Tale of the Tape: Timing is everything

Why, look, the Prime Minister has, in the words of the National Post, “[broken] his silence” on the Cadman Affair – and just hours before the advertising blackout kicks in, which means that the Liberal Party – which, of course, Harper has sued for defamation, won’t be able to respond publicly until after the election:

Harper gave an exclusive interview Monday to Global BC in which he again challenged the casette tape on which journalist Tom Zytaruk asked him about an alleged attempt by Conservative officials to buy a vote from dying Independent MP Chuck Cadman with a $1-million life insurance policy.

The prime minister said even Cadman’s widow, Dona Cadman – who’s running this election as a Tory candidate, denies there was an attempt to bribe her late husband.

“She certainly doesn’t believe that and that’s why she’s running as a candidate in this election,” Harper said in the interview.

“She’s told in court proceedings what she knows. Fact of the matter is, as I’ve said before, this is all based on an allegation on a tape that has been edited and is an incomplete conversation.”

Harper launched a $3.5-million defamation lawsuit against the Liberal Party after the party posted articles on its website accusing Harper of knowing that the bribe would be offered, an allegation he denied.

Earlier this week, an Ontario judge ordered another analysis of the tape and Harper asked former FBI agent Bruce Koenig to do the job. Koenig said the portion of the tape dealing with the insurance policy “contains neither physical nor electronic splices, edits or alterations,” according to a report entered in court on Friday. […]

In the Global BC interview, Harper said some parts were doctored and others were not. However, “a doctored tape is a doctored tape,” he said.

“These various expert reports disagree on some details . . . they all agree that the tape has been significantly doctored and that’s a fact.”

“They all agree”? A statement seemingly at odds with reality – or, at least, the opinion of his own audio expert  – whose report the PM’s lawyers attempted to suppress until after the election – who concluded that the exchange at the heart of the dispute was not, in fact edited:

[F]ormer FBI agent Bruce Koenig, the sound expert Harper hired to prove his allegations, submitted a report dated Friday to Harper’s lawyer, which also had to be sent to the Liberal lawyer Chris Paliare.

In the report, Koenig concluded that the first part of Zytaruk’s interview with Harper, which contains the key portions that the prime minister has contested, was intact.

The second part, beginning roughly one minute and 41 seconds into the tape, was a new recording that was made over the final part of the original recording, he said. But the first crucial minute and 41 seconds had not been altered.

Koenig reported that the tape “contains neither physical nor electronic splices, edits or alterations, except for the over-recording start that erased and replaced the end of the first part of the designated interview.”

The expert hired by the Liberals, however, found differently, according to the Post:

[…]In a strange twist, a CTV News reported Monday that an analysis on the tape by experts tapped by the Liberal Party found the tape had likely been altered, contradicting Koenig’s finding.

Except that’s not quite right, as it turns out. (Really, did anyone think it would be that simple? Has anything about this saga ever been simple?)

From the CTV News story in question (emphasis added):

The latest, Liberal-funded report states “it can be postulated that the original … tape recording was digitized, edited digitally and the electronically placed on the evidence tape associated with this dispute.”

However, the report also states that it would be impossible to determine if such an alteration was even made, and that the journalist who recorded the tape — Tom Zytaruk — likely did not have the tools or knowledge necessary to alter the tape in such a fashion.

“While the process would be relatively simple to carry out in a laboratory such as ours, its realization … would have demanded more sophisticated technical knowledge and equipment than is apparent in the examination of Mr. Zytaruk,” the report says.

The experts also found that the tape “cannot be shown to be complete” because of apparent missing sections and an interruption. Zytaruk has said he stopped his tape recorder and started it again during his interview with Harper.

In other words, it might have been altered – but there is no way to prove it, and Tom Zytaruk “likely” wouldn’t have been able to do so. That’s a far cry from what the PM’s claim that the audio experts have agreed that the tape was “signficantly doctored”.

Oh, and as for Harper’s assertion that Dona Cadman “certainly doesn’t believe” that there was “an attempt to bribe her late husband”, I’d be interested in seeing any public statement to that effect from the Conservative candidate in Surrey North. Back in August, while under cross examination, she seemed to confirm that an offer had taken place, although she was unable to name the party officials involved:

Dona Cadman faced cross-examination as part of the lawsuit on Aug. 12, when she revealed the Conservatives came to her husband’s office with a list of 10 promises.

One of those, she testified, was an assurance to push through her husband’s street racing bill and another was what she said was a $1-million life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to topple the government, she said.

She couldn’t remember all of the items promised to her late husband.

“No,” Dona Cadman said under cross-examination, “because the life insurance policy was the one that bothered him the most.”

Chris Paliare, lawyer for the Liberal party continued, saying, “He was infuriated that somebody thought they could bribe him to get his vote.”

“Right,” replied Cadman.

So, has she changed her position? Is the PM not aware of what she told the court just two months ago? And will Canadians have to wait until Harper vs. Liberal Party of Canada goes before a judge to find out the truth?

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