Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Our spying Prime Minister

Today in question Time Winston Peters asked a worrying question: has the Prime Minister's staff ever sought or reviewed the phone records of a private citizen for reasons other than national security? The Prime Minister's answer was equally worrying: after first trying to palm it off by saying that the GCSB and SIS had done no such thing, he then said that he would have to "take advice". Obviously, if they hadn't, he would simply deny it. The fact that he didn't do that is cause for concern.

Now in the general debate we have the reason for that question: apparently the police considered demanding Winston Peters' phone records during the teapot tape investigation, on the basis that a person in an NZ First t-shirt had been at the media event, therefore he had to be part of a conspiracy to tap the PM. As for the PM's involvement, his chief of staff Wayne Eagleson was supposed to be "kept in the loop" about the case, and informed of whatever decision they made.

This is outrageous on so many levels. Firstly, that the police considered seizing a political candidate's phone records on such weak grounds (and that the law makes it so easy for them). Secondly that the Prime Minister's office seems to have had active oversight not just of a criminal investigation (constitutionally outrageous in itself), but of one targeting their political opponents. And the police were fine with this.

Peter's calls this Zimbabwe-stuff, and I'd have to agree. And if its true that the PM's staff are involving themselves in criminal investigations and effectively subjecting them to political oversight, Parliament needs to take to them and the police commanders who allowed it with a constitutional sword.