Physicians for Human Rights and Propaganda: A Response to “PHR Action—Urgent Need for Justice”

Physicians for Human Rights and Propaganda: A Response to “PHR Action—Urgent Need for Justice”

I don't doubt for a moment that Syrian government forces have committed appalling war crimes and crimes against humanity—but the notion that the US government has any moral standing in the matter is truly Orwellian. In destroying Syria through proxy forces, the US is implementing a project enunciated more than a decade ago by that notorious war criminal Donald Rumsfeld—and war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria by US proxy forces (including some blamed by US propaganda on the Syrian government) have been well documented.

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Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act isn't about Terrorism: it's a Torture Act

First published as “Impending Threat to Canadian Democracy: Harper Government's 'Anti-Terrorism Act' isn't about Terrorism, it's a Torture Act,” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 March 2015),; and as “Harper's anti-terrorism act is a torture act,” (13 March 2015),


The Harper government's Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn't really about terrorism: it's about smearing other activities by association—and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants—on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence—that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions—occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy—might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts' content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)

But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture.

On February 16, Matthew Behrens observed that these clauses recall “the bone-chilling justification of torture” in the infamous memos of George W. Bush's Justice Department. He pertinently asked what the Canadian government knows, if it “actually feels the need to spell out such a prohibition, [...] about illicit CSIS practices behind closed doors....”1 On February 17, two prominent legal experts, Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan, remarked that the “limited exclusions” in these clauses “leave CSIS with incredibly expansive powers, including water boarding, inflicting pain (torture) or causing psychological harm to an individual.”2

Like the Bush torture memos, Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act is attempting to legitimize forbidden practices. Bush's lawyers argued that interrogation methods producing pain below the level of “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” were legal—as were methods producing purely mental suffering, unless they resulted in “significant psychological harm [...] lasting for months or even years.”3 Harper's legislation prohibits acts of the kind that created an international scandal when the torture practices of Abu Graib, Bagram and Guantánamo became public. But as Ruby and Hasan recognize, in so doing it is tacitly declaring acts of torture that fall below that horrifying threshold to be permissible.

Most of the torture methods applied in the black sites of the American gulag during the so-called War on Terror would be permitted to CSIS under Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act. Among these methods are sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation (both of which induce psychosis, without of course leaving physical marks), stress-position torture and waterboarding (which again leave no marks of “bodily harm”), and techniques of beating and pressure-point torture that produce excruciating pain without leaving visible traces.4

As to what CSIS does behind closed doors, we know enough to be able to say that this agency is already seriously off its leash. CSIS agents were involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until 2007 or later, a period during which the American and Afghan agencies with which they collaborated were systematically torturing detainees. We know from journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada's secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying 'secret torture facility'—“known as Graceland.”5

American torturers seem to have enjoyed giving names of this sort to their black sites: the secret facility outside the Guantánamo prison where three prisoners were tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006 is called “Penny Lane.”6 (Think about the lyrics to Paul Simon's “Graceland” and the Beatles' “Penny Lane”: you'll understand that these interrogators are sick puppies indeed.)7

But these are the people that Jack Hooper, Assistant and then Deputy Director of CSIS Operations from 2002 until 2007, wanted his agents to emulate. He told his men, “If you're going to run with the big dogs, you'd better learn to piss in the high grass.”8

We know already that Stephen Harper doesn't flinch from covering up high-level Canadian responsibility for torture in Afghanistan. In November 2009, the Toronto Star quoted a former senior NATO public affairs official as saying that flagrantly false denials about Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees had been scripted by Harper and his PMO, “which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”9 And we've not forgotten that a month later Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in order to shut down a parliamentary committee that was hearing evidence on the subject.

But on October 22 of last year, when a deranged gunman murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then tried to run amok on Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper was less brave. While some members of his caucus prepared to defend themselves and their parliamentary colleagues with anything that came to hand, he hid in a closet.

It seems that Mr. Harper would now like us all to share the emotion he felt in that closet—if not by quivering at the mention of ISIS jihadis, then, soon enough, by shaking in our boots at the thought of CSIS toughs kicking down doors at midnight.

Canadians need to tell this government, and this prime minister, that we are not intimidated on either count.

We are ashamed by his lies over high-level Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan.

We will not tolerate his attempt to institutionalize torture in Canada.

Michael Keefer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.



1  Behrens, “Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation,” (16 February 2015),

2  Ruby and Hasan, “Bill C-51: A Legal Primer. Overly broad and unnecessary anti-terrorism reforms could criminalize free speech,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (17 February 2015),

3  Jay S. Bybee, “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A (August 1, 2002),” in David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos (New York: New Press, 2009), p. 41.

4  See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Owl Books, 2006).

5  Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at (21 January 2011),

6  David Swanson, “We've murdered some folks,” Review of Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Cold Type 94 (March 2015), p. 26,

7  Some relevant lines from “Graceland”: “Everybody sees you're blown apart / Everybody sees the wind blow / In Graceland, in Graceland / I'm going to Graceland / For reasons I cannot explain / There's some part of me wants to see / Graceland....” And from “Penny Lane”: “In Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs / Of every head he's had the pleasure to know / ... / Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes....”

8  Quoted by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Mississauga: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

9  Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009),  

The Triple Victimization of Omar Khadr

First published at ColdType 98 (Mid-May 2015): 28-31, http//

Omar Khadr has been the victim of a triple suspension of what ought to have been his by right—as a child, a citizen, and a human being. His father’s political fanaticism led to a suspension of the parental protection that is the normal anchorage of a child’s world, exposing him at age fifteen to the military power of an imperial state that had cast off the constraints of those international laws which define the basic rights accruing to us as human beings—and exposing him, as well, to the betrayal of his rights as a citizen by a Canadian government that, first through cowardice and then through harsh conviction, shaped its own notions of legality to the prevailing wind.

International law recognizes child soldiers as victims, and their recruitment as a crime: but Ahmed Said Khadr was willing to see his own sons become child soldiers. In 1994 he sent Omar's two older brothers, then aged thirteen and twelve, to a guerilla training camp in Afghanistan, at that time still riven by civil war. In July 2002, after the fall of the Taliban regime, he allowed Omar, aged fifteen, to serve as Pashto translator for a group of guerillas moving from Pakistan into the Khost region of Afghanistan on a mission that ended on July 27th with their deaths and Omar’s near-death and capture.

But Omar Khadr’s public significance stems from other more far-reaching forms of victimization. In the Manichaean theatrics of its global war of good against evil, the American imperial state imprisoned, tortured and demonized him; and up until this week he has been victimized as well by Canadian political leaders who, at first cravenly and then in a deliberate scorn of legality, have violated his rights as a Canadian citizen and refused their responsibilities to him under Canadian and international law.

The grotesque injustice of Omar Khadr’s treatment by the United States is widely recognized. Even were it true that he killed an American soldier, his imprisonment and the pressing of charges against him remain a violation of Articles 37, 39, and 40 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,1 and the torture to which he was subjected at Bagram and at Guantánamo is a criminal matter for which the responsible US officials deserve indictment.

Let us remember some of the details of this treatment.

When the Afghan compound where the guerillas were staying was attacked on July 27, 2002 by US Apache helicopters and A10 ground-attack aircraft, all but two of the group, Khadr and one of the men, were killed. Khadr received multiple splinter wounds during the attack and was partially blinded. A document inadvertently given to reporters during his pre-trial hearing in February 2008 states that a US soldier who entered the shattered compound killed the other survivor with a head shot, and seeing Khadr “sitting up facing away from him leaning against [a pile of] brush,” shot him twice in the back.

Could Khadr have thrown the grenade that killed one of the US soldiers? In March 2008, Khadr's military lawyer learned that the commander of the American infantry unit wrote in his July 28, 2002 report that the survivor of the aerial bombardment who threw the grenade had then himself been killed—and learned as well that this report was revised months later (though falsely given the same date of July 28) to say that the grenade thrower was merely “engaged” by US troops—thus pointing the finger at Khadr.

A confession was extracted from Omar Khadr while he lay chained to his bed in the prison hospital at Bagram with two gaping exit wounds in his chest, and we know from the testimony of a prison guard and of another prisoner, British citizen Moazzam Begg, that Khadr was repeatedly and harshly tortured at Bagram, where the guards singled him out “for the worst treatment, payback for allegedly killing one of their own.” Khadr now claims to remember having tossed a grenade backward over his head. But remembering is not a matter of simply recovering something that in its wholeness is filed away somewhere in the mind; it is a process, rather, of reconstruction. That memory, reconstructed for a traumatized, badly wounded, and consequently suggestible adolescent in the course of many hours of unrelenting interrogation, may be no more reliable than Khadr's confession at Bagram that he had seen Maher Arar in the company of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan (at a time when the wholly innocent Arar was under close RCMP surveillance in Canada).

At the Guantánamo Bay prison, to which he was transferred in October, 2002, Khadr was subjected to physical abuse, threats of rape, sleep-deprivation torture, very extended solitary confinement, and long periods of being “short-shackled” in stress positions to a concrete floor. When on one such occasion, after hours chained to the floor, he wet himself, the guards drenched him with floor cleanser, used him as a human mop to wipe up his own urine, and left him in his soiled and chemical-stained clothing for the next two days. Khadr was also denied medical treatment for shrapnel injuries to his eyes and his legs. In April 2008, his lawyer Dennis Edney declared that he had by that time been locked in solitary confinement for a total of “more than two years with no relief from the overhead fluorescent lights,” and during the years of his imprisonment had been given “no education, no psychological assessment and no Canadian consular representative.”

In his book A Question of Torture (2006), Alfred W. McCoy studied the torture methods developed by the CIA since the 1950s, which focus on sensory deprivation, on ‘self-inflicted’ pain caused by forcing prisoners into stress positions, and on techniques of disorientation involving isolation and sleep-deprivation. The aim is to induce psychological regression from a normal state, in which a prisoner may resist interrogation, into a condition of fear, dependency, and deep (even psychotic) confusion. In the torture manuals analyzed by McCoy, and in the tortures inflicted throughout the US gulag system, these techniques have been combined with older and more obviously brutal methods of inducing terror, mental breakdown, and despair.

Omar Khadr was subjected to all of these forms of torture during the years of his captivity and repeated interrogations at Bagram and Guantánamo—and there is no doubt about the effects of this treatment. The Pentagon refused repeated requests for an independent medical examination. However, when lawyers acting on Khadr’s behalf were at last allowed to meet with him—in November 2004 and the spring of 2005—they administered two standard psychological tests to him themselves. Experts who assessed the results concluded that Khadr’s symptoms were those of a torture victim, and that his answers met the “full criteria for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” The lawyers’ attempt to secure an injunction against further interrogations was denied.

No less dismaying, from a Canadian perspective, is Omar Khadr's victimization by our own government. On August 30, 2002, Canada requested consular access to Khadr at Bagram (in conformity with the Geneva Conventions and the Vienna Convention on Consular Access), and asked both that due consideration be given to his age (Canada had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2001), and that he not be transferred to Guantánamo. But when the US denied consular access and bundled Khadr off to Gitmo, Canadian officials followed the advice of Foreign Affairs legal advisor Colleen Swords to “claw back on the fact that [Omar] is a minor.” And when the US permitted access to him only by intelligence officers, on the understanding that they would seek out and share information that could be incriminating, our government acquiesced.

In February 2003, Khadr was interrogated on three successive days by two intelligence officers from CSIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs. They responded to his complaints that he had been tortured into making false statements and was not receiving adequate medical care with a callous contempt that is the more remarkable for the fact that his wounds, as he showed by raising his shirt, were (in the words of his US military lawyer) “infected, swollen, and still seeping blood.” There were further interrogations in the Fall of 2003 by two CSIS agents, and in March 2004 by a Foreign Affairs intelligence officer who was aware that Khadr had been subjected to three weeks of sleep-deprivation torture to make him “more amenable and willing to talk.”

Khadr’s lawyers brought these facts to the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal, which in 2007 ruled that our government had violated international law, and ordered the release of all documents relating to his imprisonment. The Harper government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had likewise been violated. When in April 2009 the Federal Court ordered that a request be made for Khadr’s repatriation to Canada as soon as possible, the government again appealed to the Supreme Court, which issued its judgment in January 2010. While strongly critical of the deprivation of Khadr’s “right to liberty and security of the person,” and judging that Canada’s complicity in the American preparation of a prosecution case through the use of sleep deprivation “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects,” the Supreme Court left it to the government to decide how best to uphold Omar Khadr’s violated rights. Given this latitude, the Harper government allowed the American Military Commission in Guantánamo to lurch unprotested toward its preordained guilty verdict.

On October 31, 2010—Halloween, that is—a military jury arrived at the ghoulish conclusion that Khadr deserved an additional forty years in prison for war crimes, fifteen years more than the prosecution had called for. But this sentence was pre-empted by a plea-bargain agreement, according to which, in return for a full acknowledgment of guilt, Khadr would receive an eight-year sentence, after a year of which the US government “would support his bid to apply to serve the rest of his sentence in a Canadian prison.”

At every subsequent stage, from Khadr's repatriation to the bail hearing that has just concluded, the Harper government has has taken every available opportunity to express its confidence in a kangaroo-court conviction resting on falsified evidence and on torture, and to resist justice for Omar Khadr by every means at its disposal.

Only following his release on bail have Canadians been able to see and hear Omar Khadr speak for himself. What we saw on May 8 was a smiling, soft-spoken young man who thanked Canadians and the court system for trusting him and giving him a chance, and calmly said, in response to Stephen Harper's impenitently punitive attitude: “I'm going to have to disappoint him. I'm better than the person he thinks I am.”

But we should give the last word to Dennis Edney, the lawyer who has worked tirelessly on Omar's behalf for the past eleven years, and whose affection and support have undoubtedly been a major factor in his rehabilitation:

I think he's worth every effort. I met him in a cold, empty cell. And I saw a broken bird, chained to the floor. So, we journeyed together. We have, in some ways, both grown up together. I'm proud of who he is. He's gone through hell.




1  Article 37 provides that “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time. Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance….” Article 39, on Rehabilitative Care, provides that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.” Article 40 recognizes the right of a child accused of a crime “to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth,” and provides for “hav[ing] the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law.” For the full text, see CRIN: Child Rights Information Network, The US has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but professes to respect it.   

State Crimes Against Democracy and Canada's 2011 General Election

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (13 March 2015),




[W]e have had the possibility of living in democracies. What does it mean? It means places where the privileged are not the ones to make the decisions, but that the underprivileged are going to rise to a status where they are normal human beings and human citizens with their freedoms and their rights. When that is no longer the case, whatever the circumstance [...,] then it is proper for the young generation to listen to the very old ones who tell them, “We have been resisters at a time where there was fascism or Stalinism. You must find the things that you will not accept, that will outrage you. And these things, you must be able to fight against nonviolently, peacefully, but determinedly.”

Stéphane Hessel1


1. Democracy: a “possibility” we have enjoyed

In October 2010 Stéphane Hessel, a leading exponent of democratic values throughout a long life that included service in the French resistance to Nazi occupation, participation in the drafting of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a diplomatic career involving contributions to other important instruments of international law as well, produced an essay—one might say a manifesto—that became an international sensation. Published when Hessel was 93, Indignez-vous! sold 2.5 million copies in France within six months.2 Translated into many languages, the booklet went on to influence the Indignados and Occupy movements in Spain and the United States.

Hessel based his analysis in Indignez-vous! on what he called the foundation of his political life: his wartime experience in the resistance, and the declaration by the National Council of the Resistance on March 15, 1944 that defeating the Nazis and their French collaborators was only a stage on the way to “a true economic and social democracy.”3

The forces Hessel had opposed in his early years included those on the political right in Vichy France and in Occupied France who approved of the social order imposed by their Nazi conquerors; at 93, he thought it shameful that governing elites in France who are effectively the intellectual heirs of that discredited Ordre nouveau should be discarding the inheritance of the resistance. What prompted his manifesto for a new political resistance was the strong contemporary tendency, in France as in the other democracies of the developed world, toward a revocation of the social and civil rights for which the anti-Fascists of his generation had struggled—which has produced the outrageous spectacle of states declaring the impossibility any longer of funding social, educational, and health-care programs that had been created during the post-war period, while at the same time increasing social inequality through regressive taxation policies, lavishing resources on unjust foreign wars, and rewarding the wildly imprudent and often openly dishonest behaviour of financial institutions with gargantuan bailouts.

The processes involved in the revoking of social and civil rights against which Hessel protested have, for the most part, preserved at least a façade of legality.4 But in recent decades there has also been a tendency, most pronounced in the United States, but observable in other countries as well,5 toward interventions in democratic processes (including both elections and what would otherwise be normal patterns of public opinion formation) that are at once both openly illegal, or indeed criminal in nature, and also covert. During the past decade—beginning several years prior to the publication of Stéphane Hessel's manifesto, this tendency has become an object of formal research and inquiry among an active group of social scientists in the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada. The term that scholars working in this domain have adopted for the primary objects of their attention is “state crimes against democracy.”


2. Defining “state crimes against democracy”

Interventions of the kind that deserve this label, involving flagrant and often violent subversions of legality, are typically aimed at reorienting both public opinion and the structures of power within the state. But they are covert, in that the organizations involved—whether these be the more or less unaccountable security and policing agencies that make up a large part of what some analysts refer to as “deep politics,”6 or elite groups within political parties, or some alliance of the two, possibly involving powerful corporate interests as well—make strenuous efforts to conceal their own involvement and to offer to the public deceptive alternative accounts of events for which they are responsible. This deception, obviously enough, is a crucial aspect of the event, the intended impact of which depends upon the public either accepting a false causal explanation, or else understanding something that was in fact carefully planned and executed as a more or less random effect of the actions of isolated, irrational, and hence unpredictable agents.

State crimes against democracy arguably emerge from overlapping contradictions within democratic states. Our economic and political system, as currently constituted, generates increasingly large differences in wealth and power between socio-economic elites and ordinary citizens—and corresponding differences, in many cases, between the priorities and interests of political elites and the vast majority of the population—while yet retaining many elements of the formal structures and the ideology of egalitarian democracy. There is likewise a contradiction within western democracies over the existence within the state security apparatus of agencies and structures that are only to a limited degree, if at all, subject to democratic control.7

During periods of intense power-bloc rivalry such as that which followed World War II, an argument can of course be made for the existence of security and intelligence agencies whose job it is to detect and prevent the penetration of state and civil society organizations by the agencies of foreign powers that intend in one way or another to fracture and weaken the nation and the state. But officials in such agencies, whose perceptions and political biases may be shared by powerful corporate interests, and by factions within the upper ranks of the military (in short, by what U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned against in 1961 as “the military-industrial complex”),8 may be tempted to act domestically in an illegal and criminal manner when they are unable to secure approval from the governing authorities for their own perhaps extremist policies. Leading figures of political parties—especially those parties whose policies can most easily be recognized as benefitting elites, but not the great majority of ordinary citizens—may succumb to the same temptation.

Although there can be disagreement as to whether this or that particular event in the United States deserves to be categorized as a state crime against democracy, there is no doubt at all that such events, perpetrated by political or state insiders, have occurred. Paradoxically, though, during a period in which events of this type have arguably been increasing in frequency and significance, it has become increasingly difficult to speak of them. Criminal actions organized by drug cartels and terrorist networks are freely discussed, but critical analyses of crimes committed by political elites—even decades ago—are likely to prompt angry and contemptuous dismissals.

Professor Lance deHaven-Smith of Florida State University first expounded the concept of state crimes against democracy in a peer-reviewed essay published in 2006 in the journal Administrative Theory & Praxis.9 The concept has since been further refined, extended, and applied in new contexts in some thirty peer-reviewed essays by American, British, Australian, and Canadian scholars—some of them published in special issues of the journals American Behavioral Scientist10 and Public Integrity,11 others in several journals in the fields of politics and public administration12 or in edited books devoted to this and related subjects.13 The concept has also been deployed in interesting ways by scholars of the stature of David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott.14 But for the sake of simplicity, I will rely here on deHaven-Smith's elaboration of the concept in his 2013 book Conspiracy Theory in America.15

In this book deHaven-Smith gives an illuminating historical dimension to the paradox remarked on above. He notes that although the notion that political elites can be expected to conspire for their own benefit against the common good formed a central part of the political theory and nation-building practice of the founders of the American republic, during the past four decades claims that such behaviour actually occurs in the present day have become virtually taboo.

As he observes, the Declaration of Independence outlined a “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” on the part of King George III, but stated clearly that the colonists' right and duty to throw off his government and establish a better one was based, not on these abuses in themselves, but rather on the conspiracy of which they were evidence: the king's plot to establish “an absolute tyranny over these states,” his “design to reduce them under absolute despotism.”16 In shaping the institutions of the new republic, the founders articulated a doctrine of separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of the state that was premised upon their conviction that “representative democracy was vulnerable to, in their language, 'conspiracies against the people's liberties' by 'perfidious public officials,' and to 'tyrannical designs' by 'oppressive factions.'”17 But now, in contrast, anyone who is willing to suspect such behaviour on the part of political elites (as opposed, let's say, to conspiratorial behaviour by mafiosi or by Islamist terrorists) can expect to be labelled a “conspiracy theorist”—a pejorative term that implies both a lapse into paranoia and a departure from evidence-based rationality.

DeHaven-Smith insists, with reference both to the present day and to the writings of the founders of the United States, that the logic of “conspiratorial suspicion, which reconstructs hidden motives from confluent consequences in scattered actions, [....] is not paranoid; it is a laudable effort to make sense of political developments in a degenerating constitutional order.”18 What is irrational, rather, is the now-current dismissal, on a priori grounds, of the possibility of elite behaviour of the kind that the founders of the American republic attributed to the government of George III, and thought it prudent to anticipate in their own. This dismissal drives political thought into the impoverished domain of what deHaven-Smith calls “coincidence theories,”19 and encourages an abandonment of the structural and contextual analyses normally practised throughout the human sciences, as well as of the kinds of forensic analysis that are automatically applied in other kinds of criminal investigation.

DeHaven-Smith explains that he deliberately intends the concept of state crime against democracy, or SCAD,

to displace the term “conspiracy theory.” I say displace rather than replace because SCAD is not another name for conspiracy theory; it is a name for the type of wrong-doing about which the conspiracy-theory label discourages us from speaking.20

That label, he says,

is a verbal defense mechanism used by political elites to suppress mass suspicions that inevitably arise when shocking political crimes benefit top leaders or play into their agendas, especially when these same officials are in control of agencies responsible for preventing the events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.21

In contrast to this defensive labelling, “the SCAD construct does not refer to a type of allegation or suspicion”:

It refers to a special type of transgression: an attack from within on the political system's organizing principles. For these extremely grave crimes, America's Founders used the term “high crime” and included in this category treason and “conspiracies against the people's liberties.” SCADs, high crimes, and antidemocratic conspiracies can also be called “elite political crimes” and “elite political criminality.”22

These crimes differ from more routine forms of political criminality, such as bribery, kickbacks, or bid-rigging, which tend to affect “only pockets of government activity.” Unlike those more commonplace crimes, state crimes against democracy “have the potential to subvert political institutions and entire governments or branches of government. Committed at the highest levels of public office, they are crimes that threaten democracy itself.”23


3. State crimes against democracy in U.S. presidential elections

The most significant events of the past half-century that invite characterization as state crimes against democracy include the Kennedy assassinations in 1963 and 1968 (to which might be added the assassination of Martin Luther King).24 They include Richard Nixon's secret intervention during the election of 1968 in the negotiations aimed at ending the Vietnam War (which was arguably treasonous, since Nixon, while running for the presidency, was advising the government of South Vietnam to act against the behests of the U.S. government);25 and also the crimes that are remembered together under the name of Watergate.26 They include the 1980 “October Surprise,” in which treasonous contacts with a foreign power (Iran, this time) were again used to influence the outcome of a presidential election; and the linked Iran-Contra scandal.27 They arguably include the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which according to the analysis of a retired U.S. general involved, in addition to Timothy McVeigh's truck bomb, demolition charges of which McVeigh and his accomplices had no knowledge.28 They include the massive levels of vote suppression and fraud in the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, which were not merely “flawed,” as all commentators acknowledge, but stolen.29 And finally, they include the linked events of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 200130 and their sequel in the ensuing anthrax attacks, which have been revealed as coming from within the state's own military-scientific apparatus.31

We can observe three things about this admittedly selective list of events. First, to the degree that they are correctly identified as state crimes against democracy, these actions were carried out or enabled by state insiders.

Secondly, these events have been accompanied and followed, during the past dozen or more years especially, by an accelerating movement domestically away from the rule of law,32 and by a concurrent engagement on the part of the United States and its satellites in a series of foreign wars and interventions undertaken in open defiance of international law.33

And thirdly, most relevant to my purpose here, all but two of these actual or putative state crimes against democracy amounted to direct interventions in presidential election campaigns. (The two exceptions, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 9/11 attacks and subsequent anthrax attacks, were traumatic events that achieved large-scale reorientations of public opinion.)34

The George W. Bush administration came to office through an election marked by unprecedented levels of Republican-Party-organized vote suppression and fraudulent miscounting of the ballots cast, and culminating in an intervention by the Republican-majority U.S. Supreme Court that put an end to a recount of votes in Florida which, had it been allowed to proceed, would have resulted in the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, being elected as President.35

The 2004 presidential election repeated, in more grotesque form, all the forms of vote suppression and electoral fraud that had characterized the previous one. As Lance deHaven-Smith has remarked,

The election breakdowns [in 2000 and 2004] are not widely suspected of being repeat offenses by the same network of political operatives employing the same tactics and resources, even though both elections were plagued by very similar problems, including inadequately equipped and staffed polling places in heavily Democratic areas, computer anomalies in the tabulation of county and state totals, highly partisan Republicans in charge of election administration, aggregate vote tabulations benefiting George W. Bush, and exit polls indicating that the other candidate had won rather than Bush.36

But these facts tell us that there are indeed important forensic parallels between the two elections.

The 2004 exit poll data revealed the scale of the fraud required to give George W. Bush his second presidential term. One can calculate from this data that John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, received—or should have received—64 million votes, and Bush just 56.5 million.37 But the official results gave Bush the victory with 62 million votes over Kerry's 59 million. Bush thus received 5.5 million more votes than he would have from an honest count, and Kerry 5 million too few.

One striking feature of this election was a systematic after-the-fact falsification of the exit poll data. On November 2, 2001, election day, the national exit poll with 13,047 respondents showed Kerry beating Bush by nearly 3 percent. New figures posted shortly after 1:30 in the morning of November 3, based on 13,531 respondents, showed Bush ahead by nearly 1.5 percent: an increase of 3.6 percent in the number of respondents had produced a mathematically impossible swing of 4.5 percent from Kerry to Bush in voters' reports of their choices.

Similar mathematically impossible swings resulted from alterations made overnight in the state exit poll data for the key swing states of Florida and Ohio. The November 2 data showed Kerry holding a marginal lead over Bush in Florida, but an overnight increase of 0.55 percent in the number of respondents produced a 4 percent swing to Bush. In Ohio, the state that decided the national election, the November 2 data showed Kerry beating Bush by a decisive 4 percent—but an overnight increase of 2.8 percent in the number of respondents produced a swing from Kerry to Bush of fully 6.5 percent.

My own first article on the 2004 election, “Footprints of Electoral Fraud,” which drew attention to these anomalies, was published two days later, on November 5th.38 The metaphor of that title may be a useful one—for it is in fact not easy to commit electoral fraud on a large scale without leaving tracks that forensic analysis can detect.39

In an article entitled “The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio,” published in late January 2005, I summarized at length the large body of evidence then available which showed that—even setting aside the massive vote-suppression fraud carried out on his behalf—George W. Bush did not come close to winning the state ofa Ohio; and that, since under the Electoral College system Ohio was the crucial swing state, he therefore did not win the presidency either.40 This and further evidence has since been more fully analyzed in a series of important books—none of which, interestingly, has received more than passing mention, if that, in the mainstream media.41


4. Home truths

Some sixty years ago the distinguished Canadian economic historian Harold Innis wrote of what he called “the Siamese twin relationship between Canada and the United States—a very small twin and a very large one, to be exact.”42 One might suspect that some of what I have written here could be coloured by this relationship—by the small twin's resentment, envy, or perhaps fear of his larger sibling.

It seems only right, then, that having endorsed some trenchant criticisms of the recent behaviour of American elites—having, so to speak, slung pebbles against the windows of my neighbour—I should conclude by slinging some against my own windows as well, and by acknowledging that Canada's recent national elections have been less clean than we might hope and believe.

Our present government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, came to power in 2006 in an election marked by two important anomalies. One of these, an illegal shifting of campaign funds between the Conservative central office and local riding associations, made it possible for the Conservatives to spend $1.3 million more on campaign advertising than they were allowed to by law, and may have tipped a close election in their favour.43 The other more serious anomaly was an announcement by the RCMP, our national police force, midway through the election campaign, that it was investigating one of the government's key figures, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, for corruption. The Liberal government, for which opinion polls had confidently been predicting another term in office, plunged in popular esteem—“an 18-point lead in Ontario for the Liberals transmute[d] into a six-point lead for the Conservatives within a few days”44—and Stephen Harper's Conservatives won enough seats in Parliament to form a minority government. The Conservatives had been in office for more than a year when the RCMP acknowledged that, after all, it had no evidence against Goodale.

Can we describe these events as state crimes against democracy? There is no doubt as to the illegality of the first and the radical impropriety of the second—and they did result in a change of government that brought about radical reorientations of Canadian domestic and foreign policies. Is it significant that neither event received adequate investigation? The financial fraud was settled out of court five years after the event, with the Conservative Party paying a derisory $50,000 fine;45 and a government which had come to office through the RCMP's impropriety was no more disposed to undertake a serious inquiry into that episode than was the RCMP itself.46

Our next national election, in 2008, was marked by piecemeal instances of law-breaking by members of the governing party—one of which is of particular, almost prophetic interest.

Canada has a multi-party system with three main national parties: from right to left, the Conservatives, the Liberals, and the New Democratic Party (or NDP)—as well as two smaller centre-left parties, the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois (which fields candidates only in Québec). In 2008 Gary Lunn, the Environment Minister, was in danger of losing his British Columbia seat when the NDP candidate was forced by an old scandal to withdraw near the end of the campaign—a development that gave Lunn's Liberal opponent a good prospect of winning most of the centre-left vote.47 But taking advantage of the fact that the NDP candidate's name remained on the ballots, supporters of Lunn's campaign flooded the riding on the day before the election with fraudulent automated phone calls, supposedly from the NDP's local headquarters, urging people to vote for their man. Shortly before the election, a poll showed that less than one percent of the electorate still intended to cast a vote for the NDP—but as a result of the robocall fraud, 5.69 percent voted NDP: Lunn was re-elected, it seems, because more than 4.7 percent of the riding's voters had been persuaded to throw their votes away.48 Despite opposition complaints, both the RCMP and Elections Canada, the organization that runs national elections and is charged with enforcing the Elections Act, declared (falsely) that no law had been broken.49

Emboldened by this success, people working in the interests of the Conservative Party appear to have decided to repeat the operation on a national scale in the 2011 election.

Midway through that election campaign, which ran from March 26 until May 2, 2011, Liberal Party supporters across Canada began to receive late-night or otherwise inconvenient phone calls—supposedly from their own party—asking for their support. These harassment calls seemed designed to alienate voters from that party, and according to some news reports succeeded in doing so.50 Then, in the final days of the campaign, many opposition-party supporters received fraudulent calls giving them false information as to where they were supposed to vote. The clear intention of these calls, which claimed to be providing correct revised information, was to send the recipients to more distant places where they would be unable to vote, and thus to reduce the turnout of voters who supported centre-left parties.51

We have good estimates, based on polling data and on Elections Canada complaints records, of the numbers of these calls. Harassment calls were made to well over half a million Canadian voters, and vote-suppression calls were received by a nearly equal number of people52—though the total number of recipients was significantly smaller than the total number of calls, since many opposition voters received both kinds of calls. Surprisingly, perhaps, since they made up less than half of the total calls, the vote-suppression calls received nearly all of the media and investigative attention given to this issue.

One obvious feature of this telephone fraud is that it was nationally organized. The same scripts appear to have been used nation-wide in the vote-suppression calls, and Elections Canada recorded complaints about fraudulent calls from 261 of Canada's 308 ridings or electoral districts—though the calls were concentrated in some thirty ridings, and quite thinly scattered elsewhere. Clear evidence that the two kinds of fraudulent calls were directed by a common intentionality, and also that they were to a considerable degree targeted, appears in the fact that 42 percent of the people whose complaints were recorded by Elections Canada reported having received both harassment and vote-suppression calls.53

We know quite a lot about the provenance of these calls. While most of the vote-suppression calls were automated “robocalls,” the first wave of them was made by live-operator call centres which were also employed by the Conservative Party to make legitimate 'get-out-the-vote' calls: in the fraudulent calls, the operators routinely gave out call-back numbers that led to Conservative Party lines.54 Investigative reporting by CBC News,55 together with a poll conducted by Ekos Research,56 raised the probability that the Conservative Party's central database had been used nation-wide in the targeting of vote-suppression calls.57 And in the riding of Guelph, the only one in which Elections Canada conducted anything resembling a serious investigation, several important facts were established:

(1) The call list used in sending out the main wave of vote-suppression robocalls was, very precisely, the most recent update of the Conservative Party's data-base list of opposition-party supporters in that riding;58

(2) The computers used in arranging for those calls to be sent out were located in the Conservative Party's Guelph campaign office;59 and

(3) The person principally responsible for the fraud in Guelph, who concealed his identity under a pseudonym, used the same two Internet Protocol addresses—sometimes in the same log-in sessions—as did Andrew Prescott, the Deputy Manager of the Conservative campaign in Guelph.60

The fraud had somewhat paradoxical consequences. In the riding of Guelph, where it was most intense, it was a conspicuous failure, and the Liberal incumbent was re-elected. But this is a university community with a high level of political engagement, with very active Liberal, NDP, and Green Party organizations, and, by the end of the 2011 election campaign, with a hot charge of resentment over other vote-suppression activities by the local Conservatives.61

Elsewhere, there is evidence to indicate that the harassment and vote-suppression calls may have tipped the balance in enough ridings to make the difference between a minority Conservative government—in which opposition parties could exercise a considerable degree of power in the House of Commons—and a majority government, in which the Prime Minister's legislative and executive powers are unconstrained.62

I have quoted above Professor deHaven-Smith's observation that the elite groups responsible for state crimes against democracy are sometimes also “in control of agencies responsible for preventing the events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.” This may have been the case in the wake of Canada's 2011 election.

In February 2012, the Conservative Party fingered one of its own junior officials, Michael Sona, who at the age of 22 had been Communications Director in the Guelph campaign, as the sole organizer in Canada of the telephone fraud. Elections Canada went along with this improbable notion, and laid charges against Sona, although the principal evidence against him consisted of conversations conveniently 'remembered' by other junior officials at the instigation of the Conservative Party's chief lawyer. No charges were laid against anyone else. Although Elections Canada had much more substantive evidence against Andrew Prescott, who had been Deputy Manager of the Conservative campaign in Guelph, and the person in charge of information technology, it granted him immunity from prosecution, and Sona, who had been “thrown under the bus” by the Conservative Party, was duly convicted in August 2014, after a trial which had elements of farce, given that the prosecutor and the judge concurred in describing Prescott, the principal prosecution witness, as an untrustworthy confabulator.63

Elections Canada's investigation of the fraud was marked by a surprising degree of incompetence. Early evidence of this appeared in May 2012, when Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand informed a parliamentary committee that Elections Canada had received 70 complaints from the riding of Guelph about fraudulent phone calls: the actual number of specific and documented complaints from Guelph received by this time by the responsible official, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, was in fact well over 200. This pattern was repeated in a report Mayrand issued on March 26, 2013, according to which Elections Canada had by this time received “just over 1,400” complaints. But figures provided in April 2014 by the Commissioner of Canada Elections reveal that the actual number of complaints received by that time was at least 50 percent higher.64

But the incompetence was much more far-reaching than this. Except in the riding of Guelph, no attempt appears to have been made to obtain court orders for telecommunications company records until well over six months or even a year after the election (by which time most companies had discarded the relevant information). In Guelph itself, the investigation conducted by retired RCMP officer Allan Mathews was woefully inadequate. His more salient errors can be briefly itemized.

(1) Mathews had information that Elections Canada's office in Guelph was “inundated” with complaints from the moment its telephone lines opened at 8:50 a.m. on election day, and that people deceived by fraudulent calls started showing up at a central Guelph polling station as soon as it opened at 9:30 a.m.65 And yet the only fraud he investigated was a single burst of nearly 7,700 robocalls sent to a list of just over 6,700 Guelph voters by an Edmonton voice broadcasting company under contract to the Conservative Party between 10:03 and 10:14 a.m. on election day.

(2) Mathews made contact with only 18 of the people in Guelph who made a total of 379 complaints recorded by Elections Canada. He got in touch with just five of the 79 complainants on a list provided to him by the Liberal incumbent in Guelph on May 31, 2011: the fact that two of those five informed him of fraudulent calls quite unlike the robocalls he investigated (including late-afternoon calls in which voters were falsely informed that their polling station had closed early) might, one think, have encouraged him to go further. He did not contact any of the complainants on a second list provided to him by the Liberal Party, or follow up information about complaint lists sent to him by the Guelph NDP and Green Party.

(3) Mathews appears to have made no attempt to investigate live-operator fraudulent calls in Guelph, and the court order he obtained for information from the Edmonton voice broadcaster was for records pertaining only to a single day, May 2, 2011—even though he had information about fraudulent calls made before that day. When the Edmonton company provided him with a recording of a harassment call downloaded by the Guelph Conservatives that was to have been sent out with a “spoofed” Liberal Party originating number, he professed not to understand what it was.66

(4) Mathews appears also not to have understood that the communications company Rogers recycles the modems it provides to customers. He traced the modem that had been used in arranging fraudulent robocalls to an address none of whose residents had any political interests or contacts—and apparently failed to realize that the same modem had been used during the 2011 election at the Conservative Party headquarters in Guelph. As a result, what the media should have reported as a breakthrough in the case—a discovery that the robocall fraud in Guelph was organized from the Conservative Party's campaign office—was reported instead as a “blank wall.”67

(5) Finally, Mathews obtained material evidence from the Edmonton voice broadcaster, in the form of detailed information about session logs, which showed that Andrew Prescott, the Deputy Manager of the Guelph Conservative campaign, and the person who organized the robocalls Mathews investigated were either one and same person, or else very closely acquainted. Prescott and the so-called “Pierre Jones” (also known as “Pierre Poutine”) used the same two Internet Protocol (IP) addresses; “Pierre Jones” logged in to two of Prescott's voice-broadcaster sessions; Prescott stored three sessions under the name of “Pierre Jones”; and on two occasions on election day “Jones” and Prescott logged in within minutes of each other from the same IP address.68 In an uncorrupted investigation, this information would have justified the laying of charges against Prescott—instead of which, he was granted immunity from prosecution.69

One last frustrating detail can be mentioned. In late February 2012 Annette Desgagné, a telephone operator who had been employed at the Thunder Bay, Ontario call centre of Responsive Marketing Group (RMG), a company contracted to the Conservative Party, made national headlines when she claimed that she believed her work during the 2011 election campaign had included giving voters misleading information about their polling stations. She and some co-workers who had likewise experienced reactions of incredulity verging on anger from citizens who recognized the information RMG was providing as obviously incorrect spoke to their supervisor. When she told them to continue making the calls, they contacted the RCMP and Elections Canada—neither of which took any action.70

This story made headlines in late February 2012, ten months after the election—and was quickly followed by reports in CBC News and the Toronto Star that the Conservative Party had dispatched senior officials to Thunder Bay to go through all of the audio recordings held by Responsive Marketing Group.71 It is hard to imagine any innocent explanation for such an act.72 Elections Canada announced that it was sending one of its investigators to Thunder Bay, where he would arrive a week later.73 By that time, one must assume, any incriminating details in those records would have been purged.

In April 2014, Yves Côté, the Commissioner of Canada Elections (which is to say the official in Elections Canada responsible for enforcing the Canada Elections Act), brought his national investigation to a close with a report declaring that while some confusing telephone calls had indeed been made across Canada, “the evidence does not establish that calls were made a) with the intention of preventing or attempting to prevent an elector from voting, or b) for the purpose of inducing an elector by some pretence or contrivance to vote or not vote [....] As a result, the Commissioner found insufficient grounds to recommend that any charges be laid.” This report added that “It is useful to note, moreover, that the data gathered in the investigation does not lend support to the existence of a conspiracy or conspiracies to interfere with the voting process [...].”74

Right-wing journalists were quick to take the hint. “Sorry, Truthers,” John Ivison trumpeted in the National Post, “the robocalls affair is not Canada's Watergate.” Quoting Christopher Hitchens' comparison of conspiracy theories to “the exhaust fumes of democracy,” Ivison hoped for a reduction in “similar emissions.”75 Tasha Kheiriddin declared in the online news site iPolitics that the “conspiracy theory” around robocalls had indeed imploded—gone “poof,” she said—and proposed that the affair “may yet be filed under 'History's Greatest Hysterias', next to the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic of 1962 and the Dancing Plague of Strasbourg in 1518.”76

I hope we know, by now, what to think of the ad hominem vapourings of journalists who are attempting to enforce a rule of silence around state crimes against democracy. The appropriate response is simply to continue a rigorous critical analysis of the matters from which they would like us to avert our eyes. 


Michael Keefer, who holds degrees from the Royal Military College of Canada, the University of Toronto, and Sussex University, is Professor Emeritus in the School of English and Theatre Studies of the University of Guelph, and a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English. He has held visiting research fellowships at the University of Sussex and at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität, Greifswald.




1  Stéphane Hessel, “Stéphane Hessel on Occupy Wall Street: Find the Time for Outrage When Your Values Are Not Respected,” Interview with Juan González, Democracy Now! (10 October 2011),

2  Stéphane Hessel, Indignez-vous! (Paris: Indigène, 2010). Charles Glass says in his Foreword to the English translation that the booklet had sold over 600,000 copies by the end of December 2010 (Time for Outrage!, trans. Damion Searls and Alba Arrikha [London: Charles Glass Books, 2011], p. 7); I remember reading the 2.5 million figure when I was in France a month later—and also reading, in late February, that the Italian version (Indignatevi!, trans. Maurizia Balmelli [Turin: Add editore, 2011], had sold 25,000 copies within ten days after its publication. Séphane Hessel died in 2013, at the age of 95.

3  I am paraphrasing and quoting from an essay by the London publisher of Indignez-vous!: Charles Glass, “Time for Outrage! On the American publication of Stéphane Hessel's Indignez-vous!, The Nation (7-14 March 2011),

4  Beneath this façade, however, there may be corruption and violations of law by state officials—as is allegedly the case in one arguably symptomatic contemporary instance in France that has large-scale ramifications for the integrity of France's food supply and the survival of farming communities. See Evan Jones, “France's 1000 Cow Factory: The Battle for Rural France,” CounterPunch (10-12 October 2014),

5  The best-known such incidents occurred in Italy. See Daniele Ganser, NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe (London: Routledge, 2005). Ferdinando Imposimato, Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy, and author or co-author of seven books on political corruption and terrorism, has charged that senior politicians were implicated in terrorist atrocities: see “Ferdinando Imposimato: 'Aldo Moro ucciso dall Br [Brigate rosse] per volere di Giulio Andreotti, Francesco Cossiga e Nicola Lettieri',” Huffington Post (7 October 2013),; and also Ferdinando Imposimato and Sandro Provvisionato, Doveve Morire: Chi ha ucciso Aldo Moro (Milan: Chiarelettere, 2008). Judge Imposimato has linked the terror attacks of the “strategy of tension,” which were aimed at persuading the government to declare a state of emergency, to the events of 9/11: “The 9/11 attacks were a global state terror operation permitted by the administration of the USA, which had foreknowledge of the operation yet remained intentionally unresponsive in order to make war against Afghanistan and Iraq. To put it briefly, the 9/11 events were an instance of the strategy of tension enacted by political and economic powers in the USA to seek advantages for the oil and arms industries. Italy too was a victim of the 'strategia della tensione' of the CIA, enacted in Italy from the time of the Porta della Ginestra massacre in Sicily in 1947 until 1993.” “Letters,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (September 2012),

6  See Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). Scott writes that “A deep political system or process is one which habitually resorts to decision-making and enforcement procedures outside as well as inside those publicly sanctioned by law and society. In popular terms, collusive secrecy and law-breaking are part of how the deep political system works” (pp. xi-xii). Deep political analysis, Scott argues, extends structural analysis by considering “the institutional and parapolitical arrangements which constitute the way in which we are systematically governed” (p. 11).

7  It may be appropriate, a century after the outbreak of World War I, to remember how one such agency set off the chain of events that led to war. The 1903 assassination of the autocratic King Alexander Obrenovic transformed Serbia, under the new King Petar Karadjordjovic, into “a genuinely parliamentary polity” with an “emphatically democratic constitution.” However, the “regicide network” exercised power, beyond the control of any democratic institution, within the state's military and policing functions—and was devoted to the cause of integrating all Serbs into a Greater Serbia (even if, by their own account, many of these people were Macedonian Bulgarians or Bosnian Croats who had no desire to be re-labeled as Serbian). In 1911, the network formed the so-called “Black Hand,” which three years later organized the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. See Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2012; rpt. New York: HarperCollins, 2014), pp. 14-15, 17, 38-39, 47-56.

8  Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address,” available online from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum,

9  Lance deHaven-Smith, “When Political Crimes Are Inside Jobs: Detecting State Crimes Against Democracy,” Administrative Theory & Praxis 28.3 (2006): 330-55.

10  Matthew T. Witt and Alexander Kouzmin, eds., Special issue on State Crimes Against Democracy, American Behavioral Scientist 53 (2010): 783-939. This special issue contains an introduction by Witt and Kouzmin, “Sense Making Under 'Holographic' Conditions: Framing SCAD Research,” pp. 783-94, and five other articles: Lance deHaven-Smith, “Beyond Conspiracy Theory: Patterns of High Crime in American Government,” pp. 795-825; Christopher L. Hinson, “Negative Informational Action: Danger for Democracy,” pp. 826-47; Laurie A. Maxwell, “In Denial of Democracy: Social Psychological Implications for Public Discourse on State Crimes Against Democracy Post-9/11,” pp. 848-84; Kym Thorne and Alexander Kouzmin, “The USA PATRIOT Acts (et al.): Convergent Legislation and Oligarchic Isomorphism in the 'Politics of Fear' and State Crime(s) Against Democracy (SCADs),” pp. 885-920; and Matthew T. Witt, “Pretending Not to See or Hear, Refusing to Signify: The Farce and Tragedy of Geocentric Public Affairs Scholarship,” pp. 921-39.

11  Lance deHaven-Smith, ed., Symposium on State Crimes Against Democracy, December 2009, Public Integrity 13 (2011): 197-252. In addition to deHaven-Smith's and Alexander Kouzmin's “Introduction,” this symposium contains four essays, among them Lance deHaven-Smith, “Myth and Reality of Whistleblower Protections,” pp. 207-20; Alexander Kouzmin, J. Johnston, and Kym Thorne, “Economic SCADs: The Dark Underbelly of Neo-Liberalism,” pp. 221-38; and Matthew T. Witt, “Exit, Voice, Loyalty Revisited: Contours and Implications for Public Administration in Dark Times,” pp. 239-52.

12  Matthew T. Witt and Lance deHaven-Smith, “Conjuring the Holographic State: Scripting Security Doctrine for a (New) World of Disorder,” Administration & Society 40 (2008): 547-85; Mohamad G. Alkadry and Matthew T. Witt, “Abu Graib and the Normalization of Hate and Torture,” Public Integrity 11 (2009): 137-55; Lance deHaven-Smith and Matthew T. Witt, “Preventing State Crimes Against Democracy,” Administration & Society 41 (2009): 527-50; Lance de-Haven-Smith, “State Crimes Against Democracy in the War on Terror: Applying the Nuremberg Principles to the Bush-Cheney Administration,” Contemporary Politics 16 (2010): 403-20; Lance de-Haven-Smith and Matthew T. Witt, “Conspiracy Theory Reconsidered: Responding to Mass Suspicions of Political Criminality in High Office,” Administration & Society 45 (2013): 267-95.

13  See Mark Crispin Miller, ed., Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 (Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 2008), which includes Lance deHaven-Smith, “Florida 2000: Beginnings of a Lawless Presidency,” pp. 45-57; and Alexander Kouzmin, Matthew Witt, and Andrew Kakabadse, eds., State Crimes Against Democracy: Political Forensics in Public Affairs (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012). This book contains thirteen essays, among them the following: Matthew T. Witt and Andrew Kakabadse, “Introduction: State Crimes Against Democracy—Political Forensics in Public Affairs,” pp. 1-9; John Dixon, Scott Spehr, and John Burke, “State Crimes Against Democracy: A Clarification of Connotations,” pp. 10-26; Chris Hinson, “Normalizing the SCAD Heuristic,” pp. 27-46; Andrew Kakabadse, Alexander Kouzmin, Nada K. Kakabadse, and Nikolai Mouraviev, “Auditing Moral Hazards for the Post-Global Financial Crisis (GFC),” pp. 79-106; Kym Thorne and Alexander Kouzmin, “Ideal Typing: (In)visible Power in the Context of Oligarchic Isomorphisms,” pp. 107-34; Courtney Jensen, “The Social Construction of Race, Inequality, and the Invisible Role of the State,” pp. 135-55; Mohamad G. Alkadry, “Unlimited and Unchecked Power: The Use of Secret Evidence Law,” pp. 156-78; Riste Simnjanovski, “American Military-Education Convergence: Designing the Failure of Public Education,” pp. 179-203; and Nikolaos V. Pappas, “The Determination of Behavioral Patterns in Tourism Through Terrorism: Lessons from Crete, Greece,” pp. 224-45. See also Lance deHaven-Smith, “Seeing 9/11 From Above: A Comparative Analysis of State Crimes Against Democracy,” in James Gourley, ed., The 9/11 Toronto Report: International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001 (New York: International Center for 9/11 Studies, 2012), pp. 67-108, 393-400.

14  See David Ray Griffin, “Building What? How SCADs Can be Hidden in Plain Sight,” 911 (27 May 2010),; and Griffin, 9/11 Ten Years Later: When State Crimes Against Democracy Succeed (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2011); and Peter Dale Scott, “Systematic Destabilization in Recent American History: 9/11, the JFK Assassination, and the Oklahoma Bombing as a Strategy of Tension,” Information Clearing House (25 September 2012),

15  Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013).

16  DeHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, pp. 7, 56.

17  Ibid., p. 55.

18  Ibid., p. 57.

19  Ibid., p. 20.

20  Ibid., p. 9.

21  Ibid., p. 9.

22  Ibid., p. 11.

23  Ibid., p. 12.

24  Evidence of “five impulsive sounds that have the acoustic waveform of Dealey Plaza gunfire,” one of which “matches the echo pattern of a test shot fired from the Grassy Knoll,” refutes the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination. See D.B. Thomas, “Echo correlation analysis and the acoustic evidence in the Kennedy assassination revisited,” Science & Justice (2001): 21-32. The official account of RFK's assassination is refuted by similar evidence: a witness's attestation that 12 to 14 (not 8) shots were fired, from two separate directions, and an audio recording, analysis of which reveals that there were 13 shots, five fired by a weapon with a distinct acoustic signature and from a direction opposite to that from which the convicted assassin fired. See Lisa Pease, “The other Kennedy conspiracy,” (21 November 2011),; and Michael Martinez and Brad Johnson, “RFK assassination witness tells CNN: There was a second shooter,” CNN (30 April 2012), On the King assassination, see William F. Pepper, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King (London: Verso, 2003).

25  See Robert Parry, “Admissions on Nixon's 'Treason',” Consortium News (14 June 2012),; and David Taylor, “The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason',” BBC News (22 March 2013),

26  See John W. Dean, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It (London: Penguin, 2014); Max Holland, Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012); and,

27  See Robert Parry, “How Two Elections Changed America,” Consortium News (4 November 2009),; and Ross Cheit et al., Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs, The creators of this website note that the project “evolved from an applied ethics and public policy course at Brown University called Good Government.”

28  See David Hoffman, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror (Venice, CA: Feral House, 1998), pp. 1-3, 15-17, 27-28, 461-85. DeHaven-Smith's list of state crimes against democracy does not include this event—but see, for a contrasting viewpoint, Peter Dale Scott, “Systemic Destabilization in Recent American History.”

29  Key aspects of the electoral fraud involved are mentioned below.

30  Since early 2008 it has been known that The 9/11 Commission Report's narrative of the planning and execution of the attacks is based on torture, and therefore has no evidential value; see my essay “9/11, Torture, and Law,” Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies (2011.1): 141-70, For evidence that the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7 were destroyed by controlled demolitions, see Graeme MacQueen, “118 Witnesses: The Firefighters’ Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers,” Journal of 9/11 Studies 2 (August 2006): 47-106; Kevin Ryan, “High Velocity Bursts of Debris From Point-Like Sources in the WTC Towers,” Journal of 9/11 Studies 13 (July 2007),; Steven E. Jones at al., “Extremely High Temperatures During the World Trade Center Destruction,” Journal of 9/11 Studies 19 (January 2008),; Graeme MacQueen and Tony Szamboti, “The Missing Jolt: A Simple Refutation of the NIST-Bazant Collapse Hypothesis,” Journal of 9/11 Studies 24 (January 2009),; and Neils H. Harrit et al., “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” Bentham Open Chemistry & Physics Journal 2 (2009): 7-31,

31  See Graeme MacQueen, The 2001 Anthrax Deception: The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2014).

32  See, for example, Barbara Olshansky, Democracy Detained: Secret Unconstitutional Practices in the U.S. War on Terror (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007); Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); and Brian J. Trautman, “Why the NDAA is Unconstitutional,” CounterPunch (18 January 2012),

33  For the opinions of some specialists in international law, see Francis Boyle, Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11th (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2004); Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity (London: Pluto Press, 2004); Alex Conte, Security in the 21st Century: The United Nations, Afghanistan, and Iraq (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005); Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (Sausalito, CA: Podipoint Press, 2007); and Myra Williamson, Terrorism, War, and International Law: The Legality of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009).

34  In 1995 a burgeoning far-right-wing militia movement used the FBI's murderous violence against the Weaver family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, and against the Koresh cult at Waco, Texas, in 1993, actions which killed a total of 78 people, to justify taking up arms. The Oklahoma City bombing was represented as revenge (it took place two years to the day after the Waco siege). The bombing killed 168 people (19 of them children) and wounded over 680; this discredited the militia movement and legitimized state repression against far-right-wing anti-state extremists. The 9/11 attacks legitimized a state of emergency and continuity of government measures, and created a surge of support for wars in the Middle East, and the anthrax attacks silenced opposition to the Patriot Act.

35  The evidence on this subject seems conclusive. See Daniel Lazare, The Velvet Coup (London: Verso, 2001); Robert Parry, “So Bush Did Steal the White House,” Consortium News (22 November 2001),; Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (2nd ed., New York: Plume, 2004), pp. 11-81; Andrew Gumbel, Steal This Vote: Dirty Elections and the Rotten History of Democracy in America (New York: Nation Books, 2005), pp. 201-24; and Lance deHaven-Smith, ed., The Battle for Florida: An Annotated Compendium of Materials from the 2000 Presidential Election (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005).

36  DeHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, p. 15, citing Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifus, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006).

37  The following numbers, borrowed from Steven Freeman's work (and rounded off to the nearest half-million), show the scale of the fraud. 105.5 million votes for president were officially tallied in 2000, and 122.5 million in 2004. Al Gore won 51 million votes in 2000, Bush 50.5 million, and the remaining 4 million went to Ralph Nader and other candidates. In 2004, making allowance for the passage of time, Kerry and Bush had hypothetical bases from 2000 of 49 and 48.5 million voters respectively. The 2004 national exit polls show that 8 percent of Gore 2000 voters swung to Bush in 2004 (and 1 percent to third-party candidates), while 10 percent of Bush 2000 voters went to Kerry: that expands Kerry's base of returning voters to 49.5 million, while Bush's shrinks to 47.5 million. 64 percent (2.5 million) of the people who supported a third-party candidate in 2000 voted in 2004 for Kerry, and 17 percent (0.5 million) for Bush. Kerry thus won 52 million of the votes cast in 2004 by returning 2000 voters, and Bush won just 48 million. When we add in the 21 million first-time voters in 2004, Kerry's lead expands, for 57 percent (12 million) of these people voted for Kerry, 41 percent (8.5 million) voted for Bush, and 2 percent (0.5 million) supported a third-party candidate. This indicates that Kerry received—or should have received—a total of 64 million votes, and that Bush received—or should have been credited with—just 56.5 million votes.

38  Michael Keefer, “Footprints of Electoral Fraud: The November 2 Exit Poll Scam,” Centre for Research on Globalization (5 November 2004),; also available at (The figures I have given here incorporate some small corrections to the figures given in that article; these do not affect the substance of the argument.)

39  Another much larger anomaly—or one might say absurdity—was pointed out by Michael Collins in 2007. In order to produce the appearance of a Bush victory in the altered November 3rd exit poll data, it was necessary to claim that voter turnout had increased by a massive 66 percent in the country's 24 large cities, and that given an actual decline in Bush's support from his rural and small-town base, he had won the election due to a surge in the numbers of conservative white urban voters. But official data is available for 12 of these cities (accounting for 61 percent of the total big city population); in these cities voter turnout increased on average by just 13.1 percent—meaning that a more than 100 percent increase would be required in the other 12 large cities to produce the average increase reported in the falsified data. It is quite clear that this did not in fact happen. See Michael Collins, “Election 2004: The Urban Legend,” Scoop (13 June 2007),

40  Michael Keefer, “The Strange Death of American Democracy: Endgame in Ohio,” Centre for Research in Globalization (24 January 2005),

41  These include, in addition to Freeman and Bleifus, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?, Mark Crispin Miller, Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They’ll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them) (New York: Basic Books, 2005); Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008 (Columbus: CICJ Books, 2005); Bob Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld, and Harvey Wasserman, eds., Did George W. Bush Steal America’s 2004 Election? Essential Documents (Columbus: CICJ Books, 2005); Fitrakis, Rosenfeld, and Wasserman, eds. What Happened in Ohio? A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election (New York: The New Press, 2006); Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse (2006; rpt. New York: Plume, 2007), pp. 187-263; and Richard Charnin, Proving Election Fraud: Phantom Voters, Uncounted Votes, and the National Exit Poll (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2010).

42  Harold A. Innis, Essays in Canadian Economic History, ed. Mary Q. Innis (1956, rpt. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1969), p. 238.

43  See Briony Penn, “Robocalls and the petrostate,” Focus Online (April 2012),; Scott Reid, “Election charges undermine Harper legacy,” CBC News (25 February 2011),; and see also “A 'Bunch of Turds': What Really Happened in the In and Out Scheme,” The Sixth Estate (10 March 2011),

44  Reid, “Election charges undermine Harper legacy.”

45  See Steven Chase, “Tory Senators Face Elections Charge Over Campaign Spending,” The Globe and Mail (25 February 2011),; Laura Payton, “Conservative Party Fined Over Breaking Elections Laws,” CBC News (10 November 2011),; and Jim Harris, “Harper Conquers Canada, One Robocall at a Time,” Huffington Post (27 February 2012),

46  See James Travers, “Probe role of RCMP in last vote,” Toronto Star (16 February 2008),; Jack Aubry, “RCMP had 'negative' impact on Liberal campaign,” National Post (31 March 2008),; Richard Brennan, “Greens seek probe into RCMP action,” Toronto Star (11 April 2008),; and Guy Charron, “Canada: Report whitewashes federal police's intervention,” World Socialist Web Site (22 May 2008), There is additional evidence of RCMP corruption around this time in a scandal involving an alleged looting of the force's pension fund by senior officers: see Kady O'Malley and Chris Selby, “RCMP scandal deepens: Officers allege highest levels of force involved in coverup of pension fraud,” Maclean's (29 March 2007),; and David Hutton, “RCMP Pension Scandal: How to Stop the Rot,” The Hill Times (30 April 2007), available online at Fair: Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform,

47  This was indeed a likely outcome. In the 2006 election, Lunn had been re-elected with 37.15 percent of the vote; his NDP and Liberal opponents won 26.54 and 26.08 percent respectively, while the Green Party candidate won 9.94 percent. The 2008 Liberal candidate, Briony Penn, who had a history of social and environmental activism, was in a strong position to attract NDP and Green Party voters, as well as the usual Liberal Party supporters.

48  Lunn defeated Penn by 2,621 votes—while more than 3,000 voters were deceived by the robocalls into wasting their votes on a candidate who had resigned from the race. This result is of interest as showing the potential impact of fraudulent automated phone calls among voters with no previous experience of this kind of fraud, and no timely counter-information. See Briony Penn, “Robocalls and the petrostate”; “NDP candidate West quits over skinny-dipping brouhaha,” Vancouver Province (23 September 2008),; “Saanich-Gulf Islands election tactics under microscope,” Victoria Times-Colonist (30 October 2008),; Will Horter, “Karl Rove Comes to Canada?” BC Conservation Voters (28 March 2009), reproduced at Green Party of Canada (29 February 2012),; and Lawrence Martin, “The curious case of Saanich-Gulf Islands,” The Globe and Mail (1 March 2012, updated 10 September 2012),

49  See Penn, “Robocalls and the petrostate”; and 'Alison', “RoboConjob Disclaimer: No harm, no foul,” Dawg's Blawg (26 November 2012), The robocalls that appear to have ensured Gary Lunn's re-election very clearly violated sections 281.(g), 282.(b) and 482.(b) of the Canada Elections Act (which forbid attempts to prevent an elector from voting and criminalize the use of “any pretence or contrivance” to induce a person to vote in a particular way or refrain from voting); they also violated sections 372 and 403 of the Criminal Code (which make it an offense to knowingly provide false information over the phone, or to fraudulently impersonate someone else). The Lunn campaign also broke the rules governing third-party advertising, thereby violating section 351 of the Canada Elections Act.

50  See Kenyon Wallace, “Liberals say they’re targets of prank campaign calls,” Toronto Star (19 April 2011),; Dave Seglins and Laura Payton, “Elections agency probes harassing calls,” CBC News (19 April 2011),; “Liberals complain their voters are being harassed,” (19 April 2011),; and “Project Poutine: Alleged Opposition Harassment Calls,” The Sixth Estate (30 November 2012),

51  See Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, “'Robocalls' tried to discourage voters: Caller pretending to be Elections Canada told voters their polling stations had been moved,” Vancouver Sun (23 February 2012),; Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor, “Elections Canada gets phone records in 56 ridings in vote-suppression probe: Court documents first evidence of widespread investigation,” Ottawa Citizen (29 November 2012), The standard practice in Canada is for people on the voters' list to receive cards sent through the mail by Elections Canada, informing them of the location of their polling stations. In cases where changes have to be made, new cards are mailed out; and when the changes are made too late in a campaign for this to be feasible, Elections Canada puts announcements into the local media, and posts its officials at the old locations on election day to redirect any uninformed voters. Elections Canada never contacts voters by telephone, and voters who show up at the wrong polling station are not normally allowed to vote there.

52  A poll conducted by Ekos Research in April 2012, sampling voters in more than one hundred ridings, found that an average of 2.3 percent of them reported having received fraudulent phone calls giving false information as to their polling stations. This indicates that about 550,000 such calls were received. The April 2014 Elections Canada Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls cited in note 53 below reveals that 51 percent of the complaints it kept records of were prompted by harassment calls, and 49 percent by polling-station misinformation calls. This would indicate that voters received rather more than 550,000 harassment calls.

53  See Commissioner of Canada Elections [Yves Côté], Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls: An Investigation into Complaints of Nuisance Telephone Calls and of Telephone Calls Providing Incorrect Poll Location Information in Electoral Districts Other than Guelph During the 41st General Election of May 2011 (Ottawa: Elections Canada, April 2014),, para 28, p. 9. This report provides only the raw data: Elections Canada kept records of 2,448 complaints, 1,241 about harassment calls and 1,207 about misdirection calls, and there were a total of 1,726 complainants. The report claims, bizarrely, that except in the riding of Guelph Elections Canada was unable to find evidence of criminal intention in the telephone fraud.

54  See Greg Layson, “Voters receive hoax calls about changes to polling stations,” Guelph Mercury (2 May 2011),; Ashley Csanady, “MP Albrecht pledges investigation after 'crank' election calls traced to Tory office,” Kitchener-Waterloo Record (20 December 2011),; Tonda MacCharles, “Conservative scripts misdirected voters in 2011 election, say call centre staff,” Toronto Star (27 February 2012),; Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Emails show Elections Canada raised voter suppression concerns before election,” Ottawa Citizen (16 November 2012),; and Laura Payton, “Complaints about Tory calls began 3 days before polls opened,” CBC News (19 November 2012),

55  Terry Milewski, “Misleading robocalls went to voters ID'd as non-Tories: Pattern of calls points to party's voter identification database, opposition says,” CBC News (15 March 2012, updated 16 March 2012),

56  Michael Valpy, “Non-Tory voters targeted in robo-call scandal, pollster finds,” Globe and Mail (23 April 2012, updated 24 April 2012),

57  Both the CBC investigation and the Ekos poll found evidence of an apparently nation-wide pattern in which voters who responded during the campaign to Conservative Party voter-identification calls by stating that they did not support that party (meaning that their preferences were entered into the central Conservative Party database, the Constituency Information Management System [CIMS]), subsequently received calls providing them with false information about their polling stations. The CBC investigation revealed recurrences of this pattern reported by voters from Newfoundland to Manitoba; Ekos Research found a strong statistical correlation between people identifying themselves to Conservative callers as non-supporters and receiving subsequent vote-suppression calls.

58  “Robocalls Linked to Guelph Tory Campaign Worker's Computer,” Huffington Post (5 April 2012, updated 7 April 2012),; and Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Robocalls investigators hunt missing Tory records that could identify Pierre Poutine,” National Post (16 April 2012, updated 18 April 2012),

59  See R. v. Sona, 2014 ONCJ 365 (CanLII) (14 August 2014),, para. [5] v).

60  R. v. Sona, 2014 ONCJ 365 (CanLII), para. [5] viii).

61  The Conservatives had hoped to win this riding, which Liberal Frank Valeriote had won in 2008 by just 1,788 votes, with 32.22 percent of the votes to the Conservative candidate's 29.18 percent. Their campaign was marked by a succession of appearances by prominent Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, who “visited Guelph two weeks before the election writ was dropped, and again during the campaign. Other high-profile visitors included Treasury Board president Stockwell Day, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.” See Scott Tracey, “Guelph Conservatives felt national party influence, documents suggest,” Guelph Mercury (2 March 2012), Former Ontario Premier Bill Davis also took part in the Conservative campaign in Guelph. On March 31, 2011, 150 University of Guelph students staged a “vote mob,” a non-partisan event encouraging young people to vote that was imitated at 18 other Canadian universities; a second vote mob of 500 students unfurled a thirty-foot long banner proclaiming, “Surprise! We Are Voting!” outside Stephen Harper's April 4 Guelph rally. The Conservatives generated negative national publicity by excluding several students (who had previously registered) from this rally, and more of the same when they tried to shut down and then to disqualify a special ballot arranged by Elections Canada on April 13 for university students who, after their final exams, wouldn't be in Guelph for the advance polls or on election day. Their inept candidate garnered further negative publicity by missing four out of six debates, including an April 12 all-candidates' debate, moderated by political science professor Tim Mau, that filled one of the university's largest lecture halls to capacity.

62  See Anke S. Kessler and Tom Cornwall, Does misinformation demobilize the electorate? Measuring the impact of alleged “robocalls” in the 2011 Canadian election (Simon Fraser University Department of Economics, 20 April 2012, revised version January 2014), Kessler and Cornwall found a vote suppression effect averaging about 2%, or approximately 2,000 votes per riding, in the two dozen ridings most affected by calls giving out false information about polling station changes.

63  See R. v. Sona, 2014 ONCJ 365 (CanLII) (14 August 2014), para. [169]: “Mr. Prescott presents as a witness whose evidence both counsel agree should be approached with caution. The Crown reasonably acknowledges there are 'obviously' issues with respect to the reliability of Mr. Prescott's evidence. I agree with both counsel”; para. [172]: “He presented as a witness who has the rather unique capability of having his memory regenerated with the passage of time up to and including the date of the trial and making statements that even the Crown agrees were incorrect.”

64  See Mayrand, Preventing Deceptive Communications with Electors (March 26, 2013),, p. 11; and Commissioner of Canada Elections [Yves Côté], Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls (April 2014),, Section 1.3, Fig. 1.

65  See Alan Mathews, “Information To Obtain (ITO)” court document filed on 8 June 2011, paras. 86 and 89.

66  See Alan Mathews, ITO filed on 12 December 2011, paras. 117, 124.

67  Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Trail of Pierre Poutine runs into an open Wi-Fi connection,” Ottawa Citizen (10 August 2012),

68  Alan Mathews, ITO filed on 20 March 2012, paras. 167-69, p. 24.

69  An editorial in the Guelph Mercury has raised the question of whether Prescott, who offered “sworn testimony that the court rejected as seemingly non-credible, and/or unreliable,” honoured his undertaking in his immunity agreement to provide “full and credible evidence at trial.” See “Community wants more justice seeking on robocalls,” Guelph Mercury (27 January 2015),

70  See Tonda MacCharles, “Conservative scripts misdirected voters in 2011 election, say call centre staff,” Toronto Star (27 February 2012),; Allison Cross, “I made misleading election calls claiming to be from the Tories: Call Centre Workers Speak Out,” National Post (27 February 2012),; CBC Radio: The Current (28 February 2012),

71  Laura Payton, “Election call tapes under review by Conservatives,” CBC News (1 March 2012, updated 2 March 2012), See also Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Tories review tapes at Thunder Bay call centre as questions grow over company's checkered legal history,” National Post (2 March 2012), The Toronto Star report is cited by Nancy Leblanc, “About those election call tapes being reviewed,” Impolitical (2 March 2012),

72  For several days at the end of the election campaign, RMG callers used a script that involved checking people's voter information cards against RMG's own lists. If RMG's lists did not contain deliberate misinformation, any reasonable observer would expect there to be occasional disagreements between these lists and people's voter information cards; in some instances, the RMG listings would be correct and the voter information cards in error, while in other cases the reverse would be true. The worst that could be disclosed by the most thorough and suspicious investigation would amount to no more than random noise. Only if Conservative officials knew that fraud had occurred would there any point in going through (and presumably purging) the audio tapes. Laura Payton reported (in “Election call tapes under review”) that a Conservative spokesman, Fred DeLorey, had denied that the party was reviewing audio tapes. In February 2013, this same Mr. DeLorey denied Conservative involvement in what the Saskatoon Star Phoenix called an “odious” robocall push-poll in Saskatchewan, and four days later had to retract the denial in the face of forensic evidence of its falsity. See Glen McGregor, “Conservatives deny involvement in Saskatchewan robocall defending 'Saskatchewan values',” Regina Leader-Post (1 February 2013),; Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, “Tories now admit they sent Saskatchewan robocall: Forensic expert links company behind latest push poll to firm behind Pierre Poutine calls,” Ottawa Citizen (5 February 2013),; and “Robocall tactic reprehensible,” Star Phoenix (5 February 2013),

73  Payton, “Election call tapes under review by Conservatives.”

74  Commissioner of Canada Elections [Yves Côté], Summary Investigation Report on Robocalls (April 2014), “Executive Summary,” paras. 7-8.

75  John Ivison, “Sorry, Truthers—the robocalls affair is not Canada's Watergate,” National Post (24 April 2014),

76  Tasha Kheiriddin, “Robocalls: The conspiracy theory goes poof,” iPolitics (24 April 2014),