Archive for the ‘Hollow Men’ category

E-mail theft unfound

April 16, 2008

David Farrar has the news that the Police have found that the people who stole or leaked Don Brash’s e-mails (which were latter published in the Hollow Men book by Nicky Hager) stole them as printed copies, not electronic ones. This Police press release reveals the investigation found that a total of 475 seperate e-mails were used in the book. This means that if the e-mails were stolen, someone must have left a pile of 475 e-mails sittihng on a desk for a thief or draw to come in and grab them, and no-one notice the pile had gone. Sounds pretty unlikely.

So they were almost definately leaked, not stolen.

UPDATE (17 April): David Farrar has a follow up post, in which he points out that the police called them “thefts” instead of “leaks” and all they rule out is an external hacker breaching security. David points out that there are other ways the e-mails could have been stolen, other than the unlikely scenario of someone leaving a pile of 475 e-mails sitting on a desk or in a draw for a thief to come in and grab with no-one knowing where they are, such as a IT staffer with system access, an insecure password, or an opportunistic thief taking advantage of a computer accidently left on, which are all plausible to me.

Further, if the e-mails were leaked instead of stolen, then Hager could have on the strict condition that the Police keep the name secret, told the Police who the leak was, have the Police interview the leak, and then the Police put out a press release, saying the e-mails were leaked by someone who had legitimate access to them, and that they were not disclosing the name of the leak, and end the matter, with the public knowing there was no theft.

Also, it the e-mails were leaked, who leaked them? Asuming there was only one leak, that person must have had access to all 475 e-mails (and as many were sent to only a small number of people, for instance the “smoking gun” e-mail when in may 2005 the Brethren sent an attached document outlining their plans for their campaign, was only availiable to five people, the Brethren author, Don Brash, John Key, advisor Bryan Sinclair (who read it and comented on it according to a Dom Post article on November 29 2006), Stephen Joyce (National’s campaign manager, who the e-mail was forwarded on to) and anyone who these people forwarded on to (and there would presumably be records of where and when it was forwarded)). Only a very tiny number of people would have legitimately have access to all 475 e-mails. I can not find any internet version of the November 29 2006 Dominion Post article (from memory it was on the front page) but it deals with the fact the smoking gun e-mail was sent from the Brethren to Don Brash’s public e-mail address (where they are read and responded to by staff members, in this case Bryan Sinclair) and those deemed particularly relavent are forwarded on by the staff member to Don Brash’s private e-mail account. But Simon G did make a comment on this post at 8:26 am on the 29th of November 2006 refering to the article, in which Hager gave e-mails not published in the book to the Dominion Post, one was the e-mail where Bryan Sinclair forwarded the smoking gun e-mail from Don Brash’s public e-mail address to his private e-mails address shortly after recieving it, labbelling it as urgent, and adding the comment “From the Brethren. I usually avoid tangling you up with this, but this is worth reading as it looks like $$ are involved here”. Shortly after recieving (and presumably reading the e-mail) Don Brash replied to Bryan Sinclair “Thanks Bryan. … I have forwarded this to Stephen. Don.”. Take the reply of Don Brash to Bryan Sinclair. It was only sent to two people (Don Brash and Bryan Sinclair). Stephen Joyce didn’t recieve it, or else Don Brash wouldn’t have written “I have forwarded this to Stephen” with his e-mail, as Bryan would have been able to see Stephen Joyce’s e-mail address in the CC space of the e-mail. And the reply was written specifically to Bryan Sinclair, no one else. And it is unlikely Bryan Sinclair forwarded the reply e-mail to other people, as one would expect him to forward the original e-mail to whoever he wants to see it, before waiting for Don Brash’s reply. So we can be reasonably conficent the reply e-mail was only seen by two people: Don Brash and Bryan Sinclair. So if it was leaked Don Brash must have given it to Nicky Hager (and the idea that Don Brash leaked the Hollow Men e-mails to Hager is so insane to not be worth thinking about), or Bryan Sinclair must have leaked them (and Byran Sinclair was up to his neck in everything bad the National party did in the book, was a key Brash advisor, and had a long history of right-wing political views, and no obvious motive, so the possibility that Bryan Sinclair was the leak is very remote. So considering all this, I am now very confident the e-mails were stolen.

By who? Ultimately, only God, the thief and Hager know. And I hope one day, the New Zealand public gets to know.

UPDATE II (April 18): TV3 Reports that Don Brash often printed his e-mails out to read them at home, before putting them in a pile marked “S” to be shreded, where someone, instead of shreding them, could have stolen them. If so, this makes the prospect of theft by an insider even more likely.
Hat tip: The Standard