On July 25 Phil Goff made an extraordinary claim in the media:
Labour leader Phil Goff denies he was briefed on the SIS investigation into suspicions that Israeli backpackers were spying in Christchurch. Goff is furious over the Prime Minister’s entire handling of the affair, including claims yesterday that the Labour leader was kept in the loop. Goff insists he was not briefed before, during or after the investigation and says he has texted the head of the SIS to complain about John Key’s comments… …He said the Prime Minister has to understand the responsibilities of his office and cannot “mouth off” without checking his facts first.
Phil Goff in trying to score a cheap political point against the Prime Minister was trying to say that the head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, had not followed the law. As I wrote at the time extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Phil Goff has form in throwing civil servants under the bus in order to score a political point. It is now well known that he lied about a foreign affairs briefing to make his claims about the “gone by lunchtime” comment. Now he was saying that a senior civil servant hadn’t followed the law. I thought I would try and find out and so I sent an email to the SIS on 26 July, just the day after Phil Goff made his accusations:
Dr Warren Tucker
Director New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
26 July 2011
RE: OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST
Dear Dr. Tucker
Under the Official Information Act 1982, I request a number of documents. If you require clarification on any of these requests, please do not hesitate to contact me on021 535 xxx.
- Copies of briefing notes and/or documents given and/or shown to The Leader of the Opposition during any briefing held in March 2011 regarding Israeli nationals.
- Copies of diary notes made at the time or subsequent to the March briefings to The Leader of the Opposition.
- Details of any acknowledgement by The Leader of the Opposition of having read or received any of the aforementioned briefing notes and/or documents.
If you wish to withhold any documents I request that you supply me with a list of documents withheld.
I also request that you supply electronic copies of any documents released via email to me.
Little did I know the storm that was about to be unleashed. As days went on Phil Goff dug a deeper and deeper hole with his public pronouncements on the matter. He couldn’t get enough press and he thought he was onto a king hit against the Prime Minister. I simply watched and waited, I had no idea what was going on except that which was in the media.
On August 4 Phil Goff issued a press statement that accused Warren Tucker full out of lying. He was saying that he had lost confidence in him. I didn’t know at this stage that Phil Goff had been told by the SIS that they were going to release the OIA request information to me on that day. I hadn’t heard a word at that stage and after writing that post I went my post box and cleared the mail. In the mail was a plain envelope with OHMS on it…I was gob-smacked. I raced back to the car and opened the letter. In that letter was the response from Warren Tucker to my OIA. I was sitting on a bombshell. It took me 20 minutes to drive to the office, in that time I made some phone calls to media. I agreed to release the documents to Tv3, little did I know Phil Goff at this point was busy feeding the media himself.
When I got to the office I hastily posted a few questions for Phil Goff, I still didn’t know that he had been advised by the SIS that the documents were being released. Those questions were designed to let Phil Goff that I had the documents, that they were about to be released and that they proved he had been lying. Phil Goff had a choice when he was advised by the SIS about the document release. He could have concocted a plausible story about forgetting the details, that he was more concerned with the details of Christchurch and so it slipped his mind. Or he could attack me, the head of the SIS and attempt to brazen it out. He choose poorly.
At 6pm on 4 August I dropped my bombshell and released the documents. (SIS-OIA pdf) Tv3 ran the story as their lead item. Phil Goff went on attack. Meanwhile I was on NewstalkZB with Larry Williams just after
It was now clear that Labour’s attack lines were against me and against Warren Tucker. They weren’t interested in the truth.
Labour and Phil Goff had dug a very deep hole. The hole also threatened to swallow Maryan Street and Annette King who had been put up by Goff to run the attacks against John Key. Their words were now damning them in the face of documentary evidence that Phil Goff had lied.
Maryan Street said she would apologise if she got anything wrong. I have yet to receive her apology. At this stage Phil Goff still had choices, he could apologise and move on or he could die in the ditch he had dug.
The attacks against me were flying thick and fast. For some reason the left wing elements of the media, including Scoop, Barry Soper, John Pagani and to a lesser extent Chris Trotter have all tried to say that I should never have been given the documents. They all ignore the fact that I asked for the documents under the OIA and I asked for details that wouldn’t be secret, I was very specific and not only that I published the exact questions I asked.
Some in the media were upset that I was given the documents first, ignoring that all but one news outlet hadn’t actually asked for them. The one that did asked a week after I did and only at the prompting of Phil Goff and Labour. I guess the SIS figured that because I asked first I should get them first. I found out later that despite my request for them to be electronic they inf act posted them to me. I turned into a race between NZ Post delivering to me in Auckland and Stuff getting theirs delivered in Wellington. It was a race I had no knowledge of.
Instead of apologising fro making amistake Phil Goff decided to make an even bigger issue of the story.
Phil Goff said questions need to be asked:
Labour leader Phil Goff says questions remain over how a right-wing blogger asked the SIS for a confidential document about a briefing he had with the spy agency.
Questions also remained over why the SIS released the material with such urgency – four working days after receiving the request under the Official Information Act. Most requests are either rejected outright or take at least three weeks to action.
The simple answer to the how a right wing blogger asked the SIS is that I simply asked for it. I watched Phil Goff and then Annette King change the story about the briefing he says he never had, but documents prove that he did. I was angered that Phil Goff was using the same tactics that he did when caught lying over the Darren Hughes affair, so incensed I wrote an email. That email proved to be Phil Goff’s undoing.
Their attack dogs are unleashed. John Pagani describes the SIS and a rogue agency committing treason. He and other left wing commentator ignore the fact that the SIS had to follow the law.
After I wrote that email the law took effect. The SIS had to, by law, answer my request. The leftwing, Phil Goff, the media all needed to ask themselves a very pertinent question.
Do they think that the SIS should selectively answer OIA requests based on the political views of the person asking and the political views of the opponents of the person asking?
They never answered that question because where it leads to is where they were trying to smear the SIS, that there was political involvement in the SIS when they know very clearly that there was not. If they were to answer in the affirmative then they supported the politicization of the SIS.
Phil Goff has a proven history of leaking, he has a proven history of lying and he just keeps on keeping the story alive. Phil Goff needed to accept he forgot about the briefing, got it wrong, and was wrong to attack a senior civil servant. There was a point where I could have accepted that Phil Goff just forgot. That point passed when he insisted that he and he alone has things right.
But pause for a moment and think about what Phil Goff was suggesting. If he was right and he was never shown anything, or even briefed. Remember his first contention was that he was never briefed, then it changed to he was briefed just a little bit. But think, about what Phil Goff was really suggesting.
He was suggesting that Warren Tucker had falsified documents, made up minutes for briefings that never occurred and lied about it all. That really is too unbelievable. The alternate was that Phil Goff simply forgot about it, tried to make political capital, got sprung and then made some stuff up to cover for his faulty memory.
What was more believable? That the head of the SIS falsified documents and lied about meetings, or that Phil Goff forgot.
The sad thing for Phil Goff is that when confronted with the truth he continued to lie and continued to extend the lies. Now more than a few people have accused me of using too strong a description of Phil Goff’s actions. That they weren’t really lies. I could have accepted that at the start but when he continually insisted something didn’t occur when it demonstrably did, and then changes his story from ‘it never happened’ to ‘it happened but I never got any documents‘ and an attack on the integrity of a senior civil servant then that crosses over to lies. When he says he received different briefings and documents prove he received the same briefings then yes that is lying.
This issue, started with a little email OIA request proved without a shadow of a doubt that Phil Goff was and is a liar. I believe it was one of the defining moments of the year. On top of Phil Goff’s poor handling of the Darren Hughes affair this should hav been the issue that finished him off as leader, but for the cowardice of his caucus.