"I Am Rawshark" - Ben Rachinger's Sequel To "Dirty Politics" - The Hacker and all the PMs Men"
By Alastair Thompson
I am Rawshark.— Ben Rachinger
Odds on @BenRachinger is going to be getting some weird emails and twitter activity notifications for the next few weeks
On April 15th @keith-ng said:
You have two key problems: trust and narrative. You need
someone to verify that the things you posted mean what you
suggest— Keith Ng (@keith_ng) April
And on April 30th @B3nRaching3r found his voice.
5 days ago he launched a special purpose blog on Medium.com - "The Hacker and all the PMs Men". (An allusion to the movie about Watergate "All The President's Men".)
The story is a pot-boiling journalistic tale of a trip inside Dark Politics by a brave (some might say foolhardy) young hacker / journalist, a class of new entrants to the media scene who are having a big impact - and some of whom like Chelsea Manning & Barrett Brown who have found themselves martyred for their temerity.
"My name is Benjamin Rachinger. I
am nobody and that’s the way I’ve always liked it.
Having been born severely deaf and growing up wearing
hearing aids, I gravitated to computing and reading from a
young age. It was an escape from what could sometimes be a
As I grew up and went through schooling I found that the history of my country was stirring to read. NZ is one of the last geographical landmasses to have been discovered and colonised by the British Empire. There was internecine warfare between Maori (the indigenous people of NZ of whom I racially belong) and other Maori long before Britain came here to colonise. There was warfare between the British Army and Maori when the Maori rose against the landgrabs and cultural genocide that was taking place. We lost. It culiminated in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty was a binding agreement between the Crown and the Maori signatories where the Crown promised to respect Maori sovereignty and treat Maori as equals. This has sadly not been the case and many Maori are in prisons, asylums and on the streets in this day and age. Just another Colonial story.
Why is this bit of history pertinent to this story?
Cameron Slater is a far-right blogger, a fervent Christian man, the son of an Ex-National Party (Right wing political party) President and a man who believes that Whites are superior. A hunter of Animals and Men. Someone who called a recently deceased young man a “feral” on his blog. Ostensibly this was the reason a hacker named “Rawshark” hacked into Mr Slaters Gmail, Twitter and Facebook accounts and fed this data to Mr Nicky Hager and journalists at the New Zealand Herald. This resulted in a book called “Dirty Politics” by Mr Hager, a internationally respected investigative journalist. The book had many points but what it showed was that money, business, hacking and political corruption was becoming the norm in NZ.
Mr Slaters blog is called “Whale Oil Beef Hooked” (www.whaleoil.co.nz). It has recently won the Canon “Best Blog” award alongside other awards for “Best Blog”, even subsequent to “Dirty Politics” being published. Many sane and rational people have asked the question: How bad is it behind the veil? Who is doing what? How high does it go?
This is what I will be covering in a series of blog posts here. I came as close as it is possible to come to these “Dirty Politics” operators and have rigourously documented every single conversation, email and Threema (Swiss encrypted messaging platform used by spooks, politicians and journalists) messages.
Today, you will see what happens behind closed doors, in encrypted messages, in bars and park benches. You will make your own mind up about my motives. You won’t be able to ignore the evidence."
Today @B3nRaching3r is filling in the gaps directly with screen shots of conversations with Cameron Slater.
Slater and I on a range of matters. Shows Tony messed around
with the "job". I was left out of pocket. pic.twitter.com/W2PvyYm6QW—
Ben Rachinger (@B3nRaching3r) May
But it was what he published on Sunday which is likely to have the biggest impact in the twitter sphere and possibly in mainstream news coverage today .
In Part 11 (the latest part in in the series) Ben has published screenshots of Bank records showing payments from Cameron Slater. And in Part 11 an email dated 26th September apparently passed from Matthew Hooton through David Farrar to Cameron Slater and then on to him.
BELOW: and then from @whaleoil to @b3nRaching3r.
Which is a provocative allegation to make. Days after the September 20th election the National Party affiliated network of black-hat activity is back in action. (N.B. these emails do not show that Hooton and Farrar are aware of Cameron Slater's activities - but rather just that Slater is continuing to pursue black hat methods against the Labour Party targets and that Hooton and Farrar are continuing to feed information his way.)
While the screenshots theoretically "could be fabrications" the sheer number of them and the fact that Ben Rachinger is able to produce material such as this selfie with Tony Lentino's plane (from Part 8) makes it hard to quickly discard his central allegation, namely that in or around February 2015 the former Prime Minister's office attack blogger of choice commissioned Ben Rachinger to hack The Standard (thestandard.org.nz) and made a down-payment and offered success fees.
But to focus exclusively on this allegation is to do Ben's overall work a disservice.
The narrative that he is carving out for himself (as disclosed in his introduction post extracted above) is quite broad - nothing less than a voyage inside the world of Cameron Slater's Whaleoil and his relationship with Tony Lentino, the one-time millionaire backer of Kim Dotcom who fell out with the MEGA founder and toyed for several months with the idea of setting up a news service (see: Freed.nz & @freednz) with Cameron Slater and Throng.co.nz blogger Regan Cunliffe.
So far the saga includes:
" At the same time as this was
happening, my Police handler in the Undercover Informants
program was sending me messages like
[NOTE: Here Ben tells the story of being introduced
to his handler - they knocked on his parent's door two
days after the September 20th election.]
We left off the story with the cops knocking on my parents
I rang the Policeman who had left his card and enquired as to just exactly what he thought he was doing coming to my parents house and enquiring after me. I was very, very angry. My parents are Right-Wing voters who support the National Government and were looking askance at me now that cops were coming to their house. My parents are quiet people who don’t wish for any extra stress as they head into their 60s. The cop said that they had been “monitoring my twitter feed” and also that “Cameron Slater says you have inside knowledge of the Rawshark hack”. I politely replied that I would come down to the local Police Station and be interviewed.
This policeman, a Detective Senior Sergeant in the Criminal Investigation Bureau (C.I.B.), instructed me that he did not want me coming down to the Police Station. Would I meet him at a cafe for a conversation? I replied that I would. I did this against the advice of everyone I knew. I did this because I thought the Police could be trusted to look out for the well-being of the citizens of New Zealand. I made plans to meet him the next day."
3. And (later in part 6) talk from Cameron Slater of requesting Israeli support.
Particularly regarding questions around credulity - which are likely to be the talk of the day on Twitter as Ben's story gains traction and fans.
Yes it is possible that some of what Ben is reporting in this epic piece is fantasy, fabrication or misunderstanding. Clearly there are as yet lots of big holes in the story which he will need to feed for this to come into focus.
But if it is fabrication and fantasy, it is an extraordinarily well put together piece of theatre. Full of the inconsistencies and confusions of real interactions between people.
The conversations with Slater ring true to those in the Dirty Politics Book. This comes from the tweet referenced at the beginning. Allegedly Cameron Slater to Ben :
And because of this my money is on it not being a fabrication. The story rings true and it is increasing in coherence in the telling. It is also important. Ben is alleging that the police are actively looking into the activities of the Prime Minister and former Justice Minister's friend Cameron Slater, and that Slater is continuing to actively try to hack for political purposes, and is being funded by someone - as yet unrevealed.
Aguably therefore this is an exceptionally fine piece of undercover investigative journalism into a matter of national significance.
Like Rawshark (and let me emphasise that Ben Rachinger says he is not Rawshark - his tweet was a joke) Ben is taking his own counsel on how to tell his story.
Also Like Rawshark he is doing so quite well. He doesn't have all the skills an experienced journalist would employ in these circumstances - but he is certainly able to craft a good yarn.
Like Rawshark Ben has had also some issues in social media and media relations around strategy - but again, arguably these pratfalls in the "Meta" telling of the story are a signature of this new and rather compelling genre. We could call it "the real lives of geeks who are trying to save the world" for want of a better moniker. Citizen Four comes from this Genre as does Quinn Norton and Barrett Brown's work.
Irony is also ever present in this account.
Ben is using Slater's techniques of control against him. Cameron's Modus Operandi is to screenshot and record material and then threaten his contacts with exposure.
This method was demonstrated shortly before Christmas against none other than Prime Minister John Key in the "screen-shotted texts" fiasco. In this odd affair the PM appeared to bald-facedly lie to the media before being forced to make an apology to the house over the question of whether he had had contact with Cameron Slater.
He later released a transcript of the text exchange with Slater which he had deleted from his own phone, but which Slater was helpfully able to supply him.
Text messages released by PM's office.
Click images for bigger versions
(CONTEXT: To recap this occurred during the release of the IGIS report into the release of classified information to Cameron Slater about Israeli Spy briefings given to Phil Goff >> CLICK FOR FULL COVERAGE.
Rawshark.— Ben Rachinger (@B3nRaching3r) October
While the "I am Rawshark" tweet was a joke - and according to Ben cost him his job with Tony Lentino on the Freed project - Ben's new journalistic series on Medium . "The Hacker and all the PMs Men" unquestionably is walking in the steps of the Dirty Politics story and a worthy sequel to the RawShark phenomena.
And I for one am watching closely for developments.
"The best lack all
conviction, while the worst are full of passionate
intensity." - Yeats
- Alastair Thompson