Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Oh Yes, Another Scandal, Another Line Crossed
This time it's Elmer MacKay's dull boy, DefMin Peter, himself no stranger to clumsy scandal.
It seems enough Harper slime has rubbed off on the defence minister that he's been using the military's National Investigation Service to "investigate journalists who wrote or broadcast embarrassing information about MacKay and the Canadian Forces leadership."
Question: what can you possibly write about Peter MacKay and the Canadian Forces leadership that they wouldn't find in some way embarrassing? This bunch has gone out of their way to make themselves embarrassing.
The latest incident concerns the Ottawa Citizen's defence correspondent, Dave Pugliese, and a recent naval exercise, RimPac 2012. Pugliese reported details of the Canadian navy's participation in the exercise, information he had garnered from a U.S. Navy press release. The article gave the source, repeatedly.
Dimbo MacKay smelled a rat. He was sure someone inside NDHQ was leaking secret information to Pugliese and so he demanded the NIS get to the bottom of it.
Citizen editor-in-chief Gerry Nott said the conduct of the NIS “would be humorous if it wasn’t outrageous. For investigators to be tied up chasing a phantom leak of publicly available information speaks to both paranoia and incompetence.”
In an email, Jay Paxton, MacKay’s director of communications, said the minister’s office “disapproves of the unauthorized release of information that can be damaging to the defence team’s ability to communicate with Canadians and views any release of unauthorized information as a breach of ethical conduct.”
“Such a breach of conduct includes information that is damaging to the activities of the defence team or individuals of that team.”
Paranoia and incompetence, yes, it's not hard to see Peter MacKay with an abundance of those. Yet I found that "defence team" business a bit disconcerting. It suggests a seamless blending of the political and the military as though the military is now part and parcel of the Conservative "team".
We saw evidence of this sort of thing back when MacKay was caught using an Air Force helo to ferry him from a fishing camp. When that blew up in his face he set Air Force officers into a search, scouring records to find evidence of similar abuses by opposition MPs.
To use the military's criminal investigative service as a tool against those who embarrass MacKay and senior military commanders is a deeply disturbing and flagrant breach of the critical line that separates the military and the civilian world in any legitimate democracy. This is not benign and it is certainly not trivial. And it's certainly not just the work of a dim-witted minister in over his head.
Former Chief of Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, set the NIS hounds on the media when a CTV reporter got the skinny on Walt using government jets to fly to hockey games and a Caribbean vacation.
Ottawa lawyer Michel Drapeau said the NIS investigations involving the news media that were obtained by the Citizen provide disturbing examples of how the military police force can be misused. “When you call in the cops because a journalist has written something embarrassing to Peter MacKay or the military leadership, then I would see that as intimidation,” said Drapeau, who has written legal textbooks on military law as well as the Access to Information act. “It has nothing to do with national security; it’s all about sending a warning to those inside the military that they are to keep quiet.”
He said the NIS should be disbanded and Canada should adopt the British system where the military’s police investigation unit is made up of civilians who do not report to the chain of command.
“The NIS has become a personal police force for the ranking military officers and there are no checks and balances,” Drapeau said.
The Harper gang seem to have a real fondness for their secret police. We saw that when Harper set up his own bitumen pipeline secret police force comprising officers of the Edmonton and Calgary city police, the RCMP and CSIS. More recently there was the move, by RCMP Commissioner Paulsen, to gag his senior officers and cut off communications between them and opposition MPs.
It's time to do an audit of the Canadian Armed Forces and their National Investigation Service. If they don't understand the line - and they don't - we have a real mess on our hands.