Vital lapses over Rudd video theft

AUSTRALIAN authorities did not conduct critical interviews about the theft of the damaging video of Kevin Rudd swearing and banging a table and never formally asked for details of who uploaded the footage, which helped trigger Mr Rudd's unsuccessful leadership challenge last February.

Freedom of Information documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal the Attorney-General's Department never asked the US Department of Justice to require YouTube to reveal the details of the user, ''HappyvegemiteKR'', who uploaded the out-takes video of Mr Rudd cursing and thumping the desk as he tries to record a message in Mandarin.

In a November 16 letter to Australian Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus disputing the AFP's decision to drop the investigation, Mr Rudd said he understood no staff from his time as prime minister, nor any of Ms Gillard's staff at the time of the video's ''unauthorised release'', had been interviewed by police.

This is despite the AFP stating in the documents about ''Operation Mesco'' that it believed the video had been stolen, either by the person who uploaded it or someone to whom it was given, and that this was a criminal offence.

It is also despite formal advice from Google, owner of YouTube, that records covering the period in which it was uploaded had been ''preserved'', waiting for a legal directive to hand them over.

In the letter, Mr Rudd said his ''working hypothesis'' was he had inadvertently left the video behind in the prime ministerial offices ''in the course of the rapid and unexpected exit … on June 24, 2010'' and that it had later been edited and uploaded onto YouTube ''for the explicit purpose of damaging my reputation nationally and internationally''.

Last October the Attorney-General's Department told the AFP it had informally asked the US ''whether there was sufficient information currently available to satisfy US thresholds for obtaining the authorisation necessary to compel YouTube to provide the information'' and on the basis of the answers it got from the US decided a request would not be successful, and did not make one.

Mr Rudd told Mr Negus the lack of information was ''understandable'' since the AFP had not done the interviews necessary for ''a basic brief of evidence''.

He said if these interviews had been done the AFP ''could well be in a position to advance a case to US authorities which would readily meet their 'probable cause' test''. The AFP is now conducting further interviews, a process it said on Tuesday was ''ongoing''.

Other documents reveal Mr Rudd's displeasure with the process.

After she had briefed Mr Rudd about the decision to close the investigation in October, a senior departmental official wrote in an email ''the victim indicated considerable frustration … may consider a complaint to the Attorney or others''.

Mr Rudd also queried why the department went through the US Justice Department when the AFP had told him it was ''normal'' for such requests to be simply made from one police force to another.

The video was filmed in 2009 when Mr Rudd was prime minister, but the unflattering edited out-takes were anonymously uploaded on YouTube on a Saturday evening, soon after one of Mr Rudd's supporters had called on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to stand down.

Mr Rudd lost the ensuing showdown by 31 votes to 71.

Mr Rudd wrote to Mr Negus that ''I take these offences seriously. They do not constitute a trivial matter.''

This story Vital lapses over Rudd video theft first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.