Saturday, December 05, 2009

Minister Of Misinformation

Have you noticed the trend? Peter MacKay makes a public claim, only later be undermined by the facts at hand. In reality, I can't point to one solitary INITIAL claim MacKay has made on the torture issue, that has survived the slightest inspection. The latest example, which goes to the heart of MacKay's defence, his claim that no political interference exists, any decisions on redaction or secrecy are those of "arms length" officials, acting in the nations interest. MacKay even frames it all as a noble exercise, rather than a COVER UP. MacKay "scoffed" at any suggestion of political direction, absolving any responsibility for withholding scads of information.

Maybe MacKay needs to have a chat with his communications staff, because the latest revision is a self inflicted wound:
In testimony before the Commons defence committee on Thursday, Mr. MacKay scoffed at the idea that there could be political interference in the censorship of the documents, as opposition critics suggest.

But his department said in an email Friday that the minister’s office is DIRECTING THE LAWYERS in charge of blacking out documents.

"Instructions are given to Department of Justice counsel by the responsible minister and their officials," said an email from Josee Houde, a communications adviser at the Department of National Defence. "In this case, the responsible ministers and their officials are from the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade."

Opposition, pointing out the obvious:
The Defence Department’s email is an acknowledgment that political direction was given to those holding the black markers, says NDP MP Jack Harris.

"That certainly contradicts the minister," he said.

Mr. MacKay told the committee that the redactions are done to protect national security, in keeping with federal legislation.

Liberal MP Ujall Dosanjh said the Defence Department has acknowledged that it was acting on instructions from the political level.

"That is a far cry from what the minister pretended was the case before the committee," he said. "He said it’s all done at arm’s length.

I recall MacKay telling us all that the Department of Justice was independently deciding what information should be made available. Completely and utterly untrue, according to this advisor, in fact "instructions" are given to the Department of Justice by the "responsible Minister" and his officials. This means that this claim of arms length contemplation doesn't exist, there is a direct channel between vested interests and redaction. The next question becomes, what were these "instructions"?? It's a pretty flimsy argument to say you don't decide what is redacted, when you've dictated the parameters. It's a cute way to avoid direct fingerprints, even though you've provided the road map.

Judging by the excessive black marker routine and lack of co-operation- referred to as "seemingly Kafkaesque" by the complaints commission- it would appear that the direction was such to render any meaningful disclosure useless. Nobody should be comfortable with this latest omission, because it completely refutes this notion of independent decision making, it suggests a puppet master working the shadows. Imagine the credibility of a process, where military brass and government officials are laying out the parameters for disclosure, and essentially telling lawyers they can only operate in areas deemed acceptable by said people. Those with self interest had a hand in what was released, there is no other conclusion. And, once again, another one of Peter MacKay's counter arguments resembles SWISS CHEESE.


ottlib said...

"Have you noticed the trend? Peter MacKay makes a public claim, only later be undermined by the facts at hand."

Is that not the short description of how this government operates?

Tell the lie and count on people ignoring the facts when they are later revealed.

Steve V said...

And, this is why they are afraid of an inquiry, because their tactics will be exposed.

ottlib said...

That is part of the reason. Another part is they saw what happened to Paul Martin when he did the honourable thing.

They believe the political cost of lies and denial are less severe than the political costs of honesty and honour and I cannot say that I totally disagree with their belief.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post Steve, but I completely disagree with ottlib. Martin did NOT do the honourable thing. Him and his henchmen thought they could destroy Chretien's legacy and were all too gleeful to help it happen. But the idiots had not clue the permanent damage they would cause to the Liberal Party. They were not motivated by honour.