No action over phone log access attempt

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 11:40 26/07/2013

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No action will be taken against David Henry for attempting to access phone records of a journalist as he tried to find out who leaked a sensitive report into Government spying, Prime Minister John Key says.

It emerged yesterday that Henry asked Parliamentary Services for the phone records of Fairfax Media journalist Andrea Vance as he tried to find who leaked the Kitteridge report into the activities of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

He was earlier given access to Vance's parliament access swipe card, giving him information about her movements within the complex.

Key has previously said he did not believe the journalist's movements should have been scrutinised by the report but that ministers and parliamentary staff were fair game.

However speaking in Korea today Key said he did not believe Henry, a former top public servant brought in to find the leaker, had impinged on any media freedoms and no action would be taken against him.

He said Henry also would be considered for doing future Government reports.

Henry had been asked to carry out an enquiry using terms of reference given to him by the prime minister' office. Nobody complained about those terms, Key said.

"He then went out and did his own thing. I wasn't involved in any of that," Key said today, adding that he made it clear to Henry that he expected access records to be accessed.

"He shouldn't have engaged with the media side of that equation," Key said.

"I would have thought it's looking at the other side not the media side that's appropriate."

Speaker David Carter confirmed yesterday that the Henry Inquiry had asked for information relating to internal calls made to and from Vance's office phone, as well as her building access data.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the request showed the prime minister's office "clearly does not respect any boundaries for its access to information", and it showed the Government was "menacing and anti-democratic".

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Thomas Beagle said the request "appears to be going far beyond what is reasonable" and called the inquiry "a political witch-hunt".

The move was a "direct strike against the media . . . and I don't think that's acceptable in a democratic society which has any sort of respect for the independence of the media", he said.

Cabinet secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's report showed that more than 80 people may have been possibly illegally spied on by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) between April 2003 and September last year.

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Her report was leaked to Fairfax Media in April while Key was visiting China, and Henry was asked to find the source of the leak.

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne resigned in June after Henry's investigation was completed. He denies being the source of the leak.

Key said today that he believed that media played an important role.

"We've never tried to impinge on that," he said.

While no action would be taken regarding Henry's actions, a different approach might be taken next time.

"Maybe if we go away next time and write another enquiry we'll be really, really specific in the terms" of reference.

Key said that when the report emerged while he was on a trip to China the media had been "screaming at me" to hold an enquiry because they believed the Government had leaked the report.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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