'Dirty Politics': Hagar reveals leaked emails

Nicky Hager at the launch of Dirty Politics. Photo / Adam Bennett
Nicky Hager at the launch of Dirty Politics. Photo / Adam Bennett
Dirty Politics, the new book from author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager, will feature leaked emails between National Party figures and a right-wing blogger.

The book, which has been released in Wellington tonight, aims to tell the story of "how how attack politics is poisoning NZ's political environment".

It includes email correspondence between Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater and Jason Ede, one of the Prime Minister John Key's press secretaries, in relation to information found on Labour's website.

The National Party had denied any involvement, but Mr Hager's book showed Mr Slater and Mr Ede had discussed the information and how to avoid being caught.

Mr Hager said the Prime Minister's office had been "collaborating" with National Party "proxies" who were carrying out attacks on behalf of Mr Key while working to preserve his image.

"Part of the book is about how John Key has cultivated a very respectable image of being friendly and relaxed but at the same time there has been another part of his politics which New Zealanders have not seen or understood."

Mr Hager described Mr Slater as an "obnoxious" blogger whose attacks on a young man killed in a car crash earlier this year had led to hackers attacking the Whaleoil website.

He said the attack knocked out the Whaleoil site for a number of days during which time a hacker had come away with "thousands and thousands" of documents.

He said the papers revealed an "an astonishingly cynical and ugly view" of the way National's "proxies" behaved in politics.

Mr Hager said people would become increasingly astonished as they read through the book because the "dirty politics" only got worse.

"You will not believe what you read and how bloody awful it is."

In a speech prior to the launch, the book was described as one which "implicates John Key and senior National Party staff".

It ''revolves around a cast of Key, Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, David Farrar, Judith Collins and other National Party figures''.

"It shows a very different side of John Key and his Government than most New Zealanders know'', the book's publishers said.

Hager's earlier books have included Seeds of Distrust, which threatened to ankle-tap former Prime Minister Helen Clark as she headed into the 2002 election.

Mr Hager followed with The Hollow Men which gave voters an inside look at the manipulations of National's 2005 campaign. His 2010 book Other People's Wars exposed New Zealand's intelligence and military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq during the "War of Terror" - a stark contrast to the friendly, public relations-driven view the New Zealand Defence Force had offered.

His previous access to well-placed intelligence sources have driven speculation he was preparing to release Edward Snowden-sourced documents about New Zealand's involvement in the US-led Five Eyes spying alliance. But talk around Wellington yesterday had some leaning towards an expose on political manipulations.

Ahead of today's launch, Prime Minister John Key dismissed Mr Hager saying: "Most people know that Nicky Hager is a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist."

It's a view which is in contrast to praise from US journalism legend Seymour Hersh, who last year said: "Nicky Hager has more knowledge and understanding of the American intelligence world in Afghanistan - both its good and its very bad points - than any reporter I know."

The release of the latest book has been carried out in total secrecy. Publicity for the book ahead of the launch has been non-existent, although the launch itself at Wellington's Unity Books has become today's must-attend Wellington function.

Media commentator Russell Brown said Mr Key's comments should be seen as preparing the ground for whatever might be coming by attempting to diminish Mr Hager's credibility.

"They are generally stories people don't want told," he said of Mr Hager's work. "You can see that in the push back which comes before the book comes out."

Mr Brown, AUT's Journalist In Residence and frontman with Toi Iti for Maori Television's Media Take, said Mr Hager had proven his credentials repeatedly and should be regarded as credible.

"One very valuable thing about Nicky is that he operates at a different level to most journalists. He has a strong sense in the public interest. He can take a long time to get the detail right. We're lucky to have someone in his position."

Mr Brown said Mr Hager's books fell into either the "barnstormer" or "technical" category and he expected this one would be greeted as a "barnstormer".

Mr Hager's first book was Secret Power, published in 1996. It was a world-exclusive and remains the authoritative text on the United States-led pre-digital spying network called Echelon.

- by David Fisher, NZ Herald

How does this compare?

On a scale of one to ten how does this compare with Labour staff going into a National MP's office and downloading emails?

Shades of Nixon and Muldoon

The difference between what we knew already and what Hagar has revealed is what has made even National stalwarts like John Armstrong question Key's credibility. Hagar says that the hacking of the Labour Party's campaign lists was assisted by a John Key staffer, Jason Ede. Ede was employed to do this at the taxpayer’s expense; not even Nixon got the taxpayer to raid Watergate. Hagar has also alleged that the prime minister’s office used its knowledge of SIS documents to inform an attack Slater made on Phil Goff. Muldoon was known for this sort of behaviour but he never tried for the image cultivated by Key. Hagar’s book is certainly not the same old same old.

Do we really accept this?

The fact that National haven't threatened legal action and Slater is complaining about his e-mails being hacked means you can probably assume everything in the book is true.

For those that have suggested it, it's not acceptable to throw your arms up in the air and say "Oh, we knew this was happening anyway." Governments are not supposed to manipulate the media by providing selective (politically supportive) outlets with assistance to dig dirt on opposition parties. It's one thing for Slater to boast this type of connection to government - the guy's full of it. It's quite another for it to be proven. If they act like this behind our backs, what else are they up to that we don't know of?

Then there's the "everybody's doing it" argument. Fine. Find the evidence that Labour, the Greens, etc. are doing the same and we can judge them the same way. Until then, National seem to be the only show in dirty tricks town.

Some things now make sense

Key calls the Hager book revelations as 'unfounded' when he hasn't obviously had time to read it.

It now makes sense, given Judith Collins close relationship with Slater, why Key didn't sack her over Orivida. She was too valuable an asset not to be in there dishing the dirt. 

Can't say I'm surprised

I can't say I'm surprised about these revelations.  I well remember Key's coyness when he was talking to the media about what he described as, "hundreds of thousands of dollars" supposedly donated to Labour by the Chinese businessman.  In the end there was no evidence of such a donation but the key thing in it all was that the Prime Minister could not/would not reveal where he got the "information from.

No, not a conspiracy theorist

Key's claim of Hagar just being a 'conspiracy theorist' is the kind of thing people, who have been caught out, would say. It doesn't wash. All you have to do is look at the content of these emails and decide for yourself about the actions and words of the people involved.

Key has been caught in the headlights. This will wipe the constant chummy grin from his face. 

What a let down

I thought this was going to be big. National party staffer leaks emails to right wing blogger is hardly scandal material. Nicky, you might want to try, "John key has secret golf game with Kim Jong Un" or "John Key uses GCSB to Spy on Australian PM".. but this?

Sorry Nicky, but this time round you are the "Hollow Man"

Must be more to it?

No one is going to say "Oh - I thought Whale Oil was meant to be unbiased". Cameron Slater is die-hard National and has always boasted of links to National so hardly a big revelation. Must be more to it.

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