In politics nothing is sacred. But sometimes there are problems with the chatter of folks. In this case, the chatter was off the wall.
Wow just wow. What can I say to top this fiasco?
Mike Smyth: How Christy Clark’s hacking smear backfired
Published:February 11, 2017
Updated:February 11, 2017 7:56 PM PST
Premier Christy Clark issued an apology on Friday after falsely accusing the B.C. NDP of hacking the B.C. Liberal Party website. JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Premier forced into rare apology after falsely accusing NDP of illegally accessing B.C. Liberal website
There’s an old saying in politics: When you’re in a hole, stop digging.
Unfortunately for Premier Christy Clark, when it came to last week’s bizarre, backfiring “hacking” saga, not only did she not stop digging — she also got behind the controls of a backhoe and started excavating.
By the time Friday rolled around, Clark had dug a pit in the political mud so deep there was only one humiliating way to crawl out: apologize to John Horgan for saying the NDP tried to criminally hack the B.C. Liberal Party website.
“I have no problems saying ‘sorry’ because I made a mistake and I shouldn’t have jumped to those conclusions,” Clark said.
Actually, she had big problems saying “sorry” to the NDP leader because she had plenty of opportunities to apologize earlier — but didn’t. Christy Clark is not the apologizing type.
So she kept digging deeper.
Independent MLA Vicki Huntington. Les Bazso / PNG
The whole thing started when I was tipped off by independent MLA Vicki Huntington that the private information of B.C. citizens had been publicly posted on the Liberal website — a clear violation of B.C.’s privacy laws.
Huntington and her staff directed me to a link on the Liberal website where there was a spreadsheet showing the private email addresses and postal codes of about 100 Vancouver Island residents who had responded to a Liberal Party survey. Their private survey responses were also on the document, which was entitled “generated leads.”
How did Huntington’s office stumble across this document? They were looking at the Liberals’ latest donors list, publicly posted to the same “uploads” section of the website.
“One of my staffers wondered what else was in this ‘uploads’ area and simply shortened the website address and this document popped up with private information on it,” Huntington explained.
“We didn’t ‘hack’ anything. There was no requirement to enter a username or a password. They just clicked their mouse. Anyone in the world could have looked at it.”
When I started asking questions about this privacy breach on Monday, the Liberals immediately launched their “hacking” conspiracy theory.
“Your source appears to be participating in illegal online activity,” Liberal communications director Emile Scheffel wrote to me in an email.
“Early this weekend, the B.C. Liberal Party was the subject of a targeted hack. We knew the opposition would pull out all the stops, but I must admit I’m surprised they would steal and peddle hacked information.”
My BS detector started ringing loudly at this point.
I explained to him the “stolen” private information was publicly available on his own website. I also told the Liberals that I first viewed the document several days earlier on the site, before the weekend “hack”.
None of this seemed to matter to them. The Liberals tweeted out Monday that their website was “hacked” and private information had been “stolen” and given to the media.
They released an administrator’s screenshot of the website showing several failed log-in attempts by someone entering incorrect passwords. The screenshot also displayed several “hacked” warning messages generated by the WordPress software the Liberals use.
Keep this in mind: There are all kinds of people out there who try to break into websites and computer systems by “cracking” passwords. Someone entering an incorrect password is not evidence that a site has been successfully hacked.
And there’s this: Last month, WordPress issued a security upgrade to their software and North American IT experts warned that failure to install it was producing “hacked” warnings.
I asked the Liberals if they had installed the software upgrade. I asked why private information was publicly available on their site, including remaining available for several more hours on Monday before the link was finally disabled (when you click on it now, you get a message that says “Forbidden.”)
“We are not discussing our security measures,” Scheffel told me flatly.
And Christy Clark kept on digging.
“The NDP has said it’s going to be the ugliest, dirtiest campaign that we’ve ever had,” she said, falsely. “We saw them try to hack into our website the other day. Hacking into websites is illegal.”
Pressed for evidence of this NDP criminal activity — punishable by up to 10 years in jail according to the Criminal Code of Canada — Clark produced none. She refused to apologize to Horgan, mocking him because “his feelings are hurt.”
Then Clark said this: “If Mr. Horgan really feels like he needs an apology, I’ll see him on Tuesday and I’m sure he’ll have an opportunity to raise that directly with me in the legislature.”
Do you see what she was up to? She was baiting him, daring him to attack her. She actually wanted him to get angry and look like a grumpy, sputtering old man, while she smiled and lectured him back about jobs and the economy.
All the while, the bad smell of the unproven “hacking” allegations would continue to hang in the air.
At one point, the Liberals said the “hacking” attempt had been traced to a computer at the legislature. Clark used that to continue insinuating that it was the NDP, but I knew my original source on the story — Huntington and her staff — had viewed the private information on the Liberal website from their legislature computer.
I had given Huntington an assurance of anonymity and said nothing. But she had seen enough and went public, revealing herself as the legislature whistleblower on the privacy breach, finally forcing Clark to apologize to Horgan.
The reason Clark and the Liberals staged this week-long farce is simple: They couldn’t resist a chance to smear their enemies with an election just weeks away.
They ended up smearing themselves instead. Poetry, meet justice.
In the meantime, British Columbians should be grateful to Vicki Huntington. It’s a shame she is not seeking re-election.
We need more honest and honourable politicians like her in a province where it’s now clear that Donald Trump-style tactics of “alternative facts” and flat-out falsehoods have arrived.