Dirty Politics

The Follow-Up: The Rachinger Posts

In continuing from my previous post: The Rachinger Posts, the following post considers parts 8-11. The allegations effectively revolve around Slater and friends paying hackers to obtain information that can be subsequently used to embarrass opposition MP’s and force them to resign. 

In Part 8, [Information removed  as [person] has instructed his Lawyer to issue a letter denying Rachinger’s assertions  that (a) he was recently involved in illegal hacking and (b) that he is the Tomas involved in the online conversations with Rachinger. [Person] has requested the information be removed as he considers it defamatoy.] Desleigh Jameson (GM, Instra) co-ordinated Rachinger’s meeting with Lentino and the job offer to work with a person called “Tomas(?)”. The role was to be ambiguously called Tony’s Apprentice.

In Part 9, [information redacted for reason noted above]. He also claims that at this time, the identity of the Dirty Politics hacker – Rawshark was circulating in the Press Gallery. It was at this time that Rachinger tweeted “I am Rawshark” as a show of solidarity. Following this, the Instra connection died off, Jameson claims the role never existed and Rachinger receives no further contact.

It’s unclear why Instra shut him out.

Sidenote: Lentino, is the ex-Mega CEO who also spotted money for the Dotcom’s following the raid and asset freeze in January 2013. I am wondering if this will become relevant in later posts. Because there are some unanswered questions:

  • Was Lentino working with Dotcom against Slater
  • Was he working with Slater against Dotcom
  • Is all this purely coincidental
  • Did Lentino simply decide he didn’t want to work with Rachinger

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (4/5/2015)

On the information above, it appears that Lentino was most likely working with Slater following a fall out with Dotcom. 

In Part 10, Rachinger alleges that in private conversations, Slater makes clear his dislike of Lynne Prentice, author at The Standard.

Weak evidence: It can probably be ascertained from public record that Slater hates Prentice. After all, The Standard and Whale Oil Beef Hooked blogs are polar opposites [left vs right] and it’s likely the authors behind both sites are too. However, unlike previous posts where Rachinger provides screenshots to confirm many of the views Slater held, in this case, he has not. That could be for various reasons. If the conversation were spoken it would have required Rachinger to have taken audio recordings or for there to be another witness. Why does it matter? It could provide evidence of motive.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015)

Rachinger then provides a screen grab and email header involving Slater, David Farrar, and Matthew Hooten. The subject of that email involves whether someone can extract information on the authors at The Standard without hacking. Rachinger (somewhat facetiously) posits why he as a hacker was sent that email.

In Part 11, Rachinger makes the unequivocal statement that he was approached by Slater and offered $5,000 to hack The Standard and leave a backdoor to the server for ongoing access.

He claims to have received a $1,000 down payment from Slater and has provided screenshots of his bank statement to support this claim. He states that he never carried out the attack on The Standard.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015) further confirmation that the hacking was to be funded. 

See also (4/5/2015)

Weak evidence: The evidence provided by Rachinger, that he was approached to hack The Standard is circumstantial i.e. his assertion that Slater dislikes Prentice, a forwarded email (involving Slater, Farrar and Hooten) identifying a potential interest in obtaining unauthorised information, a down payment from Slater, and Rachinger’s testimony

This allows us to draw strong inferences but is not conclusive proof.

One problem is that the evidence trail is inconsistent with the email trail of previous job offers involving both Slater and Rachinger. However, given the nature of the job, there is the question as to whether email is an appropriate communication platform when organising a hacking operation? However, one might assume Threema would be used given its high level encryption. So the question is why Rachinger does not provide direct evidence explicitly showing Slater soliciting his services for hacking and leaving a backdoor in the Standard system, or more precisely, does he have evidence to that conclusively proves this?

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015)

Rachinger also alleges there were monetary incentives if the information achieved certain outcomes e.g. embarrassment or resignation of opposition MP’s. But he doesn’t provide evidence to substantiate that claim.

Rachinger claims that he was concerned about how ‘deep’ he was in the Whale Oil machine so he went to the Police and was interviewed and questioned without a Lawyer present. His devices were cloned for evidence and although the evidence sheet is not included in his post, he has made it available via his twitter:

He makes further allegations that Slater owns firearms and is connected to organised crime gangs and has powerful funders/backers.

It appears that Rachinger is ‘framing his case’ to illustrate how dangerous he believes Slater and friends to be. This is unsurprising if the allegations that he and his family have received death threats are true.

Weak evidence: Rachinger would probably need to furnish a copy of the firearms licensed to Slater to prove this claim, and. I doubt he has access to that information. Regarding the gang connection, in an earlier post, Rachinger provides a screen shot of a conversation that implies Slater is connected enough to know that the Headhunters gang assaulted Matt Blomfield due to monies Blomfield owed the gang.  This is not proof of Slater’s actual connection, since that information could come about via the kumara vine. It also is not evidence that this gang is somehow involved in the immediate issue. But the cumulative effect of that information does speak to the harm that Rachinger appears to believe that Slater through whomever his connections, is capable of inflicting.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015) on Slater’s admission to owning firearms. Additionally, apparently this is well known for readers of his blog and those who recall from the Dirty Politics book.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it appears that the Whale Oil machine continues to churn despite the revelations and media interest in Hager’s Dirty Politics. I don’t think that is exactly surprising to anyone. But just because it’s not surprising it’s also not an excuse to turn a blind eye either. That these operations allegedly involve the transfer of money and financial incentives to operatives to illegally extract information for corrupt political ends certainly adds a new and disturbing angle to this rancid behaviour. Additionally, the extent that the threats and operations sought to poison the blogosphere by targeting people behind the two largest left wing political blog sites in Aotearoa is also a real concern for democracy.  If it is true that Slater and friends will attempt to destroy any person and undermine every inch of democracy that threatens to expose the machine and disrupt their political agenda then we might want to consider the extent to which the claims made by Rachinger can be substantiated.

Note: It has been suggested to me that I tread very cautiously and very sceptically in dealing with the Rachinger posts. The purpose of writing these summaries was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the claims made. The analysis is by no means perfect. But I am interested in what readers think, so feel free to leave a (non-abusive, non-threatening) comment.

The Hacker and All the PM’s Men continued:

Part 8: [link removed as requested by [Person] through his Lawyer]

Part 9: [link removed as requested by [Person] through his Lawyer]

Part 10: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-ten-be7aa6d1839f

Part 11: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-eleven-2f3322a0b22a

The Rachinger Posts

Image source: PC World

For the past six or so months, Ben Rachinger has claimed to have a deep knowledge of the extent of corruption in New Zealand’s political system. He has prided Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics” for bringing to the fore the diseased apparatus toxifying the New Zealand government and media. Rachinger has recently begun publishing a series of posts of his direct experience in the Whaleoil machine at the centre of the corruption in this country. [Links to all seven posts he has published so far are available at the bottom of this post]

There has been some criticism of his posts. Some readers suggesting they don’t really reveal anything new, others criticising gaps in the information and some dismissing him as a tin foiler.

Whatever your view, here is what I surmise from the series so far:

Rachinger was a Young Nat and deeply concerned about the lack of information available to voters in the lead up to election. In particular, he took exception to Kim Dotcom’s play for political power and published a video explaining Dotcom’s criminal history and distasteful ethics. He also addressed the rot in the National Party who he supported at that time.  Both videos were published on Cameron Slater’s Whaleoil blog site.

Following this Rachinger built a rapport with Slater offering to assist him with his blog security issues – something Rachinger is apparently skilled in. This led to a job offer to join Slater’s ‘Freed’ media venture. Some emails were exchanged.

When Dirty Politics unraveled Rachinger began to question what he’d got himself into. This was confirmed to him when Slater showed a complete lack of empathy toward the murders of the WINZ workers who had been shot dead at their workplace in Ashburton.

Soon after the election Rachinger advises he was contacted by Police and subsequently did some undercover work for them to try identify Rawshark and gather intel on the Whaleoil machine.

[Missing information: Why did Police make contact with Rachinger in the first place?]

Rachinger continued to work with Slater and his network to identify Rawshark.  But claims to never have engaged in any of the illegal activity that was being carried out.

Communications took place via an encrypted service based in Switzerland called Threema. The service was used on the recommendation of the Israeli Embassy in NZ.

[Inference: Presumably this allowed operators to bypass detection by security agencies or the prying eyes of the State apparatus.]

Rachinger learned that Slater’s network consisted of ten people and they were trying to gather intel to use against Laila Harre and Martyn Bradbury. He was introduced to someone called Tomas with a criminal history as a black hat hacking operative. Tomas was allegedly based in Poland. A subsequent screengrab suggests that Tomas was Jason Ede – the mastermind identified in Dirty Politics.

[Missing information: There is a disjuncture between the screen grab stating (a) Tomas is Ede, and the suggestion that (b) Tomas was actually Tomas Grygoruk. I can’t make out if Tomas is (a) or (b) ]

Rachinger writes that the Israeli embassy were interested in investigating the Rawshark case too, for a not yet specified reason. He then shows he is eventually accepted into the Whaleoil machine when Slater tells him Tony Lentino has a job for him.

To summarise, the Whaleoil machine involves National Party heavies, the Israeli government, Cathy Odgers and a team of hackers not afraid to carry out illegal activities and Tony Lentino. They use an encrypted message service to bypass security agencies and hack into systems to illegally obtain information on people they want to get revenge on. Rachinger claims to have gone undercover for Police to help identify the Rawshark hacker and gather dirt on Whaleoil. Rachinger implies that Tony Lentino pulls a lot of strings.

This is the extent of the Rachinger posts so far.

At the moment there isn’t exactly anything new or at least anything that we hadn’t already inferred. But it is potentially a reinforcement of Dirty Politics and it is shaping up to look like an expose by a person who was directly involved in the Whaleoil machine and who claims to have a personal experience of how this disease operates and precisely who is involved and to what extent.

Shorter still? Here is how I’d describe what I think Rachinger is trying to say so far:

New Zealand’s political corruption – It’s like chucking back a stale marmite sandwich because there’s nothing else to eat and finding out afterwards Slater and his friends took turns discharging their lung butter into it.

Note: If you think I’ve missed something  or misunderstood let me know in the comments.

The Series of The Hacker and All the PM’s Men by Ben Rachinger

Part 1: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-one-a094cf55ac9c

Part 2: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-4d3014ac4ace

Part 3: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-three-53dc14a53a71

Part 4: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-four-ac8c01388bc6

Part 5: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-five-85cbc9d78430

Part 6: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-six-da511d67e48d

Part 7: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-seven-1bd54289b05e

Silence might imply what you want to avoid

With the first massive fallout from the release of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics Judith Collins has finally tendered her resignation as a Minister.

As Matt Nippert reports, her resignation was:

“sparked by a Fairfax investigation into a smear campaign by bloggers apparently backed by controversial financier Mark Hotchin” who “secretly paid bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers to write attack posts undermining the Serious Fraud Office, its director Adam Feeley, and the Financial Markets Authority, who were probing his collapsed Hanover Finance in 2011 and 2012”

Many commentators, pundits and journalists have extensively reported on what was uncovered in Hager’s book, and I presume most readers would have a fair idea about the extent of the claims and the subsequent evidence that has emerged since the books release, so I won’t re-cover it.

Interestingly, many predicted the release of the book would likely see a rise in the polls for the left bloc, but what has emerged is somewhat intriguing – NZ First (~6.3%) and the Conservative Party (~4.6%) [as reported on The Nation TV3] suggesting the possibility that both parties may exceed the 5% threshold to enter Parliament. Whether these results are related to Dirty Politics or a reflection of the success of both parties campaigns is arguable.

But the polls aren’t my concern in this post. My concern is about those parties who have remained to a large degree silent on Dirty Politics. NZ Labour, NZ Greens, New Zealand First, InternetMANA and the Conservatives have all been very vocal about cleaning up the  state of NZ politics through an independent inquiry and more robust processes to keep politics transparent and free of the collusion that appears to have taken place.

It might be expected that the ACT Party and United Future would keep a relatively low profile, given they have openly stated a preference for working with the National Party post-election. Notwithstanding, that both parties claim to be principled and support the role of an open and accountable government. But the big silent elephant in the room is the Māori Party and this has not gone unnoticed by the public at large. Critics and many supporters (potential and actual) are left wondering why, a party that claims to be an ‘independent Māori voice’ in Parliament has been absent from the general media coverage on this issue. However, Te Ururoa Flavell, Co-Leader of the Māori Party and Waiariki candidate, told the Rotorua Daily Post that:

 I can’t comment on the book because I haven’t read it. But what I do know is that there are individuals across the political spectrum in New Zealand that engage in dirty politics. It’s not something that the Maori Party has ever done or condones. Manaakitanga (respecting and looking after others) is one of our foundational values and we have always conducted ourselves in a way that reflects this principle. We’re interested in party policies and how we can work with others to effect change. The hacking of emails is not a new phenomenon but it compromises the interactions between MPs and constituents and is a breach of privacy. In that regard we are deeply disturbed”

It is a fair comment given that Flavell hasn’t actually read the book. However, he implies an argument that has been met with much resistance for good reason: that it happens across the political spectrum.

Most would agree that attack politics and possibly even this dirty politics is pervasive, but that in my mind is even more reason to make a statement in strong opposition to its practice. The hacking of emails too is an important issue, but the more pressing issue missed in Flavell’s statement was the collusion and corruption between a Minister of the Crown, bloggers, and other public officials. This may just be a result of not having read the book and not having the contextual grounding to form a stronger opinion or to take a firmer stance.

Flavell also indicates the party’s resistance to commenting in any detail on the claims made in the book also centres around the party’s strategy to reorient the election focus on promoting policies. His mention of manaakitanga, suggests the party want to avoid being part of the dirty politics machinery so are intentionally distancing the party and candidates from being caught up in the negativity of the dirty politics media coverage.

However, an important part of any political campaign involves responding to issues of public importance, such as the very serious claims that are still emerging following the books release. It is possible to make a strong statement that censures the behaviours of dirty politics without being drawn into the negativity while still focusing on promoting the party’s policies. That is part of the balancing act required by political campaigns. Because no matter how well-intentioned the Māori Party are in steering clear of the ‘dirty politics’ coverage, it has brought into question for many potential Māori Party voters whether or not the party are an ‘independent voice’ for Māori or whether they are the silent friend of National. One of my worries is whether there exists an unspoken sense of obligation to the National Party because of the invitation to work in government despite not being ‘needed’ (in a numbers sense anyhow) to form the last two National led governments.

In my view,  it would be incredibly unwise if such a feeling existed because it would undermine the credibility of the party’s ‘independent voice for Māori’ message. Sure, it is a tight rope to walk when you are a party who has openly expressed its willingness to work with whichever party can form the government and not wanting to rock the boat so much that your own waka capsizes. But being independent means being just that: standing on your principles and holding to account those who have wronged no matter what political party is responsible or implicated in the wrongdoing.

For supporters of the party navigating conversations on social media has been particularly difficult absent the strong guidance from leadership on this issue.  In my view, if the Māori Party want to overcome the perception that their silence is an act of support in favour of the National Party, then they will need to make a clear and firm statement that they oppose collusion, corruption and abuses of state power and perhaps even offer some guidance as to whether the party will support an inquiry and other measures to help purge our political system of all anti-democratic practices.

ADDENDUM: 

I’ve been receiving feedback from various comment streams about my approach in this post. And I agree that I haven’t here placed as much emphasis on manaakitanga as is necessary to understand the Māori Party’s position. For a full outline of Māori Party kaupapa see: Ngā Kaupapa o te Pāti Māori

Manaakitanga is behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

By such behaviour, all parties are elevated and our status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

The Party must endeavour to express manaakitanga towards others – be they political allies or opponents, Māori or non-Māori organisations – taking care not to trample mana, while clearly defining our own.

Tikanga of the Māori Party derived from Manaakitanga

To be recognised by Māori as a political organisation that does manaaki the aspirations of Māori.

To ensure that relationships between the Party and whānau, hapū, iwi, and other Māori organisations are elevating and enhancing

To promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is important

To ensure that members agree to work together, treat each other with respect, and act with integrity in their party work

To involve all peoples in the process of rebuilding our nation based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

I maintain that public opinion/perception is important but my main concern is that threats to democracy in NZ must be dealt with head on because without democratic processes, such as accountability, then the political parties and the people they represent cannot be guaranteed free and fair representation under the Westminster system we have.

In my view, Māori have been on the receiving end of a history of dirty politics particularly through intentional breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, our culture and rights as indigenous people being legislated against, ongoing institutional racism, and the manipulation of public opinion that has oppressed us as a people. It was the fight of our tupuna that allowed us to be heard and the fight of our many activists (in their many forms) that gave Māori the strength and ability to assert kaupapa Māori politics to counter the forces that work against us. That fight is not over and the struggle goes on.

I do consider that manaakitanga is very important and I wholly commend the Māori Party’s commitment to that kaupapa. My personal view, is that a fair and just society requires (as mentioned in the post) accountability and I truly believe this can be done without ‘trampling the mana’ of others but through co-operation with others to build an environment that is ‘based on mutual respect and harmonious relationships’.

One of the key things that I believe would assist in helping others to understand kaupapa Māori politics is more education on the concepts and providing practical examples. I do think the Māori Party show us how kaupapa Māori works, but I wonder if the public might be better informed if there were more coverage of these concepts, what they mean to Māori and how they can enrich the lives of Pakeha too.

I appreciate that the relative silence I talked about in the post is an expression of manaakitanga, and also resultant from a lack of media interest because the party’s comments that have been made weren’t perhaps as controversial as other parties. I just personally feel manaakitanga can be expressed in other ways too. I don’t here presume to speak for all Māori, this is my opinion, and I wholly respect that others may disagree with my views on this matter and many others.