Government’s Own Guidelines Show John Key Would Have Been Informed Of SIS Release To Whaleoil

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Analysis by Selwyn Manning.

SSC-GuidelinesINFORMATION THAT I HAVE ACQUIRED, sourced from the State Services Commission, states in black and white the tight guideline requirements that must be followed whenever the SIS informs a Prime Minister of any pending release of sensitive intelligence information.

The official guidelines further cast doubt over the Prime Minister John Key’s version of events that the Prime Minister was not made aware that intelligence documents were being declassified and prepared for fast-track release to Cameron Slater.

Those guidelines show that it is virtually beyond belief that John Key, as the Minister in charge of the SIS, did not know highly sensitive information was being prepared for release, and to whom it was being released to.

As such, the Prime Minister’s insistence that he did not know, now looks difficult to believe.

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The Government’s Consultation Requirement:

The Government’s State Services Commission (SSC) is the authority that ensures a minister is informed of a pending or potential release.

The SSC guidelines titled: Release Of Official Information: Guidelines for Co-ordination (ref.) state clearly:

The Official Information Act has not removed the duty on a public servant to keep the relevant Minister fully informed. It is important to consult with Ministers where release is likely to lead to public comment on a political issue. Consultation over an Official Information Act request gives a Minister an opportunity to comment on any political issues or matters relating to government management.
It would be appropriate for departments to consult their Minister when:

requests are received from the Opposition, the Opposition Research Unit, recognised interest groups or the news media especially where the information is particularly sensitive; the subject matter is controversial and likely to lead to questions of Ministers; facts, opinions or recommendations in the information are especially quotable or unexpected; the information reveals important differences of opinion among Ministers or agencies.

(ref.)

Beyond this, the Government’s guidelines are promulgated, or formally declared, by the Prime Minister’s office itself.

The State Services requirement stipulates: “Attention is drawn to the guidelines promulgated by the Prime Minister’s office on consultation between Ministers’ offices. Essentially these provide for the Private Secretaries and Press Secretary in each office to be responsible for the managed release of Official Information Act requests by Ministers’ offices.”

The Government guidelines do not allow a lackadaisical approach to the consultation process, but rather create a REQUIREMENT for all public servants of ministries, departments and intelligence agencies to be bound by.

While it is customary for politicians to refer to this consultation as a no-surprises “convention” as the Prime Minister recently said, this is a far too relaxed an interpretation of the reality.

The reality is that the director of the Security Intelligence Service was REQUIRED to consult and inform the Minister, who is John Key, on the release of the intelligence information. No surprises politeness, friendly observance to a convention, does not come into it.

The communication channels between officials and minister vary from ministry to ministry, department to department. But every public servant dealing with Official Information is provided with their own “procedures for such consultation” as developed by the ministry, department or agency.

It is known that some ministries, departments, agencies have tight protocols expanding to around 74 pages long.

There are consequences if a public servant does not follow those guidelines, and ministers are not left in the dark.

Obviously, departments take this incredibly seriously.

As the SSC guidelines state: “NOTE: Communication is the key factor which will assist in consultation.”

Consultation Between SIS and PM’s Office:

Consultation between the SIS and the Prime Minister’s office follows a strict protocol. It informs the chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, the chief press secretary, the press and political advisor (at the time Jason Ede), and the Minister himself, John Key.

For John Key to not be informed of this controversial sensitive intelligence information is beyond belief.

In checking out the practise of public servants observing the SSC guidelines the consensus is:

This is what public servants do. They build in consulting and no surprises in accordance with SSC guidelines. All departments develop and apply their own procedures for such consultation.

Minister’s offices frequently push back on information releases, but the department gets itself into trouble with the Ombudsman if it doesn’t apply the OIA correctly and fairly.

It is usual for those requesting information to become impatient, and for the proceed to take up to 20 working days minimum. And it is usual for the consultation period between the public service and a minister will take at least five days.

During this period, especially when information is sensitive, it is clear a robust exchange is in evidence between department, ministry, agency and minister.

Public servants say this period elevates the biggest risk in a delay.

It is therefore preposterous that a minister would not be informed about sensitive releases.

Damage Control:

Furthermore, the consultation period empowers a minister or department to try and get on top of any damage that the release of information may cause.

Departments often proactively release the information and then referring requestors to the official website.

With regard to this specific release of intelligence information, it would be fair to conclude that a reasonably minded New Zealander would believe it likely that Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater was used as a part of the Prime Minister’s office damage control strategy, designed to create a hit on the then leader of the opposition, Phil Goff.

The SIS Director’s Revelations:

OIA-SIS-Felix Marwick-9-Nov-2011On the back of this, the New Zealand Herald this morning released an official letter from the then SIS director Dr Warren Tucker to Newstalk ZB journalist Felix Marwick, where Dr Tucker states: “I notified the Prime Minister… that I was going to release redacted documents in response to the request from Mr Slater.”

Dr Tucker goes on to state: “I informed the Prime Minister that I had informed Mr Goff of my decision to release the information.”

Release By SIS Director To Selwyn Manning:

In a report by Nick Grant in the National Business Review this week (ref.)

I confirmed that I had received the same information as Cam Slater albeit a few days after he received it.

I had telephoned the SIS’s open phone line as a prelude to making an Official Information Act (OIA) request for both John Key’s and Phil Goff’s briefings.

As I told the NBR: “My interest was, if I got the PM’s briefing and I got the one presented to the leader of the opposition, I’d be able to compare the two and get a pretty good idea of whether they were the same or different – even if they were heavily redacted.”

“What I wanted was pretty specific … From that conversation I understood they were preparing information and that the request would probably be successful.”

I submitted my OIA request on 29 July 2011 and received a heavily redacted copy of Mr Goff’s briefing on 8 August 2011.

I remember at the time that was highly unusual. I had had dealings with the SIS previously and written extensively about the SIS and my experience suggested it would be customary, if lucky, to receive a response around 20 working days.

I received the reponse only one week later. I was Intrigued by a phrase in the covering letter from Dr Tucker that suggested I was well aware of Mr Slater’s parallel OIA request.

I later contacted Cameron about the issue. I put it to Cam: did he get a tip-off and if so who from. He denied having been tipped off.

What added to the mystery was that other journalists representing mainstream media were refused the information.

As I said to the NBR: “As I understand it, the Dominion Post put in one that was very closely worded [to mine] but didn’t get a response.”

I am left to consider whether my OIA request was in some way used to legitimise the security information drop to the Whaleoil site.

In Conclusion:

If there is a public interest element intensifying to this current state of affairs, it would suggest the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security give considered urgency to her inquiry into this matter and deliver her findings well ahead of the September 20 General Election.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Selwyn your article has been superceded by the comments by both former SIS Director Warren Tucker and Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem, who both back Key’s account. Good try, but no cigar.

    • Right, because one thing we’ve learned through this whole mess, and Key’s tenure, is that people don’t lie when they’re backed into a corner.

    • That may be IV – but it still doesn’t stop the FACT, that FJK and FJC and the Slug are liars. Big FAT LIARS actually.

      Hope you have your boxes of tissues at hand for the 20th IV!!

      The more media proves all these lies and liars the better!
      Bet you’re very scared of the words truth and transparency.

      It’s too late for the Nats now. They are goneburgers, and about time!

      Burn more effigys and plough down the Nat billboards and FJK!

      See the Ozzies are burning effigys of Tony Abbot now too! So hilarious!

      Keep the revolution going – Its fantastic!
      Power to the people!

      Opinion and belief.

    • Bullshit IV.

      They can say what they damm well like. Key denies he knew anything about Slater and the OIA requests. He’s lying through his teeth! There’s no way in a million years he didn’t get a heads up about a once in a blue moon release of controversial information by the SIS. He’s now claiming he couldn’t possibly have known because he was “holidaying in Hawaii”.

      Pull the other one John Key. There’s such a thing as telephone/email/text messages, and I’m amazed to learn there’s apparently no equipment available in Hawaii which enables modern communication methods to be used.

      He not only knew about it, he was party to using the SIS for the specific purpose of smearing Phil Goff. I wonder how many other times he and his shoddy mates have been using the SIS for political gain.

    • You’re very gullible, aren’t you, Anonymous ACT Supporter Intrinsicvalue?

      Honestly, I stopped believing things without evidence by my mid/late 20s. You still haven’t picked up that talent, have you?

      If you are a typical right winger (which I doubt), no wonder evidence counts for very little and dogma is everything.

    • @Intrinsicvalue – FJK knew alright! He was hoping to get something on Goff, 2011 being election year! He would have been kept in the loop by SIS or his own staff.

      FJK says he was overseas when these discussions were going on. No excuse. He like the rest of us, had access to digital communication, even in 2011!

      As PM and minister for SIS, he would have been kept informed, whether he was here or overseas!

    • Key gets home on the 31st, released on the 2nd…so there’s no chance he was briefed before it was sent then is there??????

    • @IV – try this link of a video of FJK from August 2011, when it was suspected then that SIS material had been leaked to a blogger.

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11312590

      Half way through the video, Key admits he was informed by Warren Tucker, under the ‘no surprises’ rule.

      So this historical evidence of FJK stating HE WAS ADVISED of the leak to the blogger (Cameron Slater), supersedes statements FJK is making now! In other words, this week the PM has been lying his head off, proving Hager’s revelations in his book are correct! The time frames add up.

      Liars really do need to have good memories!

  2. I would seriously question anyone who backs key on this. Either the government guideline was subverted or he knew about it. Either way, it’s illegal or dodgy incompetence.

    • I note DOWNWITHNATS that we posted around the same time and our ratings are exactly the same at this point. Four Slater-controlled trolls have been sent to this site. 🙂

    • I would think somebody serving as Prime Minister for 6 years would have hit the incompetence threshold long before now. While some may have the opinion that Key lacks competence, I would have to disagree. He has shown a high level of competence at projecting a facade which has engendered a cult like following, using selective memory, dodging scrutiny with numerous techniques and manipulating those around him to his personal advantage. He’s almost competent enough to re-define the meaning of the word “lie” and have 46% of New Zealand agree. No, this politician will be remembered for his competence and skill … at hiding from so many what an unethical, amoral and sleazy individual he really is.

  3. Key has now revealed that he was on holiday in Hawaii at the time, therefore was not briefed.
    I have to doubt that as I’m sure any state leader is kept up to date by security staff at all times, even if on holiday

    • Oh, the battery of his Blackberry was drained, I presume, and no other communications were possible for a couple of days, for whatever reason.

    • And also, what about the Deputy PM, is he not meant to be consulted when he is the “Acting PM”? What about Blinglish?

  4. Key sez he was in Hawaii on holiday when the OIA info was released to Cameron Slater, so he “didn’t know about it”.

    Don’t they have telephones, skype, email, etc in Hawaii?! (He’s in Hawaii for goodness sakes, not the bottom of the Marianna’s Trench! Though…)

    Aside from which, it still doesn’t explain why the OIA info was released so rapidly. Something as significant as a request for SIS info could easily have been kept until he return to New Zealand.

    There seem to be a lot of things happening on Key’s Prime Ministerial floor which he says he is unaware of. Really? It doesn’t sound like a PM who is “on top” of things, does it?

  5. “Consultation Between SIS and PM’s Office: Consultation between the SIS and the Prime Minister’s office follows a strict protocol. It informs the chief of staff Wayne Eagleson, the chief press secretary, the press and political advisor (at the time Jason Ede), and the Minister himself, John Key. For John Key to not be informed of this controversial sensitive intelligence information is beyond belief.”

    Thank you, Selwyn, for this enlightening information on how sensitive OIA requests and releases are handled by government departments and Ministries. I can rest assured now, that some OIA requests I made about some rather “delicate” information must certainly have passed the desk of one or more ministers.

    The line by our “beloved” leader tonight on the TV news was, he could not have been briefed personally, as he was away on holiday in Hawaii that time, when the Slater OIA was being processed and notified to his office. He is clearly splitting hairs again, drawing a separation between himself and his office staff. So his story seems to be, he only learned about it later, and only his staff were informed, who did not tell him straight away.

    On Radio Live I heard, that John Key claimed, he does not get briefed personally on every OIA request the SIS would receive. He claimed they were getting hundreds, so he could not know of every one.

    Now, surely, the SIS would not be getting hundreds of OIA requests, and that would not be hundreds for sensitive information, for sure. The SIS does in many cases not even have to give information upon OIA requests, so very few would be received, and processed after all.

    And there is the name of Mr Ede again, he was informed, for sure, so must have been others, very, very close to John Key.

    Sadly some in the media are tiring of all this, and simply start saying, Key will fight this through, no matter what. It again shows that most in the MSM are not up to keeping the pressure on, and not up to doing a bit of good researching.

    So we must wait for more emails to be leaked by the hacker, I suppose, until some information will be so damning, it will be impossible for the PM to talk his way out. I am also looking forward to 15 September, as Dotcom may have some highly interseting stuff to tell us then.

    On the downside, we get damned little discussion and debate on policy now, the election campaign has been seized by the anonymous hacker, who sets the pace and agenda now.

    Interesting times, I’d say.

    • Sadly some in the media are tiring of all this,

      That idiot Patrick Gower is already trivialising the whole dirty politics saga as being a showdown between “the hacker” and John Key.

      What a tool.

  6. We are expected to believe that on this sensitive issue regarding the Leader of the Opposition, just before an election that the SIS Director leaves a verbal message with the receptionist, or maybe some other dude who happened to be hanging out in Key’s office. And somehow this verbal message gets relayed to Key somehow, sometime later and he gets the gist of what the SIS director says.

    Yeah Right!

    Unless Key was windsurfing on the dark side of the moon, in 2011 there was telephones and even computers, with audio visual capability. Therefore the SIS Director could have told him directly by that means. Or told him face to face after the 31st of July when Key claims he got back or any day after that but before Slaters release.

    The whole thing reeks even more now it seemed timed to take place when Key was out of town. How fucking convenient. What crook hasn’t got the convenient alibi when his boys are doing a dirty job.

    • XRAY – then again, we have heard about Key being a bit “tired”, close to fainting, and even passing out on one occasion, while there were at times rumours about his indulgence in alcoholic beverages.

      Who knows, he may have been nursing a delirim tremens or so over in Hawaii, not fit to respond to any communications in whatever form?

      That may be an explanation, especially since being away on holidays would give him an opportunity to “take some time out”.

  7. What I don’t get is the lack of loyalty from ShonKey to his staff : according to him, they were at fault, they didn’t tell him ….. if I was a member of his staff and knew differently, I’d be bloody mad ! at him.

    • As far as I know, he hasn’t thrown staff under the bus. Yet.
      At the next press stand-up, that’s his next tactic.

      This will show him up as a coward, but will not be an admission that he lied. That will come later.

  8. “INFORMATION THAT I HAVE ACQUIRED”
    And how did you acquire that information eh? Hacked someone’s email, bribed an official? I can’t answer that question because, firstly, it’s a smear, secondly, it’s a left-wing conspiracy, thirdly, Labour does it all the time and fourthly, I’m not even here, I’m out to lunch.

  9. This is a good article Selwyn. Yes, the fact is Key is/was required to have been kept in the loop etc and he’s clearly lying that he had no knowledge of it. If by small chance he had no knowledge then he was in breach of the law and he needs to be held to account through our court system. He needs to stop digging himself into a hole and resign and face up to his errors in this. But he refuses because he’s a gambler and knows every trick possible to try and survive it. It will be like pulling teeth to get him to leave office and admit his errors, but it is possible and I hope the public wake up to him and vote him and his ‘team’ of crooked politicians out.

  10. “It is important to consult with Ministers where release is likely to lead to public comment on a political issue. ”

    So, let’s see : the PM’s office didn’t pass on the SIS OIA request that was going to Cam Slater, because that would never lead to public comment on a political issue, would it? And anyway he was on holiday in Hawaii at the time.

    And then the PM has an interview by telephone from Hawaii with Espiner, making comment on the political issue covered by the SIS OIA request…

    Ill-informed, Mr Key? Ill-advised?

  11. brilliant piece of writing and analysis on john key. so relieved hes finally being xposed. thanks for yr comment

  12. Key like Nixon is ruthless , and plays good cop bad cop.

    So the kindly bloke look is a façade and hides the dark character he really is.

    Hope the NZ public are waking up to this chameleon.

  13. When I was at school if some moron came up with the sort of excuse that Key used, “the Hawaiian”,similar to the other “dog ate my homework” type feeble replies,to a teacher,everyone laughed.
    So obviously false that even the liar knew it was never going to fly.
    Really! And this is our prime minister? Key reminds me of a little boy who missed out on some truth telling lesson when he was growing up.

  14. John Key’s defence in all this seems to hedge on his claims that he doesn’t get involved in routine communication matters, that they are largely handled by his staff. If he took personal responsibility for each and every one he wouldn’t have time for the more important aspects of being a prime minister. That would be fair enough in most circumstances but when it involves the passing of sensitive information that excuse doesn’t wash. This is something that requires the direct attention of the PM. For John Key to trivialise something so important suggests that he does not appreciate the gravity of what he has done. It may be routine stuff in the United States but this is New Zealand, not the US and we hold our politicians to higher standards (I hope). If he genuinely didn’t know what was happening then he is just plain incompetent.

  15. Instead of acting like a smug spoiled brat, staying “it wasn’t me” … “I was overseas in Hawai’i at the time” over and over again, FJK needs to hold a press conference now and address the issues which have been raised in Nicky Hager’s book.

    His position of PM demands he takes some responsibility and face the people and state exactly what the situation is, re the revelations.

  16. You obviously think you have the fatal blow and are probably wetting your undies with excitement like Gower, Dann and Campbell. Instead of just writing about it I suggest you front the PM with it and see how far you get.

  17. I have no doubt that he is the architect of all of this collusion and spin. Key fits the mentality – look at TPP, XKeyscore, Dotcom, and his apparent need for security and secrecy. And the vernacular ‘ What I can say is this…….’ ‘What I can do is this……’ Without knowing this, I can’t comment on that’

    Debt, finance, trade pacts, control, media manipulation, for profit by multinationals and government collusion, with regulation and law for profit – that’s the NZ economy. Not social change, or climate, or sustainable or creative. No jobs, or manufacturing, or investment in education (that’s not private).

    A sea change? I reckon.

  18. […] We know that the guidelines for the release of such information from the SIS requires consultation …. The PM has stated in his video answer that he was briefed, he has since claimed that when he said “I was briefed’ he means something completely different, and that when public servants Tucker and Wakem both said he was briefed, they also meant something completely different. […]

  19. […] We know that the guidelines for the release of such information from the SIS requires consultation b…. The PM has stated in his video answer that he was briefed, he has since claimed that when he said “I was briefed’ he means something completely different, and that when public servants Tucker and Wakem both said he was briefed, they also meant something completely different. […]

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