Thursday, December 10, 2009

On full disclosure

Full credit to the Libs for presenting a motion to compel the Cons to disclose unredacted copies of documents related to Afghan detainees to Parliament - and hopefully the motion will pass to prevent the Cons from continuing their cover-up. But it's worth noting some risk in the underlying argument that Parliament alone should be entitled to information which is seen to be unfit for public consumption.

Remember that many of the worst abuses by the U.S. government under Bushco were defended later on the basis that Democrats were informed of their existence. And that the fact that the opposition officials were sworn to secrecy and lacked any practical means to stop the abuse didn't stop a bullying government from claiming that their failure to act immediately made for tacit agreement with the policy.

Of course, that wasn't a reasonable position by any stretch of the imagination. But it did create a handy distraction tactic as soon as revelations did leak into the public eye - ensuring that the governing party wouldn't bear sole responsibility for its own actions, while the public would perceive insiders of all parties as having hidden information. And in order to avoid a similar precedent that important information on a matter of public interest should be disclosed only to MPs, I'd think the opposition parties should be careful to ensure that as much information as possible also finds its way to the public.

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