The Globe and Mail today revealed--if that is the proper word--some further documents on the Afghanistan detainee transfer issue, this time ones that had been submitted to the Military Police Complaints Commission, which has been trying for more than a year to begin an inquiry.
The MPCC has encountered Harper roadblocks every step of the way--legal timewasting manoeuvres, intimidation of witnesses--culminating in Defence Minister Peter MacKay's refusal to renew the mandate of MPCC head Peter Tinsley, who was evidently getting troublesome in his search for the truth. Sneered MacKay: "I encourage you to...start your career planning as soon as possible."
This time, the Globe story is in the capable hands of Paul Koring rather than the pliable shill Christie Blatchford, and it shows.
The selective leaked documents to Blatchford, it seems, are now being matched--I would suggest--by leaks from a different source, one far more favourable to the claims of Richard Colvin. But the most interesting parts of these, in a way, are the sections that we can't read--which in some cases account for the entire document.
These heavily-redacted files, most of them drafted by embattled diplomat Richard Colvin, are only a handful--less than 200 pages--of the total number of pages of evidence now before the MPCC. There is, as Koring makes abundantly clear, no justification whatsoever for the redactions, which have rendered many of the documents unreadable. MPCC investigators, as he notes, have high security clearances, and the files themselves, for the most part, have very low-level security designations, such as "Canadian Eyes Only."
Until recently, such documents were routinely provided to the MPCC, Koring reports, but everything changed once the Commission began to investigate claims that detainees were being knowingly turned over to Afghan authorities to be tortured--a war crime.
Some documents go back to early 2006, and, unsurprisingly, are redacted in their entirety. That was the year that Colvin said that he began to send warnings to various higher-ups about the treatment of Afghan detainees, a claim challenged by Los Tres Generales* last week, and attacked by Blatchford in her two columns on the subject this past Saturday and Monday.
Even with the censor's bucket of black ink, a memo from Colvin reproduced in the print edition of the Globe today seems telling. Dated September 2006, Colvin was evidently warning senior officials in the military and the government about problems with detainee transfers: "[redacted] what can only be described as strong criticisms of the Cdn approach on detainee issues." Tantalizing: could this refer to the International Red Cross?
In any case, at this point, if it was not crystal-clear earlier, we can assert unequivocally that the "national security" excuse trotted out by the Harper government for withholding and censoring these and other documents is utterly fraudulent. The only "security" they are worried about, to be blunt, is their own political backsides. Public opinion remains unfavourable to them, despite days of frantic spinning, and the imagined spectacle of government ministers tried for war crimes in the Hague may be keeping them awake 'o nights as well.
Here's Andrew Coyne:
Coupled with the continuing refusal to release the Colvin memos and other relevant documents — or rather their selective release, to some but not others — it makes it very hard to give the government the benefit of the doubt in this affair. Their story has become more believable, but their every action suggests that they themselves don’t believe it. [emphasis added]
What we are seeing is the behavior of little kids caught doing something naughty in the woodshed. It's all red-faced denials, rage, deflection, lies, stony silence--the entire repertoire is there. But we know, as all parents know, what must inevitably follow. When will the Harper government have its "I'm sorry" moment?
*Rick Salutin has a point.