Friday, June 07, 2013

The Henry report

So, the Henry report has been released, and Peter Dunne has resigned as a Minister as a result. Not because it found that he leaked the Kitteridge report into the GCSB, but because he had failed to cooperate fully with the inquiry and therefore the Prime Minister could not have confidence in him. A couple of points:

Firstly, while the report (and Key) views Dunne's refusal to hand over his emails as deeply suspicious, there's potentially an innocent explanation. Dunne is the leader of a political party, and it is entirely normal for him to communicate with journalists. Given his previously expressed views on the GCSB and the fact that he is a critical swing vote in passing the government's spy bill, its even entirely natural for him to communicate with a journalist on GCSB issues. And it is entirely natural for him to regard those communications as none of the PM's business.

Secondly, if he did leak the report, Dunne is a muppet. The first rule of leaking is don't get caught. You never leak stuff by email - or if you do, you do it through another account, from another computer, so that you have deniability (and more importantly, so that a government inquiry can't automatically retrieve your end of the conversation). Its not hard to make a disposable gmail account, and it offers access by https, which makes it non-trivial to snoop. They should teach all Ministers and public servants this stuff in their job induction.

Thirdly, there's plenty of muppetry to go around. Our superspies, the Masters of Cyberspace? They don't have even basic precautions around document handling:

A system for numbering copies was used at GCSB but was incomplete and somewhat confusing. Not all copies were numbered and the number series included numbers allocated to earlier drafts. Copies distributed on 22 march 2013 were not included in the number series and nor were the copies provided to the Cabinet office on 25 March 2013

If this is how things are done in our top secret agency, it needs a bit of a shake-up.

Fourthly, John Key has confirmed that the leak did not threaten "national security". So Winston Peters is full of shit when he accuses Dunne of espionage and calls for him to be prosecuted.

Finally, if Dunne did leak this report, he did us all a service. He deserves our thanks for being willing to inform the public of GCSB wrongdoing - not our condemnation. His resignation is entirely understandable, given that it is a question of key's confidence in him. But whistleblowers are heroes, not villains.