SIS report finds misleading, inaccurate information released to Slater

UPDATE: Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn's report has just been released (read it here).

As flagged by by overnight leaks, it finds that the information on former Labour leader Phil Goff released to Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater was inaccurate and misleading – and that then SIS director Warren Tucker failed to make any correction when he learned that was the case.

Ms Gwyn found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that the NZSIS failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality, the report's executive summary says. 

The report summary says there was no collusion between the SIS and the Whaleoil blogger, or the SIS and the Prime Minister's office. But it does say that the PM's office did proactively supply Mr Slater with information. The report notes "Mr Ede [PM Office staffer Jason Ede] provided the details of the relevant documents to Mr Slater and was in fact speaking to Mr Slater by phone at the exact time that Mr Slater submitted his OIA request."

It also notes Mr Ede advised he deleted several relevant emails before the inquiry began.

The summary says:

Ms Gwyn said she had also investigated allegations, made before and during the course of the inquiry, that NZSIS officers had acted in collusion with Mr Slater or under direction from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Office. 

“From that thorough investigation, I do not believe that any NZSIS staff member contacted Mr Slater to instigate his OIA request.  Nor have I found any collusion or direction between the NZSIS and the Prime Minister or his Office.”

Ms Gwyn went to on comment that she had, however, established that a staff member of the Prime Minister’s office had provided unclassified NZSIS information to Mr Slater. However, that information was understood by the Prime Minister’s Office to have been provided for media purposes and there was no breach of confidence towards NZSIS in that disclosure.

That disclosure did not breach any confidentiality or security obligations owed by those staff to the NZSIS. No classified information was disclosed to Mr Slater, said Ms Gwyn. 

However, Ms Gwyn also notes in her report that some SIS staff had reservations about the release of the information and the process followed.

She also finds, "The NZSIS disclosed incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to the Official Information Act requests by Mr Slater and others. ... The Director and the NZSIS also failed to provide any clarification or correction once the effect of these errors became apparent."

Read NBR politics editor Rob Hosking's take in Gwyn report: shocking naivety or toadying by SIS officials?


EARLIER: Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn's Dirty Politics report will be critical of the Prime Minister's office, according to leaks last night.

Ms Gwyn's report is due to be released later this morning.

Since last September, the IG has been investigating author Nicky Hager's claim that the PM's office worked with Whaleoil blogger to smear then Labour leader Phil Goff in 2011. SIS documents were fast-track released under the Official Information Act to Mr Slater. In a series of blog posts, Mr Slater said the documents proved Mr Goff was lying when he said the SIS had not briefed him on the presence of Israeli agents in NZ.

According to the leaks, Ms Gwyn's report does find the PM's office tipped off Mr Slater, giving him a nudge to request documents that were embarrassing to Mr Goff. Mr Key's then deputy chief of staff Phil de Joux suggested to staffer Jason Ede that he contact Mr Slater suggesting he request information about the Goff briefing. 

Further, the IG is said to have found the information delivered to Mr Slater under the OIA was presented in a way that was" incomplete, lacked professionalism and risked giving the impression of political bias."

The SIS has a statutory obligation to handle OIA requests with political neutrality.

SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge will deliver a formal apology to Mr Goff shortly before the IG's report is released at 10am, RNZ says.

Those who apparently bear the brunt of criticism in Ms Gwyn's report have already left the building. Mr de Joux (pictured with John Key here) left the PM's office in 2013, and Mr Ede quit in the run up to the election. Dr Warren Tucker, SIS director at the time of Mr Slater's OIA request, resigned earlier this year. 

Prime Minister John Key was holidaying in Hawaii at the time of the incident, and said he had no advance knowledge his office had responded to Mr Slater's OIA request.

This morning, Labour leader Andrew Little said the apology to Mr Goff should come from the PM, not the SIS.

Mr Little said the Goff documents' release revealed an "unhealthy relationship" between the Prime Minister's office and bloggers.

"It is part of John Key's smear machine that he has set up. He's been tripped up by it, and I think irrespective of where the apology's come from in terms of the SIS, actually there needs to be an apology from John Key for the state apparatus being put in this position," the Labour leader said.

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