National security adviser Daniel Jean points to coordinated misinformation in Jaspal Atwal affair

OTTAWA — National security adviser Daniel Jean says it was important to brief the media about the prime ministers visit to India to dispel "co-ordinated misinformation" about the presence of a convicted attempted assassin at an event on the trouble-plagued trip.

Jean appeared Monday before the House of Commons public safety and national security committee to explain his role in the controversy, which has plagued Justin Trudeaus government for weeks.

Jean has been at the centre of a political uproar over the trip after giving a background briefing to reporters in which he suggested factions in the Indian government were behind the embarrassing revelation that a convicted attempted assassin had been invited to two prime ministerial events.

Jean has been at the centre of a political uproar over the trip after giving a background briefing to reporters in which he suggested factions in the Indian government were behind the embarrassing revelation that a convicted attempted assassin had been invited to two prime ministerial events.

During the media briefing, Jean advanced the theory that rogue factions in India may have arranged for Atwals attendance in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from becoming too cosy with a foreign government they believe is sympathetic to extremist Sikh separatists.

Jaspal Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 during a visit to British Columbia, was photographed at one event in Mumbai with the prime ministers wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

OTTAWA — National security adviser Daniel Jean says it was important to brief the media about the prime ministers visit to India to dispel "co-ordinated misinformation" about the presence of a convicted attempted assassin at an event on the trouble-plagued trip.

His invitation to a second event was rescinded after news of his presence broke.

Daniel Jean, National Security and Intelligence Adviser to the Prime Minister, prepares to appear at a Commons national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 16, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tan

Rampant misinformation on Jaspal Atwal affair sparked decision to brief reporters: Daniel Jean

During the media briefing, Jean advanced the theory that rogue factions in India may have arranged for Atwals attendance in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from becoming too cosy with a foreign government they believe is sympathetic to extremist Sikh separatists.

Jaspal Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 during a visit to British Columbia, was photographed at one event in Mumbai with the prime ministers wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Jean said Monday the briefing was intended to dispel public suggestions that Canadian agencies could have acted sooner to ensure Atwal did not attend the first event.

"I provided information to counter the false allegations," Jean said.

Jean said Monday the briefing was intended to dispel public suggestions that Canadian agencies could have acted sooner to ensure Atwal did not attend the first event.

"We take the relationship with India very seriously. We remain vigilant to any potential threat."

Jaspal Atwal affair set to heat up as Daniel Jean appears at committee over India trip

Daniel Jean, National Security and Intelligence Adviser to the Prime Minister, prepares to appear at a Commons national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 16, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tan

A pedestrian walks by Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“I think that if you have actors who are trying to fabricate a narrative that is totally untrue and are using three of our most respected public institutions to do that, I think that there has to be someone who is neutral who can come in and alert the media on that.”

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National Security Advisor Jean says there was a coordinated effort to spread misinformation about the Jaspal Atwal affair after the story broke. Specifically discussing stories that RCMP was warned ahead of time about Atwal's past, but he was still allowed to attend #cdnpoli

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But Jean tells the National Security Committee he never blamed the Indian government, although he was trying to clear up misinformation that was being spread that the RCMP, CSIS and the High Commission were aware ahead of time about Atwal’s invitation.

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The big issue for National Security Adviser Daniel Jean surrounds a briefing he gave to reporters in which it was reported that he blamed elements of the Indian government for Jaspal Atwal’s attendance at the event.

First off, a caveat: Its pretty much a law of political thermodynamics that the more hotly anticipated a particular committee witness, the more anticlimactic his or her testimony turns out to be, which may very well be exactly what happens when the prime ministers national security advisor submits himself to the parliamentary spotlight today.

Still, given the lengths to which the Conservatives, in particular, were willing to go to get the chance to question Daniel Jean over that off-the-record briefing he reportedly provided to journalists on alleged mischief-making by factions within the Indian government, theres likely to be a capacity crowd for his appearance before the House public safety committee.

Jean says reports that the government and law enforcement knew and didn’t act are not true. He calls the invitation a faux pas.

For those not able to make it to the Hill to watch the proceedings in person, the meeting is set to be streamed online and may even be aired live on at least one dedicated news channel, although that tends to depend on what else is happening in the midday news cycle.

In any case, if you plan on tuning in — in real time, or via on-demand video — heres a rundown of what the Process Nerd will be watching when the action gets underway at noon.

Jean has been at the centre of a political uproar over the trip after giving a background briefing to reporters in which he suggested factions in the Indian government were behind the embarrassing revelation that a convicted attempted assassin had been invited to two prime ministerial events.

Its far from a foolproof tell, but you can sometimes get a sense of how a witness appearance will play out from the pre-meeting dynamics in the room, starting with the arrival of the witness himself.

During the media briefing, Jean advanced the theory that rogue factions in India may have arranged for Atwals attendance in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from becoming too cosy with a foreign government they believe is sympathetic to extremist Sikh separatists.

Will Jean show up just before the gavel is slated to go down, or will he spend a few minutes settling into the witness seat?

OTTAWA — National security adviser Daniel Jean says it was important to brief the media about the prime ministers visit to India to dispel "co-ordinated misinformation" about the presence of a convicted attempted assassin at an event on the trouble-plagued trip.

Will he be accompanied by a full entourage of PCO officials and, if so, will they flank him at the table, or join the rest of the audience in the public seating section? On a similar theme, are there any ministerial — or prime ministerial — staffers in the room? Its a good bet that at least one person from PMO will be on hand to monitor the situation, most likely from what they will be hoping is a suitably inconspicuous vantage point along the wall.

Daniel Jean, National Security and Intelligence Adviser to the Prime Minister, prepares to appear at a Commons national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 16, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tan

If Jean is already installed at the witness table as committee members start to stream in, will any MPs — from the Liberal or the opposition side of the table — make a quick detour to exchange greetings and a quick handshake before taking their seat?

Jaspal Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 during a visit to British Columbia, was photographed at one event in Mumbai with the prime ministers wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Finally, how much paper — documents, speaking notes or other material — has Jean brought with him to the session?

Jean appeared Monday before the House of Commons public safety and national security committee to explain his role in the controversy, which has plagued Justin Trudeaus government for weeks.

More specifically, does it look like hes preparing to brandish hard evidence of his purported assertion that the Indian government may have orchestrated the addition of convicted attempted assassin Jaspal Atwal to the Canadian High Commissions invite list? If so, the above prediction of an anticlimactic testimony would seem to be much less likely to beat out.

Jean said Monday the briefing was intended to dispel public suggestions that Canadian agencies could have acted sooner to ensure Atwal did not attend the first event.

When the chair calls the meeting to order, do members allow him to move straight to witness testimony, or will there be a quick (or possibly not so quick) round of points of order to deal with before Jean can take the floor?

A pedestrian walks by Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

For instance, will anyone on the opposition side of the table suggest that Jean be formally sworn in?

Such formalities are generally reserved for cases where there is some question — amongst either the opposition parties, or those MPs aligned with the government — as to whether a particular witness will be fully aware that they are expected to testify truthfully.

(Which is, of course, automatically inferred for all committee witnesses, hence the rarity of the practice.)

Raising such a request in relation to an appearance by a civil servant, particularly one in as senior a role as Jean, would effectively serve to preemptively accuse either him or the government of trying to cover up the truth, which would up the stakes dramatically — not to mention carry the risk of a sizeable backlash against the MP and party who pushed for it, depending on what he says.

As for Jean, it will be worth keeping tabs on just how much time he spends on his opening statement, which will likely be capped at either 5 or 10 minutes, depending on how the committee has decided to proceed.

With only one hour booked off for the full session, however, devoting 10 minutes to an opening statement that could simply be handed around the table in print form would seem to be a less than efficient use of the available time, although that, too, will depend on the ratio of information to filler.

On a similar note, once the question-and-answer phase begins, its worth keeping tabs on how heavily MPs pre-load their queries with preamble. As difficult as it seems to be for MPs — of any stripe — to voluntarily use up less than the maximum allotted time, short, targeted questions are usually the best way to actually elicit helpful responses, as it allows for more probing lines of inquiry, including follow-ups.

And while its not hard to predict where the Conservatives — and, most likely, the lone New Democrat — will want to focus their questions, the angle that the Liberal MPs take when their side gets the microphone could reveal how Team Trudeau is hoping to frame Jeans testimony.

Also worth tabs-keeping: How frequently do Liberal committee members interrupt an opposition-driven round of questions to complain that the queries are out of order?

As the clock runs down on his appearance, Jean may find himself asked to return to the committee for further testimony in future, although such a request would require the backing of at least one Liberal MP to be binding, as it will be up to the majority to decide where to take the investigation from here.

And if questions arise that he cant answer on the spot — either because he doesnt have the information at hand, or, alternately, is unable to provide it in a public setting — MPs may ask Jean to send along his response in writing.

Finally, when the gavel goes down to end the session, Jean could, in theory, head out the front doors to the throng of cameras and boom mics in place for the traditional post-meeting scrums, and take a question or two from the press.

Alternately, he could depart by the side door, which would allow him to dodge the media and return to his traditional position well below the political radar, at least for the moment.

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