Yesterday, another report was released by one of the groups investigating the UN “oil-for-food” corruption fiasco. The response of the news media was sadly funny.

CNN reports “the committee is expected to clear […] Kofi Annan of conflicts of interest”. Historically trustworthy news-junkie Jeff Hutchison on CTV reads off his teleprompter that Kofi Annan is “found innocent” of corruption charges. I’m sure the Associated Press will find another way to say “Poor Kofi! Another unfairly accused black man!”

The reality is a little less simple. Read the fivish pages of conclusion in the report (link given above). All it says that there was not enough evidence to prove that Kofi Annan knew of his own son’s hiring by that Swiss inspection company. (It would be a blatant conflict of interest to contract work to a company that at the same time happens to hire the chief’s son.)

And why is there not enough evidence? Well, there is a small matter of records shredding, carried out by Kofi Annan’s secretary, over several months after the investigation had already begun. Plus even the report questions the credibility of father & son, who met on multiple occasions around the time of the suspect contract, yet claim that they never talked about Annan-the-younger getting a job there.

So obviously there is stink in the air down in New York, and the absence of clear proof of guilt should not be reported as a clearing of name or attestation of innocence. Maybe this fluffy way of thinking comes from a similar misunderstanding regarding the legal system’s “presumption of innocence”: that someone found “not guilty” by the courts must be considered innocent by everyone else. That simply does not follow.

If I see someone steal or kill, but courts aren’t persuaded enough to put him away, there’s no way I would change my mind, invite the guy over for dinner, apologize for the misunderstanding, and offer my daughter’s hand.