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Hager links PM, Whaleoil in pre-election Dirty Politics book

Hager links PM Key and Whaleoil in election eve 'Dirty Politics' book

By Pattrick Smellie

Aug. 13 (BusinessDesk) - A member of Prime Minister John Key's press office, Jason Ede, hacked into Labour Party computers and stole donor and membership information, according to a new book by political journalist and activist Nicky Hager.

Ede then bragged to right-wing Auckland blogger Cameron Slater, known as "Whaleoil", about using transient internet addresses to hide his tracks, it says.

Hager's book, "Dirty Politics", is at least the third political expose he has published in the lead-up to an election, and appears based heavily on emails and other documents stolen from Slater, most likely during a "denial of service" attack that took the Whaleoil Beef Hooked blog site offline earlier this year, around the time of the launch of the Internet Party.

Slater had created wide offence at the time by claiming the death in a car crash of a West Coast man, whom he labelled a "feral", had done the world a favour.

Subsequently, Hager was offered "thousands and thousands of communications between Cameron Slater and his network of National Party collaborators", on which the book is based.

He told a crowd of 250 who packed into the launch event at a Wellington bookshop that the book would amaze readers as each chapter showed "grubbier and grubbier" political behaviour of a kind not seen since the days of the 1975-84 National Party government of then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

"You are not going to believe what you read and how bloody awful it is," he said, with emails showing activity going to the "ninth floor of the Beehive", the Prime Minister's Office, at the same time as Key has "cultivated a very respectable image of being friendly and relaxed, which is true, but at the same time there is another side to his politics that New Zealanders may have smelt but they haven't seen evidence."

This was a "second track of politics", in which "the Prime Minister's Office was collaborating week by week and year by year with a group of National Party allies and proxies who would do their attacks for them."

"What people haven't understood is that side by side (with) the friendly, relaxed leader of the party has been the most vigorous, negative campaigning and personal attacks that we've seen since the age of Muldoon or before," Hager said.

Chapter 2 of the book relates email exchanges between Ede and Slater following the discovery by a member of then Labour leader David Shearer's office, John Pagani, that one of the IP addresses for hacks into the Labour database was registered to National Party headquarters.

According to the book's reprinted emails, Ede emailed Slater on June 14, 2014, to note Slater "stood out like dog's balls because of your damn Mac!" as Pagani tracked the hackers by "matching IP neighbourhoods and the types of computer we use."

"In my case," wrote Ede, "I wish to offer a hearty sigh and celebrate dynamic IP addresses."

Slater, who is about to launch a privately funded news service, was quoted publicly accusing Pagani and others of lying, when confronted at the time.

A spokeswoman for Key said she could not comment on whether Ede still works in the Prime Minister's Office, saying "I'm not sure of his official title at the moment, but he's still involved."

Key has yet to respond. Green Party MPs took to social media immediately to push a message to "clean up New Zealand politics."

Hager has attempted to influence previous elections. In 2005, he published "The Hollow Men", which exposed links between then National Party leader Don Brash and wealthy members of the religiously conservative Exclusive Brethren sect. In 2002, Hager's so-called "Corngate" expose on genetic modification embarrassed then Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Whereas Brash successfully sought interim injunctions against the publication of The Hollow Men, tonight's launch was unimpeded by court action, although no review or sale copies were distributed until the launch event.

(BusinessDesk)

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