Friday, February 23, 2018

All eyes on this Google ‘search’

Express editorial logo472

Mark Fraser

 It has taken more than a year for Google, the premier US-based search engine, to be made a legal party in the tho­roughly Trinidad and Tobago matter designated emailgate—a label derived from the infamous 1974 Watergate scandal that led to the unprecedented resignation of an American president. 

T&T’s emailgate imbroglio started when Opposition Leader Keith Rowley presented to Parliament an alleged printout of e-mails said to have been circulated among Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and other high officials. These e-mails appeared to confirm all the worse allegations and suspicions about key members of the People’s Partnership administration—a plot to harm a journalist; to plant electronic spy devices in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); and to accept payment from an unnamed woman in exchange for the freedom of people involved in the Section 34 fiasco of September 2012.

Adding further confusion was the possibility some of the allegations might have been true even if the e-mails were false.

Over the period since Dr Rowley presented these documents, the police, the Integrity Commission and, as it turns out, the Attorney General (in his private capacity) had variously sought the help presumably only Google can give in validating or discredi­ting the content Dr Rowley had derived from a “whistleblower” whom he trusted. 

The US court decision opens stage two for legal procedures, wherein the concerned parties can now apply to Google for release of the required information. Mr Ramlogan and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar have reportedly tried to facilitate this process by informing Google they have no objection to their e-mails for the specified period being made public.

Once Google accedes, the result should be a long-awaited advance for the T&T interest in discovering whether, or to what extent, Dr Rowley has either been recklessly purveying disinformation—that is to say, maliciously invented falsehoods—or whether, and to what extent, the denials from the Government’s side can be accepted as fact.

Dr Rowley has taken the position he bears no responsibility for the contents of the e-mail printouts because his duty was only to bring the matter, given its serious national implications, to the attention of citizens. This is a quite disingenuous argument, especially coming from a political leader who has almost monthly been asking for Government ministers’ resignations over various scandals.

If, however, the e-mail records show conspiracy on even one of the issues raised in the printouts, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and her inner circle would have been proven manifestly unfit to hold office, and the People’s Partnership coalition will surely collapse.

The political consequences arising from this one matter, therefore, will be dire and, true or false, definitely deserved.