By Jorge Barrera and Kenneth Jackson
APTN National News
The Privy Council Office has now tightened its security screening for political staffers after Bruce Carson was given secret level clearance to work in the Prime Minister’s Office despite having five fraud convictions and a bankruptcy on his record.
The PCO, which is essentially the prime minister’s department, has completed a review of its security screening process that was triggered after questions emerged around how Carson managed to get secret level clearance.
Under the new guidelines, the PCO now conducts regular audits of security clearances to make sure guidelines are closely followed and the right level of documentation used before a final decision is made, said Raymond Rivet, a PCO spokesperson.
Under the tightened regulations, officials in charge of hiring now play a “stronger role” in checking references and ensuring education and professional credentials are legitimate.
The review, however, found there was nothing amiss when Carson was given his security clearance by PCO officials, said Rivet.
“The internal review of personnel security screening processes validated the process and showed that PCO applies screening practices in compliance with federal security policy requirements,” said Rivet, in an emailed statement. “While the screening process at PCO was functioning properly at the time the review was undertaken, additional improvements are being implemented to provide greater quality assurance.”
When the issue first surfaced on the campaign trail in the lead up to the May 2, 2011, federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he knew about Carson’s two fraud convictions in the 1980s, but not his three convictions in the 1990s. Harper said he would not have hired Carson to work in the PMO if he knew about those convictions.
Carson was also disbarred in the 1980s and declared bankruptcy in 1993.
Quoting an anonymous intelligence source, The Canadian Press at the time reported that secret level clearances are rarely denied, even if the individual has a criminal record as long as they admit it.
Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus raised the issue in the House of Commons Wednesday during Question Period.
“How a…convicted fraudster gets an all-access-pass into the Prime Minister’s Office remains a mystery,” said Angus, during question period. “But we know that wherever Bruce Carson goes he leaves a lot of ethical violations and a lot of unanswered questions.”
Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, agreed to participate in APTN National News’ weekly political panel, but when he was informed that the topic of the discussion would be Bruce Carson, he issued a statement via email.
“This note is to let you know we will not be participating in (Thursday’s) panel discussion. However, we did want to provide you with a statement that we ask you to use as our response to any questions regarding Bruce Carson: Immediately after being informed of these allegations, it was our government that referred the matter to the RCMP Commissioner, the Ethics Commissioner and the Lobbying Commissioner,” the statement said. “Any individual who doesn’t respect our laws must face their full force as well as the consequences that come with them.”