As journalists mingled outside the Somalia inquiry’s Ottawa hearing room, Michael McAuliffe could not be blamed for feeling satisfied with himself. After all, it was the CBC Radio reporter’s continued requests in 1993 to the department of national defence for Somalia-related documents that led to the current controversy over the alteration of papers. For the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jean Boyle, it has turned into a major personal headache. Material tabled during last week’s hearings contradict his earlier claims that he knew nothing of a decision by DND’s public affairs office to change documents released to McAuliffe. And, ironically, McAuliffe says that when, later, he finally saw the information the military was keeping from him, he was disappointed. “Really, really innocuous stuff,” he said in an interview. “It’s still a mystery to me.”
Last week, Defence Minister David Collenette told the House of Commons that the new developments have sparked military police to reopen their investigation into the document caper. Last December, just before his appointment as Canada’s new chief of the defence staff,
Boyle, who had been in charge of the Canadian Forces’ response team to the Somalia crisis, told military police that he knew nothing of any plan to alter papers requested by the media—and that he would not have approved such a scheme. Last week, however, new evidence, as well as testimony from Roberto Gonzales, the civilian who ran DND’s public affairs office in 1993 and reported to Boyle, told a different story. Gonzales had previously said that he could not remember whether Boyle had been aware of the alteration of documents. But last week, when confronted with memos showing that Boyle had been told of—and in fact approved—the plan, Gonzales’s memory was refreshed. “This documentation makes it
quite obvious” that Boyle knew about the plan, he admitted.
Boyle’s counsel, government lawyer Peter Vita, said the general will explain any discrepancies when he appears before the commission in mid-May. Before then, commissioners are to hear from a parade of 16 witnesses who will likely add fuel to the fire over Somalia. Among them are three junior officers assigned to the public affairs office: naval lieutenants Joel Brayman and Chris Henderson, and army Capt. Stéphane Grenier. According to their interviews with military police last September, the three were afraid that Brayman was about to be set up by senior officers to take the blame for the alteration of documents. Suspecting as well that evidence had been destroyed, the three concluded they had no option but to leak information about a possible Somalia coverup to McAuliffe. Their suspicions were reinforced by secretary Nancy Fournier, who told police that Col. Geoffrey Haswell of the public affairs office instructed her last August to destroy the original versions of documents given to McAuliffe in an altered state. She did not, telling police in an interview last October that Cmdr. Doug Caie, also in the public affairs office, later told hen “Had you got rid of
this f-stuff like I told you, this wouldn’t
be happening now.”
Haswell, who insists that Boyle knew of the plan to alter documents, faces a court martial for his role. Charges are also expected soon against Caie and Lt.-Cmdr. Mike Considine. Brayman, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear before the Somalia commission of inquiry this week, with Fournier to follow soon after. Their testimony will likely add to the continuing furor surrounding the Somalia scandal—and ensure a hot time for Boyle when he appears to answer the inquiry’s questions.
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