Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Gordon Campbell on the Rebstock investigation of MFAT leaks

Gordon Campbell on the Rebstock investigation of the MFAT leaks

by Gordon Campbell

Having spent $510,000 of taxpayer money on her investigation into the extent and source of leaks about the controversial Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade “Change” programme, Paula Rebstock and her team of sleuths might be expected to have come up with concrete findings to justify the expense. No such luck. This is despite the fact that Rebstock & Co brought a Sherlockian level of forensic skills to bear on some potentially incriminating staples cited at para 38:

...Interviewees included Ministerial staff for all Ministers who were recipients of the Cabinet Committee papers and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Trade. This comprised 120 interviewees, some of whom were interviewed more than once. The copies of the Cabinet Committee papers were examined to determine if original staples had been removed to allow for undisclosed copying or scanning of the documents.

Wow. That looks pretty comprehensive - right down to the staples! Until you read further and find that the stewardship of the papers in question was so wide open that literally anyone could have been responsible. As acknowledged at para 42:

The investigation identified it was not possible to rule out any office as a possible source of a leak of the Cabinet Committee papers based solely on its documented processes and independent evidence...

Moreover, the Rebstock sleuths didn’t talk to everyone involved:

After these interviews and examination of the documents, the investigation decided it was unnecessary to interview another 15 Ministers who had received the Cabinet Committee papers. The investigation did not talk to all the individuals who may have handled only the Europe Posts Cabinet Committee paper which had a wider circulation than the Change Programme Cabinet Committee paper (about another 158 people of whom 43 may have accessed the paper up to 2 May 2012).

Between paras 53.1 and 53.5, the report cites all the possible ways in which security for the papers in question could have been breached. They include these poignant points:

53.1 Some agencies did not keep a log of Cabinet documents received. Evidence about what had happened to the Cabinet documents, including copies taken, who received them and where they were stored had to be reconstructed from ‘usual practice’ and sometimes did not fit with other known facts. 53.2 Some agencies kept a log of Cabinet documents received, but practice varied as to how promptly each log was updated and the level of detail recorded. Where the Cabinet documents were sent to the wrong office at one agency, it took some time to track down what had happened to them. 53.3 Some agencies scanned Cabinet documents as they arrived at the agency. This allowed for efficient distribution of the documents to those who needed access, and provided an audit trail of user access. However, the audit trail started only once the documents had been scanned and was only as useful as the information it recorded. In one case, there was 16 hours delay between receipt and scanning of the documents with no record of where the documents were held...etc etc

Oh, and furthermore:

54. Given the paper-based system for Cabinet documents with many people involved in handling the documents, from the processes described to us there were opportunities for an ill-intentioned person to gain unauthorised access to the Cabinet Committee documents within Parliament Buildings and in transit to or within government agencies. In offices where photocopiers were not activated by user IDs it was possible for staff to take unauthorised copies of the Cabinet Committee papers without leaving any evidence of this activity.

Omigosh. Lets just pray that Nicky Hager doesn’t read the Rebstock report! It might give him ideas. In passing, such candour does help to explain why the Rebstock report’s conclusions are framed solely in terms of “suspicion” as to who was the “probable” source of the leak, rather than anything that resembles certainty as to where actual responsibility can reliably be sheeted home. At times, there is a faux sense of certainty that something is up:

The investigation established that at least four people (three MFAT staff and the FSA’s Executive Secretary) were telephoned or sent texts by the Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade or his office seeking information about the MFAT change programme. The investigation was unable to establish how many staff were approached for information. One staff member, who has since left MFAT, and the then-current FSA Executive Secretary, reported they were telephoned at home by the Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade and spoke to him for some minutes about the MFAT change programme.

Got that? Forget it. Because in the very next paragraph we’re told:

69.22 The investigation was unable to establish whether any government information was leaked through any of seven identified calls between the Labour Party Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade (or his office) and MFAT staff and the FSA Executive Secretary.

Ultimately, the Rebstock report concludes by voicing its “suspicion” about a contractor and a couple of managers - all no longer with MFAT - as the “likely” source of contacts that it deems to have been improper, and that were allegedly calculated to undermine the Change policy programme at MFAT. For all the time and money involved - and for all the further impacts on morale within MFAT that this latest witch-hunt will have caused - we are left only with guesswork about the likely culprits. Not to mention being none the wiser as to whether the whistle blowing efforts in question (that were directly or tacitly supported by a wide number of senior MFAT staff) were justified.

What we do know is that the government has since backed away from the early, extreme versions of the Change programme partly because the mooted changes triggered such a backlash within MFAT ( and elsewhere in government) among people who realised what the destructive results would be on the best practice activities of this country’s diplomats. To that extent, the efforts of the leakers - whoever they were - have been subsequently endorsed by the same government that now seeks to punish them for their actions. Ultimately...the taxpayer might have got far better value for money from an investigation into the efficacy (and the costs) of the Change programme itself.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news