Whale Oil blogger revealed as man behind hack plot
Newshub can reveal controversial right-wing blogger Cameron Slater was at the centre of a plot to hack political website The Standard.
His motivation was to embarrass and undermine Labour leader Andrew Little by unmasking anonymous contributors to the site he claimed were connected to the party.
Slater, who writes the Whale Oil blog, was charged with attempting to procure access to a computer system for a dishonest purpose on December 17 last year. However, court orders prevented the media revealing his identity, detailing the exact charge against him or naming the website involved.
IT consultant Ben Rachinger was charged at the same time, accused of deceiving Slater out of $1000. Suppression orders also meant Newshub couldn't connect that charge, Slater and The Standard plot that was first revealed on TV3's The Nation.
Slater sought a court order to keep his name and the details of this case secret forever. However Newshub and others, including the owner of The Standard, fought him in court and won.
The right-wing blogger has in the past been an outspoken critic of name suppression and has more than half-a-dozen convictions for breaching court orders.
But Slater argued there had been an orchestrated campaign to vilify him in the wake of the Dirty Politics book, and a plot to trap him into offending.
"I feel that I have been a fool who has made mistakes for which I am taking responsibility, but also believe that I have become inveigled in a sort of sick game between the police, Mr Rachinger and the media who each in their own ways are working to continue the ongoing attacks on me and my family," said Slater.
The blogger also said he suffered depression and was concerned the publicity would have an adverse effect on his health.
Manukau District Court judge Richard McIlraith said the starting point in the criminal court is one of open justice, and he was not satisfied the publicity would cause Slater extreme hardship.
A police summary of facts says in January and February 2015 Slater and Rachinger's attention turned to The Standard.
"Slater was of the belief that a number of Labour Party politicians wrote on The Standard under pseudonyms, and exposing this would be of benefit for his personal agenda."
TV3's The Nation last year revealed hundreds of encrypted texts between Rachinger and Slater discussing "the mission".
Slater paid a $1000 down payment for the hack. The contract for the cyber break-in was worth a total of $5000 on completion.
But the mission was never completed; Rachinger reported the plot to police.
At the time Slater denied any involvement, but has since admitted his role as part of the police diversion scheme that allows some offenders to escape conviction if they admit guilt.
As part of the deal Slater had to complete 40 hours of community service for the charity KidsCan.
The owner of The Standard, Lynn Prentice, described Slater's punishment as a "wet blanket" and said it provides no disincentive for anyone looking to do the same thing.
He said it took him more than 25 hours to check that no one had actually managed to breach the site and then another four days to tighten security.
Mr Prentice says Slater has displayed more than a little hypocrisy in wanting to keep his court case secret.
A police spokesperson told Newshub the option of diversion for Slater was carefully considered against the relevant criteria.
They said Slater went through the same process as everyone else, and was entitled to be considered for diversion as he met the criteria.
The spokesperson added previous convictions against an individual are not necessarily a bar to diversion being granted in other matters.
They also pointed out that "police policy" is not law, and that police are able to use discretion in how it is applied.