Wellington Scoop

Two apologies, and a call for a resignation, after report on errors by SIS

A political controversy over the Security Intelligence Service has been a major focus at Parliament today, including not one but two apologies.

The results of an inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, found that the NZSIS released incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information in response to a request from blogger Cameron Slater, and provided some of the same incorrect information to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office. “These errors resulted in misplaced criticism of the then Leader of the Opposition Phil Goff MP. Mr Goff is owed a formal apology by the Service,” said Ms Gwyn.

Photo via Twitter from Audrey Young

The apology was delivered this morning (photo above) by the current head of the NZSIS Rebecca Kitteridge, who’s been in the job for only six months. She also apologised to the Prime Minister, and said she accepts all of the recommendations from the inquiry. “We are implementing all of the recommendations as soon as possible.”

The inquiry found no evidence of political partisanship by the NZSIS but did find that it failed to take adequate steps to maintain political neutrality.

The Prime Minister responded with a statement saying that the events happened more than three years ago and a lot has changed. “There are lessons to be learned from these events and the NZSIS has accepted all of the recommendations… Warren Tucker has accepted he fell short of expectations in this instance but he remains a person who contributed a lot during his long public service career,” Mr Key says.

Warren Tucker, who was head of the SIS during the events covered by the inquiry, issued his own statement taking full responsibility for what he called systemic errors.

In the New Zealand Herald, political commentator John Armstrong wrote that the report’s “hugely embarrassing” findings should be cause for a full prime ministerial apology to Parliament – at the very minimum.

An apology is also owed by the Prime Minister to Nicky Hager. If there was any doubt about the veracity of Hager’s claims in his book Dirty Politics – which there was not – then Gwyn’s report vindicates him completely. John Key may have effectively been cleared by Gwyn for having only a “very limited” involvement in the disgraceful release of information by the SIS to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. That gets Key personally off the hook. But that does not absolve him of ministerial responsibility. In fact. he is doubly responsible both as the the minister-in-charge of the intelligence agencies and as the person responsible for the behaviour of his Beehive office.

Phil Goff met reporters at Parliament to discuss the report. He told them:

“Key’s claims to ignorance over the Dirty Politics affair demonstrated at best incompetent management of his staff … there was no way his staff would have breached intelligence regulations without full implicit or explicit backing from the Prime Minister… The Prime Minister should resign…if he can’t own up to it, if he can’t apologise, if he can’t give the guarantee, then my belief is that he ought not to be Prime Minister of New Zealand.”

The Greens said the report confirms confirmed that the Prime Minister’s office had engaged in a serious abuse of power. “It is inconceivable that John Key did not know about the black ops dirty politics coming out of his office,” said co-leader Russel Norman. “This report shows his Deputy Chief of Staff was neck deep in it.”

VIDEO: PM under fire over SIS report