Friday, August 10, 2007

Lessons to be learned

The Globe and Mail comments on the Cons' cabinet-level attempt to cover up information from the final Arar inquiry report which had nothing at all to do with genuine security issues:
The next time the Canadian government tells you it has secrets it needs to keep to protect national security, feel free to laugh out loud.

Canada fought long and hard to keep 1,500 supposedly dangerous words out of the 1,400 pages of a judicial report into the disappearance of Maher Arar, a Muslim father of two from Ottawa who fell victim to the West's fight against terrorism. We now know what most of those dangerous words were. Here is one example. It's from the judicial report's Table of Contents: "Application for Telephone Warrant." (Cue the crack of lightning.) Also falling on the censor's cutting stone was the apparently unspeakable phrase "the CIA." As in, "The RCMP had periodic contact with the CIA at this time." Surprise, surprise. When an innocent Canadian Muslim was dispatched to Syria, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was involved...

We also learned yesterday that information gleaned under severe abuse or torture from a Canadian, Ahmad El Maati, in Syria was used by the RCMP to persuade a judge back in Canada to let it tap someone's telephone. A gross deprivation of civil liberties in a part of the world where the rule of law does not prevail thus provided the basis for an intrusion into civil liberties here in a constitutional democracy. And no one questioned very hard whether the information obtained under such duress in Syria was solid...

(W)hen Judge O'Connor tried to get the truth out, the Canadian government fought him in court for a year to keep the lid on 1,500 words.

We now know that the public had a right to see those words. They remind us of how fragile our civil liberties can be in a dangerous time.
It remains to be seen whether mainstream media sources like the Globe will keep the heat on the Cons for their other attempts to suppress information as well. But now that it's clear just how flimsy the excuses have been even when it comes to an inquiry intended to reveal the truth to Canadians, there's less reason than ever to take the Cons' word as to any need for secrecy.

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