By Patrick Gower
The Kim Dotcom spy saga just keeps getting messier for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and our politicians.
In the wake of last night's revelations on 3 News about Labour's claim that the Prime Minister made a comment to GCSB staff about Dotcom at the spy headquarters, John Key has retaliated.
“I'm afraid its utter desperation from Mr Shearer who really should just apologise,” says Mr Key.
But Labour leader David Shearer isn’t backing down.
“I am asking the questions that New Zealanders would expect me to ask,” he says.
The question is – was there a video recording made of Mr Key making a quip about Dotcom to GCSB staff after the February 29 meeting at which he has said he cannot remember being briefed about Dotcom?
“There is no recording from GCSB – there has never been a recording from GCSB,” says Mr Key.
“They've checked when those cameras were used – they've checked with their back up tapes, they've checked the back up logs – all these things are monitored, and there's never been a recording.”
That led Mr Shearer to make another allegation, that Labour's sources inside the GCSB said someone from GCSB director Ian Fletcher's office had seized the video recording.
“They removed the hard drive from the staff who [they] believed had a copy of the video stored on that hard drive,” says Mr Shearer.
He later went even further – implying it had been destroyed.
“The GCSB is saying – after seizing hard drives – they are now saying that the video does not exist. I can leave the rest to your imagination.”
Mr Shearer admits he hasn't seen it - but is adamant his GCSB sources are right.
“My understanding is it was a handheld camera.”
Mr Key won't rule out the possibility of a private recording by a GCSB member, but told Mr Shearer to "put up or shut up".
“If Mr Shearer has a private recording which someone may have recorded on a phone or whatever it might be – he should feel free to put that in the public domain,” says Mr Key.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister could not recall making the quip.
“Look I don't know, who knows – but I don't recall it.”
Today, he implied it might have happened.
“I'm notorious for cracking jokes at events that are in the public domain,” he says.
However Mr Shearer still wants a definite answer.
“Why can't John Key just come out and say, ‘No. I didn't talk about Dotcom and GSCB because I didn't know about it at that particular time?'
“What he's saying is, ‘I don't recall, I may have said something or not.' Now, that's not believable.”
This high-stakes game of spy-versus-spy and leader-versus-leader is all about who to believe. And this is not going away for either of them. Mr Key will be coming back to Parliament next week to correct the record about when the GCSB told him about Dotcom – effectively a forced apology.
And Mr Shearer is under real pressure now. He needs that recording – any recording – to make his story stack up.