Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Did CSIS meet with the PM in early May over Bernier?

More leaking within government circles it appears, given the Conservatives' approach to the Bernier scandal. A "credible source" has tipped the opposition on a meeting in early May between CSIS and the PMO's office on Maxime Bernier:
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, a former British Columbia premier and attorney general, told the House of Commons that he believed the meeting with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service took place between May 1 and 8, predating the current scandal with Julie Couillard that led to Mr. Bernier's dismissal from cabinet on Monday.

Mr. Dosanjh said he was told of the meeting by a "credible source," whose identity he and several Liberals refused to divulge.

When Mr. Dosanjh repeatedly asked Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to confirm the meeting "to discuss the conduct" on the Foreign Affairs minister, Mr. Day brushed off the questions, saying he didn't discuss CSIS meetings with the prime minister in public.

"He's playing a silly game," Mr. Day replied.

But the Liberals stood by the allegation, saying that if the meeting did in fact take place, it showed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper exercised bad judgment in dismissing weeks of questions regarding possible threats to national security because of Mr. Bernier's relationship with Ms. Couillard, who has been linked to Quebec biker gangs.

CSIS spokeswoman Manon Berube declined to answer questions about the Liberal allegation, telling Canwest News Service: "Call the minister's office. The call is being referred to them."

Melisa Leclerc, Mr. Day's spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response: "There was no such meeting. The Opposition is just making wild allegations."

Outside the Commons, Mr. Dosanjh insisted that he had a credible source about the meeting.
When he was pressed to reveal his source, Mr. Dosanjh said: "Look, we have sources. We have been led to believe that there was a meeting between CSIS and the Prime Minister's Office to discuss the matters involving Mr. Bernier."
Take the government's denials for what they're worth at this point, little to nothing. The phony NAFTAgate report that failed to turn up the leaker(s) in the PMO is just the most recent evidence of the stuff of which this government is made. So we're left with the possibility of CSIS having some past or ongoing role in assessing the security breach committed by Mr. Bernier, whether that included government surveillance of Ms. Couillard's home or perhaps a broader CSIS investigation. Given today's interactions and this reporting, looks like it's going to be a topic of ongoing discussion. And of course, if Mr. Harper claims only to have known about the missing documents as of this Monday, then what would a meeting with CSIS have been about?