, 161 tweets, 27 min read Read on Twitter
I have never seen as prolonged a smile as Jon Stephenson's during 8 hours of Operation Burnham hearing 4 day 1.
The following are approximate quotes...
"there were mistakes... things that could have been done better... lessons to be learned"
- counsel for NZDF referring not to the Operation, but to internal handling of material and the transparency of its public statements
"it is not known how the IAF report [that sounds civilian casualties were possible] came to be in a NZDF safe in the office of the Chief of Defence" no later than September 2011 while telling the public repeatedly for years later that they did not have it.
Jerry Mateparae said that if he had known about the possibility of casualties, he would have ordered his own inquiry.

Whether that's true or not, the obvious question to Tim Eating later this week, is why he didn't feel the same.
Jerry Mateparae - "I don't recall" at least six times over the three or so hours. That long ago, maybe fair enough?

"in hindsight" got five outings. Every one were things that seem to be obvious at the time
Mateparae: "I accept people can see this as the NZDF doggedly avoiding seeking info on civilian casualties"
Mateparae: "it's the nature of military settings [that you can't return to the villages to enquire about casualties]"
Mateparae: "I don't know the context of my successor's work programme"

Response to a question about whether Rhys Jones should have picked things up as Mateparae's term ended less than a year after Operation Burnham.

Work. Plan.
Witness 2 was Gordon Smith, Chief of Staff for a period, a position I think Mateparae described as the Chief's right hand man. He sees just about every document that goes to Ministers, out as OIAs, etc
It seems that Minister Coleman's office discovered the IAF report in a bundle of docs sent over when there was precious coverage of Operation Burnham.

Coleman was grumpy.
Smith recorded notes from speaking with Coleman.

Coleman talked of eroding trust in NZDF because of this.
Coleman thought the NZDF was creating a 'shielding effect'.

If you were wondering whether Operation Burnham was covered up, as Hit & Run claims, it seems that Coleman was too (just years and years before the book was published).
Coleman seems to have used the word 'unaccountability'.
The bit about a 'shielding effect' caused a big delay at the Inquiry.

It was redacted in some participants' material, and available in others.

There was discussion about whether it should be released...
The counsel for the inquiry said yes, this is a public inquiry.

The NZDF said it should be treated as 'free and frank opinion', and tried to keep it secret.

Eventually they agreed to release it.
Whatever this inquiry ends up finding, counsel to the inquiry did an incredible job. This will not be a whitewash.
Smith claimed he did not really know about how the NZDF viewed Jon Stephenson despite being there when the damages award was made.
One of Smith's notes at another time reads: "the allegation that we are war criminals is unpatriotic".

Smith claimed he does not recall who told him that, but it may have been the Chief of Defence Force (I didn't note when this note was made, so don't know which Chief).
Most of the rest was questioning about how the NZDF came to tell the public that casualties were unfounded when they had:
- an investigation saying otherwise
- informant reports
- a grumpy Minister who had seen the investigation
And other questions about why the NZDF suggested Hit & Run was about a different operation to Operation Burnham given the overwhelming similarities and the books reference to Stephenson's story on Maori TV's Native Affairs
Day 2...
Colonel Rian McKinstry was the first witness.

He was asked about an email (he received?) from another member of the NZDF who asked along the lines of:...
"how do we determine civilians from insurgents in an insurgent-controlled village? I have my own thoughts, but I don't want to commit it to email because of how discoverable it would be."

Very approximate quote; wish the transcript was available sooner than next Friday.

McKinstry wished to correct his submitted written account.

It read that Wayne Mapp was in operation command (JTAC), when he had seen Mapp return to his hotel as Mapp requested.
McKinstry said he basically wrote his submission but also with assistance of NZDF legal.

Somehow the false statement about Mapp had made it into his statement because "there had been a general understanding that Mapp had been there".
There must now be questions about how much contamination and standardisation of witness statements there has been.

Witnesses appearing behind closed doors have the option of individual legal support being paid for by NZDF, and there are strict walls.

Where are those walls here?
On Day 1, the NZDF asked the Inquiry members whether 'corrected' statements could substitute straight in for the original submitted ones.

The members declined that petition.

This has resulted in cross-examination on changes in accounts like the above.

McKinstry was asked by counsel for Stephenson and Hager about the misaligned helicopter gun. In the public video, it is shown missing by some 20m, and in the IAF report buildings housing women and children.
Counsel asked whether McKinstry would expected JTAC (operation control watching via drone) to be contacted by the US copters if the gun had be misfiring earlier. The implication being, if it had been misfiring earlier, perhaps they shouldn't have fired in the village.
McKinstry said he wouldn't expect the copters to be in contact unless something had been going wrong, but also noted that the subsequent bigger US report (not the IAF one) did note that gunners were making manual adjustments to their targeting.
As I suggested in my updated submission. The full videos - not the edited public ones - will certainly show misfiring. It will show the US copter knew it was missing by considerable distance, yet fired in a village anyway.
It is difficult to believe that control did not know this.
Tim Keating's carefully-chosen words saying they only knew rounds were falling short in the village suggests (1) completely implausibly it was only in the village or (2) they knew it wasn't just in the village but wanted it to seem that way.
I just found another page of notes.

This was to the next witness, Brigadier Chris Parsons, not McKinstry.
The (more accurate, but still prob slightly inaccurate) quote reads:

"...but I will resist the urge [to put it in an email] due to the discoverable nature of emails"
Strong suggestions by counsel to the Inquiry that Parsons's testimony was untruthful.

"Brigadier, you're getting yourself in a bit of a tangle here"
Parsons claimed he was able to view part of the IAF report because 'Kiwis are generally well-regarded'

That ol' Kiwi charm.
Counsel describing Parsons's account of seeing only a few lines of a 4 page briefing, over the shoulder of the US official, being confused about the acronym AF, discussing things with the US official to be sure of his understanding...:

"an elaborate explanation"
"almost inexplicably confused"
"and I'll put it to you, that what you've told us is not true"
Parsons said he did not recall if he brought a copy of the IAF report back to NZ (the report which found its way into the safe).

Then said he was sure he didn't.

Then, under author cross-examination, that he couldn't recall.

That was his final answer.
In among all the stress, there was a nice moment when at the lunchbreak, Parsons seemed to genuinely ask how Stephenson's health was.
Day 3...
I'll pick up more stuff later, but first this:
Tim Keating completed his testimony and cross examination began. In his testimony, Keating said:
"our concerns about the book's treatment of location went well beyond the name given to the village in which the operation took place...
...The geo-reference point, together with the orientation of the river, the layout of the buildings, and the description of the topography within the narrative were at odds with what we knew about the valley in which the operation was conducted"
I believe he is saying meaning the layout of the buildings relative to each other and to other features of the valley (which may have been a bit off in Hit & Run), but if he's meaning the layout of the buildings themselves, he's got some explaining to do
Even if he only means the relative to each other and to other features of the valley, he has some explaining to do as to why NZDF did not match the actual photos of buildings in the book to satellite imagery as I - and @keith_ng so memorably - did.
@keith_ng Keating has so far only appeared for an hour. He'll have many more hours tomorrow. Here are some other highlights so far...
@keith_ng On location again: "...that is not to say I used the location as a diversion".

This will be a surprise to the NZDF as a whole who had sorted the location issue days prior to the March 2017 press conference.
@keith_ng It'll also come as a surprise to journalists like @toby_etc who wrote this:
@keith_ng @toby_etc And even to some grunt who was asked to accentuate the difference in locations.
On mistakes:

Most witnesses have used terms like "lessons learned" and "in hindsight", perhaps running a line prepared by NZDF.

Not Keating though...

Counsel to the Inquire: "Any mistakes?"
Keating: "No"
Counsel: "Not even in hindsight?"
Keating: "No"
On the importance of Operation Burnham, previous witnesses have talked about how on the radar the operation was for the PM (Key), Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

And how much additional attention this would have required.
Not Keating, though. The operation was 'routine'.
Chris Parsons continued under cross examination at the start of the day.

The big theme was that he considered a 14 line email from someone who claims to have read a single paragraph of the IAT report to be more credible than...
multiple press releases by ISAF; intelligence from trusted sources in Afghanstan; and his own eyes when he viewed drone footage of rounds hitting villagers' homes.
Counsel: "Another opportunity to avoid misleading the Minister - again - has been lost"
Parsons: "Yes"
Parsons put part of the email from the NZDF senior official in quotation marks. This had the effect of making it seem like it was from the IAT report, rather than the officials apparent (if it even happened) misunderstanding of the single paragraph.
Parsons explaining why he used quotation marks: "I don't have a Masters in English"
Counsel later: "A remarkable lack of curiosity"
Counsel again: "Have you heard the expression: Nelsonian Blindness"
Parsons: "I'm not a naval guy"
Counsel not buying Parsons's shit joke: "Turning a blind eye"
Parsons: "I take a lot of issue with the views the Minister expressed"

He didn't elaborate on what issues he had with these views:
Colonel Karl Cummins was next...
One of the consistent things between Hit & Run and the NZDF account is that a soldier was injured.

They were injured when a wall collapsed on them after they had detonated explosive to gain access to a house.
That story was in Cummins' written submission, but he asked that it be struck out during his verbal telling of the same submission.

The reason?: He did not know about the soldier being injured by a collapsed wall.

Yet *somehow* it had made it into his submission.
That somehow is NZDF legal preparing part or most of witnesses' statements.

It is contaminating, standardising and biasing witnesses' submissions. It is difficult to know which parts of witnesses statements are their honest views, and which aren't.

@thomasmanch Cummins also talked extensively about the 14 line email and the 'fleeting glance' the author of it had of a single paragraph.

After a question by counsel: "I can see how it could look like grasping for the answer we wanted"
@thomasmanch I have no notes for Rear Admiral (Retired) Jack Steer!
@thomasmanch Colonel (Retired) Michael Thompson was the owner of the safe which the magical missing IAT report was found in.
@thomasmanch His job involved recording when documents were prepared, when they were put in the safe, and enough information about the document so that it could be retrieved easily when needed.

This information was recorded in a register.
@thomasmanch The provider of the briefing to which the long-sought-after IAT report was attached was unknown, but someone in the Office of the Chief of Defence (total number, including admin staff about 15).
@thomasmanch The title in the record was somewhat descriptive, referencing - I believe - civilian casualties (though I might be wrong here).

But not descriptive enough to note it contained the long-sought-after IAT report.
@thomasmanch When questioned by counsel to the authors, Thompson said it would be rare that a single important document like the IAT report would go in the safe without a clear description.

Counsel's suggestion was that this was to hide the report by Thompson or whoever provided it to him.
@thomasmanch My only note for the last person of the day before Keating, Lieutenant General (Retired) Rhys Jones, is that counsel to the authors asked why the US/ISAF would share video footage with NZ which showed rounds hitting homes, but not the IAT report which said the same.
@thomasmanch A good question that didn't, by my notes, have an answer.
@thomasmanch Tomorrow: more Keating.
@thomasmanch Thomas Manch on questions of witness tampering.
Chris Parsons busted out a 'what I can day' yesterday.
Correction to above few tweets: Peter Kelly, not Chris Parsons.
Parsons was day 2, Kelly day 2 and 3.
Huge update in the morning. The person who put the IAT report in the safe will soon be revealed. Position in NZDF known, but at a time of transition and acting arrangements, I think, so still to pin down exactly who.
Later today (maybe) we're going to have very unusual scenes of NZDF lawyers and Counsels for the Inquiry and the authors questioning a NZDF lawyer (partaking in the Inquiry) about how what discovery they did and, therefore, why the info in my previous tweet wasn't known earlier.
This hearing is all your bad courtroom TV drama tropes played out.
The day started with Terrance Arnold asking NZDF to locate a second register, being info that made its way into the Office of Chief of Defence prior to that info being in the safe, and registered again there (the first register).

It took NZDF staff 15 minutes to locate it.
The discovery of the person/position who put the IAT report in the safe means that the last day has been cancelled, and that person will likely be brought in as a witness and others, who might have been less than truthful earlier this week, as well.
Day 4....

Began and ended in the few tweets here.

But there was a bunch of stuff in the middle...
Cross-examination of Keating continued by McDonald...
The IAT report, while known for years and years, was only provided to the Inquiry "a week ago. Do you know why?"

Keating did not.

McDonald: "Do you think [a week's] good enough?"
McDonald: "Civilian casualties would impact on our reputation internationally and at home"

Keating: "Yes"
Keating quite aggressively in response to McDonald suggesting the above might be why the NZDF would want to be linked to the botched raid:

"No, I think you're incorrect".
On the coming election

McDonald suggested the looming election in 2014 might have played a part in top NZDF officials burying the IAT report...
Keating: "No. It had no Influence... not on operational matters such as this"

And shortly after said there was a "clear firewall" between the NZDF and politicians on such matters...
...The trouble for Keating is that about 5 minutes earlier he said it was the Minister of Defence's prerogative ("as is his prerogative") to get involved with (at least some) operational matters...
The example at that 5 minutes earlier time was the Minister of Defence explaining to media in 2014 that civilian casualties could not be ruled out, where this might normally be something the NZDF would explain.
On whether the NZDF should have issued a public clarification in 2014...
Keating said that Coleman did this when Coleman said civilian casualties could not be ruled out.
McDonald pointed out that while Coleman was saying that, Prime Minister Key was saying civilian casualties absolutely did not happen.

And that perhaps the NZDF should have been the ones to clarify the record.
McDonald: "a total lack of maturity", "a lack of candour"

Keating: "you're wrong"
Keating said that Transparency International had ranked the NZDF top.

McDonald: "Did you tell them about this issue?"

[My note: Is it bad to have a favourite moment of the week, because this was mine.]
My 'A Few Good Men' prediction came true.

Keating: "The fact the document is found in a safe is not of public interest"
"that the document exists is"
Coleman gave Keating instructions to find out the circumstances around the IAT report (how the NZDF came to have it; why they didn't brief the Govt earlier).

McDonald: "How did you report back to the Minister?"

Keating: "I don't recall"
Keating: "It was probably a verbal brief" and no note of the briefing to the Minister made.
On how the IAT report came to reside with NZDF:

Keating: "It could have been hand-delivered" as opposed to email (suggesting that's why it hasn't been possible to locate the source of entry)

McDonald: "If so, wouldn't it be to someone senior?" and thus immediately narrowing...
...the range of suspects.

We would soon learn that the person providing the IAT report to the Office of the Chief of Defence was the Director of Special Operations who is understood to have been Jim Blackwell.
Keating said the IAT report "wasn't really that significant" in terms of being front of mind for the NZDF. They thought they didn't find it in 2010/11 and "moved on".
On OIAs...

A letter to the Human Rights Foundation: "The NZDF does not hold a copy of the IAT report". They did.

May also be of relevance to journalists who asked for it. @nkean
@nkean Keating conceded the response to the HRF was wrong, though I think at the end of the day Arnold queried that suggesting there may have been confusion about whether the request was for the report or an exec summary?
@nkean [I don't even think there were two versions. If my memory's right there, that shouldn't have prevented the OIA being complied with as agencies are required to help requesters seek the info they are actually after.]
@nkean On the meaning of 'unfounded'

Long backwards and forwards between McDonald and Keating on 'unfounded' being used to describe civilian casualties.

Appears that the word was used to have up to four different meanings over the years.
@nkean Keating said he relied heavily on NZDF legal for the 2017 use of 'unfounded'.
@nkean On the main thrust of Hit & Run...

Keating repeatedly said Hit & Run claimed women and children were deliberately targeted by the NZDF.

The authors have said women and children were killed by the Apache copters by rounds 'falling short' (quote is NZDF).
My recollection of Hit & Run is the same. Men were targeted. Women and children killed 'accidentally'.
Keating said that the claim of targeting and war crimes was what drove his response.

McDonald said that if he was worried about that, why didn't his responses and NZDF's PRs say that rather than 'civilian casualties were unfounded'.
Keating: the context [about his very weird interpretation of HIt & Run] is missing from the press releases

"The context isn't there"

McDonald: Why didn't you put it in?
Up to this point, they were talking about a draft press release because there was an accompanying email that provided additional evidence of who approved it...
Keating: "That was the draft. What did the final say??"

McDonald: "It's word-for-word the same"

She read it out.
Back to this for a second.

Keating said there was a 'convention' that NZDF would not put out a press release if the Minister had already covered something, but under cross-examination said only sometimes did NZDF do this and sometimes they did not.
My notes here are a little shakey, so this might not be entirely correct...

Back to the Human Rights Foundation...
Keating said saying civilian casualties were 'unfounded' to the HRF was because of his focus on the targeting women and children and war crimes aspects.
The big difficulty believing this, as McDonald pointed out, is that the Human Rights Foundation stuff happened a week before Hit & Run was published.
Keating claimed that Stephenson's Tirgiran story had 'shifted again' (referring to the other times Operation Burnham had been in the public eye).

I note that this is inconsistent with Keating's and Bill English's views that there was 'nothing new' in Hit & Run.
Keating disapproved of McDonald shaking her head at an answer of his.
Keating claimed the NZDF had no evidence of civilian casualties and that's why they were 'unfounded'.

McDonald first suggested Hit & Run, and then a minute later the video of helicopters shooting buildings (which the NZDF also held), intelligence reports, and ISAF press releases
On the location of Operation Burnham...

Suggestion by McDonald that a map at the time of the Operation identified Naik as where the NZDF went.

Re-examination by NZDF counsel suggest this may have been another village nearby, as 'Naik' is a common word.

Not much light here.
McDonald asked Keating to look at a photo from Hit & Run showing the three target buildings.

Keating refused to offer a view as to whether they were the target buildings.

Here are the photo that would have been referred to (number 2).
Keating stuck to his line that Hit & Run was about other villages, had not read the relevant sections from the bundle of evidence, and essentially refused to engage in questions about location.

McDonald: You've come to a hearing to talk about location, and you haven't prepared?
Keating's refusals caused McDonald to drop further questions.

I suspect that the Inquiry has moved well beyond this stuff and it can be determined on paper. This hearing was mostly about pinning down the conspirators, if any.
Getting them on record, eliminating those not involved, getting those involved contradicting each other, narrowing down the targets.

But I'm definitely no lawyer!
Cross-examination by counsel for the authors...
Counsel: "You need to listen to my questions"

Keating: "You need to listen to my answers"
Counsel: "You're giving speeches, not answers"
Counsel countering Keating's claim that the Minister suddenly finding the IAT report in a brief to him and the possibility of civilian casualties wasn't a big deal:

"An angry Minister is a clear and present danger"
The IAT report is highlighted in parts and has handwritten notes. Each witness has been asked if it is there handwriting, or if they know whose it is. Each has said 'no' to both...
Counsel suggested if Keating was really interested in getting to the bottom of how the IAT report came to NZDF, he could have identified the handwriting in a day as there would only be between 6 and as many people at the Inquiry who could have had access to it...
Keating said tracing the handwriting to its author would not have taken long.
There was some discussion of the misfiring Apache.

Counsel suggested, as I have, that the misfiring wouldn't have suddenly happened in the village, but would have been apparent in the hills too and that this is what the videos show.
If the misfiring was apparent in the hills, which it almost certainly is, then it is, at minimum, grossly negligent to continue firing in the village...
and that there would be questions about what JTAC (operation control run by NZ including Matepare) knew about this.
Keating: "It took some time [for the Apache] to see it was not firing correctly"

This statement seems at odds with earlier testimony by McKinstry and the bigger US report into casualties and audio editing.
Counsel suggested commanders were 'backing a line' and protecting each others' backs as they would have done when SAS in the field...
Keating: "Commanders don't back a line. That would unhinge us as an organisation."

Hard to disagree with with the second sentence.
That ends Keating.

Back to the safe and registers...
Keating's testimony was interrupted earlier (part way through) by the return of an NZDF staff member with the second register.
And one of NZDF's lawyers having waived privilege so that she could give testimony (to the lead NZDF lawyer!) about the steps she took that lead to the (most recent) uncovering of the IAT report and the first register.
The NZDF lawyer (hired just for the Inquiry) began to suspect that the IAT report had been recovered from the safe on 30 June / 1 July because that's when NZDF's messaging changed from 'no civi.lian casualties' to 'possibly'.
She asked to see the register to the safe and found the reference and the information about when the IAT report had been put in the safe and whose safe it was, but not who had provided it to the safe owner.
She didn't pick up on the unique ID number which would have led to the second register and the position, and by logic person, who provided the IAT report.
In 2011 when the report is thought to have arrived, the safe was Michael Thompson's.

When the NZDF lawyer went looking more recently, Chris Hoey was the safe's owner.

And here comes the big deal...
When the lawyer asked for access to the safe to retrieve the IAT report, Hoey is reported to have said he couldn't remember the code to his safe.

The lawyer had to have the safe drilled open.
Chris Hoey was down as a witness, but was unavailable after a doctor's note said he couldn't appear due to recovery from surgery.
That ends my notes on Hearing 4.

I hope to be able to attend the reconvened one.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Economissive
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!