Director of the SIS Rebecca Kitteridge is being widely touted as a new broom after just six months in the job at the head of our intelligence service.
The reality is that she helped Prime Minister John Key cover his butt in the leadup to the 2014 general election, just like her predecessor, Warren Tucker, did in the leadup to the 2011 election. She continues to do so, all the while presenting as reasonable, fair-minded and politically neutral as apple pie.
Tucker oversaw the agency when it, or some people in it, supplied information to Cameron Slater taken from a briefing inside the SIS suggesting Phil Goff was lying over being told about alleged spying by Israelis in Christchurch and their mysterious disappearance shortly after the earthquakes of 2011.
Kitteridge was the person who insisted the Prime Minister was right when he said Slater had not received favourable treatment in receiving the information, or that his office had anything to do with the release of the document, before the election this year.
Those assertions are made demonstrably false by the report as released this week, and offering to apologise now is too little, too late, as the election is already won on the back of discrediting Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, even though large tracts of it have now been proven bang on.
Offering to apologise to John Key for providing him "incomplete" or "misleading" information from which he could construct very successful attack points against his political adversary is laughable; offensive, even, given how very cynically the information, once screwed out of the spy agency, came to be used.
More risible still is the conclusion of Inspector General of Security Intelligence Cheryl Gwyn's report that there was "no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS" in the way this whole affair panned out.
Again, this appears to be contradicted emphatically by the report itself. Especially the part where, after receiving Slater's OIA request, the officer in charge of the request went to decline the request - only to be overruled by his boss, Warren Tucker.
Tucker claims he did not know who Slater - Whale Oil - was. Which is incredible in itself for the country's chief spy, but compounded by the fact he didn't apparently bother to find out before releasing briefing material, the type of which had never been publicly released before to anyone, even accredited journalists. Perhaps it was Slater's cheeky smile and gentle wit that won him over.
The officer in charge of the request then warned that the information about to be released should be "run past Mr Goff" in the interests of political neutrality. His warning was ignored. A copy of the information was, however, passed along to John Key's office.
We should, in truth, tip our hats to those who gleaned the original information from chats with the SIS; John Key's right-hand men - who, apparently of their own volition (according to the Prime Minister), happened to get in touch with Slater and school him on exactly what to go fishing for. To make such an enormous mountain out of what was really just a minor molehill, all to ensure Phil Goff was dead and buried as a political challenger, takes no small level of cunning.
But we don't expect the agencies tasked with ensuring fairness and transparency to play along.
The report on Judith Collins, also out this week, is another case in point. The facts as stated in the report suggest a woman who, at the least, was not really acting in a manner befitting a minister of the Crown. And yet she regains the right to be known as Honourable for the rest of her life and walks around affecting the manner of a newly released Nelson Mandela.
Key and his colleagues are betting on the fact the general public don't want to wade through long reports on security leaks and breaches. They continue to stonewall any attempts to hold them accountable for their actions; and if they're not stonewalling, they're combusting with indignation a la Chris Finlayson's absurd outburst in Parliament where he called Metiria Turei a "disgusting creature".
They may be right that the public doesn't care. But that doesn't mean an abuse of power didn't take place, and isn't serious. After all, as Key was fond of saying (when discussing Labour's capital gains tax policy), if it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and barks like a dog, it's a dog. To which I would say just one thing. Woof.
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