The office of Defence Minister Peter MacKay requested an investigation by the militaryâ€™s elite investigative arm last year after an Ottawa Citizen journalist published information contained in a press release.
MacKayâ€™s office alleged that the information was the result of a leak, even though Citizen reporter David Pugliese identified on four occasions that the details came from a U.S. Navy news release.
According to documents released under access to information, MacKayâ€™s office requested that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (NIS), which is called in for serious crimes or sensitive matters, track down how Pugliese obtained information, setting in motion a month-long probe.
Pugliese, the Citizenâ€™s defence reporter, provided details of Canadaâ€™s involvement in RIMPAC, the worldâ€™s largest international maritime exercise, in a May 10, 2012 item on his Defence Watch blog, repeatedly attributing the information to the U.S. Navy.
Despite that, the NIS conducted a thorough â€œinvestigative assessment,â€ including a search of email traffic through DNDâ€™s firewall, in an effort to identify the source of the â€œleakâ€ before concluding that no offence had occurred.
Citizen editor-in-chief Gerry Nott said the conduct of the NIS â€œwould be humorous if it wasnâ€™t outrageous. For investigators to be tied up chasing a phantom leak of publicly available information speaks to both paranoia and incompetence.â€™
Not only was the information “leaked” by the U.S. Navy in a press release, it wasn’t confidential.
Oâ€™Brien also reported that Touchette was â€œaware there was no security classification or designation of the information and as such there was likely no offence present.â€
The following day, Oâ€™Brien interviewed Brigadier-General Sylvain Bedard, DNDâ€™s director general of public affairs, who also told him there was likely no criminal or National Defence Act offence applicable in the case.
It gets better.
But the NIS wasnâ€™t finished with the file quite yet. Three months later, on Sept. 11, 2012, Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Frei, the new commanding officer of NIS, briefed Bedard and two senior officials from MacKayâ€™s office â€” Paxton and John MacDonell, MacKayâ€™s chief of staff â€” on the results of the investigative assessment.
Frei summarized the results in a letter, saying documents provided by Touchetteâ€™s officials â€” including Puglieseâ€™s blog item â€” â€œclearly identify his source of information â€¦ as a United States Third Fleet news release.â€ Pugliese, he said, â€œhad ample information from which to extract and produce his subsequent news article.
â€œThe only information that could be deemed to have been leaked is the fact that the Government of Canadaâ€™s news release had not yet been authorized for release,â€ Frei wrote.
Well like a lot of things in life, we will just blame the United States Third FleetÂ (which has 5 aircraft carrier groups under it’s command!). Â In defence of Peter McKay, every military has stories like this and I am sure they come from over zealous political staffers that want to please the boss. Â Still i find it funny that this ‘investigation’ would not die. Â It really does make McKay look both bad and paranoid.