3 Apr 2013

PM defends role in GCSB appointment

10:47 pm on 3 April 2013

Prime Minister John Key is defending his role in the appointment of Ian Fletcher as director of the Government Communications Security Bureau.

Mr Key told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that despite ringing Mr Fletcher to tell him about the job, proper process had been followed in the appointment.

The Labour Party has raised questions about the appointment because of Mr Key's involvement and the fact he personally knew Mr Fletcher.

But Mr Key is playing down his relationship with the spy agency's director.

"Despite what people say, I don't know Ian that well. I'm much more friends with his brother but not actually with Ian but he had a very successful record and quite frankly we were looking for someone good. We spoke to a number of people. That's quite normal."

Mr Key says originally, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie had a shortlist of four candidates for the job but none were considered good enough.

It was at that point he rang Mr Fletcher and one other person to see whether they were interested in applying.

Mr Key says he would have been happy if another person had been recommended but Mr Fletcher was an ideal appointment.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Mr Rennie said only that the panel that interviewed Mr Fletcher was unanimous that he was suitable for appointment.

The Prime Minister's office has said Mr Fletcher, who took up the role last year, was the best candidate for the job.

Hager raises Dotcom issue

Investigative journalist Nicky Hager says he suspects Mr Key always knew about the agency's investigation of Kim Dotcom and is being covered by his friend Ian Fletcher.

Mr Key has previously said he only heard about the GCSB spying on Mr Dotcom in September last year when he was informed that it was illegal.

Mr Hager says because Mr Key has been coy about the appointment of Mr Fletcher it only raises more suspicion over the Kim Dotcom saga, something he calls the biggest controversies during the history of the GCSB.

"And so the person who would have come and discussed the issues with him, discussed how to handle the issues with him when it blew up and it was a scandal that was coming, was Ian Fletcher and now we find out months and months later he hadn't mentioned that not only was this an old friend from his school days but that this was the person who he had personally helped into the job."

Former head says process appears disturbing

The agency's former director, Air Marshal Sir Bruce Ferguson, says a candidate he knew was shortlisted for the top job was told there would not be any interviews and someone had already been chosen.

Sir Bruce told Campbell Live on TV 3 it appears the standard selection process has been abrogated in favour of one person and if that's the case, it's disturbing and wrong.

He told also Campbell Live he has heard morale is the lowest it has ever been at the agency but that's not solely because of the latest controversy.