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Afghan Detainee Mega Thread

vonGarvin

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I am going to make a connection between the parliamentarians whinging about their "privelage" as MPs, and their "right" to access secret documents.


They argue that since they are in Canada's legislative "wing" of Parliament, they have the right to access those documents, National Security be damned!

Side bar now to the whole Jaffer/Guergis affair.  Though it's come out that he used her "MP" blackberry, it's no harm no foul.  This from the members in the hearing from members who aren't from the conservatives.  Wait a minutes, says I.  It's ok to "share" stuff on your "official" blackberry?  What of the privelage?  I mean, I too have an "official" blackberry, no secrets on there, but it *is* priveledged.  Just as my wife doesn't have access to my DIN account, neither does she to my blackberry (much to her chagrin).

I don't think that "they" see the problem with this.

Anyway, my  :2c:
 

MarkOttawa

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Note the Globeite editorializing in what is supposed to be a news story:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/deal-to-protect-detainees-is-flawed-former-liberal-defence-minister-says/article1567062/

...
Mr. Graham’s testimony doesn’t absolve the Harper government of charges it turned a blind eye to torture for transfers in 2006 and beyond. But it does demonstrate how difficult a task subsequent Canadian governments have faced in handling suspects rounded up while fighting in a foreign nation at war with an insurgency...

Much straighter story in, gasp,  the Toronto Star (they still report sometimes):

Ex-Liberal defence minister says 2005 Afghan prisoner deal was best available
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/808760--ex-liberal-defence-minister-says-2005-afghan-prisoner-deal-was-best-available

Mark
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This from the Canadian Press:
MPs have struck an eleventh-hour deal to avert a parliamentary showdown — and possible snap election — over sensitive Afghan detainee documents.

Sources say the government and opposition have agree to establish a small, all-party committee sworn to secrecy to examine sensitive Afghan detainee documents.

The committee of one MP and one alternate from each party will go through the documents with the assistance of bureaucrats who can explain national security implications.

In the event of disagreement over the release of a document, a three-member panel of ''eminent jurists'' will be given the final say.

The parties now must draft a formal agreement which can be submitted to Commons Speaker Peter Milliken ....

More from the National Post, and this Twitter warning from former-PM spokesperson Kory Teneycke:
How long before the opposition leaks information contained in Afghan documents? My guess is not long.
 

ModlrMike

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milnews.ca said:
This from the Canadian Press:
More from the National Post, and this Twitter warning from former-PM spokesperson Kory Teneycke: How long before the opposition leaks information contained in Afghan documents? My guess is not long.

Question two is: who's going to be the first leaker?
 

The Bread Guy

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ModlrMike said:
Question two is: who's going to be the first leaker?

Well, if this part of the story is accurate ....
The committee of one MP and one alternate from each party will go through the documents with the assistance of bureaucrats who can explain national security implications.
.... it'll be a pretty short list to guess from.
 

GAP

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More anti Americanism and just plain stirring the pot...........

Are we covering for Uncle Sam?
Article Link
Dramatic twist could be unveiled in detainee mess if details come to light about prisoner transfers to U.S.
By GREG WESTON, QMI Agency Last Updated: May 16, 2010

In the unlikely event parliamentarians ever got close to the truth of the Afghan detainee mess, they might well discover a dark world of secret interrogation jails run by the CIA and clandestine U.S. military operatives.

Several recent reports claim the U.S. has long operated a network of “black prisons” in Afghanistan, facilities that don’t officially exist but may well show up in all those classified detainee files the Canadian government has been hiding.

The BBC recently reported that even the International Red Cross has now confirmed the existence of a previously secret jail run by U.S. special forces next to a larger prison near the Bagram Air Base.

The main Bagram lockup itself became infamous early in the war after two prisoners were hung by their arms and slowly beaten to death by their American guards over a period of days.

The U.S. military later admitted both victims were bit players of no intelligence value.

A recent article in The Nation claims to have corroborated the horrific abuse stories of prisoners in black jails spread across Afghanistan.

For example: “The interrogators blindfolded him, taped his mouth shut and chained him to the ceiling. Occasionally they unleashed a dog which repeatedly bit him. ... They then pushed him to the ground and forced him to swallow twelve bottles of water” until he was unconscious.

“This continued for a number of days. ... Four months later he was quietly released with a letter of apology from U.S. authorities for wrongfully imprisoning him.”

A senior Canadian source with intimate knowledge of the Afghanistan war says “it was commonly understood” that U.S. intelligence agents were probably scooping detainees of interest from Afghan jails.

“People would just roll their eyes when the subject came up.”

All of which could put a dramatic new twist on the Afghan detainee issue.

Until now, the controversy in this country has been whether Canadian forces turned over prisoners with the full knowledge there was a high probability of torture by the Afghans.

But what if the Americans have been mistreating Canadian captives?

Canadian public opinion long ago weighed in on that issue and it wasn’t sympathetic.

Indeed, only months into the Afghan war, a front-page photo of Canadian commandos handing over shackled prisoners to U.S. forces touched off the first political firestorm over detainees.
More on link
 

MarkOttawa

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Mr Weston seems ignorant of certain realities:

Afstan: "Liberals feared Abu Ghraib-type detainee scandal: source"
http://toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com/2010/03/afstan-liberals-feared-abu-ghraib-type.html

Mark
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Edward Campbell

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Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, is an excellent opinion piece by David Bercuson:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/liberals-lay-down-your-arms/article1572110/
Liberals, lay down your arms
Ignatieff needs to rein in Dosanjh and Rae to restore sense to his party’s defence policies


David Bercuson

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Some senior Liberals are unhappy over the manner in which party defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh and foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have been pursuing the Afghan-detainee issue. They fear this relentless pursuit of possible wrongdoing will undermine public confidence in the Canadian Forces and create a major rift between Canadians and their military.

The split between at least two very senior Liberals was apparent last week when Bill Graham, the minister of national defence in 2005, appeared before the House of Commons committee probing the detainee matter. At one point, Mr. Graham clashed with Mr. Dosanjh when the defence critic, in effect, implied that the former minister ought to have known that transfers of detainees by Canadian troops had made Canada “responsible as a country” for their welfare – in other words, responsible for their alleged torture. Mr. Graham replied that Mr. Dosanjh “has totally jumbled up what international lawyers make of the law of war and the law in war.”

Put simply, Mr. Graham told the committee that the 2005 deal between Canada and Afghanistan to protect detainees – done under his watch – was flawed in a number of ways: “We did our best in the circumstances – in the light of the knowledge we had … and that’s the best you can do.”

Reflect on Mr. Graham’s words. He and his government did the best they could at the time, in a chaotic situation. They had no intention to break any laws of war. And there is still no evidence that they or their successors did.

The situation in Afghanistan is still chaotic; that’s the kind of war it is. It is not a war of state against state where it is relatively easy to judge what is and what is not a war crime. It is an insurgency in a country where the police, the courts and the penal systems operate at somewhat less than Canadian standards. Mr. Graham knew that then and Peter MacKay, the current Defence Minister, knows that now.

Mr. Graham is much respected among the Canadian Forces as the man who brought them back from the precipice when he arranged the appointment of Rick Hillier as chief of defence staff, talked prime minister Paul Martin and finance minister Ralph Goodale into a major increase in the defence budget in 2005 and launched a number of important procurement projects, such as the purchase of Hercules transport aircraft.

He knows the government’s responsibility is to protect Canada with a modern, capable military that Canadians support. Judging from their words and actions, it’s an easy guess that Frank McKenna, John Manley and even Michael Ignatieff, before he became party leader, plainly know that, as do many other centrist Liberals. Some of those people are not happy with the charges that Mr. Rae and Mr. Dosanjh are making by implication: that the military’s adherence to the laws of war is questionable – a condition that no democracy can or should tolerate.

Where, then, is Mr. Ignatieff on this issue, now that he is the only real alternative to Prime Minister Stephen Harper? His failure to rein in Mr. Rae and Mr. Dosanjh is a major lapse in leadership. There is simply no significant advantage to be gained by the Liberal Party, let alone the nation, by encouraging those who continue to seek evidence of crimes committed by Canadian troops in a war in which tragic ambiguity is an ever-present reality.

There ought to be plenty of room between the Liberals and Tories to debate all sorts of issues touching on Canada’s defence, starting with the basic question of how much defence the country actually needs. But there also ought to be a basic consensus on defence and foreign policy.

When Liberals begin to argue among themselves about a gut-wrenching issue such as this, it is time for Mr. Ignatieff to quit flirting with his party’s left wing and restore sense to Liberal defence policies.

It will be good for his party and good for the country.


I think Prof. Bercuson has hit a bases loaded home run here. Dosanjj and Rae, both on the ”old left” of the Liberal Party are creating divisions within the Liberal party because, eventually, Canadians will understand that the “root cause” of any problems faced by the Harper government lie in the Chrétien and Martin governments – Liberal governments.

While there is a segment of Canadians society – exemplified by e.g. Profs. Attaran and Byers – that wants to emasculate Canada, and the entire West, by making it practically impossible for us to wage war overseas, most L:iberals want to be somewhere in the political middle – where Dosanjj and Rae, and Attaran and Byers, are not.

Michael Ignatieff is the party leader and he is, by allowing this to continue, leading it into a major mess. As a Conservative partisan this ought to please me, as a Canadian it does not.
 

MarkOttawa

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E.R. Campbell: Well said.  Now if only the government, for its part, had been less hyper-partisan and obfuscatory (pun intended) in their own approach to the matter.

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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A post at Small Dead Animals:

Afghan torture--terrible/Indian torture--we apologize, good
http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/014099.html

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MarkOttawa

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From Damian at Small Dead Animals:

Boiling the frog of public support one degree at a time
http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/014215.html

I've said for years that support for the Canadian Forces by the Canadian population at large is a mile wide and an inch deep. With Rick Hillier in retirement, and a governing party that wants desperately to change the channel on the Afghan mission, public opinion is vulnerable. Which is one of the reasons the media and opposition parties continue to harp on the detainee documents issue. And who cares if they smear thousands of dedicated, selfless Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the process?

Enter James Travers of the Toronto Star...

Mark
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Government negotiators will meet with representatives of the three opposition parties on Monday in a last-ditch attempt to secure a deal on the release of uncensored documents related to Afghan detainee transfers.

The NDP and Bloc Québécois have threatened to delay funding for this month's G8 and G20 summits if a deal isn't reached, while Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives of "ragging the puck" on the issue until Parliament rises for the summer.

The talks are aimed at putting the final touches on last month's compromise between the Conservative government and the opposition parties to allow a committee of MPs to review unredacted documents.

Under the compromise, the MPs would be required to take an oath of confidentiality in order to examine the material to determine whether it is relevant to allegations that Afghan authorities tortured prisoners that were handed over by Canadian troops.

Documents deemed relevant would then be passed on to a panel of experts who would determine how to release the information to all MPs and the public "without compromising national security."

But the Conservatives are reportedly pushing to keep some records out of MPs' hands on the grounds of national security, which has left the NDP and Bloc less hopeful a final deal can be reached.

Without a deal, the two opposition parties are prepared to forge ahead Monday or Tuesday with a process that could tie up the House of Commons and all its work until Parliament's summer break, which could come as early as Thursday.

The parties could hold up an important vote on the government's main spending estimates, money that goes toward paying important budgetary items, including the G8 and G20. It is unclear what action the Liberals will take — or support — if a deal is not reached ....
A bit more here.
 

Edward Campbell

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If the mutterings I have heard are true then the government is in the right. Some documents are "cabinet confidences" and are handled by quite different rules from all others, even the most highly classified ones. I have heard that the BQ and NDP want to see documents that, while quite relevant to the matter hand, are "cabinet confidences" and are, therefore, absolutely private for 30 or so years - no exceptions, ever. Harper cannot, for 25 more years, see "cabinet confidences" given to Paul Martin's government and, for another few years anyway, even those given to Brian Mulroney's cabinet.

Them's the rules ...  :rules:

If that's the case then the Speaker and the Liberals will, almost certainly, side with the government, but the BQ and NDP can still make parliamentary mischief. But it's not clear to me that either gains much by that - Canadians will not be overly impressed.
 

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E.R. Campbell said:
If the mutterings I have heard are true then the government is in the right. Some documents are "cabinet confidences" and are handled by quite different rules from all others, even the most highly classified ones. I have heard that the BQ and NDP want to see documents that, while quite relevant to the matter hand, are "cabinet confidences" and are, therefore, absolutely private for 30 or so years - no exceptions, ever.
Good point.  I'm curious, though.  At one point, I vaguely remember (only) talk of swearing in some small group of MPs as Privy Councillors.  If that happened (and this latest story suggests that isn't the route being taken), could said sworn-in folks see "cabinet confidences"?
 

Edward Campbell

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[move][/move]
milnews.ca said:
Good point.  I'm curious, though.  At one point, I vaguely remember (only) talk of swearing in some small group of MPs as Privy Councillors.  If that happened (and this latest story suggests that isn't the route being taken), could said sworn-in folks see "cabinet confidences"?

I don't think so ... Harper is a privy councillor and he cannot see the "confidences" of other administrations for 30 or so years - same as you and me. Letting Iggy Iffy Icarus add PC to his post-nominals doesn't get him into the decision making loop, nor does it allow him to see "cabinet confidences," as far as I know - which is not all that far, I hasten to add.



Edit: typo
 

The Bread Guy

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- edited to add NDP walking away from talks on documents -

Did a bit of digging, and found this:
.... In Canada, executive authority is vested in the Sovereign and carried out by the Governor in Council.  Formally, this is the Governor General acting by and with the advice and consent of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada; in practice, it is the Governor General acting with the advice and consent of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  As provided for under the Constitution Act, 1867, the Privy Council is composed of individuals chosen by the Governor General to advise the Crown; in practice, Privy Council nominations are made on the advice of the Prime Minister. Privy Councillors are given the title “Honourable”, which they retain for life.  They serve “at pleasure” but their term is effectively for life. Prime Ministers are designated “Right Honourable” for life from the moment they assume office.

Once appointed, the Prime Minister selects a number of confidential advisors (usually from among the Members of the government party) who are first made members of the Privy Council. The selected confidential advisors are then sworn in as Ministers. Collectively, they are known as the “Ministry” or Cabinet.  Privy Councillors are active in their capacity as advisors to the Crown only as part of a Ministry.  However, not all Privy Councillors are part of a Ministry and some may never have been Ministers ....

All Cabinet Ministers are Privy Councillors, but not all Privy Councillors are Cabinet Ministers, suggesting cabinet stuff may only be accessible to those in cabinet, as you mentioned here:
E.R. Campbell said:
Letting Iggy Iffy Icarus add PC to his post-nominals doesn't get him into the decision making loop, nor does it allow him to see "cabinet confidences," as far as i know - which is not all that far, I hasten to add.

Meanwhile, in the latest:

- Globe:  "No deal on Afghan detainee documents, but Tories make 'significant' concessions" - Canadian Press:  "MPs break log-jam over Afghan docs"

UPDATE:  "NDP refuses to endorse Afghan document deal"
The NDP is refusing to sign on to an agreement over access to sensitive documents on war prisoners in Afghanistan.

New Democrat MP Jack Harris, who's been participating in all-party negotiations on the issue, is demanding a public inquiry.

Harris says an 11th hour deal reached today by the governing Conservatives, the Opposition Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois does not give MPs enough access to the contentious documents.

He says the next step is up to Speaker Peter Milliken, who ruled seven weeks ago that MPs have a right to see all documents in their original uncensored form.

All parties reached an agreement in principle on how to do that without jeopardizing national security a month ago, but they've been squabbling over details ever since ....

- Further from the Canadian Press:  "Senior military officials at Canada's overseas command wanted to see diplomat-whistleblower Richard Colvin reined in and possibly removed from his job at the embassy in Kabul.  A toughly worded memo dated May 7, 2007, was released Monday as part of an inquiry by the military police complaints commission.  It painted Colvin as a troublemaker "with a pattern of questionable reporting decisions" whose position as the embassy's No. 2 should be re-evaluated.  It warned he "could become a liability to the Government of Canada's interests if left unchecked."  The memo, penned by a policy adviser at Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, recommended Colvin be reminded of responsibilities as a diplomat and "boundaries as a reporter." It said if he was not checked "his contribution to the Embassy in Kabul should be re-evaluated ...."
 

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<allied tangent>

Seems the Brits are coping with courts considering how to deal with detainees in Afghanistan, too - highlight mine:
UK troops can continue to transfer Taliban suspects to Afghan detention but not to a Kabul site subject to an existing ban, the High Court has ruled.

The legal challenge by anti-war activist Maya Evans, from East Sussex, claimed the policy led to "horrible abuse" and violated international law.

Judges said the practise could continue with other detention facilities if existing safeguards were strengthened.

(....)

The judges refused to rule the transfer policy unlawful, considering instead the individual history of each NDS detention facility - NDS Kabul, NDS Kandahar and NDS Lashkar Gah.

They said: "There is a real risk that detainees transferred to NDS Kabul will be subjected to torture or serious mistreatment.

The British must be able to access prisons and interview Afghan detainees privately and if any allegations of mistreatment or abuse are made by Afghan detainees, transfers must stop immediately

"Transfers would therefore be in breach of the secretary of state's policy and unlawful."

Transfers could lawfully be made to NDS Kandahar and NDS Lashkar Gah, "provided that existing safeguards are strengthened by observance of specified conditions" ....

More from the BBC here.
</allied tangent>
 

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milnews.ca said:
<allied tangent>

Seems the Brits are coping with courts considering how to deal with detainees in Afghanistan, too - highlight mine:
More from the BBC here.
</allied tangent>

Here's the Globe's article on that.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/uk-reins-in-afghan-prisoner-transfers-critics-urge-canada-to-follow-suit/article1618875/

“I have zero compunctions about taking steps of prosecuting Canadians for war crimes,”  - Amir Attaran

In a ruling that has clear implications for Canada’s military, a British court has found there is “plainly a possibility of torture and serious mistreatment” of prisoners in Kandahar.

The High Court of Justice, however, found prisoner transfers by the British military to Afghan authorities can continue in Kandahar, provided U.K. officials step up monitoring and tracking programs. Such safeguards could protect against “a real risk of torture or serious mistreatment,” says the ruling released Friday.

Overall, the U.K. judgment found the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) cannot be taken at its word when it says it won’t torture prisoners. Concerns about NDS abuse have mounted to the point that the British court has ordered U.K. soldiers to stop transferring any detainees to NDS jails in Kabul.

“On the available evidence there is, in our judgment, a real risk that U.K. transferees will be subjected to torture or other serious mistreatment at NDS Kabul,” the high court found.

But the U.K. ruling draws a distinction between Kabul and other NDS prisons, in part citing Canada’s position on prisoner transfers to the Kandahar jail. “Canada assessed it safe to resume its own transfers to the facility and has evidently remained satisfied they can properly continue,” the U.K. ruling says.

 

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Thanks for that Foxhound - I finally found a link to the decision:
http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/judgments_guidance/r-evans-v-ssd-judgment.pdf (73 pages, 788KB)
 
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