Monday, December 14, 2009

Cannon admits detainee agreement defective

That's one of the biggest news items from the weekend on the Afghan detainee torture file but far from the only one, big as that one is. What's also becoming clear, there are too many sources of information, independent of the Harper government's controlling blackout-initiating hands, for them to knock down in their anti-democratic game of whack-a-mole. Serve notice about defying parliament's order to produce documents like the Harper government did on Friday? Watch the leaks keep coming.

Take this leaked item to CP from last night, the news that Canada helped to keep in place the governor of Kandahar, Khalid, despite widespread knowledge of torture allegations against him and despite an opportunity for Canada to object to his tenure:
"In the one meeting where the subject was discussed, in July 2006, it was the president who raised the issue; Canada defended the governor, thereby ensuring his continued tenure."
The more we're hearing about this 2006 time period, the worse the picture of the Harper government as incompetent gets. Too much military influence on the mission at that point? Not enough from Foreign Affairs and the Colvins due to Harper's inherent distrust of that department? Whatever it was, that missed opportunity to remove that governor is glaring. Also of note, multiple sources spoke to CP about the Khalid allegations:
Concerns were serious enough to be raised at the highest levels of the federal government, foreign affairs and defence sources said.

A meeting was called in December 2006 in Ottawa to discuss the matter. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's national security adviser attended the session, sources have said.

"There was no policy for dealing with something like this, something sensitive," one source said. "Nobody quite knew what to do."
How damaging. Concern about Afghans torturing right to the PM's national security adviser in 2006. To think this possibility would not have been in store for Canadian transferred detainees at that time would have been a fairy tale. And the PMO had that information according to these multiple sources.

Which brings us to this significant and very current item: "Afghans violating detainee-transfer agreement." What possible worse news could arrive at the moment but that the new and improved 2007 transfer agreement that's been waved around by the Conservatives at the opposition since this latest round of detainee scrutiny began as an answer to the actually not being followed at all. The Afghans are apparently not notifying us when they release Canadian captured detainees, with Canadian soldiers then facing those released detainees anew. Causing morale problems for Canadian soldiers, among other issues. What do we hear from Lawrence Cannon?
“The May, 2007, arrangement states that the government of Canada will be notified prior to the release of a Canadian-transferred detainee by Afghan authorities. However, notification has been a challenge,” Mr. Cannon conceded in a written and little-noticed answer delivered to Parliament's order paper last week, weeks after ministers had first faced and deflected questions on the subject at committee hearings.
We hear that it's a "challenge" but no word on what exactly they're doing about it. That would require a proactive stance. Or one they could tell us about. More of note on this:
While Mr. Cannon admits notification has been “a challenge,” one military source says that unless a transferred detainee is in the prison where he was first placed, Canadian follow-up inspections have almost no chance of ascertaining his fate.
This news calls into question the transfers continuing and raises Geneva Conventions defects. If you can't ascertain their fate, then you can't be handing detainees over as you don't know what's happening to them. Cannon's admission is a recognition that Canada has been notified of a defect in the Afghan's obligations and we have a duty to rectify it. There was word lately that the British may have stopped transferring, maybe in the absence of our own leadership we could follow theirs.

Beyond the above two stories, we also heard from Jim Travers on the weekend that bureaucrats are telling him that political concerns are driving the blacking out, not national security concerns. That, along with comparisons that are being made of blacked out versus non-blacked out memos, undermines all of the Conservatives' present national security bluster about why they must defy a parliamentary order and can't turn over documents.

Wondering what it's going to take before we see a change of tack from the Harper politicos as successive days produce these revelations, leaks and all the new tentacles that come with them. Maybe they should watch this video of a WWII vet speaking on the issue, then they might catch a glimpse of how they're letting Canadians down.