Saturday, November 28, 2009

On selective leaks

Dr. Dawg is duly skeptical about Christie Blatchford's article seeking to minimize the significance of some portion of the e-mail trail from Richard Colvin. But isn't the most obvious problem with Blatchford's piece the fact that she seems to have based her conclusions on what she knows to be only a selectively-disclosed portion of the e-mails provided to her?
The Globe and Mail now has what appears to be the entire collection of the e-mails Mr. Colvin sent on the subject during the 17 months he spent in Afghanistan from April of 2006 to October of 2007. A couple are virtually completely blacked out; some are heavily redacted, others rattle on at such length they could have done with a little more redacting.
(T)hough Mr. Colvin was careful to note that his guide at the prison was guarded and speaking “in code,” the guide's harshest characterization of detainee treatment was that some were being held in “unsavoury” or “unsatisfactory” conditions.

Of a five-page e-mail, Mr. Colvin devoted four paragraphs, most of this not blacked out, to the treatment of detainees by Afghan authorities.
Now, at best it'll be impossible to draw full conclusions from the e-mails reviewed by Blatchford if only because there's no way to confirm that they actually reflect all reporting from Colvin. But if Blatchford herself has only seen parts of e-mails which she knows to exist - with the redacted portions including part of Colvin's discussion of the treatment of detainees - then how in the world is it possible to think the material reviewed comes anywhere close to answering the glaring questions about what information the Cons possessed and when?

In the absence of any reasonable answer to that question, today's article looks far more like the mark of a government seeking to manipulate public perception by only leaking the least damaging parts of the e-mails involved, rather than one actually disclosing anything approaching full information. And Blatchford's role looks to be a far-too-familiar one: indeed, it surely can't escape her attention or that of others who have followed issues of detainee treatment in the past that a "but the prisoners were well fed!" line was equally used to paper over the worst abuses at Guantanamo.

In sum, there's little to be taken from Blatchford's article other than that the Cons are switching tactics in trying to minimize their wrongs. But in the process, they're only furthering the need for full disclosure to replace the selective leaking they're currently carrying out.

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