Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Strategies for Getting at the Truth

We need to learn to differentiate truth from fiction in the testimony; and we need to get more people to come forward.

Analysing Schreiber's testimony
It is a fact universally acknowledged that an arms dealer fighting extradition must be a little loose with the truth. However, it also seems that Karlheinz Schreiber is providing a lot of solid information. Here's a start at some guidelines for analysing Schreiber's testimony:

1. Trust the positives more than the negatives
When Schreiber says a meeting happened at a particular time, it quite possibly did; but when he says that something didn't happen, it's dodgy. For example, he has repeated emphatically that Mulroney didn't get Airbus money. However, he also said that Fred Doucet and Frank Moores essentially told him that they were giving Mulroney Airbus money. ("Send money to Mulroney's lawyer in Geneva." What's it for? "Airbus." Why? "Are you naive!?") In any event, Schreiber simply doesn't know what money Mulroney got from GCI and why; his emphatic denials are more an indication that he doesn't want to implicate himself in the Airbus scandal.

The reason that Schreiber's positives are more accurate is probably because they are easier to verify or disprove. In addition, almost everything he is saying was previously exposed by journalists like Stevie Cameron and Harvey Cashore, and was corroborated by other sources.

2. Look for nitpicking of phrases
In his his statement on day 2 or 3 of testimony Schreiber said he never "met privately" with Mulroney during Mulroney's time as prime minister. Then on day 4 he comes up with a meeting in March 1993, and alludes to other meetings... oh, it seems that those meetings weren't private: another person was present.

3. Look at the context
Schreiber appears to be a very emotional guy. He seems to dislike some of the committee members. When he finds a question disrespectful or otherwise annoying, he might not answer as accurately or completely. At other times he seems to want to please his questionner by providing fulsome answers.

4. Remember his agenda
Schreiber wants to avoid extradition to Germany, and so he wants to continue to be a valuable witness. He wants to give us enough to titillate, but not enough to close a line of inquiry. Above all, he doesn't want to implicate himself. He has an immunity deal in Canada, but what he says can be used in Germany.

5. Inconsistency is a sign of telling the truth, not otherwise
A lie generally has no inconsistencies. However, when someone is telling the truth there will be lots of inconsistencies because of changes in memory, interpretation and context. I imagine that lawyers find Schreiber's inconsistencies in testimony to be an indication of truthfulness, rather than otherwise.

6. Corroborate
We have to use whatever Schreiber says as a starting point.

Analysing Mulroney's testimony
In the past, Mulroney's strategy was to appear personally injured and to be bombastic in his defence. He creates misdirection by attacking the credibility of everyone else. In his 1996 defamation suit against the government he was adamant that he had never had any dealings with Schreiber - a statement given under oath with great believability that turned out to be a bald-faced lie.

We don't know how he will play it tomorrow. He is bringing his family to court, and he tried to get the committee chair to agree to have them lined up at a table behind him - a sort of John Dean-Watergate photo op. (Szabo is trying to have them positioned more discreetly in the committee room.) This may mean that he's going to follow his usual M.O. as the injured party seeking justice; or it may mean that he'll make a public apology.

Whichever way it goes, we need to try to avoid being manipulated emotionally. Mulroney bullies people; he goes for sympathy; and he creates misdirection. It is possible that our first reaction will be the one he wants us to have.

Getting more witnesses
My hope is that as this story is exposed and people with first-hard knowledge see just how corrupt Mulroney was, they will start to come forward. For years Mulroney has been portrayed as the injured party. Many media outlets would not even cover the story. Stevie Cameron was vilified as a journalist with a grudge. Now, the tide appears to be turning. There are probably lots of politicians, bureaucrats, household staff, merchants - who knows, hairdressers - who have valuable information.

At this point, where will these witnesses go to tell their stories? The RCMP should reopen the investigation so that there's a contact person. Short of that, perhaps the Ethics committee could do something to address the issue.

The image I have in mind is the Mulroneys leaving Harrington Lake for the last time. Their servants were lined up in the drive to say goodbye. As the limo pulled down the driveway, one of the maids shouted, "Don't come back!"

There is a lot of information out there.


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