SIS: No PM involvement

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 23:13 18/08/2014

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The Security Intelligence Service says neither Prime Minister John Key nor his office played a part in the release of controversial documents to blogger Cameron Slater.

The documents were released to Slater six days after he requested them and posted on his Whaleoil  website.

They confirmed the SIS had briefed then-Labour leader Phil Goff about Israeli backpackers who left the country after the Christchurch earthquakes.

In answer to questions from Fairfax Media today, referred from Key's office to the SIS, a spokesman said the director was responsible for responses under the OIA "and made the decision to release, and what to release in this case".

"Under the 'no surprises' convention the director or a representative would normally inform the minister's office about what is being released under the OIA. That's what occured in this case," he said.

"Neither the PM nor his office expressed a view as to whether the information should be released, or to whom, or when," the spokesman said.

After the SIS provided its response, a spokeswoman for Key said the OIA was a departmental one "and the decision what to release and when to release it was made by the Director of the NZSIS".

"On a ‘no surprises’ basis, the Prime Minister’s office was informed by the NZSIS the OIA was being released. The Prime Minister’s office offered no view as to whether the information should be released or to whom or when."

Slater maintained he had sought the SIS notes ‘‘entirely on his own initiative’’ and Key has denied involvement.

Nicky Hager, in his recently-released book Dirty Politics, said Slater was able to secure a response from the Government under the OIA remarkably quickly, given the usual wait.

Earlier Labour MP Grant Robertson questioned Key's claim he did not sign off the release of the documents to the right-aligned blogger after revelations of his links to Key's office, through his adviser Jason Ede.

“The prime minister is the only form of public oversight on the SIS. For him to delegate signing off OIAs about briefings for the Leader of the Opposition to unknown staff members is incompetence bordering on negligence," Robertson said.

“It is also barely believable. Ministers operate under clear guidelines from the State Services Commission that means they would see all material of this nature," he said.

“To claim the head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, wanted to rush out the OIA is another example of this Government throwing public officials under the bus to detract from its problems."

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If it was true, Key must be "the most hands-off minister in charge of the SIS" there had ever been.


- Stuff

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