Dr. Dawg

Canada's descent into depravity

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In December, 2010, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews quietly approved the use of torture to defend “lives and property.” We wouldn’t do it ourselves, of course—it would effectively be outsourced. We’d just use the information so gathered.

Of course, it’s all “exceptional circumstances” this and “urgent threat” that—the alibi of every tin-pot dictator in history when his sadists haul out the equipment. But in any case, this story has actually been around for a while.

Two and a half years ago, Geoffrey O’Brian, a CSIS lawyer told the public safety committee that the agency would use information that may have been obtained through torture if faced with potentially grave circumstances.

“Frankly, I’m tempted to say that there are four words that can provide a simple answer, and those four words are either “yes, but” or “no, but”, and the “yes, but” is, do we use information that comes from torture? And the answer is that we only do so if lives are at stake.”

Toew’s predecessor hastily offered public denials:

Peter Van Loan, public safety minister at the time, rebutted that a day later, saying such information is “discounted” and that Mr. O’Brian had engaged in “some kind of hypothetical discussion.” Jim Judd, CSIS director at the time, said Mr. O’Brian might have been “confused” and Mr. O’Brian subsequently retracted his remarks.

That’s what Judd was saying publicly too, but he was fiercely advocating the opposite back-channel.

One can understand van Loan’s concern: the public were aware of the 2008 findings of the Iacobucci inquiry implicating CSIS in dubious practices, both direct and indirect, that led to the detention and torture of Canadian citizens Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin.

In Syria.

It appears that CSIS had a collegial working relationship with Assad’s secret police. Maybe they still do.

Placating was called for. But behind the scenes it was torture as usual.

…[A] year ago, the Canadian Press obtained briefing notes for CSIS director Richard Fadden. And those notes outlined a position similar to that expressed by Mr. O’Brian.

CSIS will share information received from an international partner with the police and other authorities “even in the rare and extreme circumstance that we have some doubt as to the manner in which the foreign agency acquired it,” say the notes prepared for use by CSIS director Dick Fadden. The notes say that although such information would never be admissible in court to prosecute someone posing an imminent threat, “the government must nevertheless make use of the information to attempt to disrupt that threat before it materializes.”

CSIS clearly wanted a political fig-leaf at this point, and Vic Toews was the man to provide it. As reported in this morning’s report:

The directive from Toews expands upon a May 2009 ministerial order that states CSIS must not knowingly rely upon information derived from torture, and have measures in place to identify such tainted information.

The latest directive says in “exceptional circumstances” where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.”

“Expands upon?” Read: “reverses.” But that merely brings existing CSIS practices formally into line with Conservative public policy. Call it a good housekeeping seal of approval.

As Amnesty International has been quick to point out, creating the demand will ensure the supply. That’s how the market works—there would be no children exploited for child porn, for example, if there weren’t consumers at the other end.

Effectively CSIS and their Conservative political masters have created a niche market for torture.

How many more innocent Canadians will find themselves in foreign jails being tortured and interrogated with the acquiescence or even direct involvement of CSIS? How many more Maher Arars, Abousfian Abdelraziks, Abdullah Almalkis, Ahmad Abou-Elmaatis and Muayyed Nureddins will there be now that government “oversight” has become formal complicity?

[H/t Prairiewaif]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 7, 2012 11:47 AM.

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