The former Liberal staffer who set up a Twitter account to publicize details from the divorce filings of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews fought back today against Conservative MP questions, calling some of them "baseless smears."
Adam Carroll resigned from his position in the Liberal Party's research bureau when House of Commons IT staff traced the computer that had been posting to the social media site to him.
Questions by Conservative MPs on the House ethics committee seemed to try to draw a link between Liberal MPs and Carroll, who says he acted alone, never spoke to any MP about what he was doing and was fired from his job by interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae.
"This was nothing but a partisan activity, with co-ordination from the Liberal leader’s office, and I believe you’re taking a bullet for the team," Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro said.
Carroll said he disagreed with everything Del Mastro said.
"To use his words: baseless smears, or in the acronym, B.S."
Carroll told MPs on the committee that while the divorce documents are publicly available at a courthouse in Manitoba, he got them out of a filing cabinet in the Liberal Party's research office.
Focus turns to party research
The admission led to questioning by Conservative MPs about who runs the research bureau and who would have gone to the courthouse to retrieve the documents. They suggested it was unethical for Carroll to widely disseminate the publicy available details of Toews and his ex-wife's affidavits.
"Frankly, I would expect better from the Liberal Party," Del Mastro said.
Carroll responded by pointing to the Conservatives' own opposition research. Most, if not all, political parties gather information on their opponents to highlight what they see as hypocrisy or to defend against allegations.
"Are you suggesting that the Conservative Party of Canada’s opposition research files are just perfectly clean with encyclopedia-level information about every member of Parliament in opposition?" Carroll asked.
"Is this what you’re suggesting? Would you be willing to invite the media over to take a quick look?"
Rae says he knows a Conservative candidate who was given two files on him and his past.
"The information is there. That's not a question. The question is whether it was appropriate to use information that should be more private than public, even if the divorce affidavits are technically not private."
"The fact is everybody's got records on everybody. If you don't understand that... they might even have records on you," Rae said to reporters after question period.
Password poked fun at Conservatives
Carroll kicked off his committee appearance by arguing MPs usurped the authority of the House speaker and the committee's chair by overruling the chair's finding that it falls outside their mandate. Carroll says the Conservative MPs who voted to overrule the chair are showing disregard for the rules, and that he's appearing voluntarily because he respects Parliament and wants to close the matter.
Carroll used an account on Twitter under the username vikileaks30 to send 140-character quotes from Toews and his ex-wife's divorce filings, noting in the first few tweets that it was in retaliation for Toews' online surveillance bill. The bill, C-30, sparked a huge public backlash over provisions that gave police more power to demand customer information from internet service providers, among other problems.
The password Carroll chose for the Twitter account poked fun at the Conservatives, Carroll revealed, telling the committee it was "strongstablenationalmajorityConservativegovernment." That's a phrase government MPs used frequently after they won the federal election last May.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae apologized to Toews when he announced that one of his party's staffers was behind the tweets, which went on for a few days in February, 2012.
Carroll says he acted on his own and didn't tell Rae what he was doing. He also said he didn't voluntarily resign from his job — Rae demanded the resignation.
"I was never ordered, nor asked to do it. I never discussed my actions with any member of Parliament, including the interim leader of the Liberal party. I acted on my own," he said.
Information on the public record
Carroll says he broke no laws and didn't breach any House of Commons policies.
"All information I posted was already on the public record, obtained from accessible sources."
"I think that any information that is available to the public should be public. That’s my personal opinion. I’m a big believer in access to full information and people can make their judgments themselves," Carroll said.
He also pointed to a statement by Toews himself in which Toews said his personal life wasn't off-limits.
Speaking to the procedure and House affairs committee last month, Toews said criticism of his personal life is fair game.
"I know it's a difficulty even for members to accept that your personal life is fair game. That's the world we live in, and I'm not going to try in any way to suggest that somehow aspects of my life are off-limits."
Toews had said earlier at the committee that attacks on an MP's personal life were not appropriate.
Del Mastro moved in March for the ethics committee to have Carroll appear over his use of House of Commons resources to make anonymous attacks on an MP. He was due to appear last month but rescheduled due to health reasons.
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