Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Release of Censored Portion of Arar Inquiry Report Ordered

A judge has ordered the release of some censored material in the Maher Arar inquiry report.

Via the Ottawa Citizen:

Though the censored information represents less than one per cent of the 1,200-page report, Paul Cavalluzzo, the commission's counsel, said yesterday the issue goes to the heart of government accountability.

"Even though we're dealing with national security issues, this was a public inquiry called by the government and our view is that by bringing disclosure to the public, government actors become more accountable and the transparency of the process is an important part of making government actors more accountable.


If either side appeals yesterday's judgment, the attorney general has the new power, under the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act, to issue a certificate prohibiting disclosure of the information, effectively overruling any court judgment ordering disclosure.

"That's the draconian nature of Section 38," said Mr. Cavalluzzo. "We could go right to the Supreme Court of Canada and win and then, when we're carrying away the victorious judgment, they could slap us with a ministerial certificate saying, 'You (still) can't disclose it'."

I don't know how parliament let this language stand in Section 38:

* the requirement to provide notice to the Attorney General of Canada in circumstances where it is foreseeable that the disclosure of information in connection with or in the course of proceedings could be injurious to international relations or national defence or national security;

Just how do they decide what might be "injurious"? What's the standard? Is simple embarrassment of a foreign government enough?

One important point that the Ottawa Citizen's article doesn't disclose is that the Attorney General's decision can be appealed and overturned by a judge, so at least there is some protection from dictatorial powers being in the hands of a government appointee.

At issue are these matters:

"According to Mr. Arar, he has a right to know the facts relating to his detention, deportation and torture. Furthermore, he claims that the redactions within the public report may contain information which is necessary for the public to understand the actions of the RCMP and CSIS in the Arar affair.

"In particular, he believes that at least some of the redactions relate to the candour of certain CSIS operatives, who may have misled their superiors. Mr. Arar also argues that the redactions conceal the fact that briefings to numerous ministers were inadequate and that the RCMP's investigation and adherence to information sharing protocols was deficient.

If the Harper government decides to appeal this latest decision, there will definitely be questions raised about who they might be trying to protect and why. The utter incompetence of the RCMP in this affair surely doesn't end with the resignation of the now disgraced former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.

Related: Maher Arar's site

The Arar inquiry - Recommendations

British report on U.S. rendition echoes Arar experience

OTTAWA — A scathing new British report about how the United States has exploited British intelligence information to seize three individuals and fly them to secret prisons for terrorism interrogations echoes the troubling case of Canada’s Maher Arar.

An investigation by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee has found the U.S. ignored British security officials’ insistence that no actions were to be taken against the individuals based on information they shared with their American counterparts.

But three men with British connections were still swept up in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s “rendition” program in 2002 and taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other “black” holding centres in Europe. U.S. officials, the report said, knew the British had no intention of arresting them.

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