Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's behind the blacked-out lines?

What is it that the Conservatives are trying to hide? What exactly constitutes national security anyway -- legitimate reasons to hold back information, or information that could embarrass the ruling minority government? Is is their lives, not the soldiers, that they are trying to protect?

I can only think of two examples where there were heavily redacted scripts that raised more questions than answers. The first was during the Watergate crisis, when Nixon initially refused to release tapes but offered up transcripts of the conversations. Of course, what was hidden was the evidence that was incriminating -- including the so-called Smoking Gun when the Supreme Court finally forced Nixon's hand.
The second was the 9/11 Commission report in 2004 which, while exposing a lot of the security faults that led to the tragedy (and whose recommendations were finally implemented when the Democrats took over Congress two years later), there's still the question of a 28 page chapter that was blacked out. Those familiar with its contents indicate that the government of Saudi Arabia had a direct hand in, or knowledge of, the attacks -- and names names, up to the highest levels of the al-Saud family. Of course, the State Department doesn't want us to know that because KSA is a "trusted" ally of the US. Not quite a "major non-NATO ally" like Australia, Argentina, and bizarrely Egypt and Pakistan -- but a "strategic partner."
Now if someone can explain to me why countries which regularly violate human rights should be in the same class as those which prosecute such violations quite strictly then there's something going on that I don't. However, the friendship between the Bush and Saud families is well known and we know members of the latter family were able to leave the States in the hours after the attacks even while airspace was closed to everyone else except military sweeps. Allowing people to get away with murder, even suggesting "diplomatic immunity" protects them, is no excuse. Those 28 pages should be released or leaked. It's time to name names and for those responsible to face war crimes prosecution in the Hague.
So on to Canada, and the vote on Thursday to order the government to release the briefing notes to the special Afghanistan committee, uncensored. Harper and Co. say that they are not bound to obey it. Actually, they are -- and to refuse to do so is contempt of Parliament. If one is given a sub poena to testify before a committee or to the bar of the House or the Senate and address the chamber as "committee of the whole" then it must be obeyed; every citizen understands that. Except the Conservatives. Do we really want a showdown between Parliament and the government in the courts? Usually, it's the government that enforces the will of the elected representatives. Are we next headed to "signing statements" where one signs a law but states his or her intent not to enforce it?
If security considerations are so important, why can there not be a compromise -- that the committee members take an oath of secrecy so they can review the documents while ensuring that they are not released to the public? Otherwise, the only option would be for a truly brave apparatchik at the Defence Department to post the docs to a document leak site; then there would be no secrets to keep.
Of course, like with most things about the Cons these days, I'm not holding my breath. Inconvenient truths need to be revealed in some fashion. Otherwise, it's Canada's credibility at stake.

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1 comment:

zoop said...

Come on, the decisions to redact or release information are made by an independent civil service, not by the Conservatives. Most bloggers avoid this inconvenient truth by saying "the government" did it, since that cleverly includes the civil service.

If the Conservatives interfered with that ATI process, then you really WOULD have a scandal to write about.