Adviser knew of privacy breach

00:23, Aug 03 2013
andrea vance
RECORDS RELEASED: Journalist Andrea Vance.

One of John Key's top advisers knew that emails between a journalist and politician were sent to the so-called Henry inquiry - but did not tell the prime minister for a month.

The Government was yesterday forced to reveal explosive new privacy breaches in the widening media spying scandal that show the full contents of email exchanges between former minister Peter Dunne and Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance were sent to the Henry inquiry.

The late Friday "dump" of information has also revealed Vance's phone logs were twice sent to the inquiry - the second time by a senior Parliamentary Service staffer - leaving Speaker David Carter and Prime Minister John Key red-faced after earlier publicly blaming the leak on a lowly contractor to the service.

But in a further development the chief executive of Mr Key's own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) has been dragged into the affair after admitting he had known about the email privacy breach for almost a month, but sat on the information and did not disclose it to Mr Dunne, Vance or even Mr Key.

Mr Key found out about it only yesterday morning.

"I have checked my records and can confirm that I first became aware of this on July 5. In hindsight, and notwithstanding the inquiry never viewed the email files . . . I acknowledge we could have prompted Parliamentary Services to inform you of their error," Andrew Kibblewhite said in a message to Vance yesterday.


Emails show the service recalled the emails within an hour of them being sent and Mr Kibblewhite said they were not opened because the file format could not be opened by the DPMC server.

Mr Dunne said he was "shocked beyond belief" and was taking legal advice on his options.

Fairfax Media, publisher of Stuff, last night laid a formal complaint with Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff about the repeated breaches of Vance's privacy.

"Fairfax has no confidence in the way this matter is being handled and we feel we have to take the matter further," group executive editor Paul Thompson said.

"This will include requesting, under the Privacy Act, a full account of how Andrea's private information has been handled.

"The release of information detailing Andrea's swipe card usage, telephone calls and emails to the Henry inquiry was highly inappropriate and intrusive. There has also clearly been an attempted cover up. This has all put enormous pressure on Andrea who has been unfairly targeted for doing her job," he said.

"We hope the privacy commissioner will cut through the Government spin and provide Andrea with some redress."

Parliamentary Service head Geoff Thorn quit on Thursday over the blunders and the opposition is now calling for more heads to roll, pointing to the pressure Mr Key's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson put on the Parliamentary Service to release information.

The service reports to Mr Carter and is not responsible to Mr Key.

Mr Key said he had been advised that the information was never accessed by the inquiry and that the DPMC has destroyed the file with the contents of the emails between Mr Dunne and Vance from its server.

The 135 pages of emails between the inquiry and Parliamentary Service reveal the inquiry sought from ministers and staff who had access to the leaked Kitteridge report, emails, photocopier and scanning data and phone logs that ran to more than 766 double-sided pages from Vodafone alone.

It had earlier emerged that the inquiry was also provided with Vance's parliamentary access records in an attempt to zero in on her confidential source.

But until yesterday there had never been any hint the inquiry was also provided with the full content of Vance and Mr Dunne's emails.

The Henry report referred only to Mr Dunne providing redacted versions of his emails.

Mr Dunne resigned as revenue minister after refusing to release the full content of the emails.


April 5: Inquiry terms of reference released.

April 19: I email SPSs asking for ministers and SPSs to co-operate with the inquiry.

May 8 or 9: Ministerial Services advises me that Parliamentary Service requires the necessary approvals before meeting the inquiry's request for information on ministers.

May 9: After a phone conversation with [Parliamentary Service general manager) Geoff Thorn, I send him an email in effect authorising the release of material. My email and telephone conversation related solely to ministers and their staff. At no time then or subsequently did I either raise the matter of Ms Vance's phone records, or be asked by Geoff Thorn for a view on whether they should be released.

May 21: Geoff Thorn calls me. He says that subsequent to the earlier information being provided to the inquiry team, Mr Henry has now asked to see the content of emails for one minister (Mr Dunne) and for a number of staff. I give immediate approval for the staff emails to be provided to the inquiry, and say that if the ministers involved were National MPs, I would authorise that as well. I indicate to Mr Thorn that I am uncomfortable authorising the release of the content of Mr Dunne's emails as he is a support party minister. I ask for time to consider the matter. Mr Thorn follows up with an email setting out the request (attached). He also indicates to me that as he would be overseas for the coming days there would be an acting GM.

May 22: I ring Mr Dunne's office and outline the situation. I say that I am not prepared to authorise the release of his emails, and his office responds they will put the request to Mr Dunne. His office rings me back, to say that for privacy reasons Mr Dunne is not prepared to give approval for the release of his emails but is happy to meet with Mr Henry to discuss the emails and related matters. I call the acting GM of Parliamentary Service and tell him that Parliamentary Service cannot release the emails without Mr Dunne's permission, and that a likely alternative is Mr Dunne meeting with Mr Henry. The a cting GM of Parliamentary Service says he will discuss with Mr Dunne's office.

May 23: Acting GM of Parliamentary Service sends me a brief email saying he has spoken with Mr Dunne's office, and that "spoke with Rob all ok". I respond thanking the acting GM of Parliamentary Service for that (attached).

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