By Charlie Gillis - Monday, September 26, 2011 - 11 Comments
No mere backbencher, the Tory elder played a key role in returning the party to power
Firing him would have been easy. Few people outside of Mississauga, Ont., had heard of Bob Dechert before he rolled the dice on his career by trading amorous emails with a correspondent with the Xinhua news agency, Communist China’s official mouthpiece. Thanks in no small part to the 53-year-old MP’s own giddy prose—“I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed” fits nicely into a single tweet—the story quickly found legs: by the middle of last week, the reporter, Shi Rong, was on front pages across the country.
Dechert downplayed the exchanges as “flirtatious.” “The friendship remained innocent and simply that—a friendship,” he said on his personal website, which also features a picture of him with his long-time wife, Ruth Clark. But the image of a middle-aged man in the throes of a grade-school crush has stuck, overshadowing Dechert’s little-known status as a party fixer that insiders believe may have spared him relegation to the backbenches. Messages sent from Shi’s inbox—apparently by her angry husband—revealed not only that the married MP had professed his love for the journalist, but that Shi had sought a divorce to pursue her new relationship. “To continue her love affair with this member of Parliament,” the jilted man typed in a message sent to all 240 of his wife’s contacts, “Shi Rong pitilessly asked to end her marriage while stationed overseas.”
For a Conservative government that once talked tough about Beijing’s espionage program, it was more than a bit of domestic unpleasantness. Xinhua is a state-owned news agency whose foreign bureaus have in the past served as less-than-convincing cover for Chinese spies. “It’s an open secret that many of the Chinese reporters stationed overseas actually work for Beijing’s Ministry of State Security,” says Li Ding, deputy editor-in-chief at Chinascope, a Washington-based agency that monitors and analyzes Chinese media. “Westerners think of Xinhua as a news service. In fact, it is a government agency.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 13 Comments
CSIS officials both exonerate and ridicule Bob Dechert.
Senior CSIS and RCMP officers confirmed to CTV that the Chinese news agency functions as an intelligence arm of China. Officials say Rong was on their radar, but the Chinese news agency is involved in a different type of espionage than spying on political figures…
One senior security officer told CTV News that Dechert displayed a “colossal lack of judgment. He was incredibly stupid to get involved with her.” The official said Dechert should “have known better.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Kate is pregnant (or not), Diamond is engaged (again), and Manning gets a new uniform (of sorts)
Peyton Manning played his first professional football game in 1998. Over the next 13 years, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback didn’t miss a single start, suiting up for 227 consecutive kickoffs. But that gridiron streak—and his team’s hope for a Super Bowl berth—were tackled last week when Manning underwent a second round of neck surgery that is certain to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season. (For those fans who won’t recognize him without a jersey, he’ll be the guy wearing a cervical collar.) Who will replace Manning on the line of scrimmage? One name being bandied about is Brett Favre, the legendary quarterback who holds the record for consecutive starts (297). Favre, of course, says he is happily retired. But we’ve heard that before. Twice.
On the ropes
When Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was found dead in a Brazilian vacation home two years ago, local police concluded that the Montreal boxer had committed suicide. But a recent re-examination of the evidence—and some stunning courtroom testimony—have pointed the finger at someone else: Gatti’s widow, Amanda Rodrigues. In a report now being reviewed by the original investigators, a team of U.S. experts says the boxer’s body contained severe head wounds consistent with a beating, and that the official finding (that Gatti hung himself with a purse strap) is “pure, unadulterated fiction.” Meanwhile, during a court battle over Gatti’s $6-million estate, one friend testified that Rodrigues was an abusive wife who threatened her husband, sucker-punched him on numerous occasions, and forced him to rewrite his will just three weeks before his death.
If Bob Dechert was smiling on the evening of April 19, 2010, as he stood to vote in the House of Commons, he was apparently not simply delighting in the democratic process. “If you have time, watch on TV or on your computer . . . and I will smile at you,” he wrote to Shi Rong, a journalist with China’s Xinhua News Agency. The parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs was forced to acknowledge that note and a series of other “flirtatious” emails after his missives were distributed around Ottawa last week. Dechert’s official biography describes him as a married man and he says his relationship with Shi was “innocent,” but security analysts fret that his correspondence with a member of China’s state-run news service raises concerns about national security and espionage. The Prime Minister’s Office says it has no information to indicate Dechert did anything inappropriate.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 10:32 AM - 12 Comments
Shi Rong’s emails suggest something more than a friendship with Bob Dechert. Wesley Wark sees a cautionary message and J. Michael Cole says some Chinese correspondents are selected by the Ministry of State Security, but Mark Bourrie says there’s not much to worry about. Paul Dewar thinks Mr. Dechert should offer his resignation, but Joe Comartin isn’t calling for Mr. Dechert to be removed from the committee vetting potential Supreme Court appointees.
Comartin said he was surprised by Dechert’s “lack of judgment,” which he said was out of character. But he said the panel that is vetting the candidates for the high court vacancies is bound by “a rigid process,” one that Dechert should have no problem following.
“It’s pretty clear what we have to take into account,” said Comartin. “The judgements that you make are within those parameters.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 6:14 PM - 28 Comments
(This post last updated at 7:31pm)
According to the CBC, Conservative MP Bob Dechert, the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, will soon acknowledge that he sent flirtatious emails to a reporter with the Chinese state news agency. Earlier the Ottawa Citizen reported on the existence of said emails.
E-mails circulated in Ottawa on Friday contain messages apparently between Chinese journalist Shi Rong of the Xinhua News Agency and Mississauga–Erindale MP Bob Dechert, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. One message that appears to have been sent from Dechert’s Parliament Hill account reads: “You are so beautiful. I really like that picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute. I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more.”
More from the Globe.
6:16pm. A statement from Mr. Dechert’s office has now been issued. Continue…