column was published in the North
Shore News on
April 17, 2002)
by Read tribunal
Back in the summer of 1999, I began telling you the story of Project Sidewinder and the efforts of two courageous men trying to expose the corruption relating to our consulate in Hong Kong and the apparent indifference or collusion by our government.
In the ensuing period, I have probably written 10 or 12 pieces trying to tell a complicated story of crime, corruption and political malfeasance.
Then, in September of that year, I told you of the suspension of one of those courageous men, RCMP Cpl. Robert Read. Last week the other shoe dropped. After a service court trial by a tribunal of senior officers, Read was found guilty of discreditable conduct and ordered to resign within two weeks or be subjected to summary dismissal.
Back in 1996 Read was assigned to look into allegations of corruption emanating from the 1992 discovery that Immigration Canada's proprietary computer system, CAIPS, had been compromised, apparently by Asian organized crime. Read's was the third such investigation and arguably, the most competent.
In 1992, Brian McAdam, then a foreign services officer attached to our legation in Hong Kong, logged into his CAIPS terminal and tried to bring up a file of an Asian gangster trying to get into Canada. The file dithered away and disappeared in front of his eyes.
He tried a similar file and watched the same thing happen. He contacted then-Inspector Garry Clement, the liaison officer attached to the consulate at the time. He showed Clement another gangster's file and the same thing happened. In all, McAdam identified 788 files of Asian gangsters that had been penetrated and corrupted.
Interesting terminology, given what was to emerge in subsequent enquiries.
In an investigation report designated top secret, Read wrote at the time, "The loss of control of CAIPS . . . loss of control over immigration from Hong Kong . . . from 1986 to 1992 is a most serious breach of national security."
But Read was to become frustrated by the system he so dearly believed in as his investigation continued. He came to a remarkable conclusion which forced him to take extraordinary action. Said Read, "I believe there has been a massive conspiracy to cover up the whole issue."
Read tried and failed to get Mounties at the highest level interested in the file. After being rebuffed at levels as high as assistant commissioner, Read went to the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, CSIS and the auditor general. He did everything he could to get the matter dealt with. Finally, he spoke to Fabian Dawson, news editor of the Province. Dawson's story, published on Aug. 26, 1999, was a blockbuster.
Now, I have a little declaration of self-interest in this. I know all of the players in this sordid little tale. I introduced Dawson to McAdam and, through that, to Read. I served with Garry Clement way back in the '70s in Langley and have steadfastly declined to contact him since the story broke lest the RCMP suck him into the same quagmire Read is bogged down in. I have talked at length with McAdam and Read and have seen much of the evidence to back up what they are both saying. It is, to say the least, very persuasive.
Understand these facts:
CAIPS was penetrated. David Balser, a data processing officer hired to check out the situation, confirmed McAdam's conclusions. So did Garry Clement.
Balser, now retired, was ordered to "obfuscate" his report. He admitted this in an "on the record" interview with Read during his investigation. This is documented.
Balser discovered that Hong Kong nationals employed by the consulate gained illegal and unauthorized access to CAIPS and recommended changes to the system to ensure this didn't happen again.
RCMP Sgt. John Conohan, in an earlier investigation into the HK consulate, reported that a suspect, a female, in whose desk fake visa authentication stamps were found, had fled to Taiwan, despite having been given information she is now living in British Columbia.
(In point of fact, she is living on the North Shore and is working as an immigration consultant. Given the fact the matter was fumbled - deliberately or otherwise - by the RCMP, I will not identify her further.)
Additional documentation discovered another woman, who operated the CAIPS computer, fled her job in 1993 because of gambling debts owed to triads.
I reiterate these details if only to show that Read was right. But, it seems even the RCMP have agreed he was right. In the tribunal's decision, Read was described as an honest police officer, integrity intact. In fact, the tribunal did not dispute any of the information determined in Read's investigation.
He was found guilty because he showed up the bureaucrats masquerading as senior officers in the Force. And nothing else. He did this by going public. Paradoxically, to prosecute Read in service court, senior management of the RCMP have exposed to public scrutiny a great many more top secret, confidential and protected documents than Read himself leaked. The stupidity of this is astounding.
"You're a bad boy for talking to the media and divulging this little piece of information. To put the blocks to you, we're going to expose all this other related information which actually proves your case and shows how frickin' stupid we really are."
There are any number of members who have been found guilty of consorting with prostitutes, driving drunk, domestic assault and a host of other transgressions, but they still have their jobs.
Read's transgression was deemed that much worse. He publicly embarrassed the RCMP's senior management for not doing their job. And for that they want him to pay with his.
The force should bloody well be ashamed by this. But not because of what Read did, but rather because of what they did to him. And of what they failed to do with what he found out.