Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is There A Leak In The Special Prosecutor's Office?

WhenInformation Is SuppressedVille


Please See Not-Quite-Yet-Confirmed Update At The Bottom Of The Post



Please See Conclusively Confirmed Update Here

Yesterday, Paul Willcocks momentarily ruffled the British Columbia government's Railgate Blackout curtains when he wrote the following in his prominent CanWest Victoria Times-Colonist column:

The Campbell government's effort to withhold evidence is a big mistake. The other interesting development comes courtesy of Bill Tieleman, columnist for 24 Hours, a free Vancouver newspaper. Tieleman, who has done a first-rate job covering the trial (and who is also a New Democrat), did a freedom-of-information request for the notes of a government public affairs staffer who had been monitoring the trial daily.

There's nothing wrong with that. Given the nature of the case, the government has reason to want to know what's going on. But there are a couple of problems. Attorney General Wally Oppal offered some quite goofy reasons for the premier's office watch on the trial when the news broke. The staffer was there to help the media and the public, he suggested. The FOI response shows that was not true.

And the documents Tieleman got were censored, with sections whited out. If taxpayers are paying for a government worker to report the trial, surely they have a right to the information.*
(bolded mine)

Now, of course, that lack/suppression of information is something we, the Railgate obsessives that roam the Internets, have been fussing about for about as long as I can remember (ie. slightly more than 4 years).

And, as a result, we tend to seize on every scrap of information from all comers, including stuff like the following, from Mr. Keith Baldrey, that appeared in CanWest's much more jude-the-obscurian 'Burnaby Now' column of Dec 29/07:

But will this actually come to trial? The latest delay results from the Crown appealing a ruling that the defence can sit in the courtroom and hear secret testimony from a secret Crown witness.

Now, why would such a seemingly innocuous statement like that from one of British Columbia's more prominent pundits cause we the obsessives (and Mary's Anon-O-Mice) to start whispering?

Well, because, Railgate court proceedings went into recess on Dec 18th, a full 11 days before Mr. Baldrey's column appeared.

And when the recess began there was no indication from any official circles that the special prosecutor was going to appeal the Judge's previous ruling about secret witnesses and defense exclusion.

In fact, it was not until, surprise!, yesterday, Jan 07, that this became clear when court resumed a full 9 days AFTER Mr. Baldrey's column appeared.

How do we know that is what happened?

Because Railgate's hardest working reporter Mr. Bill Tieleman was in the courtroom, and he told us so:

Two NEW developments - one from the Special Prosecutor, one from the defence - could further push back the trial, which has suffered from lengthy delays already.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino is appealing a decision of BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to allow defence lawyers to be present when a secret witness who is a police informer testifies. Berardino will take that fight to the BC Court of Appeal but the timing and length of that hearing are as yet unknown.

Please note the term 'new' (caps/bold mine).

Which has us wondering......How did Mr. Baldrey know nine days before the fact? Was it a good guess, or did somebody from the inside tell him.

If it was the former, we bow down to Mr. Baldrey's extreme wisdom and prescience.

And if it was the latter.....

Well, wouldn't that suggest that the office of the special prosecutor assigned to this case, an office that has repeatedly fought for official secrecy, is, perhaps, tainted?

*The reprinting of Mr. Willcocks' column on his personal website did not include the important bolded paragraph. It would be interesting to know if this was just a coincidence (or not).

Not-quite-yet-confirmed update:
A commentor who identified him or herself as Mr. Willcocks left a comment that said:
"No coincidence in terms of the excision. A government communications person I respect called after the column ran in the papers and said the portions whited out were brief and dealt only with matters unrelated to the Basi-Virk trial. Since I hadn't seen the documents — and since it was the least significant aspect of the story — I edited it our before I posted the column."
Now, based on our previous discussions here and elsewhere (ie. at his own website) I have no reason to believe that this was not Mr. Willcocks. However, because there is no verifiable link with the comment, I'm waiting to hear back from him via Email either confirming or denying it. Thus, hopefully there will be a more fulsome and fully-confirmed (or not ) update soon.

Confirmed Conclusively Update: Mr. Willcocks, via Email has confirmed that the comment above was, indeed his. A post on the matter can be found here.


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