Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Heavily redacted

Mentarch and pogge have already covered a couple of the more important angles in today's CBC report on Environment Canada documents which were left on a street last year. But it's worth pointing out another issue in how the Cons' perception of the documents has changed:
Last August, a 131-page document in an envelope marked "Protected B" was found by a passerby on a street in Ottawa's Kanata area and given to the CBC.

The papers provide a risk assessment of an Environment Canada enforcement database that tracks polluters and law-breakers and the steps taken to enforce environmental and wildlife-protection legislation.

At the time, Baird brushed off the lost document saying, "it's neither classified nor secret, and it'll be something that could be available under access to information."

But a CBC request under the Access to Information Act for a copy of the same document found the content heavily redacted.

Ninety-seven of 131 pages had parts deleted that related to the security of the environment database, including its failings and vulnerabilities.
Now, I'm not sure whether the CBC or anybody else still has an original copy of the documents to compare. But while there's every reason for doubt about Baird's initial assertion about the documents, there's also room for suspicion about the sheer quantity of material that's been blacked out now that CBC has followed the Cons' suggested process.

After all, the Cons' stay in office has been marked by repeated efforts to suppress information in the absence of any good reason for doing so. And indeed, their instructions to overclassify documents was part of the story when the documents in question were first found.

So to the extent the documents are ones where the CBC has actually seen the original version, this might be a prime case study in whether or not the Cons are once again wrongfully suppressing information. Which means that if the CBC challenges the decision to black out as much material as they did (with Baird's statement serving as evidence that there wasn't any reason to redact anything), then the most interesting part of the story may be yet to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment