Prime Minister John Key this morning acknowledged his
former communications adviser Jason Ede did covertly access
data on Labour's website three years ago.
Mr Key's admission comes as Justice Minister Judith Collins,
another key figure in investigative writer Nicky Hager's
Dirty Politics, changed her story over whether she fed the
name of a public servant to blogger Cameron Slater, before
Slater launched an online attack on the official.
Mr Key has previously said he did not know whether Mr Ede
accessed Labour's computer via a security flaw in 2011.
Mr Slater and the National Party admitted at the time that
they had done so but the involvement of Mr Key's office was
one of the key new claims in Mr Hager's expose of the
National Government's alleged dirty tricks strategy.
However, speaking on TVNZ's Breakfast this morning, Mr Key
said: "Jason became aware of that (security flaw) , and he
did go and have a look." He said he did not know Mr Ede had
done that at the time.
"I probably should have known, because there was some
correspondence between National and Labour that a person
had." Mr Key agreed Mr Ede had used a back-door way into the
Mr Ede, who is now working on National's re-election campaign
has so far not responded to the Herald's calls and messages.
When the Herald called at his Hutt Valley home yesterday a
woman said he was not there and then recited a prepared
statement informing the Herald it would be trespassed if it
came to the door again.
Meanwhile, on Radio NZ this morning Mr Key would not say
whether it was appropriate for Ms Collins to tell Slater the
name of a public servant, who was thought to have leaked
politically embarrassing information to Labour.
Hager's book details how in a series of subsequent blog
posts, Slater accused the Internal Affairs employee Simon
Pleasants of leaking the information leading to death threats
being made against him in the blog's comments section.
"I don't have the details on that on," Mr Key said this
When pressed, he would not give a yes or no answer, adding:
"People can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky
Mr Key said he stood by Ms Collins.
Ms Collins last week confirmed she had given the man's name
to Slater telling NewstalkZB: "What I was asked for was the
name and the title of the guy and that's publicly available
and I've simply given him that".
However, she yesterday changed her position telling the
Herald she did not give Slater Mr Pleasants' name as Slater
already had it.
She had not indicated to Slater she believed the man was
responsible for leaking information to Labour she said.
"I didn't even know who Mr Pleasants was. What I knew is that
I was asked for what this person's title's. So I gave the
title and of course the name goes with the title." "The
information I gave to Cameron was no more than what was in
the public domain, the fact that he worked at ministerial
service was publicly known.
She gave the information to Slater "because I was asked by
Cameron for the title of that particular person who he knew
the name of".
Mr Key told Newstalk ZB that Hager's book would "not really"
hurt National's election chances.
He reiterated his claim that Hager was a "left-wing
conspiracy theorist" who had got his facts wrong.
Mr Key said there was "a side of politics which is a bit more
rugged" and that was true of all political parties.
The left also briefed bloggers, he said.
Last week had been full of smears from the left, Mr Key said.
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald