Hager book a smear campaign: Key

Last updated 14:30 14/08/2014
Nicky Hager
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ
REVELATIONS: Author Nicky Hager launched his latest book, Dirty Politics, in Wellington.

John Key comments on Hager's book

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Prime Minister John Key is standing by the senior staffer named in the Nicky Hager book Dirty Politics.

The book claims dirty tricks from senior National Party figures based on thousands of leaked emails.

The news came after the release of Hager's new book Dirty Politics, which was based on thousands of emails which revealed the extent of the relationship between WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater and prominent National Party figures.

Key also said he accepted assurances from Justice Minister Judith Collins that she did not leak details about ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar to right wing blogger Cameron Slater.

But he said he would look at claims Collins got a prisoner moved for Slater.

Hager alleges he has thousands of emails hacked from Slater's WhaleOil site which confirm his close links to senior National Party figures, including a pivotal member of Key's inner circle, Jason Ede.

Among other allegations are that Ede and Slater conspired over information relating to Labour Party membership details, including credit card records, after a security flaw was discovered on the Labour website.

Hager's book also alleges that Slater and Collins discussed whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar but does not directly prove the justice minister leaked him Pullar's name.

Key today said he had "absolutely no issues" with any actions by staff in his office and also believed Collins when she told him she did not leak Pullar's name.

He accused his opponents from "the left" of a smear campaign and dirty politics over the book's release.

"All of this is out there because of conspiracy theories on the left to try and damage my credibility, credibility of the National Party to try and hurt our chances in an election and New Zealanders will see through that.

"What Nicky Hager has done is join a whole lot of dots that can't be connected, makes wild allegations."

Key did not dispute that he and members of his government talked to bloggers but said that was "the modern world".

"Some of our guys would talk to them in the same way we talk to media all the time."

Hager also claimed that Key's office orchestrated an Official Information Act request from the Security Intelligence Service to discredit Phil Goff.

Slater's emails suggest he knew what was in the OIA and that it would be expedited in unusually quick time.

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Key today denied any involvement by his office and said those decisions about the OIA were made "absolutely by SIS because they had the information and Warren Tucker wanted to put that as the head of the SIS in the public domain. It was nothing to do with me."

In relation to Hager's claims about Ede and Slater tolling through the Labour Party website for private information, Key said he had no problem with that if it was "in the public domain and it wasn't being protected".

LEGAL ACTION CONSIDERED

Slater says he is considering legal action against Hager which may force the writer to reveal who gave him the leaked emails.

Today Slater appeared on RadioLive where he said that Hager's book was written and making profit from the proceeds of crime, because it was sourced from thousands of emails hacked from Slater's email account and Facebook page.

"We're dealing here with Nicky Hager once again selling books and making money from the proceeds of crime, ie, hacking or stealing of emails," Slater told Radio Live.

Slater said a recent legal case relating to a book written about internet mogul Kim Dotcom - which a court ruled was not journalism and therefore the author could be forced to reveal their sources - could apply here.

"I'm weighing up legal action but certainly a complaint to the police and the Privacy Commission would not be out of order.

"And with the recent case of [NZ Herald journalist] David Fisher in the High Court where his book was deemed to not be journalistic enterprise that it was a book for profit and he has to reveal his sources - that could get very interesting for Nicky Hager," he told Radio Live.

Slater also claimed that he had seen a text "sent to my informant by Kim Dotcom saying 'told you that Cam would go down. Gee, I wonder who did that' with a smiley face at the end of it."

Slater said he had several eyewitness who told him they had seen Hager at the Coatesville Mansion on multiple occasions and met Dotcom, claiming the writer was a "willing conduit" for using stolen material for the book.

"I believe Nicky Hager is being used by Kim Dotcom," he told Radio Live.

Slater also claimed the way the book was written appeared to be politically motivated.

"He's been very selective because I have sources from across the political spectrum, and outside of politics as well, and Nicky has selectively chosen ones that are damaging to the National Party but hasn't published anything that might be damaging to the Labour Party, or the insiders I have in the Labour Party who regularly leak me information."

Slater earlier detailed the attack on his computer which led to the leak of his emails and tried to cast Dotcom as the culprit.

On his blog today, Slater wrote they "have a fair idea" Dotcom was behind the attack - something a spokesman for Dotcom denied.

Further comment has been sought from the Internet Party founder.

"If where this is going is some hint that, in some way, Kim Dotcom was any way involved in my book, I'm very happy to tell you it is totally untrue," Hager told Radio Live.

Slater said he became aware of the hack when he noticed something was "not right" with his email.

"I changed the password and went on a mad dash to change all other passwords.

"I suspect they entered Gmail through brute force attack - Kim might like to boast how it was done. It doesn't matter. After about 15 minutes I shut them out. Of about 80G of information, they were disconnected after getting only 8G of it."

Since then, Slater said he had been "waiting for this day".

"As Dotcom said, he would do this five days before the election, but it appears he's had advice to move it up a bit."

Dotcom had promised to drop a revelation about Prime Minister John Key and the GCSB on September 15.

GREENS LAY COMPLAINTS

The Green Party is to lodge a series of official complaints over allegations contained in Dirty Politics.

Hager names ninth floor staffer Jason Ede as the main conduit between the prime minister's office and Slater, and says Ede helped Slater search inside Labour Party computers after they discovered a security breach.

Other examples cited by Hager include Ede drafting Official Information Act requests for Slater to use in other attacks, including salary information used to attack Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff embroiled in a dispute over restructuring.

The Greens' complaints include asking police to investigate allegations of blackmail and corruption.

The party was also promising to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry if elected "to get to the bottom of what has gone on and to seek recommendations on how to rebuild a clean and fair political system in New Zealand".

"The New Zealand public cannot have any confidence in our democracy until these claims are investigated and [alleged] offenders held to account."

The party revealed this morning complaints would be lodged with the police, Parliamentary Service, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Privacy Commissioner relating to the allegations of "corruption and abuse of power".

"John Key has degraded our democracy," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"New Zealand prides itself on a clean and transparent political system and National has eroded that.

"The National Government is up to its neck in dirty politics and may have broken the law while smearing opponents."

The Greens have asked Parliamentary Service to look into the role of Ede over his alleged involvement in supplying confidential information to Slater.

They have also asked police to investigate whether officials working for Key "corruptly used or disclosed any information" gained in their official capacity to obtain advantage.

The Greens have also asked the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to look into allegations that sensitive documents were declassified in order to be used as political smears.

They have referred also allegations that Justice and ACC Minister Judith Collins leaked private information to the Privacy Commissioner.

Turei said the inquiries were necessary to ensure the public could have confidence in New Zealand's democracy.

HAGER 'ASSUMING TOO MUCH'

Slater this morning denied the allegations in Hager's book, saying Hager was assuming too much from leaked emails.

The book was released late yesterday having earlier been shrouded in secrecy, apparently to stop some of the people named in his book taking out an injunction to stop its publication.

Slater said the allegation he had done anything with Labour Party computers was incorrect.

"My two sources for that story were not anybody in the PM's department nor do I believe there are any emails from Jason Ede," he told NewstalkZB.

Hager was "drawing pictures, drawing dots, thinks that he's got a picture of a conspiracy but he's actually got a bunch of squiggly lines, something a 4-year-old at kindergarten would draw", Slater said.

Slater told NewstalkZB he did not recall: "An email from a Jason Ede detailing Official Information Act requests. I think Nicky Hager is again assuming too much from emails."

Numerous senior people within government, including ministers, had put pressure on Slater to withdraw Official Information Act requests about the SIS because they were concerned about the pushback, Slater told NewstalkZB.

"I told them I was a citizen who was perfectly entitled to use the law in that way to hold a politician to account, and so I went and got the facts and I released the story about that and I did that despite pressure from senior people in the National Party."

The book also implies Collins was involved in leaking Michelle Boag's email about ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar, who was accidentally sent private details of thousands of ACC clients, but there is no direct evidence that she did so.

"The source of that is very interesting, but it certainly wasn't Judith Collins," Slater said.

"And there is a rather senior journalist who won an award off the back of that story who is probably sitting there a little bit puckering this morning hoping that Nicky Hager doesn't out all the details around that."

Collins was a personal friend of Slater's. She said Hagar had stolen the emails, of which she'd received no forewarning.

"No, he's never asked my permission to use my emails or to go through them," she said on RadioLive.

She dismissed the book as "speculation and gossip", but said she would not be taking legal action.

"I couldn't be bothered with the silly man.

"What's been said to me is that he's trying to draw long bows and speculate, but basically I don't think I'm his big concern," she said.

"I think the fact he's used stolen emails for, by his own admission, for financial gain is going to be interesting to see how that plays out legally."

Collins said she had not read the book, and had "no intention of doing so".

"This is someone going into an award-winning media person's private emails and using it for financial gain, I just wonder how anyone else in the media would feel if that was done to them."

CLAIMS 'INCREDIBLY EXAGGERATED'

National's campaign chairman Steven Joyce said this morning the book was full of "breathless allegations", but admitted on TVNZ's Breakfast show he had not read it.

"I've had a few people who have read a few chapters and told me a bit about it, but it's probably not something I'd be doing on a Wednesday evening."

Claims in the book were "incredibly exaggerated", and the book was exactly what it said on the cover - dirty politics based on stolen emails, Joyce said.

"It's exactly what it says on the cover - it is a dirty politics book. It's a bunch of stolen emails, a bunch of allegations - some of them are breathless about things that are already known... others are sort of 1+1= 49. And apparently the Prime Minister is a devilbeast."

Labour leader David Cunliffe said on Breakfast the book contained "deeply concerning allegations. I think New Zealanders will be deeply shocked by what they read in the book."

"I think this is a very, very nasty turn in New Zealand politics.

It left very serious questions for the prime minister to answer that New Zealanders would want to know the answers to, Cunliffe said.

New Zealanders would want to know about the potential abuse of taxpayer funded resources from the prime minister's office and whether Key had upheld his responsibilities, he said.

"I certainly do not believe there is any equivalent of the kind of operation that has been run from an office two doors down from the prime minister, the kind of dirty black ops machine that has been detailed in this book."

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the allegations went to Key's office in the same way it went to Nixon's office during the Watergate scandal.

"The basis is the emails of the accused and frankly it is senseless for them to try to deny it," he said.

It was a "dark day" in New Zealand politics.

"In short, taxpayers' resources have been used both publicly and privately to attack all manner of public figures with the objective of gaining political advantage," Peters said.

David Farrar, whose company does polling for National and who operates the National-sympathetic Kiwiblog, said he did feel slightly violated by the incident.

Had the situation been in reverse, with right-wing blogs publishing details about left-wing political figures, it may be viewed differently, Farrar said.

"Cameron's a big boy. I doubt there's huge sympathy, but having said that I still think it is not a healthy thing, that someone hacks six years of private communication," Farrar said describing the lifting of Gmail and Facebook messages as "concerted hacking".

> Read more about David Farrar's reaction here.

- Tracy Watkins, Michael Fox, Aimee Gulliver, Stacey Kirk and Hamish Rutherford/STUFF

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