ONE OF THE DANGERS of keeping secrets is that the measures required to conceal them all-too-often end up revealing them. The unprecedented Police request to present secret evidence to the Human Rights Commission, for example, raises all sorts of questions about what, or who, they are trying to protect.
The great bundle of bearish energy that is my friend, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, could not understand why, suddenly, his usually supportive bank was refusing to rollover his website’s, “The Daily Blog’s”, overdraft. Bradbury was not to know that, a short time before, the Police had asked for and been given access to his bank accounts. Nor that the very fact the Police were asking had inscribed a large and very black mark against Bradbury’s name. Only later would he discover that his bank had not only failed to demand the production of a search warrant, but also neglected to inform Bradbury that the Police were in possession of his financial records.
If this story sounds familiar it’s because it is practically identical to the experience of another left-wing journalist, Nicky Hager. Like Bradbury, Hager was believed to have knowledge of the identity of the hacker calling him or herself “Rawshark”. It was Rawshark who, by his or her own admission, had hacked the computer of Cameron Slater, at that time the proprietor of the “Whale Oil Beef Hooked” blog. It was Rawshark’s purloined trove of Slater’s private e-mails that provided the controversial detail of Hager’s best-selling 2014 exposé, “Dirty Politics”.
In the course of their investigation of the theft of Slater’s e-mails, the Police not only sought and received (once again without the necessary authorisation) Hager’s bank records, but they also raided (this time brandishing a search warrant) his Wellington home and seized his computers.
Subsequent legal challenges by Hager’s lawyer, Felix Geiringer, established that the Police had obtained their search warrant improperly. The issuing judge had not been told that Hager enjoyed the legal protections of a journalist. Also exposed was the practice of Police investigators seeking and being supplied with individuals’ private financial information by an alarming number of the country’s biggest banks. The upshot was the return of Hager’s seized property, the communication of an official Police apology, and the payment of an undisclosed (but reportedly substantial) sum of money to New Zealand’s leading investigative journalist by way of compensation.
When Bradbury discovered that he had fallen victim to the same Police investigation as Hager, and that his reputation and privacy had been similarly violated, he laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Over-worked and understaffed, the Commission took two years to get to Bradbury’s case. In the wake of the Hager settlement, however, Bradbury was confident of a favourable outcome.
His dismay upon discovering that the Police had applied to the Commission for permission to present evidence against him in private is easily imagined. Evidence, moreover, that Bradbury, the complainant, would not be permitted to view or challenge. Up until that moment, Bradbury, like most complainants to the HRC had been representing himself. Now he discovered that he was up against not only the serried ranks of the NZ Police, but also the be-wigged attorneys of Crown Law.
The question is, of course, Why? What, precisely, is the nature of the information which the Police are so determined to keep from public view?
Could it be that the information upon which the Police were persuaded to launch their extraordinary investigation had been supplied to them by one or both of New Zealand’s two national security organisations: the Security Intelligence Service and/or the Government Communications Security Bureau?
If so, then questions would have to be asked about the legal justification for placing journalists and bloggers under such surveillance. Had the requisite interception warrants been supplied – and on what grounds? That Hager and Bradbury were fierce critics of government policies? But, since when is political opposition grounds for spying on New Zealand citizens?
The suspicion arises that in 2014-2015, in some unspecified, possibly unlawful, and highly secretive way, the country’s national security apparatus was working hand-in-glove with senior elements within the police to silence and punish a couple of outspoken critics of the National-led 2008-2017 Coalition Government.
Such a pity that equivalent, over-zealous, investigative efforts were nowhere in evidence when the Christchurch Shooter was planning his homicidal attack.
Disclosure: The author is a personal friend of Martyn Bradbury, and a long-time paid contributor to The Daily Blog.