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Will 'Dirty Politics' Bring Down New Zealand's Prime Minister?

A new book written using hacked information is dominating New Zealand media while political parties try and get their policies heard ahead of next month’s election.
August 26, 2014, 1:00am

Just one month until the New Zealand election and the country’s ruling party is feeling nuclear-level media fallout from a book written using hacked information. Political parties are trying to get policies out amid a media storm caused by ugly revelations in Dirty Politics, authored by internationally renowned investigative journalist Nicky Hager. The 138-page book was released almost two weeks ago and focusses around the long-armed attack strategies used by the National party to belittle their political opponents while retaining a smiling facade, mainly fronted by the PM John Key, whose popularity has plunged since the paperback dropped. Central to the book is vicious right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, who apparently conceived and carried out the majority of these attacks through his site Whale Oil Beef Hooked (a play on the Irish pronunciation of “well I’ll be fucked”).

Slater became the target of three day denial-of-service hack in February, shortly after posting a particularly inflammatory entry entitled: Feral Dies In Greymouth, Did World a Favour, concerning the death of a young man in a car crash. The following month, material garnered through the hack was mailed to Hager on a 8-gig USB drive, containing thousands of damning documents of Facebook conversations and emails between Slater and his allies, which included National Party figures, political consultants, other right-wing bloggers, as well as staff from the Prime Minister’s own office. The initial run of Dirty Politics sold out only hours after it hit store shelves on August 14th, and the publishers have had trouble keeping up with demand since. As distasteful details emerged about the dealings of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, the legitimacy of the date used to write the book was called into question. While Hager pondered the possibility of releasing some of the correspondence to back up the book’s claims, the unknown hacker took things into their own hands, and set up a Twitter account under the handle @whaledump to opened a can of wormy documents on the web.

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The first dump came on 18th August—just four days after the release of Dirty Politics—and included a variety of screenshot correspondence used as the basis for the book. The deposit came via Mega.co.nz and have since been removed, but some quick thinkers grabbed the documents before they were gone for good. Since that first leak, the convivial @whaledump account has been moderately active, dribbling out other documents and making the odd humorous crack at the expense of Slater and his cohorts. But if Twitter is to be believed, the apparent hacker is now holidaying in the South Pacific.

Product endorsement https://t.co/YvkZWH5CNN #dirtypolitics

— Whaledump (@whaledump) August 18, 2014

This is not all about party politics. Be patient. You'll see.

— Whaledump (@whaledump) August 19, 2014

In Vanuatu. Don't have any important briefings while I'm gone.

— Whaledump (@whaledump) August 23, 2014

Understandably, nothing is known about the identity of the apparent hacker, but there has been plenty of speculation. Slater quickly pointed the finger at Mega founder Kim Dotcom, who has for the last few years been a thorn in the right-wing, and increasingly so by bankrolling the newly formed Internet Party from his Grand Canyon pockets. Dotcom’s history in plundering other’s websites and connection to the Mega website, where the first dump was placed, also made him an easy target for blame.

The German native has repeatedly denied the claims, even this weekend as the Internet Party launched with policy with alliance partner Mana, which ended in pandemonium while reporters attempted to ask questions around hacking. Author Nicky Hager has also denied Dotcom’s involvement saying he would have “run a mile” if Dotcom had anything to do with obtaining the material. Hager went on to say that the hacker, whom he connected with through tech-geek contacts, is “an intelligent, thoughtful person” that he was comfortable working with. He added that the hacker, had expressed an ongoing disgust at Slater’s offensive blogging style, but the tipping point which prompted them to attack the Whale Oil blog was the callous “feral” post back in February.

In the preface of Dirty Politics, Hager explained that the payload of correspondence he received contained many deeply personal conversations that he did not disclose. However, with @whaledump at large, those potentially embarrassing interactions may surface. In the meantime, New Zealand’s political parties are trying to concentrate on getting their election policies heard through the almost constant chatter about the revelations in the book, particularly the Prime Minister who has literally run away from reporters endless questions raised by the book’s contents.

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