Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Notes on the Bernier scandal continuing today...

Harpie's had it out for Bernier for a while now:
While the Prime Minister "always liked Maxime from a philosophical point of view," the friend said, in the past six months Mr. Harper has been known to "consistently backstab Maxime in front of MPs and staff."
Such an inspiring tone from the top, that's our fearless leader. But really, if he went to such lengths, why did he maintain Bernier in the post?

Some detail on document protocols in the Globe as well. The five week gap in discovering that Bernier's documents were missing continues to seem quite incredible and highly unbelievable. Especially given the sensitive nature of what was in them:
The briefing books that Maxime Bernier abandoned at his ex-girlfriend's home were designed to prepare him for a crucial NATO summit, and as such, would have offered confidential insight into the war in Afghanistan, U.S. plans for a missile shield and efforts to expand the military alliance.
Also in the Globe today, Stockwell Day's spokesperson says that CSIS was not involved in bugging of Ms. Couillard's home. But the RCMP is answering no questions on the matter:
Melisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, confirmed by e-mail Tuesday that CSIS was not involved in any bugging of Ms. Couillard's house. “As for the RCMP, I can't speak on their behalf, you'll have to call them directly,” she added.

A spokeswoman for the RCMP said it is RCMP policy not to discuss what may or may not be police investigations.
CSIS was "not involved." This sounds pretty firm, but then again Karl Rove was "not involved" in the outing of Valerie Plame either. It depends on what the meaning of the word "involved" is. Not surprising, we get no further information here on what CSIS may have known or whether there was any consultation or cooperation with the RCMP on any investigation of these missing classified documents.

With respect to the RCMP's potential role in a bugging, recall that on May 10, the RCMP were reported to have looked at Bernier's contact with Michael Chamas, a Montreal businessman arrested in March as part of an organized crime bust:
RCMP officers recently visited Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier to discuss photos of him shaking hands with a globe-trotting Montreal businessman who was later arrested in a police sweep targeting Mohawk organized crime groups.
...
The photos that caught the eye of RCMP investigators show a grinning Bernier sharing a stage and shaking hands with Chamas, who is listed as president of a Delaware-based company called Global Village International Solutions.
Might the RCMP have wanted further information beyond their interview with Bernier given Bernier's relationship with Couillard? Interesting coincidence of this line of questioning with the timing Couillard puts on her alleged surveillance. So is this report on alleged vandalism at her home that the police may have investigated. So is this bit of context:

Ms. Couillard's claim that a microphone was secretly placed in her bed was dismissed as dubious yesterday by several security experts. However, one source with a law-enforcement background said the RCMP has engaged in similar types of bugging in the past.

Given her background, the source said, Ms. Couillard's appearance on the public scene would have almost certainly raised red flags among RCMP officers in Quebec.

Don Martin on the "bed bugs" and implications for Harper, if it's true:
If Mr. Harper's pledge to stay out of the nation's bedrooms as a sign of respect for personal privacy is countered by government-ordered eavesdropping under Ms. Couillard's bed, a claim she says is backed by security experts who spotted signs of a listening device cleanup operation, a serious credibility breach has been uncovered.
Not taking the word of the PM, hey Don? Martin also points out that this incident may torpedo any campaign to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

Also from the Globe, looking to the future. The possible successors to Bernier: Clement, Emerson or the now go-to guy for Harper, Prentice. How exciting these choices are. As the Ottawa Citizen points out in an editorial today, the new minister has a lot to look forward to, becoming a cog in Harper's unhealthy cycle of controlling weak ministers:
The challenge now is to find a new foreign minister, but, again, Mr. Harper's management style could make that difficult. Mr. Harper's impulse to keep an iron fist over his cabinet will be even stronger now that he has been burned, but in order to maintain iron control over a minister, he'll need a weak person in the job who is easily controllable.
By this logic, I'd be thinking Clement.