Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cablegate: Protected sources

This morning we learned that "Senior MOD officials" were secretly briefing the US Embassy about what was happening in our Cabinet. We know it was secretly, rather than at the behest of the New Zealand government, because the relevant cable marked them "strictly protect" - meaning the Americans didn't want anyone else (and especially anyone from New Zealand) to know about it. Over on Dim Post, Danyl asks an interesting question:

Can someone explain to me the difference between a senior defence official named as a protected source by a foreign embassy who briefs them on confidential cabinet decisions, and a spy?
Like him, I don't really see one. The information may be political rather than defence-related, but at its root, these people are working for a foreign government, rather than us. And that means they really shouldn't be working in our public service.

Meanwhile, Bryce Edwards has posted the New Zealand Herald's complete archive of 243 cables [PDF] (if you want to read them individually, Danyl has a split-up version here). So here's a list of everyone marked in it as a protected source, someone the Americans don't want us to know is briefing them:

  • Gabrielle Rush, "an adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's legal division" (05WELLINGTON160);
  • Bill Peoples, "crime policy and projects officer for the New Zealand Police" (05WELLINGTON160);
  • "MFAT officials" (05WELLINGTON294);
  • Robert Stevens, "chief executive of Education New Zealand" (05WELLINGTON569);
  • Peter Keenan, "National Party strategist" (05WELLINGTON642);
  • Matthew Palmer, "son of former Labour PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer" (05WELLINGTON650);
  • Annelies McClure, "manager of the Overseas Investment Office" (05WELLINGTON891)
Not all of these people are public servants. Those who aren't owe the government no loyalty, though its still interesting to know that they are US sources. As for the public servants, the briefings may have been authorised - though if they were its a bit odd that the Americans treated them as some sort of deep dark secret. But that ultimately is a matter between them and their employers.