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Lisa Owen Interviews Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater

Lisa Owen Interviews Whale Oil Blogger Cameron Slater

Headlines:

Blogger Cameron Slater reveals death threats since Dirty Politics has been published: “I've got a torrent of death threats as a result of Mr Hager's book”

“Nicky Hager is responsible too for the death threats that I'm receiving, and I'm sure he won't be standing up and taking any responsibility for that”

Insists “no illegal act” took place when he entered Labour’s website in 2011 and downloaded donor information

Refuses to confirm or deny he was working with John Key’s staffer Jason Ede on accessing the Labour site and is “yet to see any evidence” that emails to him on that matter were from Ede. Also won’t say which “senior Nats” he was working with in planning to release the fact the site had been accessed

“I do not discuss my sources or anybody I’m working with”

Slater can’t remember the conversation with Judith Collins that led to her email about Simon Pleasants and denies he or Collins have any responsibility for the subsequent death threats and police involvement.

“People have to own their own comments on websites… I certainly don't condone death threats. I think that mostly people who make death threats are gutless cowards”

Describes Collins as a close friend: “she's earned the right to be called a friend, because she's been there with me thick and thin”

Patrick Gower: Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics blindsided everyone this week with its thousands of emails hacked from the computer of right-wing blogger Cameron Slater. The Prime Minister's staff, Slater and Justice Minister Judith Collins feature prominently in which Hager alleges are a series of smear campaigns and dirty tricks, yet all say his book is full of falsehoods.

Lisa Owen: Unfortunately, John Key, Judith Collins, Steven Joyce and, indeed, anyone from National declared themselves unavailable for this programme. As the Prime Minister has been saying this week, we'll let you draw your own conclusions from that. So we'll talk with Nicky Hager here in the studio shortly, but first Cameron Slater is live from Israel. Good morning, Mr Slater.

Cameron Slater: Good morning, Lisa.

I want to start by asking about the accessing of the Labour Party computer in 2001 [cnn; 2011]. John Key says that National has been nowhere near Labour's website; it's nothing to do with National. How accurate is that?

Well, I don't speak for the National Party. I couldn't possibly speak for it, but I was certainly into the back end of the Labour Party's website. If they couldn't manage security of their website, their credit card details and their financial information about their membership, well, then they weren't really fit for government at the time. But there was certainly no hacking involved in that and quite unlike Nicky Hager's scurrilous little book, there's no illegal acts that were taking place at that time.

Well, there's a few things in that. First off, was Jason Ede in the Labour Party website, delving around and downloading material?

Well, how am I supposed to know that?

Well, actually, I'll bring you to a point in Nicky Hager's book, which is an email—

You'd have to ask Jason Ede.

Which is an email exchange. There is an email from Jason Ede to you on the 14th of June confirming that he has been in the Labour Party computer and expressing relief that he hasn't been caught. So were you guys working together and both in that computer?

I don't believe there is an email from Jason Ede. I believe there's an email from a Gmail address, and I'm yet to see any evidence that that is Jason Ede.

So you're denying categorically that you were working with Jason Ede and that you were both in that computer, downloading material?

I was in the computer, downloading material. I will not and cannot speak for somebody else. That's up to them to answer those questions. But the point that I'm making here is to my knowledge and from people who have read the book and communicated with me—

Well, you could confirm that.

...there is only an allegations that a Gmail address is linked—

You could confirm that, Mr Slater, if you were working with him. If you were indeed working with them, then you would be able to confirm it. So I'm asking you, can you rule out the fact that you were working with him and downloading material and discussing the release of that material and the timing of that?

I do not discuss my sources or anybody that I'm working with with anybody, and neither does TV3 and neither do you. So I think it's outrageous—

So you can't rule out the fact—

...that somebody should be asking me questions about that.

You can't rule out the fact that you were working with Jason Ede? You can't rule that out? For the record, you cannot rule it out?

Well, I won't rule out or rule— I will not rule out or rule in anything. These are allegations. Mr Hager has been very careful in the wording of his book not to make any direct allegations. The allegations are being made by inference, and I think that's pretty gutless.

Okay, well, the Prime Minister has said that Mr Ede probably looked through the website out of curiosity, and he says that's fair enough and he could've just been following instructions, which he said you posted on your website. Do you accept that scenario?

Well, that is possible, yes, but, again, that's John Key's words and, you know, I can't put Jason Ede or John Key or anybody else in the National Party at a keyboard, and I don't think neither can Nicky Hager.

Well, because the one thing that is curious about that scenario, Mr Slater, is that the computer that is allegedly Jason Ede's accessed the website and downloaded material days before you wrote any article about the website and posted the instructions.

But what's that got to do with me? That's got nothing to do with me. You should be asking those questions of other people. You're trying to get me to confirm that somebody else, and bear in mind I live in Auckland and Jason Ede lives in Wellington, you're asking me to place myself into a chair, in a seat in a building, on an IP address and confirm something when I simply have no knowledge that that person who was using that IP address was Jason Ede or indeed any other person.

But it's a combination of information, isn't it, Mr Slater?

It's a frankly a bunch of connected dots.

It is a combination of information. You were Facebook messaging an associate, and you told him that you were ‘working with senior Nats for the release'. So you were working with someone from the National Party, it seems.

Well, is there any names there?

Names of what? It's a message from you. So who were the senior Nats you were working with? To whom did you send the message to?

I'm not going to say. Yeah, who did I send the message to?

Aaron Bhatnagar.

So you can't tell me?

So were you working with senior Nats?

Well, he's not a senior Nat.

No, no.

He's not even involved in working—

You've misunderstood my question, Mr Slater. You told him—

I don't work with anybody other than myself.

...you were working with senior Nats. You told him you were working with senior Nats, so I'm asking you who the senior Nats you were working with — who were they?

Oh, I talk to many, many different National Party people that are MPs and ministers, just the same as I talk to many, many Labour Party people who are senior people on the front bench of, at that time, Phil Goff's leadership, subsequently David Shearer's leadership and now David Cunliffe's leadership. I have contacts at senior levels across nearly every political party.

You said at the start of this interview that you've done nothing illegal. Are you absolutely confident that you have done nothing illegal in going on to the Labour party website and downloading material including credit card details?

That's correct. I never released any credit card details. Unlike Mr Hager, I redacted people's personal information. I respected people's privacy. I actually sought contact with one donor who was out there, and I sought her permission to release her name. In the case of Mr Hager's book, he didn't even have the common journalistic courtesy to contact a single person contained within these emails, while he breached everybody's privacy, and it's ironic, because he stood on a stage in Auckland at the GCSB protest—

But Mr Slater, the law does suggest that accessing a computer without someone's permission and taking information is a crime. It's much like walking into a shop and then filling your pockets with goodies and walking back out without paying.

We're talking about revisiting a case from 2011. The Labour party laid a complaint with the Privacy Commission at the time and with the police, to my knowledge from the letters that were sent to me by Chris Flatt, and nothing has come of it. This is, frankly, old news. And the fact remains is that Mr Hager has used illegally obtained data, illegally obtained details and has then gone out and sold a book. The same accusation could be levelled at him, whereas I don't make money from that. Mr Hager is making a substantial amount of money from the proceeds of a crime. Now, that's a very interesting concept when we're talking about law.

OK, well, let's move on to Judith Collins. Is she a good mate? How often would you talk to her or message her in a week, say?

I talk to Judith Collins regularly. She's a good friend. She was immensely supportive during the passing of my mother. And, frankly, she's earned the right to be called a friend, because she's been there with me thick and thin, and that's what friends do.

Did that good friend leak you the name of the public servant Simon Pleasants in 2009? Did she leak that name to you?

I'm not sure whether you'd call it a leak. We certainly had a discussion about a name of a person from what I understand around that. Simon Pleasants, of course, being a former Labour party staffer.

It wasn't just a discussion, though, was it, Mr Cameron? She sent you a five-word email saying 'Simon Pleasants, manager, ministerial property', so she slipped you the name in an email. Is that correct? She emailed it to you?

So what? So what?

What did you ask that prompted her to send you that name? Give us some context. What was it about? Why would she send you that name in that way?

I don't know. I can't even remember the date, so I can't put any context around it, and it's interesting that neither is Mr Hager. He hasn't provided any context around a number of the allegations that he's made.

Let me put some context around it for you. You received that email with the name, and the very next day, you placed that man's name online, and you accuse him of leaking information to the Labour party. You call him a snitch and a flunky. So did the minister know that you were gonna use that name in that way?

Oh, again, you're asking me to put words and thoughts into the head of another person. That's not a very sensible journalistic idea, is it?

I'm asking you what you did. Did you have a conversation with her about what your intent was and how you were going to use that information? Was there a conversation or communication about that?

Frankly, I can't even remember the details of the post or any conversation.

OK, well, death threats appeared on your website after Mr Pleasants' name was posted, death threats aimed at him. In fact, someone said 'shoot him, shoot his wife, shoot his kids'. Another person suggested cutting the bastard's throat. Do you think it's appropriate for a person who was then the minister of police to be involved in that kind of vigilante justice?

Well, I'm glad you've raised death threats, because I've got a torrent of death threats as a result of Mr Hager's book, where people have said 'you suffer a mental illness', 'you should throw yourself off a balcony', 'you should suicide. Don't even write a note. No one would read it' — all those sorts of things.

I'm asking you about your actions, Mr Cameron— Mr Slater. I'm asking you about your actions.

Could you get my name right?

Do you think it was appropriate to engage in that kind of vigilante justice, aided by the person who was then the minister of police? Is that appropriate?

I'm sorry. You cannot tar me or Judith Collins with the actions of anonymous commenters, largely. Certainly, back then I had an open commenting policy. Now on my website—

But you've confirmed that she provided you with the information—

Let me finish, Lisa.

...that enabled you to make that post. She provided you with the information that enabled you to make the initial post which prompted the death threats. So, I ask you again, is it appropriate to engage in that kind of vigilante justice? It's a really simple question.

No, no. It's not a simple question, because what you're trying to do is you're trying to make anonymous commenters— make me responsible for anonymous commenters. In the same way, Nicky Hager is responsible too for the death threats that I'm receiving, and I'm sure he won't be standing up and taking any responsibility for that, cos he certainly never takes responsibility for anything. So do not put words in my mouth. Do not put words or thoughts into the Justice Minister's mouth. People have to own their own comments on websites. Certainly, I've now put in place a process to make sure that those sort of comments never appear on my website. I've significantly increased my moderation capacity. And so, yes, those were things that were put on the website in the past, but those are lessons that are learnt. I certainly don't condone death threats. I think that mostly people who make death threats are gutless cowards, and they certainly wouldn't ever appear on my website now.

All right, thank you so much for joining us this morning from Tel Aviv. That's Cameron Slater.

ENDS

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