Monday, June 12, 2023

So what did David Johnston actually say?

We're watching history being rewritten in real time. 
The discredited election interference allegations are now supposedly "credible" and the Johnston report that proved they were exaggerations or lies is now "controversial"
Its an attempt to smear Trudeau and the Liberals -- and it just infuriates me that Canadians are now being told to believe that our last two elections were tainted or questionable, and that the Liberals needed help from the Chinese to win. 
Canada wanted minority Liberal governments in 2019 and in 2021 and that's exactly what we got.
The smear started with Polievere's Friday night tweet:
And this weekend we saw media starting to pick up the "credible allegations" that China helped elect the Liberals: Finally, here's Fife calling the Johnston report "controversial": David Johnston spent the last three months looking into exactly these allegations of foreign interference, and he produced a 60-page report which found, well, nothing - NOTHING! 
A nothing-burger. Zip-patootie. Smoke without fire. All hat, no cattle.
But maybe that report was just too much for any of us to read these days, when we can't even get through a 10-paragraph substack before another notification bubbles up on the screen. 
So for everyone who never got to pages 21 to 29 of Johnston's report, here is what he reported about the foreign interferrence allegations for the 2019 and 2021 elections
To make it a little shorter, I removed some of the extraneous explanatory notes about who he interviewed for each allegation.  
The "allegations" are in italic, and - for the skimmers -- I highlighted Johnston's conclusions in bold.
The meat of the report starts on page 23, in the section titled My Review Of The Principle Allegations, Johnston writes:
The narrative that has arisen from the media reporting is that the Liberal government failed to act on foreign interference because it helped them politically, and hurt their primary opponent, the CPC....
Johnston continues by listing the specific news stories that started the uproar -- you know, the ones that are now being called "credible":
(1) 2019 election...
(i) The PRC Gave $250,000 to 11 Political Candidates for the 2019 Election (Global News, November 7, 2022)
One of the most inflammatory of the allegations is the suggestion that the PRC filtered $250,000 to candidates (sometimes identified as Liberal candidates) in the 2019 Election....
It appears from limited intelligence that the PRC intended for funds to be sent to seven Liberal and four Conservative federal candidates through a community organization, political staff and (possibly unwittingly) a Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario MPP.
There is uncertainty about whether there was money, if it actually went to staff or the provincial MPP, and there is no intelligence suggesting any federal candidates received these funds.
The media reporting later stated that there was no evidence of covert funding, although this was largely overlooked, so the public narrative persisted that candidates (sometimes identified as only Liberal candidates) received these funds.
NSIA [national security and intelligence advisor] Thomas and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff both testified to PROC [Procedure and House Affairs Committee] that there was no evidence of money flowing to federal candidates.
I asked the Prime Minister and other Ministers if they or their staff knew anything about money being transferred to federal candidates in the 2019 Election. They indicated that they had not heard anything about this until the media reporting. The Prime Minister pointed out that he is not briefed on matters that are not supported by reliable intelligence. No recommendations were made to any Minister or the Prime Minister about this allegation, and therefore no recommendations were ignored.
(ii) A Network of 11 Federal Election Candidates and Operatives, At Least some of Whom are Witting Affiliates of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) (Global News, November 7, 2022)
A second allegation — often confused with the first one — is that there is a “network” of 11 federal election candidates and operatives in the GTA [Greater Toronto Area], at least some of whom are willing participants in CCP [Chinese Communist Party] goals....
The PRC has leveraged proxy agents and has tried to influence numerous Liberal and Conservative candidates in subtle ways. There is no basis to conclude that the 11 candidates were or are working in concert (i.e., as a “network”) or understood the proxies’ intentions. Some of the candidates are well-integrated with Chinese Canadian community organizations. There is nothing inherently suspicious about this, as it is common for political candidates to rely on community support.
I interviewed the Prime Minister and other Ministers to determine if they or their staff knew anything about the alleged “network.” Most acknowledged that they were aware of the PRC foreign interference threat in general, and that leveraging proxy agents was a method that the PRC and other foreign adversaries used for this purpose. My conclusion is that there was no evidence presented to any Minister or the Prime Minister that any of the 11 candidates or any group of candidates were working together as part of a network. No recommendation about a network of candidates was made as no network was known to exist. No recommendation was ignored.
(iii) National Security Officials Warned Prime Minister Trudeau and his Office More Than a Year Before the 2019 Federal Election That Chinese Agents Were “assisting Canadian candidates running for political offices” (Global News, February 8, 2023)
...There was a memorandum provided to the Prime Minister, but it does not contain the quotation above. An early draft of the memorandum contained similar but not identical language to that quotation. That draft was significantly revised before the memorandum went to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was briefed on numerous occasions, including June 2017, about the foreign interference threat in a general way. This memorandum warns him that public efforts to raise awareness should remain general and not single out specific countries, because of diplomatic sensitivities. This is before the “two Michaels” and the deterioration in Canada-PRC relations.
I interviewed the Prime Minister about the memorandum and he acknowledged reviewing the final version at the time. He was surprised that a draft that he had never seen became the subject of a leak. The final version makes no specific recommendations and was written to create awareness.
(iv) “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior aides were warned on at least two occasions that government MPs should be cautious in their political dealings with former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Michael Chan because of alleged ties to China’s consulate in Toronto…. [CSIS] has a dossier on Mr. Chan that contains information on his activities in the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns and meetings with suspected Chinese intelligence operatives” (The Globe and Mail, February 13, 2023)
“Han Dong was a close associate of Michael Chan, who is a target of CSIS.... Chan had orchestrated Tan [Geng’s] ouster [from Don Valley North] with a campaign that persuaded Justin Trudeau’s aides to back Dong instead” (Global News, February 25, 2023)
...Mr. Chan has close relationships with the PRC Consulate in Toronto, which he has admitted publicly. Mr. Chan has publicly stated that CSIS has never spoken to him about these allegations.
LPC officials disagree with the assertion that Tan Geng was “ousted” by Mr. Chan. They stated that Mr. Geng was not permitted to run as a candidate for the LPC due to a personal matter that had nothing to do with Mr. Chan.
The recommendations made to the Prime Minister and other Ministers about Mr. Chan are confidential and are included as part of the confidential annex. I have seen no evidence that any recommendation has been ignored.
(v) The PRC Interfered with the Nomination of Han Dong as the Liberal Party Candidate in Don Valley North (Global News, February 24, 2023)
...Irregularities were observed with Mr. Dong’s nomination in 2019, and there is well-grounded suspicion that the irregularities were tied to the PRC Consulate in Toronto, with whom Mr. Dong maintains relationships. In reviewing the intelligence, I did not find evidence that Mr. Dong was aware of the irregularities or the PRC Consulate’s potential involvement in his nomination.
The Prime Minister was briefed about these irregularities, although no specific recommendation was provided. He concluded there was no basis to displace Mr. Dong as the candidate for Don Valley North. This was not an unreasonable conclusion based on the intelligence available to the Prime Minister at the time.
Johnston then continues to talk about the 2021 election:
(2) 2021 Election
...The election came at a difficult time for Canada-China relations. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor had been detained since 2018, and Canadians were justifiably angry at the detention and reports of their mistreatment. The COVID-19 pandemic had been ongoing for over a year, and the PRC had failed to cooperate with international investigations relating to the origins of the novel coronavirus. Moreover, the PRC declined to participate in a once-promising China-Canada joint venture on vaccines. The PRC was increasingly asserting itself as a global power, and increasingly developing relationships to counter western-based alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. [The PRC] ramped up its foreign interference efforts considerably, although not especially in the ways alleged.
Johnston continues with the specific news story that again started an uproar:
The key allegations respecting the 2021 elections, and my assessment of those allegations, are set out below.  
(vi)“An orchestrated machine was operating in Canada with two primary aims: to ensure that a minority Liberal government was returned in 2021, and that certain Conservative candidates identified by China were defeated,” “Beijing was determined that the Conservatives did not win,” and Kenny Chiu was Targeted By the CCP’s Foreign Intelligence Network (The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2023)
     (a)“Orchestrated machine to ensure a minority Liberal government was returned” and “Beijing was determined that the Conservatives did not win” (The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2023)
...There was an unconfirmed indication that a very small number of PRC diplomats expressed a preference for the LPC to the CPC in the 2021 Election. Other members of diplomatic staff have had a variety of opinions and preferences over different periods of time, and in different elections. But there was no indication that the PRC had a plan to orchestrate a Liberal minority government in 2021 or were “determined” that the Conservatives not win.
There was heavy re-circulation on WeChat of an article from The Hill Times (Canadian media) and The Global Times (PRC-operated media) questioning Mr. O’Toole’s (the CPC leader’s) strategy regarding China. However, the re-circulation could not be attributed to any state actor.
The PRC’s intention appears to be focused on assisting pro-China candidates and marginalizing anti-China candidates, not party preferences.
Diplomats posted to a foreign state — including Canada’s diplomats — will have preferences in the foreign state’s elections. These diplomats may even express those preferences openly or privately. That is not foreign interference. It only becomes foreign interference when it is clandestine, coercive or deceptive conduct.
I asked the Prime Minister and Ministers if they were aware of any orchestrated effort to elect a LPC minority. They were not. The Prime Minister pointed out that he is not briefed on matters that are not supported by reliable information.
My conclusion is that no recommendations were made to any Minister about this allegation. Furthermore, during the writ period, the Panel of Five (explained in more detail below) was in place and decided no action was warranted.
    (b) Certain Conservative Candidates Identified by the PRC Were Defeated, Kenny Chiu was targeted by the CCP’s Foreign Intelligence Network After He Introduced a Foreign Interference Registry Private Members’ Bill, and Chinese Agents Succeeded in Smearing him as a Racist in WeChat and Mandarin-language Media Reports (The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2023)
...Chinese-Canadian MPs, including Mr. Chiu, were and remain of particular interest to the PRC. There was online misinformation about Mr. Chiu’s proposed foreign agent legislation, which he corrected in the media during the campaign. But the misinformation could not be traced to a state-sponsored source. The government does not regulate consumption of social media, during elections or otherwise. However, it has engaged with social media platforms to deal with misinformation, and the threat that it poses to election security. This does not include WeChat, which is based in the PRC.
Mr. Chiu gave an interview in February 2023, saying that “if you are ordinary Canadians, at least you will find that ridiculous [that he was anti-China], and you may potentially be able to fact check this information…. But some of my constituents, they exclusively rely on the source of information being circulated on social media, like WeChat.”
It is clear that PRC diplomats did not like Mr. Chiu, who is of Hong Kong descent and not from mainland China, and who sponsored a private members bill for a foreign agent registry. It is much less clear that they did anything in particular about it, although there was discussion that certain political figures who were perceived as anti-PRC would not be invited to PRC-sponsored events.
However, the PRC’s objective in 2021 appeared to be specific to the posture of the candidates towards the PRC and not the candidate’s party. The PRC is, in general, party agnostic. There is intelligence suggesting that a Chinese community association leader who was perceived to be close to the PRC approached a CPC candidate and offered to help raise money for their campaign.
The SITE [Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections] Task Force (described below) assessed the claim by Kenny Chiu after the election and could not conclude that the activity was state-sponsored. Moreover, it was monitored by the 2021 Panel of Five responsible for reviewing critical election incidents (a process discussed in greater detail below). The Prime Minister and Ministers became aware of complaints by the CPC when the CPC began to speak publicly about them after the 2021 Election. I have no basis to conclude they were provided any recommendations about this information. However, as described below, the government continued to work on combatting foreign interference through its post-2021 Election mandate.
(vii) “Sympathetic Donors are also encouraged to provide campaign contributions to candidates favoured by China,” Receive a Tax Credit, then Political Campaigns Quietly and Illegally Return Part of the Contribution (the Difference Between the Original Donation and the Government’s Refund) Back to the Donors (The Globe and Mail, February 17, 2023)
...CSIS is aware of allegations that the PRC engages in this activity. These allegations are concerning because the activity, if it were carried out, would be a credible threat to the electoral process. That is why this activity is prohibited by the Canada Elections Act.34 If there were credible evidence to justify an investigation, it would be referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections. However, CSIS has not collected intelligence showing this activity is actually occurring.
(viii) Han Dong Advised the PRC Consulate to Extend the Detention of the “Two Michaels” (Global News, March 22, 2023)
...The allegation is false. Mr. Dong discussed the “two Michaels” with a PRC official, but did not suggest to the official that the PRC extend their detention. The allegation that he did make that suggestion has had a very adverse effect on Mr. Dong. He continued to maintain close relationships with PRC consular officials at least through the 2021 Election.
Ministers and the Prime Minister went out of their way to defend Mr. Dong, whom they believe has been badly harmed by the reporting. They did not believe the media reports when they came out, as they found Mr. Dong to be a loyal and helpful member of caucus. They received no recommendations about this allegation, as it is false.
Finally, Johnston also discusses the Chong issues:
(3) Actions against Members of Parliament
Although my TOR relate primarily to the 2019 and 2021 elections, as I was conducting my investigations and interviews, allegations surfaced that the PRC looked to take actions against MP Michael Chong and his family in China, and other MPs and their families. I therefore considered it important to include some discussion about these allegations, even though they are not directly related to either election. The key allegation is discussed below.
PRC Officials Have Taken Actions to Target Michael Chong, his Family, and Other MPs and their Families (The Globe and Mail, May 1, 2023)
...There are indications that PRC officials contemplated action directed at both Chinese-Canadian MPs and their family members in China, and sought to build profiles on others. This includes Mr. Chong in both cases. There is no intelligence indicating that the PRC took steps to threaten his family. There is intelligence indicating they were looking for information.
There has been significant controversy about who received this information and when. The Prime Minister was initially advised that it did not leave the security agencies. However, on further review, that was acknowledged to be incorrect. The NSIA has acknowledged to Mr. Chong that her predecessor NSIA at the time received the memorandum that describes the potential action against Mr. Chong.
In addition to the memorandum in question, CSIS sent an issues management note (IMU) to the then Minister of Public Safety, his Chief of Staff, and his Deputy Minister in May 2021, noting that there was intelligence that the PRC intended to target Mr. Chong, another MP, and their family in China (if any). It indicated that CSIS intended to provide Mr. Chong and the other MP with a defensive briefing. The IMU did not recommend any particular action or ask for any direction from the Minister — it was simply provided for his information. CSIS conducted the briefing, but we understand from Mr. Chong’s statements to the media and PROC that it did not include the detail with respect to his family.
Neither the Minister nor his chief of staff received the IMU. Both indicated (and we have confirmed with the public service) that they do not have access to the Top Secret Network email on which it was sent. The Minister indicated that when CSIS wanted to transmit sensitive information, they would request a briefing, take him to a secure facility and show it to him. He did not receive sensitive information like this by email. He believes the Ministerial Direction in place at the time means that CSIS should have briefed him about this, although he acknowledges this has been clarified in the new Ministerial Direction on Threats to the Security of Canada Directed at Parliament and Parliamentarians issued May 16, 2023 by the current Minister of Public Safety.
Johnston continues by describing several process reviews that are also now underway - as I understand it, reports and recommendations are still to come from the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency [here is the TOR for their review], the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians -- Whew! That's a lot that is still to come.
Finally, getting back to what Johnston said, here is his conclusion about foreign interference:
The specific instances of interference are less concerning than some media reporting has suggested, and in some cases the true story is quite different.
There is no reason to question the validity of the 2019 or 2021 elections, which were well-protected by sophisticated mechanisms and monitored by some of the most experienced non-partisan public servants in the country.
I have not found instances of the government knowingly ignoring intelligence, advice or recommendations on foreign interference, or making decisions based on partisan considerations in dealing with these issues. However, there are significant governance shortcomings in the way intelligence is communicated from security agencies to the various government departments, processed at those departments to decide what should get briefed and recommended to the political levels, and communicated to the Prime Minister, responsible Ministers, and their respective offices for decision-making and action.
Canada requires a more sophisticated approach to national security, designed for the current challenges. This includes a less politicized environment to discuss national security issues.
So unless the media thinks that David Johnston is just a credulous stenographer for Liberal lies, or that he has morphed into a devious liar himself, actively covering up Liberal chicanery, then his report should be accepted as truthful.
Yes, Canada voted for a Liberal minority government in both 2019 and 2021. 
Yes, this result is neither questionable nor tainted by China. 
But always remember, whatever is happening in Ottawa, it's always Trudeau's fault: As Wesley Wark writes:
A final piece of advice in his resignation letter—”appoint a respected person, with national security experience, to complete the work that I recommended in my first report.” Ideally, he says, that person would be appointed after consultation with the opposition parties. That’s good advice—it should have been followed originally in appointing a special rapporteur. It might have saved Mr. Johnston' a world of grief and months of possibly fruitless endeavour.
But here's the point -- I don't think there was anyone last March who didn't agree that Johnston was a sufficiently-eminent pick for a rapporteur -- bi-partisan, esteemed, known across Canada, already had a security clearance, etc . 
It was only after the backroom boys in the CPC came up with their "ski buddy" and "Laurentian elite" smears that Canadian media decided that Johnston was controversial and therefore unsuitable. Even then, their only real complaint was "optics" - that last refuge of a scoundrel. 
 Trudeau knows quite well that the CPC doesn't respect any kind of process at all -- they want to use the "foreign interference" as a cause celebre for him to resign, and that's their only goal.
They have given up on getting Canadian voters to ever vote Trudeau out of office, so forcing a resignation is their only option.


Trailblazer said...

Poilievre wishes any investigation of foreign influence to be done by the Conservative laurentian elite not Liberal laurentian elite.
Sadly for him most of them are on the road driving trucks!


Simon said...

Hi Cathie…Absolutely brilliant and right on. What Poilievre, his ugly Convoy Party are doing, with the help of the shabby Con media should alarm all decent Canadians. If they are able to get away with distorting the truth this country will go down and never get up. Thank you…

Cathie from Canada said...

Thanks Simon - I hope it might be a worthwhile reference post as this story continues.

rumleyfips said...

Chung never said he or that his family were threatened; because they weren't. Cooper and Fife didn't have a story but it's called the gutter press for a reason.

The Bloc will want an inquiry in French only. The reformatories will want a cartoon convoy character and the NDP will not know who they want. Hard to see consensus with three stooges in charge.

The other two committees will eventually return reports validating Johnson. It will be difficult for cons like Chung to lie when members of his caucus are part of the process.

The sound and fury will have signified nothing.

rumleyfips said...

And just that quick, the Bloc puts out a Quebec only list, con twitts demand no Quebecers need apply and the NDP, instead od making a decision suggest another committee.

e.a.f. said...

David Johnson had nothing to gain by reporting untruths. However, with PP shouting on and on and creating something out of nothing, he has the Liberals on the defence. They ought to have ignored him

Now PP is interfering with normal burecratic work. The prison system is not something which is or should be controlled by politicians. Those in the prison system who make decisions, do it as their job. Benardo did horrible things and he was sentenced to jail by a jury and judge. If he is to be moved, that is up to the specialists with in the prison system. PP is simply looking for his next grenade and he has found it and then he demands resignations. Really the boy ought to give it a rest or perhaps we ought to revist some of Harper's actions, a government which PP was part of.

Some say PP ought to be the next P.M. Have a look at what happened when trump was elected. He can't even do his job as leader of the opposition. It appears he wants to be in chare of deciding which prisoners go to which prisons.

PP comes across as a nasty piece of business who is only interested in tearing things down and his quest for power and "avenge" harper's loss.

The Canadian Press seems to be egging PP. Do we really know who is leading in the polls and do we know who conducted those polls and who did they poll.

If PP doesn't know it isn't smart to interfer in bureacratic business, then he ought not to be P.M or for that matter an MP. If he believes that he has their right, then who is next within the prison system. Do we really want the prison system to be dictated by some politician who may have an axe to grind or a friend of the politicians.

In the U.S.A. the prison system leaves a lot to be desired. They still haven't answered the question of why Whitey Bulgar was suddenly transfered to a prison where he'd be killed.

PP does not get to decide who goes to another prison. He is the leader of the opposition and he might want to do something constructive in that position. Old PP has been up on his pins being oh so angry but has no solutions.

He wanted Johnson gone, now he wants a Liberal Cabinet Minister gone. He calls people liars, but offers no evidence.

Heis just a nasty piece of business who is ought of his league.