Prime Minister’s Post Cabinet Presser April 12
Prime Minister’s Post Cabinet Presser April 12
By Kevin List - Scoop Chief Reporter.
Inspector Generals Report on Alleged Operation Leaf
“I can confirm today the [NZ] Security Intelligence Service has no operation called operation leaf and never has had, the same applies to a so-called operation weasal,” the Prime Minister assured media at the post-cabinet press conference.
The unclassified report of the inspector-general into allegations that Maori organisations were bugged by the NZ Security Intelligence Service was released a few minutes before the Prime Minister arrived to take questions from the media.
The report of the inspector-general was sparked by allegations in both the Sunday Star-Times and Scoop that law abiding Maori may have been the subject of SIS surveillance.
In these articles an operation leaf (or operation maple leaf) was mentioned as the code name. The Prime Minister named not just the organs that ran the bugging allegations but very carefully pointed out who the journalists responsible were, “the stories are signed by Nicky Hager and Anthony Hubbard of the Sunday Star-Times and Selwyn Manning of Scoop,” she said.
As well as naming the journalists, the Prime Minister also named the people who in the inspector-general's opinion had assisted the spreading of the bugging allegations – a Mr Jack Sanders, Mr Gerald Thorns and Mr Steven Buttell.
The Prime Minister explained the conclusions the inspector-general had drawn about Mr Buttell, “The inspector-general found there was only one real source, Mr Buttell. It [the report] says and I quote, ‘Mr Buttell is the only one who said he had anything to do on behalf of the SIS’ and quote ‘his claim is false. Mr Buttell never had anything to do with the SIS. Mr Buttell worked on one Iwi’s computers as a friend of a friend. Beyond that there is nothing to prove that his allegations are true,” she said.
The Prime Minister seemed pleased to point out the inspector-general’s overall conclusion “Apart from Mr Buttell having worked on one Iwi’s computer as a friend the story told to the Sunday Star-Times reporter about NZSIS activity was not true. Scoop’s endorsement of the truth of it is of no value.”
There was some interest from the NZ Herald reporters in the outcome of the report. The Prime Minister did not disappoint in providing quotes for their Tuesday morning edition, “I think the SIS is due an apology, but I [also] think the readers are due an apology. This story was found to have no credibility and indeed you’ll see in one part of the inspector-general’s report that the Sunday Star-Times was already having doubts about the story before it published it which does make one wonder why they published it.”
The question still remained as to why anyone would bother going to the trouble to spin such a load of codswallop. Respected intelligence analyst Paul Buchanan has surmised that the Sunday Star-Times coverage of the Ahmed Zaoui case may have led to it being ‘set up’. The Prime Minister had no such theories preferring the line that the stories were ‘hoaxes’ spun by ‘conmen’.
“I think there is a type of person out there who revels in this kind of conspiratorial theory and the Sunday Star-Times was taken in by that,” posited the Prime Minister.
Mr `Tamihere’s extraordinary luncheon chat with Ian Wishart, the editor of Investigate magazine returned to cause him more trouble over the weekend. Mr Tamihere was of the opinion that talking to Mr Wishart was the worst mistake of his life. Investigate’s editor Ian Wishart told Scoop last week, “I think Tamihere will look back on this one day and think this is the best thing that ever happened to him.”
This statement was made before the two had a spat about whether or not their luncheon chat had been secretly recorded. Mr Wishart was adamant that everything had been above board, the tape recorder had been on the table and clearly obvious to Mr Tamihere. Mr Tamihere maintains he never saw a tape recorder. The end result of the spat was Mr Wishart releasing more of Mr Tamihere’s unfortunately candid comments to other media over the weekend. According to Mr Tamihere on Newstalk ZB this morning, the extra comments came about whilst he had been discussing Maori aspirations.
In the course of this conversation, about people moving of from their tramautic historical events, Mr Tamihere made comments that can best be described as insensitive in regard to the Holocaust. According to Mr Wishart when interviewed on national radio, these inflammatory comments were in the original Investigate story but were cut to save space in the magazines five page spread.
In Investigates latest editorial, Mr Wishart made his own inflammatory comments when he compared Labour’s gay youth wing, Rainbow Labour to the Hitler Youth in a diatribe against the Labour Party. When asked if she considered Mr Wishart an objective journalist in light of his latest editorial, the Prime Minister replied emphatically, “No”.
The Prime Minister remained tight lipped on Mr Tamihere’s future repeatedly advising assorted media that Mr Tamihere needed “space to reflect”.
The Prime Minister didn’t put a time on how long Mr Tamihere needed. This was fortunate as Mr Tamihere has decided that he needs to make amends with his caucus as soon as possible and will be in Wellington today.
The Prime Minister also clarified the matter of Mr Tamihere’s supposed offer of his resignation last week, “I wasn’t offered a resignation as such. I had a phone call at perhaps a minute before six thirty in the morning which is when I always speak to Mr Holmes for his pre-record. Mr Tamihere said to me words to the effect of ‘I feel like tossing it in’. At six twenty nine and thirty seconds I said ‘I’d take a few hours to breathe on that if I were you! I didn’t hear from him again that day.”
The Prime Minister considered the best support the Labour Party could give Mr Tamihere was “A period of space for him to reflect on what had happened.” The Prime Minister gave her ‘honest assessment’ of Mr Tamihere’s situation. “It would be futile to run for election to the cabinet. The decision for Mr Tamihere is whether to embark on the long slow and difficult road to redemption and a political career that leads somewhere, or whether to say this looks to tough for me.”
In answer to questions from TV3 no factions within the Labour Party had yet made any formal complaints about Mr Tamihere’s comments to Mr Wishart.
Mr Tamihere’s comments about his now (according to Linda Clark) ex-friend Clayton Cosgrove were also commented on by the Prime Minister. Mr Tamihere had suggested Mr Cosgrove had run a naughty campaign to keep Mike Moore as the Labour Party leader in 1993. Mr Cosgrove had supposedly rung up the Prime Minister (anonymously) pleading with her to ‘leave Mike alone’ as she challenged Mr Moore for the mantle of Leader of the Opposition.
“I know that Clayton Cosgrove is very, very hurt by what has been said. He has describe it as a fantasy and I’m backing him. I do not believe he made such phone calls to me and I’d be extremely surprised if he made them to anyone else,” said the Prime Minister.
Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald has been calling on New Zealand Cricket to boycott the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe following another Zimbabwean election with widespread voter intimidation and fraud. The Prime Minister was leaving the ball in New Zealand Cricket’s wicket as to their plans for the upcoming tour.
“New Zealand Cricket is going to have to make its own decision about the tour. If I’m asked as an individual would I go to Zimbabwe right now the answer would be no. New Zealand cricket has international obligations through the International Cricket Council and my understanding is that if a tour is cancelled on grounds other than security there is a quite substantial penalty.”