Security Intelligence Service (SIS) boss Rebecca Kitteridge should have told Phil Goff to get stuffed. Instead she apologised. I wouldn't have.
In election year 2011 - several Labour leaders ago - Goff was floundering about trying to get a hit on Prime Minister John Key. His attacks invariably backfired.
There was a kerfuffle about supposed suspicious activity by Israeli nationals. Key initially declined to comment, citing national security concerns. He subsequently explained that a security intelligence investigation uncovered nothing untoward.
Goff characteristically attacked, saying Key had made a hash of explaining the hitherto unknown concern and that people were asking: "Are we even now being told the truth?" This was a roundabout way of accusing Key of lying.
Further, Goff asserted he should have been briefed. "It's not been part of any briefing to me." Key said that wasn't true. Oops.
Previous SIS boss Warren Tucker met Goff to refresh his memory. The result was Goff flailing about. "There was no briefing per se ... I don't recall at all seeing the document."
Subsequently, Tucker provided a heavily redacted agenda note under the Official Information Act on his briefing of Goff and the relevant Security Intelligence report, called Investigation into Israeli Nationals in Christchurch, with Tucker's handwritten note: "Read by/discussed with Mr Goff 14 March 11."
Goff then attacked Tucker. "I was not shown the document ... Warren Tucker is wrong ... I was never 'briefed' by the SIS."
It was election year. Goff was losing. He was lashing out. And he couldn't say he had forgotten or hadn't paid attention because that was one of his attack lines on Key.
As a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee I was regularly briefed over six years by the SIS. They assiduously covered every point and put every document in front of me. That's how they work. They answered every question and I could take as long as I wanted to read any document.
The Greens, in the wake of Dirty Politics, called on the inspector-general to investigate Tucker's OIA release.
The inspector-general hit Tucker hard. His annotation should have been "shown to," not "read by" and instead of "discussed with" he should have written "spoken to briefly".
He found Tucker's release misleading and recommended the apology.
What makes Kitteridge and Tucker outstanding is they accept the findings and apologise. I couldn't. But top civil servants know the rules and No1 is that their political bosses are never wrong. They must forever accept that it's their fault and their job to apologise. That's how the system works.
And politicians like Goff show no shame - he didn't even redden when blamed for leaking the inspector-general's report. If it were you or I me we would be prosecuted. Goff won't be. Again, that's how the system works.
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