB source that in the end could not deliver the tape that former Labour leader David Shearer had promised would reveal Key had lied over his dealings with the spy agency?

Or is the coup de grace being saved for the Dotcom extradition hearing which the Megaupload founder has also tweeted will see the Prime Minister, GCSB boss Ian Fletcher, former GCSB deputy director Hugh Wolfensohn, Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, from the Organised and Financial Crime Agency (OFCANZ) and Agents 1, 2 and 3 appear on "our updated witness list".

The problem is that Campbell Live was bereft of relevant content. A strong investigation would have revealed what was discussed in the various meetings between US Director of Intelligence James Clapper, Key and Government officials; Key and Fletcher; and at that dinner at the British High Commission where top security brass dined with the PM and the High Commissioner.

Much was made of the fact that Fletcher came to Wellington for a visit in December 2011 before taking up his appointment the following month. When questioned Key said that the meeting was "actually Simon Murdoch with Ian Fletcher over in my office ... it was an introduction. I can't tell you exactly everything we talked about because I would never say that".

The problem is Campbell Live linked the dots in a way that suggested Fletcher and Key were in on the surveillance.

But didn't provide proof.

There was also plenty of dot-connecting over how Fletcher got the top job.

And a suspicion he was inserted into the role because he was a specialist in intellectual property protection - something that Clapper was hot on and was critical to the US case against Dotcom.

The reality is likely more anodyne.

Former diplomat Charles Finny posted on Kiwiblog, "Ian Fletcher had signalled his willingness to return to NZ somewhat before the GCSB role came up.

" I think that you will find that he was interested in replacing Simon Murdoch as MFAT CEO and that he did rather well in that selection process.

"In the end John Allen came through, but the facts that Ian Fletcher was interested in a return, and that he waks an obviously very strong candidate for a senior leadership role in the NZ public service were very much front of mind for people like [Simon] Murdoch, [Sir Martin] Wevers, the State Services Commissioner, and externally focused ministers.

"That he was thought of when GCSB came up is no surprise. It seemed totally logical."

Pity Campbell Live didn't dig that out too.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 30 Jul 2014 05:36:13 Processing Time: 293ms