Friday, May 23, 2008

If this constitutes being cleared...

A damaging government report being released on a Friday afternoon, truly shocking.

This Globe headline, picked up from the CP reporting, seems misleading if you read the Privy Council Office's NAFTA-gate report: "NAFTA-leak report clears PM's chief of staff." If by "clear" they mean on a very technical level, that is. Brodie has been cleared on two technical grounds, of leaking any classified information or the content of the diplomatic report. The report, however, confirms that Brodie learned of contact by one of the Democratic candidates' campaigns with Canadian officials while he was in Washington, prior to his remarks during the budget lock-up, and that he did "probably" make the comments about a Democratic presidential candidate's posturing during the budget lock-up. So, hello? This is being "cleared?" Here's the report's conclusion on Brodie's leak:

Despite that claim in the report, above, about not being able to substantiate Brodie's comments during the lock-up (CTV reporters declined to participate in the PCO investigation), there's plenty of sourcing out there to confirm the comments. CBC:
CBC News confirmed Wednesday that Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, was the source of what is now being dubbed NAFTA-gate.
And a CP report, removed from the web now, but available extensively on the web in secondary sources:
"Quite a few people heard it," said one source in the room.

"He said someone from (Hillary) Clinton's campaign is telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt. . . That someone called us and told us not to worry."
Brodie set the ball rolling, this report confirms that significant aspect of the entire matter.

The biggest farce of this Privy Council Office report is their incredible reluctance to actually interview Foreign Affairs personnel. The scope of their investigation into sourcing who in the department may have leaked the diplomatic report to the Associated Press consisted largely of a review of "electronic transmissions," faxes and the like. They claim not to have had the resources to interview the personnel to whom the report was distributed. Here:

So the gaping hole in the investigation is there. Any one of those who were distributed a report could have taken a hard copy to Kinko's or other preferred third party location and faxed it to the media. This investigation completely sidesteps this possibility and prefers to instead leave it at a thirty-thousand foot look - or "advanced keyword search" - at the suspicious traffic emanating out of electronic transmissions. And surprise, no leads came up. A thorough review, fellas.

And also comical, the recommendations to expand future budget lock-up rules to enforce the off the record protocols, given the pressing need to preserve confidentiality around budget matters. Too bad the matters discussed in this particular lock-up were entirely unrelated to budgetary matters! No matter, it appears they want to clamp down on everything uttered in such sessions now, irrespective of whether the remarks are related to budgetary matters or not:

Brodie's comments had nothing to do with budgetary matters and should not have been protected by budgetary confidentiality. Nevertheless, they seek to expand the confidentiality provisions. Not a big stretch for the Harper folk.

This report, "clearing" of Brodie and Wilson, was to have been expected, and there you have it. Well done, PCO.