Friday, July 26, 2013

Spying on journalists II

So, not only did John Key's inquiry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report spy on Andrea Vance's movements around the Parliamentary complex, they also tried to get hold of her phone records:

A government investigation into the leak of the GCSB report sought access to the phone records of the journalist who broke the story.


In response to questions from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, Speaker David Carter confirmed yesterday that the Henry inquiry also asked for information relating to internal calls made to and from Vance's office phone, as well as her building access data.

The phone line is paid for by Fairfax Media, parent company of

Carter said the request was declined but confirmed that Parliamentary Service handed over Vance's swipe-card access records.

This is so far beyond the bounds of democratic acceptability that I just don't know where to start. Quite apart from the inherent problems of spying on the communications of journalists - something which chills the media and makes their job of holding the government to account more difficult - Henry simply had no statutory authority to seek anything of the sort. Who the fuck does he think he is? Or does a (laughable) claim to be "protecting 'national security'" now grant the informational equivalent of a licence to kill?

Meanwhile John Key is trying to distance himself from this toxic mess, saying it was nothing to do with him. Bullshit. He appointed Henry, he gave him his terms of reference, and in doing so set the parameters of the inquiry. If that investigation ran amok, the person who ordered it and set its limits bears some responsibility.

But someone also needs to take responsibility on the parliamentary Services end of this debacle as well. As the Speaker's answers to Russel Norman's written questions [PDF] make clear, the handing over of Vance's internal access records was done without the permission of the Speaker. On something that sensitive, touching as it does on Parliamentary Privilege, you'd expect him to be asked. He wasn't. Instead some middle manager simply seems to have decided to do it themselves. Heads must roll for this. As for Henry, he needs to be dragged before the Privileges Committee for obstructing the business of the House.