Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Doing over the witness

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    The benefit of the doubt I’m giving they police is that they know better than we armchair critics how to manage there resources. I really don’t see anything here that screams of excess in their approach to the case.

    Can you cite a single similar instance?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I’m giving they police is that they know better than we armchair critics how to manage there resources

    Oh please. Are you seriously suggesting the police can do no wrong and should never be questioned?

    Here in NZ we have multiple examples in the last five years where the police have chosen to ignore cases that they should have investigated.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Curtis, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    they police is that they know better than we armchair critics how to manage there resources.

    A Coroner has criticised police for taking more than seven months to interview a man who supplied alcohol to a teen found dead the next morning.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/10566764/Police-slammed-for-alcohol-death-investigation-delay
    Armchair critics ? But of course nothing to see here say keyboard apologists.

    Delays on relatively minor cases, such as accessing computers should be, are legendary. But not this time it seems that like flotsam it has risen to the top of the list

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Doyle, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    And you believe them! You have more faith in their political independence than I do.

    Stillwater • Since Nov 2011 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Are you now happy for the police to similarly descend in force on the homes and offices of, say, Matt Nippert and David Fisher and take whatever they fancy? Can you conceive of the chilling implications of this?

    Happy? No. But as I say, I’m not sure they are or should be somehow inherently immune to it either. They should have recourse and an opportunity to defend the position and the privileged position of their information, but isn’t that ultimately a decision for a court anyway?

    Come on.

    Let’s look at two somewhat similar cases under the current government:

    1. The SFO seeking to seize Matt Nippert’s notes on the South Canterbury Finance story. Even thought it was not constrained by the Evidence Act, the SFO didn’t come in, clear his desk and seize his devices. It negotiated with NBR and eventually reached an agreement that would protect Nippert’s sources.

    2. The police serving search warrants on major media organisations during the 2011 election campaign, consequent to Key’s “teapot tapes” complaint. Again, the police didn’t just walk in and clean out the newsrooms. RNZ, TVNZ and the HoS were able to contest the warrants. They didn’t just have all kinds of stuff seized and get told to go to court to get it back.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    I think there is a difference between the right to protect your sources and immunity from investigation but that’s making assumptions about other people’s posts so I’ll stop there.
    The other possibility about the police activity is that they are doing nothing about the other allegations and are doing this vindictively – it could swing either way.
    I do love that you are playing devil’s advocate and hope you’re not feeling too ganged up on.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also: Slater's legal dispute with Matt Blomfield, whose stolen communications (literally, in this case, given that Blomfield has been deprived of possession of a hard drive) Slater has used in the most malicious way.

    The judge really got it right here:

    Slater appealed to the High Court and in a decision released today, Justice Raynor Asher said the definition of a journalist under the Evidence Act could include a blogger.

    "The Whale Oil website was a news medium in that it was disseminating new and recent stories of public interest. While its style and focus can be criticised, it was breaking news to a significant section of the New Zealand public," Justice Asher said.

    The judge said that Slater was a journalist and could invoke source protection under the Evidence Act.

    However, the judge also granted orders sought by Blomfield that this section of the law not apply to Slater in this case.

    There was a "public interest" in the disclosure of the identity of Slater's informants, Justice Asher said.

    "There is a real public interest in those who claim that they are defamed being able to fully explore the circumstances of the defamation..." the judge said.

    This was not a whistle blower case and it seemed the information was obtained illegally by sources, which diminished the importance of protecting them, the judge said.

    "Moreover, any concern at the chilling effect of disclosure of sources is lessened when the subject matter of the material originally disclosed has the mark of a private feud, and features abusive and vindictive language."

    In short, the judge said "Sure, you can be considered a journalist. But what you're doing right here? Not journalism." Good decision.

    The full decision is here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    The other possibility about the police activity is that they are doing nothing about the other allegations and are doing this vindictively – it could swing either way.

    Or ... that they do in fact plan to go hard on the other criminal complaints and have done this so they can be seen to show no favour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Again, the police didn’t just walk in and clean out the newsrooms. RNZ, TVNZ and the HoS were able to contest the warrants. They didn’t just have all kinds of stuff seized and get told to go to court to get it back.

    Indeed. The TVNZ experience seemed rather less gruelling than what Hager and his family were subjected to. The level of intimidation appears to be relative to the size of the target.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Adam H,

    So... just a technical point for context...

    When you wish to make a forensic examination of digital stuff, and you think there may be encrypted containers (either on the premise or in the cloud) you take everything, including video and photos of the books and CD's on the shelves. Taking all those CD's out of their cases can be a bit time consuming...

    The reason you do all this is to assist with your brute-force attack if you find an encrypted container. You load all the digital content from the site(s) into your attack dictionary.

    Often people use a song from their favourite album, the opening sentence of a book, or they will use a similar password that they might have emailed to someone in another context. People commonly use their ex-partners middle name with a year combination tacked or whatever. Your stuff will possibly have that name in it somewhere, so it means you get there a bit faster.

    Anyway, the more stuff you load in the dictionary, the faster it is to crack it generally speaking. This is one of the reasons the really good whistleblower protection systems use an air gap.

    There is quite a lot of case law about the use of digital evidence. It has to be pre-checked for issues of privilege, which in this case I presume extends to journalistic protection. But its use by a machine as a mechanism to assist decryption (i.e. in a way where no human actually looks at any of it) is to my knowledge untested.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2014 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Which is where Dylan is coming from . . . just cos we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not happening and doesn't make Nicky immune from investigation. We shall see . . .

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • CJM,

    Let’s look at two somewhat similar cases under the current government:

    1. The SFO seeking to seize Matt Nippert’s notes on the South Canterbury Finance story. Even thought it was not constrained by the Evidence Act, the SFO didn’t come in, clear his desk and seize his devices. It negotiated with NBR and eventually reached an agreement that would protect Nippert’s sources.

    2. The police serving search warrants on major media organisations during the 2011 election campaign, consequent to Key’s “teapot tapes” complaint. Again, the police didn’t just walk in and clean out the newsrooms. RNZ, TVNZ and the HoS were able to contest the warrants. They didn’t just have all kinds of stuff seized and get told to go to court to get it back.

    Neither of these cases involved Five Eyes. That may be why this 'police' action has progressed differently?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Would this happen to be our Search and Surveillance Act of 2012 in action?

    Since Nov 2006 • 529 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    doesn’t make Nicky immune from investigation

    The problem for most here is that the nature of the investigation of Hager appears to have been far more intimidatory than anyone would have expected.

    Given the nature of the investigation it would appear that someone in the police or above has the additional intent of warning off any other investigative journalists from digging into anything that might potentially embarrass this government.

    While that is speculation, it fits the observed facts. And most importantly, if true, it is and extremely dangerous attack on the freedom of New Zealanders.

    If this was being reported on the news as occurring in say, Iran, we would all be shaking our heads and saying gosh aren't we lucky to live in a country where it is possible for journalists to question the government.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Bell,

    If Hager had been around when the search warrant had been executed, the police would have been able to demand from him the access keys to the cloud storage where he would have put anything he really didn't want them to find. But they raided him when he was absent and forewent any such opportunity.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2009 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • CJM, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Given the nature of the investigation it would appear that someone in the police or above has the additional intent of warning off any other investigative journalists from digging into anything that might potentially embarrass this government

    I think the overt message here is to any other whistleblowers who might have been thinking about dumping information to Hager on say, high-flying corporate tax cheats or covert surveillance on large media organisations…... or Speargun…..

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to CJM,

    Neither of these cases involved Five Eyes. That may be why this ‘police’ action has progressed differently?

    Neither does anything in Dirty Politics - let's not get hysterical and conflate Slater's activities with the 'security' apparatus, because I think the GCSB and SIS are a little bit more credible than Whaleboy. The quite separate Five Eyes scandal only came up via Dotcom's "Moment of Truth", not through any activity on Hager's part, even if Snowden did namecheck him for his work two decades ago on the GCSB.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Steve Bell,

    If Hager had been around when the search warrant had been executed, the police would have been able to demand from him the access keys to the cloud storage where he would have put anything he really didn’t want them to find. But they raided him when he was absent and forewent any such opportunity.

    He would also have had the mental wherewithall to call them out on their "fishing expedition", and the legal knowledge to know what was justified for them to look at and what wasn't. And they didn't want that to happen.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C,

    Having followed what has been going on in this country, which otherwise likes to "pride" itself for its democracy, transparency and lack of corruption, I have increasingly become fully convinced, that those qualities or standards NO longer exist. New Zealand has since the departure of Helen Clark and the last Labour government, and the "rise" of one John Key, been heading down a road, which is akin to a road of a plutocracy, a one party state, a surveillance state, yes, a "soft" form of a dictatorship.

    And sadly, too many now working in the mainstream media, especially the ones making decisions on what is published and what not, are very complicit in this kind of system having developed. It was in my view the MSM (mainstream media) that decided the last 3 elections, with too much selective reporting, with hunting certain "disliked" or mistrusted opposition politicians and parties, and with not long ago launching a massive attack against Dotcom.

    I have little time for Dotcom, but what we were shown on TV, heard certain hosts on radio comment, and what we read in papers, it was all rather clear. The Dirty Politics only caused upheaval for barely 2 weeks, then it was suddenly largely discredited, swept under the carpet, especially once Key had Collins resign. And the wider public did also shrug it off, accepting the seeds of scepticism, that Key and National, and too many in the MSM spread. Too many switched off long ago, and hence Key survived it all, and like a hardly tainted Phoenix out of the ashes, he came back teflon shielded, with a sound election win.

    What has happened to Nicky Hager now is a scandal of huge proportions, it is beyond doubt, that this is not how police should treat a witness. There is no sound reason to have them go through his house and intimidate his family for over 10 hours. I have commented before, that I have noticed this when attending a few political meetings, that the police always seem to have rather "warm" relationships with National Party MPs and members, and with a government formed by National.

    There is also ample evidence of the police not prosecuting their own much, when they are caught out doing wrong, or overstepping the line.

    What happened to Nicky Hager should get all journalists motivated to take a firm stand in support of him, but sadly I see and hear very little of this, yes some even supporting what happened.

    This is stuff that would have happened in places like East Germany until 1989, like in some Latin American former dictatorships, this is what goes on in such countries in some places still now, but I feared the day would come that this happens here.

    It seems that Key and his Nats use certain "contacts", and have motivated this action. Jason Ede goes and disappers, and despite of sufficient evidence, no investigation has happened there. A Mr Bharatnagar gets the same protection, so does Slater, who got away with too much for too long.

    Sadly this all will turn off many potential whistle blowers, as they government, the police and various agencies now use their powers to shut down critics, few will now dare revealing wrongdoings that happen, fearing for their jobs and so.

    It is time to stand up, people, and reclaim your democracy, or else it will be lost forever, to an Orwellian control and surveillance state that has an ugly face behind the scenes. Sadly too many are too busy watching TV ads and going shopping, or entertaining themselves. Too many brains are manipulated or switched off in New Zealand these days. Fury is all I can say about how I feel about what is going on.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Mr Mark,

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ NEW ZEALAND POLICE _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    Acting Impartially on Behalf of the New Zealand National Party

    Wellington • Since Dec 2009 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Marc C, in reply to Juha Saarinen,

    Yes, it is, and we have now powers given to many state agencies and departments, including MSD and WINZ, that allow them to spy and conduct surveillance on "suspects" (or "difficult troublemakers"). Sadly the wider public have for some time given up following any news with some critical and suspicious thinking, and so many laws and law changes have been passed unnoticed.

    And even where the law still allows people to "check" on what government does, the constant underfunding of the Office of Ombudsmen sees to it, that any OIA complaints do not get looked at or even investigated for lengthy times.

    Cuts and more hurdles to access legal aid is another angle they used, to stop people taking actions against wrongdoings. New Commissioners have been appointed to the Health and Disability Commissioner Office and also the Privacy Commissioner Office, who are apparently more government friendly than the ones before.

    More surveillance, the change of the GCSB Act, and so forth, it has all been done, to serve the interests of the government of the day, to rule and legislate as they please, with as little criticism and disruption, now they go as far as taking out dissenters like Hager.

    Next maybe The Daily Blog and Martyn Bradbury, and prepare also, for another raid on the Dotcom Mansion, it will come, I sense.

    Akl • Since Oct 2012 • 437 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Oh please. Are you seriously suggesting the police can do no wrong and should never be questioned?

    Absolutely not what I'm saying.

    I'm saying that questioning the resources they assign to one case with absolutely no information beyond the fact that five officers spent ten hours on specific action is baseless.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    I’m certainly not convinced it’s outright unacceptable.

    All other considerations aside, this is the argument of the well organised Gentleman, living by the maxim; a place for everything and everything in its place. The well organized gentleman’s abode contains no piles of envelopes and stacks of papers, the notes on an individual piece of paper are limited to one topic alone. Technology permitting, 10 hours is time enough to clone the drives or to delete any offending data, but let’s embrace the excess, for the tools of the well organised gentleman’s livelihood are replaceable.

    Enjoy your typewriter Nicky!

    But were we all well organised gentleman and well organised gentle journalists::

    I think that’s the bulk of the criticism in relation to this whole thing. Hager is a journalist, so the police searching and seizing his computers was wrong. Basically.

    For many who handle second hand cameras and have a lot of tech gear lying around, and heaven forbid use those cameras to film anything untoward, the prospect of returning home to find all that gear has suddenly vanished may be more daunting. The well organised Gentleman accepts this prospect, that his possessions remain so as a courtesy extended by the state. To play devil’s advocate shows purpose, for the devil relies on advocates.

    that they do in fact plan to go hard on the other criminal complaints and have done this so they can be seen to show no favour.

    In this instance they’ve shown considerable favour to the MSM, who have most likely enjoyed the most recent contact. It’s important that we are very clear in that the object of this investigation is ostensibly to identify Rawshark, and the probability that this could be achieved within that search is exceedingly low. Even by ‘no stone’ Clouseau’s standards:

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    Can you cite a single similar instance?

    No, but then we probably hear about less than 1% of what the police do, we also know next to nothing about the police investigation - how many are involved, how long they've been working on it, when they started... nothing.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    we know nothing.. so there's nothing to know. yeah, right.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

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