Thursday, April 12, 2018

A formal finding of deceit

The Chief Ombudsman released their decision on the release and withholding of information around Operation Burnham the other day. At the time, I focused on the surprising news that a foreign country was deciding who kiwi soldiers were allowed to shoot - something which now seems to be part of the formal inquiry. But there was also another surprise in the report: a formal finding that NZDF had lied to the New Zealand public. Here's what the Ombudsman had to say about the release of information about Operation Burnham's location:

[A] key plank of NZDF’s rebuttal of Hit & Run was that the authors were wrong about the location of the operation, and appeared ‘to have confused interviews, stories and anecdotes from locals’ from one operation with another operation. NZDF’s rebuttal suggested that there was no connection between the account of events in the book and the operation that did take place.

Having reviewed information about the location of the Operation, I formed the provisional opinion that the information NZDF had publicly released did not fully reflect the information NZDF held on this issue, particularly in relation to the photos of buildings in
Hit & Run. NZDF agreed to consider releasing some more information on this topic.

[Emphasis added]

Or to put it another way, they were telling the public that Hager and Stephenson were wrong, while they held and kept secret information showing that they were in fact right. No wonder the Chief of Defence Force resigned. This sort of systematic, calculated deceit is absolutely unacceptable in a public agency in a democratic state, and it makes you wonder whether NZDF thinks they are at war with us, their bosses. But while Lt General Keating fronted the briefings which deceived the public, other defence staff must have been involved in designing these lies. They need to be held to account for their actions too.