Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Full disclosure needed to confirm ‘fake’ e-mails

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Mark Fraser

 The determination “fake” always lurked in the background, as observers and participants in what became known as “Emailgate”, weighed the bona fides of both the provider and the information provided. 

Opposition Leader Keith Rowley offered the world a printout of what he supposed to be e-mails exchanging thoroughly scandalous messages among PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and other top officials. Dr Rowley never claimed to possess the actual digital content. Nor did he evidently trouble to verify the authenticity of  material that he had accepted on trust from a “whistleblower”.

Trusting in the believability of the content of the alleged conversations, the PNM leader always expected some other agency to undertake such investigations as he was himself capable only of calling for. These authorities included the President, the Integrity Commission and, eventually the T&T police.

Indeed, Dr Rowley made clear his lack of faith and trust in the capacity of the overstressed and under-resourced T&T police to carry out the “Emailgate” investigations. It was, he insisted a matter properly to be undertaken by the Integrity Commission, when that body would have equipped itself with expert legal help.

What he probably could not have known was that AG Ramlogan had been moved, in his own personal capacity, to establish the validity of the alleged e-mails.

As it turned out, “Emailgate” was not so easily destined to add itself to the store of criminal and other mysteries that bedevil public affairs in T&T. When it emerged that the Integrity Commission had engaged the US legal system to compel service provider Google Inc to reveal what it knew, Mr Ramlogan’s own efforts along those lines also became known.

Only Google, it had become clear, could say for a fact if those e-mails were sent and received by the persons cited in Dr Rowley’s printout. On behalf of the AG, attorney Pamela Elder self-identified as the adviser counselling Mr Ramlogan not to let on what his recourse to the US courts had produced. 

It was last weekend, however, that findings supporting the determination of “fake” were revealed about Dr Rowley’s e-mail printout from May 2013. With “Emailgate”, the PNM leader had put his own and his party’s credibility on the line.

Last weekend, lawyers for Mr Ramlogan were able to quote Google’s data “custodian” to the effect that the e-mails alleged to have moved in the names of top Government officials did not in fact so move.  The basis of major accusations against the Government’s presumably secret correspondence appeared to have fallen apart. 

So great is the political investment in “Emailgate” that it is unrealistic to expect that the PNM leadership would simply abandon reliance on it as a political weapon of hopeful mass destruction of the People’s Partnership forces. Indeed, given the Government’s many and consistent stumbles and fumbles, it is unclear how and where to assign trust to the variable claims being made.

For certain, it is necessary for all the determinations, sought by the Integrity Commission and also by the police, relative to “Emailgate” to be made publicly available, and much sooner than later.