Journalist's movements tracked by leak inquiry

TRACY WATKINS AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 15:17 28/06/2013

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Prime Minister John Key says he is "disappointed" parliamentary staff passed on information about a journalist's movements as part of an inquiry into the leak of sensitive information.

The MP forced to resign over the leak of a report into government spying, Peter Dunne, said inquiry head David Henry had detailed to him the movements of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance in and out of the parliamentary precinct.

The conversation related to Vance's movements the day before the leaked report was published.

It appeared to be based on Henry having access to records of when she entered and left the building using her security swipe card.

Henry last night repeatedly refused to answer questions about that claim and said he had no comment.

However, Parliamentary Service confirmed today it handed over information about Vance.

Key insisted today he had had no role in having the information handed over and that doing so was inappropriate.

"My office was not consulted, nor was I consulted, nor were we aware that that information had been gathered," Key said in Auckland.

"I've made it quite clear what my views are when it comes to journalists being required to release their emails and I take the same view when it comes to any information about the movement of journalists around the parliamentary precinct."

Asked if he would ensure such action would not happen again, Key said he had nothing to do with it the first time.

"I'm disappointed it happened because at the end of the day I, like most New Zealanders, value the role of the fourth estate and I think it's not appropriate for us to start looking at their activities, even if it's in line with an overall investigation that's being undertaken by the Government."

The head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite, was asked during a select committee inquiry this week if Vance's swipe card records were accessed. He said he was unable to answer.

Henry's published report made no mention of Vance's movements being tracked and referred only to Dunne's movements.

Dunne confirmed last night he gave permission for his own records to be accessed, but only after coming under significant pressure and because he did not have anything to hide.

Parliamentary Service confirmed last night it released "metadata" and other security records to Henry for his inquiry.

It said it had done so only after it was satisfied "that ministers had agreed to co-operate with the investigation".

It said it would be expected that all swipe cards were reviewed "if there is a security incident".

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Fairfax can confirm that Vance did not give her permission to hand over her records to the inquiry.

Group executive editor Paul Thompson said last night it would be worrying if the movements of journalists and MPs were being tracked through a security system that was supposed to protect people working within the building, not be used to watch over them.

Fairfax would be raising the issue with Parliamentary Service.

The Henry inquiry was launched after publication by Fairfax of leaked details of a sensitive report into the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

The report by Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge found that the GCSB, New Zealand's foreign spy network, had possibly illegally spied on as many as 85 people.

Dunne resigned after refusing to release emails between himself and Vance.

He has repeatedly denied leaking the report.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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