Monday, December 07, 2009

On blackouts

With the Globe and Mail's latest report offering some important answers as to what it is that the Cons have been covering up when it comes to torture in Afghanistan, the focus figures to shift away from this weekend's discussion of the Cons' information suppression processes. But it's worth following up based on the spin the Cons have continued to offer up:
The Chronicle Herald sought clarification, first from the Defence Department, who handed the file to Justice late Saturday. Justice officials on Saturday provided an email describing, in general terms, the redaction process.

Justice said that the markers are held by "officials from the Department of Justice National Security Group," who consult with officials in the affected departments before deciding what to black out, guided by principles established by federal court rulings.

The Herald posed a followup question, asking whether the officials consulted in the redaction of the Colvin memos included political staffers.

On Sunday morning officials provided clarification.

"The consultations have not included ministerial staffers as these discussions take place between subject-matter experts at the working level," said an email from the Justice Department’s Carole Saindon.
Which means that the Cons have effectively admitted to exactly the kind of concern I'd raised in my earlier posts on the subject. In effect, the Cons have completely ignored the system of responsibility actually set out by law, instead setting up a catch-22 for anybody seeking to hold the Cons accountable for their suppression of important information.

If anybody asks the departments and their ministers who hold legal responsibility to decide about disclosure, they're saying the decision was actually made by Justice. And if anybody starts taking Justice to task for blacking out full documents, it'll surely take roughly two seconds for them to respond that their proposed redactions weren't final, and that it's ultimately a departmental responsibility to decide what will and won't be released.

Now, one's immediate reaction might be that there oughta be a law against that type of manipulation. But as I've noted before, there is: the precise purpose of establishing ministerial responsibility under the Access to Information Act is to prevent governments from carrying out the shell game that the Cons are now playing.

Once again, though, the supposed party of law and order couldn't care less how blatantly it flouts the law when there's a political calculation to be made. And if there's anything the Cons have learned to do even more efficiently than throw themselves in front of a camera to claim credit for anything popular (whether or not they had any role in it), it's to kick up dust around any damaging issue to obscure what's actually going on (whether or not they're obviously responsible). Which apparently counts as progress in the eyes of some pundits.

Meanwhile, there are other stories emerging about similarly questionable withholding of information from Parliament - with some vague allusions to "public interest" being spouted as justification for preventing Canada's MPs from holding the government to account. I'm not particularly familiar with the legal underpinnings of that process, but based on the Cons' behaviour when it comes to the public's right to know it seems highly doubtful that they have any remotely plausible position there either.

Fortunately, in this particular case enough information has found its way into the public eye that the Cons don't seem to have any chance of avoiding reality. But the lengths they've gone to - and the lies they've told - in order to cover up their actions on the torture file should leave zero room for doubt that the Cons are downright proud of sweeping wrongdoing under the rug. And it'll all too likely take a change in government for us to find out just what exactly has been hidden from sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment