OTTAWA -- Canada's top military officer says the Defence Department could do a better job of broadening search terms to include acronyms and other identifiers for military personnel when it receives access-to-information requests.

Gen. Jonathan Vance made the comments today while under questioning during in the pre-trial for suspended Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who is facing a charge of breach of trust in connection with the alleged leak of cabinet secrets around a $700-million shipbuilding contract.

Norman denies any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, Norman's legal team produced a number of pseudonyms and other identifiers used internally to refer to his position following testimony last month that department officials intentionally avoided using his name in emails and other correspondence.

Vance says the use of other terms to refer to military personnel is commonplace in internal communications and documents -- and insists there's nothing sinister about it.

He says any effort to use a code word completely unassociated with the normal vernacular to try and bury communications would be very serious.

Norman's lawyers have asked for access to thousands of government records that they say will exonerate their client.

But they say the use of code names at the Defence Department is part of a pattern by the government to prevent, or least delay, the release of key documents that will ensure their client receives a fair trial.

Norman's defence team has accused the Trudeau government of playing political games with him, and his politically charged trial is scheduled run through this year's federal election campaign.