Stephen Harper's website posts new video showing soldiers' faces

The Prime Minister's Office pulled two videos this week over fears they could identify Canadian Forces personnel and expose them to retaliation by ISIS. Despite those concerns, a third video showing soldiers' faces remains on the prime minister's website.

PMO's 24 Seven program forced to remove 2 earlier videos that compromised soldiers' safety

The PMO's in-house production 24 Seven produced multiple videos promoting the prime minister's tour to Iraq. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Another video showing the faces of Canadian military personnel has surfaced on the prime minister's website, just days after his office was forced to remove two similar videos that potentially endangered soldiers' lives.

This time, however, the video seems to have been posted with the approval of the military.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's staff took down two videos shot in Iraq and Kuwait because they risked identifying Canadian Forces members and exposing them and their families to possible attacks.

The first two videos were shot by 24 Seven, an in-house production of the Prime Minister's Office that specializes in flattering features about Harper and his government. 

  • One segment was shot during Harper's visit to a Kurdish Peshmerga outpost in northern Iraq. 
  • Another video showed an interview with Defence Minister Jason Kenney, and was filmed in Kuwait.

Canadian Forces personnel facing the camera are visible in both videos, despite strict warnings from the military about the potential dangers of showing members' faces.

CBC News has obscured the faces in this handout footage showing troops who normally are not photographed for security reasons. The prime minister's camera crew was filming where pool journalists were not allowed to go during Harper's stop in northern Iraq last weekend. 1:05

Media travelling to Iraq and Kuwait with Harper were required to sign a five-page agreement pledging to uphold operational security. Among other things, the agreement instructed reporters not to publish photographs that could identify any personnel "who are not designated spokespersons."

"Publication or inadvertent dissemination has the potential to jeopardize operations and endanger lives," the document warned.

Videos were not reposted online

When the 24 Seven segments were published online, reporters asked the PMO officials why they appeared to be ignoring the military's express instructions. The videos were quickly taken down after the concerns were raised. 

At the time, a government official tried to play down the seriousness of the situation. Agreeing to speak only on background, the official insisted the videos had been preapproved by the military and only removed "out of an abundance of caution."

Stephen Harper was welcomed by Massoud Barzani, Iraq's Kurdish regional president, upon his arrival in Erbil, Iraq, on May 2. Some controversial videos shot in Iraq and Kuwait were posted on the Canadian prime minister's website. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

While the official said the government's intention was to repost the videos without any changes, they remained offline. 

CBC News has confirmed the military never screened or approved the 24 Seven videos as initially claimed.

The PMO admitted it had made a mistake. Rob Nicol, the prime minister's director of communications, issued a statement expressing regret and promising to review PMO protocols for posting images online.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson also issued a statement, saying that after reviewing the two videos, the military determined they presented only a low risk. But he said they should not have been posted.

Forces approved new video

The military could not muster that same level of concern for the latest video posted to the prime minister's website.

While the footage of Harper in northern Iraq is almost identical to that shown in one of the 24 Seven segments, the Department of National Defence said Friday the images had been approved.    

The opposition has been scathing in its criticism of the government throughout the whole affair. 

NDP defence critic Jack Harris on Friday accused the government of being more concerned about "the prime minister's propaganda" than the safety of Canadian troops.

"They had about four or five different stories," Harris said, "and they never did acknowledge that they misled the Canadian people."

At VE Day celebrations in Holland, the videographer and photographer working for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office tried to shoot outside the barriers set for the media. 1:16

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