Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shades of Watergate in Basi-Virk case - erased tapes and All The President's Men?

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours and The Tyee column

Tuesday July 21, 2009

Railgate Looks Even More Like Watergate

Who destroyed email evidence in the BC Legislature Raid case? And why?

By Bill Tieleman

"What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because overzealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up."

-- President Richard Nixon on Watergate, August 29, 1972

If you cannot figure anything else out about the complicated Basi-Virk corruption case, understand just this -- during the May provincial election someone in the B.C. government ordered potentially critical email evidence destroyed.

We don't know -- yet -- who gave the order. We don't know -- yet -- why. We don't know -- yet -- whether the order was executed.

But we do know that it happened just before the May 12 election and that the RCMP is now investigating whether deleting backup tapes of the emails of Premier Gordon Campbell, cabinet ministers and staff might constitute obstruction of justice.

And we do know it happened despite Campbell saying on June 23: "The records that should be kept under the law have been kept."

On Monday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett ruled some emails were "likely relevant" evidence, allowing the defence to ask for a court order to determine if the tapes still exist and to obtain them.

Last week, a senior government manager's affidavit filed in court revealed that backup tapes of emails about the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003 still existed in May 2009 -- despite earlier government claims they had been erased -- but were then ordered sent to government contractor

'Potential obstruction of justice': NDP's Krog

We don't know -- yet -- exactly what is contained in the affidavit of Rosemarie Hayes, the government's director of Messaging and Collaboration Services, Workplace Technology Services who confirmed the order to destroy the emails was given.

But defence lawyers for David Basi and Bob Virk -- the two former ministerial aides charged with breach of trust and fraud, made clear that if evidence that might exonerate their clients was destroyed by the government there will be hell to pay.

It was New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog's letter to Robert Gillen, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Attorney General's Criminal Justice Branch, asking him to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate "potential obstruction of justice" that has now been referred to the RCMP.

Watergate parallels

"This is a remarkable turn of events and the comparisons to Watergate are warranted," says Krog.

No kidding.

From the eerie similarity of Rosemarie Hayes first name to that of Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary who erased 18 minutes of secret White House tape recordings, to the fact that the provincial government's lawyer has now filed affidavits from Campbell's senior political staff, the whole situation has an All The President's Men feeling about it.

In the original Watergate investigation, it was revealed in July 1973 that Nixon had secretly installed a taping system to automatically record all conversations in the White House. Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox immediately demanded the tapes be turned over to him.

After Cox rejected a Nixon compromise on the tapes, the president ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused and resigned, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus, leaving Solicitor General Robert Bork to carry out Nixon's orders in what was termed the "Saturday Night Massacre."

Those actions spurred Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Nixon and after it was revealed that there was a "smoking gun" tape indicating Nixon had participated in obstruction of justice in the Watergate investigation, he resigned the presidency on August 8, 1974.

Here in B.C. we don't have taped conversations but we do have private emails between many of the key players in the B.C. Rail privatization.

Last week saw affidavits filed in B.C. Supreme Court from Campbell's Chief of Staff Martyn Brown, Deputy Chief of Staff Lara Dauphinee, Deputy Chief of Staff for Issue Management Jay Schlosar, Tobie Myers, ministerial assistant to Housing Minister Rich Coleman and a host of other political and other government employees. None of the affidavits have yet been made public.

It may or may not turn out to be All The Premier's Men and Women, but the big question is how will this movie end?



Anonymous said...

Unfortunately there are just to many butt-kissing media types in BC to effectively cover Basigate.

As bad as Campbell and his fart-catchers are, the real villians here are the cowardly "on the take" editors, journalists, TV talking heads and radio mouth-pieces across BC who have conspired to stone-wall this story for six years.


Anonymous said...

When is the next court date when we get to find out more ?

Anonymous said...

those fart's are beginning to have some substance!Those fart catcher's you speak of,are gonna get dirty!

Rod Smelser said...

From the Liberal's viewpoint the worst possible outcome might be one where some, but not all, of the messages were erased, such that Judge Bennett decides that the Basi-Virk trial can proceed, but that contempt citations that include heavy fines in the tens of thousands and even some weeks or months in jail are called for against some high government officials.

That kind of thing could result in centrifugal forces being activated within the coalition, with Conservatives blaming this embarassment on Liberals, including Campbell, and ordering the latter to take a distinctly secondary role while they move to the fore. A leadership re-assessment would be part of the package.

If the Liberals refuse to accept such a demotion and dethronement, the stage could be set for a breakup.

G West said...


Kind of like the break of the Devine Government in Saskatchewan

Anonymous said...

In an amusing aside, the CBC posted this today:

"The Watergate Hotel, which became a household name in the 1970s scandal that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon and was to be sold at auction in Washington D.C. Tuesday, failed to attract any bids."


Angela said...

The media is obviously Liberal biased but I don't think they're "on the take" as much as disinterested in a lot of the preliminary stuff that has happened so far. They probably knew 5 years ago that this would be drawn out for political reasons so they're only printing the odd reminder while they wait for something big to happen. Hopefully soon. I know it's summer but there's other nonsense happening, we can't go on forever discussing theoretical e-mails.

I hear the Olympic Goon Squad wants to keep newspapers out of the Olympics. Is that in case bad news for Campbell breaks during the games? Will TV and Internet also be banned at Olympic sites? You can always count on government to support freedom of speech (as long as it's their opinion).

DPL said...

Godo was on the CBC TV News tonight and when asked about emails said that his lawyer wil be deciding if his emails are to be released to the judge. Could get interesting. Maybe he is looking to get changred for contempt of court

Anonymous said...

Mark Hume takes your
BC Rail questions !!!


Norm Farrell said...

Title: Mark Hume discusses corruption probe in B.C. politics
Date: Wednesday July 22, 2009
Time: 12:00PM PDT

Mark Hume of The Globe and Mail British Columbia bureau takes your questions on the political corruption trial that is reaching all the way to the office of Premier Gordon Campbell.

Norm Farrell said...

You can be 100% certain, they will be going to the Court of Appeal, and the SCOC if necessary, to avoid an order to produce records.

They sent records out for destruction in May, as defense lawyers prepared to seek broad access to that data. Such boldness borders on contempt so I conclude Liberals realized the files contain smoking guns. Why else would they take the risk? The judge has been scrupulous in protecting privacy of material not relevant so they wouldn't be concerned about material that was merely titillating.

The strategy of delay will continue and the trial will not proceed, ever. If the SCOC upholds the BC courts in the outstanding case, Special Prosecutors Berardino intends to enter a stay. If the government can not produce the communications, Justice Bennett will dismiss. If they can produce the records but refuse to do so until appeals are exhausted, the charges will be thrown out over the right to a speedy trial.

People who desire justice in the BC Rail case must lobby for a public inquiry with broad terms.

Anonymous said...

Campbells Liberal government will go down in history as the most corrupt government ever to sit in Victoria. How could anyone be so low in character that they would run for and be a part of this trash. Campbell and his corrupt clones are stuck in the garbage bin with his buddies, the Fraser Institution and their Inmates and the chamber of commerce. I hope when the NDP take over, Campbells lawyers will never get to enter the Parliament buildings.How much money have these lawyers ,to date bilked from the government? Who said crime doesn't pay?
There are more gutless neocons
corporate controlled news media than ever before. If they take issue with the corruption in Victoria the news papers and tv stations lose corporate money and all you see of these creeps is their ass going out the door.
Does Campbells clones still control who gets on CKNW's talk shows? Really if all the scabs on Global,Sun,and CKNW were let go we might get a Canadian station.

Rod Smelser said...

Thanks to Norm Farrell for a very cogent, if somewhat gloomy, roundup of the possibilities.

I wonder if Judge Bennett can find government officials in contempt for destroying records if her decision to order the production of those records is under appeal to the BCCOA or the SCOC?

Powell river persuader said...

I don`t think so Norman Farrell,either they have the Emails or they don`t have the emails,finally a little heat is on Campbell,there are many calling for his resignation,if the goverment lawyers appeal to SCOC to overturn judge Bennetts ruling then any guise of cooperation thats Campbells claims is out the window.......
Then the question will be posed to the premier,why are you appealing if your cooperating?
And if as you say it gets thrown out then Campbell can`t hide from it`s before the courts,he can be questioned about where is the money,what were the tax break implications,what about the waterfront property,FOI the complete contract,it`s been 5 years now,Campbell would probably feel safer with the case moving forward at this snails pace,and I suspect that after the olympics Campbell is going to flee to Hawaii....
BC is not going to be a happy place with billions in olympic debt,a 2.6 billion$$$ deficit this year,a bigger deficit next year and cuts,cuts and more cuts.......

And don`t forget,the paramedics are on strike but every public sector union contract ends after the olympic games.........
Remember people marching in the streets in his first term,picture that all over again only worse.

Cheers-Eyes Wide Open

Anonymous said...

The ad hoc police state Gordon Campbell is constructing to protect "his" Olympics is promised to be shut down after the games.

In light of Basigate and all the other scams and broken promises of this government why should we believe "our" democracy will be returned to us April 1, 2010 !

Restricting critical debate, protest, access of media and even access to your neighbourhoods would make it easy for a ruling party and their on-the-take friends to win a 4th, 5th or even 6th term.

We are getting an Olympics next year but is not 2010's it will be Berlin 1936.

Sieg Heil !


Norm Farrell said...

Sure, Campbell can be questioned but he will continue refusing answers until he skulks off into the sunset.

If the Liberal apparatchiks report to Justice Bennett that emails don't exist, that ends the search. She has no investigative agency available. I exclude the RCMP because while negotiating a 20 year contract with their largest customer, they will be absolutely tame.

Public Eye Online reported on a "Notice of Intent to Direct Award a Contract":
... The Provincial Police Services Agreement between BC and Canada expires in 2012. Negotiations are underway to renew a 20 year contract which will continue the RCMP as the provincial police force.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the G&M.
Boo to Canwest
The "disinterested" media should be fired.

and now for a really stupid question ...
If the backup emails were destroyed, does that mean the originals are still around?

Norm Farrell said...

Depends on the systems in place. One possibility is that active files are written onto multiple drives during the course of the day to maintain file redundancy. At the end of some interval, an archival set of all files is transferred to one or more locations for long term storage. That way, users can recover from catastrophic destruction of working computer files by accessing off-site archives.

When they destroy electronic files, they destroy each and every version. The safety copies in archive storage would be shredding, crushed or somehow physically eliminated. Files deleted from working systems can be wiped by repeated rewrites. In our typical home systems, when we delete, the material doesn't disappear, its label is removed and that space can be recorded over. The more times the space is written over, the harder it is to recover anything usable from the device.

Anonymous said...

If those emails were destroyed,it's not contempt of court it's destruction of evidence,which is a lot worse of a crime,yes a crime so if those emails are not recoverable some one destroyed evidence,but gullible dude's those guy's that are negotiating a new contract for 20 year's already have the drives remember the raids?Are you getting me now?SHEESH!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is....NO.