Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BC Liberals pull a Rose Mary Woods - back up email tapes erased from critical BC Rail deal period


The BC government erased back up tapes containing MLA emails from 2001 to 2005, including those of BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell and cabinet ministers

"Ooops! I accidentally erased the tapes."

In an episode reminscent of the late Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's secretary who "accidentally" erased a crucial segment of a White House tape recording following the Watergate break-in period, BC Supreme Court heard that the BC government has erased back up tapes of emails from 2001 to 2005.

That means no possibility of the defence for David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi obtaining the emails to prove their innocence of corruption charges related to the sale of BC Rail.

The Globe and Mail's Mark Hume was the only journalist present for yesterday's hearing and reports that defence lawyers were "very troubled" when BC government lawyer George Copley told Justice Elizabeth Bennett the tapes were erased and urecoverable.

Regrettably I was travelling and not in attendance but a reliable observer has filled me in considerably on the events of the day and I am indebted for the following account:

The defence has served affidavits to 33 people employed or previously employed by the Campbell government - from the period of June 5, 2001 to the point where employment ended - for all electronic records (email and blackberry) specifically related to:

• Email/BB exchanges prior to the sale of BCR
• The Divestiture of Roberts Bank
• Cancellation of the Port Subdivision

Some of the individuals include:

Office of the Premier: Gordon Campbell, Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, former press secretary Mike Morton, former senior deputy minister Ken Dobell, current senior deputy minister Jessica McDonald, Yvette Wells - former Director of the Crown Agencies Secretariat, former deputy minister Brenda Eaton,Cynthia Haraldson, former deputy communications director Dave Cunningham, current deputy chief of staff Jay Schlosar, current deputy chief of staff Lara Dauphinee, along with other employees of Campbell's officeand government ministries:

Public Affairs Bureau

Ministry of Finance - specific people

Ministry of Transportation -specific people

Ministry of Attorney-General - specific people

Solicitor General - specific people

Ministry of Education - specific people

Ministry of Advanced Ed - specific person - Shirley Bond

Ministry of Energy and Mines - specific person - Richard Neufeld

The BC government's lawyer, George Copley, claims that government back-up tapes (of emails) for the period requested either no longer exist or are unrecoverable.

Copley stated that back-up tapes are kept for 13 months for the purpose of disaster recovery, not for archived purposes.

Defence lawyers said: "This is the first time we have been told that the emails sought are not there. This is potentially a very significant matter and major development in these proceedings."

The defence also said they have 4500 boxes with hard copies of emails and other info which was the focus of their FOI. They say a huge amount of substantial and relevant emails (which they believe remain in electronic email format) have not been recovered and therefore are not part of the 4500 boxes.

Court adjourned until Tuesday June 23 at 9:30 a.m., so defence can either seek cross examination of the witnesses named above or alternatively submit a letter through Copley, asking the 33 individuals to answer specific questions:

Were their computers searched?

What method was used to search their computers?

What time period did the search take place?

Who specifically searched their computer?

And reasons for why they claim the emails are no longer recoverable.

Bennett said the issue in its entirety must be resolved before Sept. 4th.

Below are a couple links that may be helpful to you around government procedure in handling electronic records:

Under the first link you will find The Document Disposal Act. Under the Act it says documents must be kept for 7 years unless a disposal order is granted following the procedure outlined in the Act.

Here's part of the Act:

(1) A document must not be destroyed except on the written recommendation of the Public Documents Committee, which consists of the chief executive officer of the museum or a person designated by the chief executive officer, a person designated by the minister responsible for the administration of this Act, the Comptroller General, and 3 other persons to be named by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

(2) A document must not be destroyed before the expiration of 7 years from the date on which it was created unless one of the following conditions is met:

(a) 2 years have expired from the date on which the document was created and a microfilm copy of it is available to the officer who would, but for the destruction, have charge or custody of the document;

(b) a recommendation under subsection (1) has been approved by the Legislative Assembly on the recommendation of the Select Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly on Public Accounts and Economic Affairs;

(c) the document is

(i) listed in a records schedule approved by the Select Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly on Public Accounts and Economic Affairs, and

(ii) destroyed in accordance with the instructions in the records schedule.

The second document is the electronic records procedure:

These are divided into operational and transitional. The key bit is in the second paragraph, which says if they are part of a legal process, information must be kept and available.

It would be hard to justify that emails touching on a matter which is the subject of a police investigation and charges could be disposed of.

The rules say those should be kept and be available.

NDP justice critic Leonard Krog called loss of government files “extremely troubling”.

“The Document Disposal Act requires that [electronic records] be kept for seven years,” Krog said. “It raises incredible suspicions and someone farther up the political chain that Mr. Copley is going to have to appear in court and explain what happened.”


Anonymous said...

How can BC Rail have emails that are relevant and go back to 2002 and the BC Government does not?

Does BC Rail have better records management systems?

More questions about how the Campbell government is
"co-operating" with this case.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid for democracy. It sounds like an exaggeration but it is not. We have unaccountable government,law enforcement, and corporations at all levels. And worse still no one appears to be more than a bit irritated. The sentiment seems to be "well they are ______ so of course they are corrupt[and do not need to be held accountable]"

Anonymous said...

This is a stunning development Bill, absolutely stunning. Remember, premier campbell expressly stated the government would fully cooperate with the investigation when the raids took place in december 2003. I guess all of us forgot to ask what the asterik next to his statement meant.

Now we have our answer, "we will cooperate fully as long as the investigation stays away from us".

The cover-up has become the crime!

Dee said...


Your "headline" is not factually accurate.

Deep Throat said...


Your headline was not specific enough. It should have read: "Lara Dauphinee pulls a Rose Mary Woods".

Anonymous said...

The judge should throw the entire prosecutor's staff in jail over this trial, for perverting the course of justice and find Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon guilty of contempt.

Anonymous said...


I thought that I remember a posting from a government insider predicting this some time ago.

Vaughn Palmer spoke about document "suppression" - this is a term that goes to the heart of this government's modus operandi.

Baxman said...

I heard Neal Hall being interviewed on CKNW, state that the request for this information was first made sometime in 2007 and that they must have known about this for at least two years. For the time period that is missing / deleted has anyone, Tieleman, Schreck, Holman, MLA’s or any other parties received any FOI emails for whatever reason, and if so how come they were available?

Anonymous said...

After seizing his 3rd term in a sham election against an opposition lead by a counter-productive entity, Supreme Leader Campbell can do anything he and his masters at the Fraser Institute want him to do.

Aided by the Herr Dr. Dennis Skulski's CanWest/Global ministry of propaganda, the Campbell Reich with the help of cloning should be able to last a thousand years.

So in the end BASIGATE will have never happened, and the plutocrats will live happily ever after.


Anonymous said...

Canwest clues in

Neal Hall has pecked a piece for Canwest - it is currently running in the Vancouver Sun and the Victoria Times Colonist.

This is interesting: "The defence applied in June 2007 to get the e-mails of Premier Gordon Campbell and other cabinet ministers related to the controversial privatization sale of BC Rail..." This part of the time line was not mentioned in Mark Hume's G&M article.

North Van's Grumps said...

"....A federal lawyer's admission of errors that kept a crucial e-mail from the Braidwood Inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski has prompted the regulatory body for B.C. lawyers to begin monitoring the probe for the possibility of lawyer misconduct........News of delay in disclosing RCMP e-mail prompts group to examine proceedings for possible professional misconduct - Globe and Mail

Shredding of documents related to the BC Rail corruption case should be another instance investigated by the Law society, and do it now!

Anonymous said...

I think I better dust off my copy of Orwell's 1984 from university days and give it a read. Then maybe I'll know what to expect next.

G West said...

There's a general consensus among the legal professionals in government that there ARE still copies of these documents in existence...and if there are not such copies extant the executive council is in clear violation of the law.

Anonymous said...

Data can't be "erased", it is recoverable using forensic data tools from the hard drives in question. If it isn't recovered its simply because someone doesn't want to. A simple Internet search of forensic data erasure shows this.

Skookum1 said...

Re the comment about Orwell's 1984 - over the years I've come to appreciate that a lot of the busines, poli-sci and communications people who had to study this book in the course of their education have come to treat it as a manual, rather than a warning. The same is true of Nicolo Machiaavelli's The Prince (which, like 1984, was actually meant as a satire). I recommend Samuel Butler's Erewhon, with its interesting discussions about the Houses of Unlearning.....

And just curious, Bill, what provisions in there in the Document Dispersal Act prescribing enforcement and punishment of those found guilty of violating the act. Or is it an act without teeth, with no such provisions for dealing with what now seems to be intentional and criminal wrongdoing?

The famous line on the night of the raids that "organized crime" has penetrated the upper echelons of the provincial government needs a slight tweaking, and the easiest one is the old maxim "Government IS organized crime", and between collusion, fraud, obstruction of justice, influence peddling, breach of trust and still more conceivable charges there's more than one high-ranking Liberal and their political-appointee cronies in the civil service who should by now have been indicted. Basi, Basi and Virk are scapegoats and fall-guys and, thankfully, they've been willing to fight to bring the truth to light.

There's another maxim also "Don't steal. The government hates competition". All "lie" and "cheat" and "wheedle" to that and it fits this government even more.

Gordo might as well have said "I can't comment, because my case is before the courts".

As I said on the BC Mary blog, this is far beyond an internal provincial matter and a federal inquiry into all aspects of the case is called for. And if the RCMP aren't capable, or are unwilling, to employ modern data forensics techniques to recover the data, the Defence should seek expert witnesses and enlist technical support from the data forensics departmsnts of the NSA, CIA or FBI who are capable of recovering data of this kind. An American company, after all, is involved in the deal.

It's high time for Christy Clark or Geoff Plant to come forward with what they know, and if we had a Fifth Amendment it would serve Gary Collins well to come clean. Not that Clark or Collins have consciences in need of cleaning; I and others have always felt that Plant resigned because he was unwilling to involve himself further with a pack of obvious criminals.

There must be some interesting talk at the golf courses and the Vancouver Club these last couple of days, to be sure. How to get Gordo to resign, and who to replace him with.....

Henri Paul said...

Ive said this many times" There are no laws for outlaws"

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need the federal government folks to come in and investigate this lack of justice we are now experiencing in BC. People from outside the province, with less at personal stake to get this trial going and stop the obstruction train.

Skookum1 said...

To anonymous 9:38, and in reference to Bill's call for a summer election.....how likely does it seem that Michael Ignatieff show some cojones and call for an inquiry into this before the sorry reputation/conduct fo the BC Liberals reflects on the federal party? Out here in BC we know they're different; but it's not the same perspective among the electorate and even the media in other provinces. I've actually seen blog posts in the Maritimes indicating some people think the BC Liberals really ARE Liberals and not just a weird zombie-cross of Socreds and Reform Party-oids.

All this amost makes you wish to have the Socreds back, in fact, this bunch is so rank. White patent shoes and plaid polyester suits anyone?

Anyway, it's time for someone at the federal level to show leadership in this. If not Ignatieff then Larry Campbell and other BC Senators should be called on to convene and inquiry....

Anonymous said...

Quelle surprise!

There is always a possibility the info could be recovered from the hard drives once they've been shipped to Ghana......

Anonymous said...

I have said it before and I will say it again. This trial’s going nowhere. Don't kid yourselves.