Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Globe gets another interesting leak

The Globe obtains severely redacted documents handed over to the Military Police Complaints Commission ("MPCC"), the independent federal tribunal that has been trying to investigate the Afghan detainee transfers. The documents are heavily blacked out. Someone thought the timing was right to shine some light on how the government has been interacting with this federal tribunal that sought these documents:
In the material delivered to the MPCC, government blackouts render unreadable many of the documents, some drafted by Mr. Colvin. The sweeping redactions were imposed even though everyone who works with or serves on the MPCC must have at least “secret” clearance and all of the senior investigators, as well as the panelists who would conduct the inquiry, have the highest security clearances.
Some documents dating back to spring of 2006, a full year before ministers and senior officers said they first heard of abuse allegations, are entirely blacked out. Others have whole sections censored.
As FarAndWide suggests, the optics are damning, the government looks like it has something to hide. Given the heavily blacked out nature of the documents, that point is clearly made through this leak. How can anyone know what the government actually did in 2006 and into early 2007? We still don't know. And how can, for e.g., Globe columnists come to any meaningful conclusions about the Colvin memos when a blacked out modus operandi is the calling card of this government on the detainee information? Message sent, for the domestic audience.

There may be international ramifications too and that may be another aspect to this leak. The disclosure of these redacted documents, their very presentation, reinforces the perception of a government that's unwilling to engage in legitimate inquiry, avoiding any legitimate investigation of the issue. If Canada doesn't show that it is willing to handle these detainee allegations in good faith and conduct an inquiry, the International Criminal Court might be taking note. The court will start investigating if a member state does not take action itself in the face of allegations of war crimes. The fact that this government won't even let security-cleared personnel engage with the materials bolsters the picture of a blocking, blacking-out government. They are obstructing the very tribunal that Canada has set up specifically to look into such matters. Not a good perception to anyone watching from the outside.

And it's probably not passing strange that the day after the Harper Conservatives ratchet up their "support the troops" rhetoric, this leak reminds us of the fact that military personnel have been prohibited from defending themselves in front of the MPCC due to the Harper government's blackout of these records and shutdown of the hearings. Coincidence?