OTTAWA - House of Commons technicians went on alert after online threats were made against Public Safety Minister Vic Toews; they even checked to ensure the menacing videos weren't coming from Parliament Hill.
But it's no use trying to track down the culprits responsible, the clerk of the Commons told a committee of MPs on Thursday.
The attacks were "unprecedented" as they came from an unknown group and there may be little to be gained from trying to figure out who is behind them, clerk Audrey O'Brien said.
"I'm not sure that seeking out a culprit as such wouldn't be a giant waste of time, because I think the nature of these attacks is that they are extremely fluid," she said.
The activist collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for a series of videos posted online last month digging into Toews' personal life and promising further attacks if he didn't kill a recently introduced online surveillance bill.
The bill has riled critics who fear it's far too intrusive and has inspired a number of online-campaigns aimed at Toews as a result.
One of those campaigns, a Twitter account that shared details of Toews' divorce, was eventually linked to a Liberal party staffer, who then resigned.
While Toews referred some of the threats against him to the RCMP, he also complained to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled the threats violated Toews' privilege, leaving it up to the committee on House affairs to figure out who was behind them and what to do about it.
The committee wrestled with the issue on Thursday.
"There is no way this committee has the ability to identify the culprit," said NDP Joe Comartin
"It's going to have to be done by someone else."
It's not impossible to track down members of Anonymous.
Five were charged earlier this month in connection with attacks against government agencies and private companies in U.S., Mexico and Europe, although they were outed by one of their own.
The police need to try and find the culprits in the Toews case too, said Tory MP Laurie Hawn.
"(Anonymous) are like the Taliban, we will never run out of them, they are always going to be there," he said.
"But I think any chance we get to track one down and make an example, we should do that and I hope they are proceeding with that."
O'Brien suggested MPs could issue a formal statement on the problem.
"I think that a statement to that effect would say that you as members of Parliament take what comes with the territory of your job, you're willing to be attack on your political positions, but once the line in the sand is crossed and personal threats are uttered, that's unacceptable," she said.
"I know this would be an obvious statement, but I think that it's important that everybody come together around this fact."
In the meantime, MPs also used the hearing to ask the House of Commons' chief information officer about technology security.
Louis Bard said that when the attacks against Toews first surfaced, monitoring of online threats against Parliament was increased and overall IT security of the Hill is reviewed on a daily basis.
Bard said 70 per cent of the email sent to Parliament Hill never makes it through because it's either spam or improperly addressed.
It's also common for MPs to have their laptops and or their caucus servers infected by viruses or be the subject of an attack, he said, but the attackers have never gone far.
"Never in the last 19 years, we've lost access to our network," Bard said.