Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Corporal Horton! Corporal Horton! Confiscate their government issue (i.e. taxpayer) Blackberries ..... fast!

RCMP failure to request instant messaging in Duffy affair may leave 'holes in investigation' - expert

Jason Fekete
Wednesday, December 5, 2013

RCMP may not have sought PIN messages in Duffy probe. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA – The RCMP have not requested and do not appear to have received records of instant messaging between employees in the Prime Minister’s Office and senators as part of their investigation into Mike Duffy’s improper Senate expenses.

The Mounties’ investigation has so far focused on official government and parliamentary emails, financial records and some other information requested from the PMO, Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright, senators and others.

But the RCMP’s request for PMO emails and a production order for Senate records do not specifically ask for copies of instant messaging — such as BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN and SMS text messages, which are regularly used by politicians and federal employees on sensitive matters.

“I am a little surprised they didn’t ask for it because normally when you ask for this stuff, you go for everything – any form of communication,” said Garry Clement, former Director of the RCMP proceeds of crime branch, who now owns his own company specializing in financial investigations for corporate clients.

“The bottom line is without asking for all forms of communication, you obviously are leaving yourself some holes in your investigation, there’s no doubt about that.”

Just last week, Canada’s information watchdog recommended federal institutions disable instant messaging on government-issued wireless devices because those messages, and often important information contained in them, are being quickly deleted by government and are often unrecoverable.

Treasury Board president Tony Clement called that recommendation “nonsensical” and maintained federal policies are adequate, including the practice of not having to archive instant messages that do not directly deal with “the business of government.”

Yet, it’s well known around Parliament Hill that MPs, senators, and political staffers within the PMO and others ministers’ offices regularly communicate among each other by BlackBerry PIN-to-PIN messages, especially on politically sensitive issues.

Court documents tabled last month by the RCMP said investigators conducted a “consensual search” of PMO email items, which included “either emails, or attachments to emails,” but they make no mention of instant messages.

The RCMP request for a production order to obtain information from the Senate also specifically requests “all emails and email attachments” from parliamentary accounts of senators Duffy, David Tkachuk, Marjory LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen.

Postmedia News asked the RCMP whether they had asked or been provided with messaging such as BlackBerry PINs and SMS text messages in their investigation, but the Mounties would not comment. The RCMP generally do not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Prime Minister’s Office said it provided the Mounties with everything identified in the Information to Obtain Production Orders (ITO) filed in court, but the PMO did not specify whether it included instant messaging used by parliamentarians and their staff.

“PMO has provided all information deemed relevant by the RCMP, as the ITO states, and we will continue to actively assist them,” Jason MacDonald, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, said in an email.

“The ITO lays out what the RCMP wanted/was provided.”

RCMP court documents also don’t specify whether their examination of emails from PMO staffers or senators includes all of the personal email accounts of these people, even though documents tabled in the Senate show Wright and Duffy, for example, communicated on their personal email.

Wright has already handed over a number of emails to the RCMP, which are believed to include messages from his personal account and perhaps some from Duffy’s personal email. The RCMP documents note, however, much of the communication between senators and the PMO was done on official Senate email.

Former Mountie Clement said it’s quite likely there would have been internal PIN-to-PIN communication among PMO officials as well as Conservative senators during the months-long debate and fallout over Wright’s repayment of Duffy’s $90,000 in improper Senate expenses and his legal bills.

As a Mountie, Clement said he would almost always include a “basket clause” that asked for all forms of communication so nothing would be left out.

But many of those instant messages may not have been archived onto an internal server, meaning they may be unrecoverable even if the RCMP wanted to see them.

Instant messages used by federal employees are usually automatically deleted from wireless devices after 30 days, and those messages generally aren’t recoverable once they’ve been deleted, federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault said in her report released last week.

Former Mountie Clement said it’s possible some of the PINs and text messages could be recovered with specialty software. The RCMP could first be reviewing emails and then look to fill in any possible gaps with information that could be contained in PINs and text messages, he said.

However, it’s also quite possible the RCMP simply didn’t think or know to look to obtain instant messaging, he said.

“You have to realize that the RCMP is still probably a little bit behind the times in really thinking through new technologies, and it may be something that, quite candidly, they just overlooked,” he added. “I hate to say that, but that’s reality.”


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