Blacked out documents are blacked out documents. None is no more acceptable in a democracy than the other, be it to hide the truth about detainee torture or the real truth about tax leakage from income trusts. Not only did the media turn a blind eye to income trusts investors, that rag that Jim Travers writes for, the Toronto Star, played an active role in attempting to mislead Canadian about tax leakage, for the simple (and pathetic) fact that Torstar Inc. had a commercial interest in doing so, making Torstar an acive opponent to democracy and an active opponent of reporting the truth. What a bunch of pathetic losers. Almost like the Taliban themselves.
Travers: Did we turn a blind eye to Afghan prisoners?
February 25, 2010
OTTAWA–In the winter of 2007, three insurgents captured by Canada's top-secret Joint Task Force Two disappeared into the notorious Afghan prison system. Three years later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspended Parliament rather than release related documents that raise difficult questions about the role of this country's special forces and spies in targeting, capturing and interrogating key enemies.
Linking those events are fears about what happened to Isa Mohammad and two other prisoners transferred to Kabul control by Canadians after successful Kandahar operations. In a private 2007 briefing, the prestigious International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern to Canada that the men had either been killed or were being held by the U.S. in one of its controversial "black site" military prisons.
Dispatches detailing those worries, the names of the three missing men – as well as a fourth who Canadians found – and Red Cross frustration over the military's persistent failure to provide timely, accurate prisoner information are in the files the Harper government is withholding. Along with the parallel testimony of Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, those documents pose a political problem for ruling Conservatives. More significantly, they are a threat to relations between Ottawa and Washington, which this country sent its troops to Afghanistan largely to reinforce.
As the Maher Arar case demonstrated, not much tests cross-border goodwill more than public Canadian scrutiny of security and intelligence operations involving the two countries and their clandestine agencies. And not much is more sensitive in either country than the handling of prisoners, particularly those captured, tortured or killed as the result of closely coordinated covert operations.
In Canada, a January 2002 news photograph exposed the super-elite JTF2 unit transferring prisoners to the U.S troops, provoking a Parliament firestorm and damaging the career of then-Liberal defence minister Art Eggleton. In the U.S., controversy over the torture of detainees goes back to 2004 and the horrors at Iraq's Abu Ghraib and continues today over the "rendition" of prisoners to offshore military jails, most notably Cuba's Guantanamo Bay.
Driving those tensions still higher is the part played by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Jack Hooper, then CSIS deputy director of operations, testified to a 2006 Senate committee that the spy agency had been actively supporting the troops since their Afghanistan deployment and claimed success in disrupting attacks, uncovering weapons and saving lives.
Those activities, and the close cooperation between Canada and the U.S. in Afghanistan, help explain the Prime Minister's fierce determination to silence the prisoner abuse debate here. Apart from poking huge new holes in the suspect argument that all detainees are treated well and according to international law, releasing the documents would strain the tightly interwoven fabric of special force and intelligence efforts.
What distinguishes the special forces from the broader Afghanistan mission are its cutting-edge skills, the high value of its targets and an ultra-secretive need-to-know command structure. Unlike the bulk of Canadian troops fighting under the NATO umbrella, JTF2 has long been associated with the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.
As a source familiar with its work put it this week, the force works side-by-side with the U.S. "to pick up or pick off " top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders.
There's little startling in what JTF2 and CSIS are doing in Afghanistan. Most Canadians will accept commando raids and civilian spying as particularly necessary in a war against an enemy fighting outside the accepted rules of engagement.
Much more troubling is the implication that this country was complicit in Afghans "disappearing" prisoners, or that Canada became a partner in the U.S. rendition scheme that trampled legal and human rights.
Harper prorogued Parliament in December at least in part to put an end to awkward opposition questions about what generals and ministers knew about Afghan abuse of combatants captured in routine operations.
Now the Prime Minister can only hope that next week's throne speech and budget will distract attention from something much worse: Worry that Canadians turned a systemically blind eye to their allies' shameful methods.
James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Posted by Fillibluster at 3:59 PM