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GCSB inquiry head: Seeking emails was 'necessary'

Published: 7:46AM Wednesday August 21, 2013 Source: ONE News

The head of the inquiry into the GCSB report leak says he considered it was necessary to seek emails between Peter Dunne and a journalist to inquire into Mr Dunne's activities.
 
But David Henry says in hindsight he should have asked for some guidance on what information was legally accessible.

And Parliamentary Service has apologised "to those involved" in the saga which saw the journalist's records handed over to the inquiry.

These developments came on the first day of a probe by Parliament's Privileges Committee into the so-called "Henry Inquiry" over its accessing of Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance's phone, swipe card and email records to track her source for stories about a top level report on the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

David Henry, a former top public servant who headed the inquiry, told the committee that he tried to convince United Future leader Peter Dunne to let him see the emails between himself and Ms Vance but couldn't force him.

Mr Henry said: "I considered that it was necessary for the purpose of the inquiry to seek that limited information not for the purpose of inquiring into the journalist per say but for the purpose of inquiring into the activities of Mr Dunne. And the information I requested was limited to the crucial period when I believed this leak had occurred.

"I simply asked for what I thought was necessary, and...I'm not trying to dump on Parliamentary Services, but I left it to those people to determine what could be supplied."

Justice Minister Judith Collins told Mr Henry she found it to be "quite a chilling experience" to discover that the emails and the privacy of ministers' and staff information was treated with a "contemptuous attitude" during the inquiry.

She questioned Mr Henry on whether he thought he should have received clarification before receiving the information.

Mr Henry said he had reasonable grounds to think that any information supplied to him by the Parliamentary Service during the inquiry that he had requested would be appropriately supplied according to whatever the rules they were operating under.

He said with hindsight asking the Speaker for some guidance on what information was accessible "would have been a wise thing to do", but said he had conducted the inquiry as fairly as he could.

Mr Dunne resigned as Revenue Minister after refusing to hand over email records to Mr Henry.

'Modern day sleuth'

Act Party leader John Banks accused Mr Henry of being a "modern day sleuth" who was "trawling for information" without thinking he'd ever be held to account.

Mr Henry responded: "I carried out the inquiry as best I could."

Mr Banks said Mr Henry trampled on the privacy of MPs and journalists throughout his inquiry, and he questioned if Mr Henry would do anything differently now.

Mr Henry said he "would have known that at the end of the day that the information provided from the journalist log was not particularly useful", saying that hindsight was "a wonderful thing".

New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters asked Mr Henry whether he thought he was up to the job of carrying out this investigation.

Mr Henry answered that he was.

ONE News political reporter Michael Parkin reported that Mr Henry is quite happy to be held to account.

"I'm the person responsible for the conduct of the inquiry solely," Mr Henry told the committee.

The Prime Minister's right hand man is usually in the background. But today his Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson was front and centre.

"In hindsight the most simple thing would have been to go to each Minister and say 'the Prime Minister requires you to co-operate fully with the inquiry, please give written authorisation,'" Mr Eagleson said.

It has been revealed this investigation cost $42,000 of taxpayer money, and some say it has been a waste of money.

"As at today we still do not know who leaked the Kitteridge report," said Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson.

Perhaps more will be revealed when the committee sits tomorrow. Peter Dunne says he may be fronting up.

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