An exchange of letters


Two weeks ago, Gen. Walter Natynczyk wrote to the Afghanistan committee in response to the testimony of Malgarai Ahmadshah. In that letter, he stated that “Canadian Forces do not transfer individuals for the purposes of gathering information.” This caught the interest of the NDP’s Paul Dewar and Jack Harris, who wrote Natynczyk seeking an explanation as to how this could be squared with an October 2007 transfer report.

Their letter has received a response from Rear-Admiral R.A. Davidson and Messrs Dewar and Harris wrote back with a missive yesterday, the text of which is below.

Rear-Admiral R.A. Davidson
National Defence Headquarters
Ottawa, ON K1A 0K2
April 29, 2010

Dear Rear-Admiral Davidson,

Thank you for your response to our original inquiry to the Chief of Defence Staff regarding the transfer of detainees to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) for the purpose of gathering information.

You have established that detainees are often transferred to the NDS for further questioning in order to investigate evidence of wrong doing and potential connection to the insurgency that was not discovered during interrogations by Canadian officials. You also emphasized the information obtained by the NDS in its additional interrogation of Canadian-transferred detainees is meant to build the case for the prosecution of suspected insurgents.

We appreciate your clarification.  However, your letter has raised further questions which we wish to pose in our response.

1.      With regards to the October 31, 2007 transfer of detainee report, which was attached to our previous correspondence, what was the intent of transferring the detainees to the NDS for further questioning? Did Canada receive any information from the NDS that would have been obtained through interrogation of the detainees named in that document?  If yes, what was the nature of the information?

2.      You state that “the Commander is prohibited from transferring an individual with the intent that they would be tortured for information”.  You further emphasize that “simply put, the Canadian Forces do not transfer individuals for the purpose of gathering information for our use”.  Given that Canada uses information provided by the NDS, if the Commander is satisfied that no substantial risk of torture exists, what is the basis for prohibiting the transfer of detainee for the purpose of gathering information for Canada’s use?

3.      In his testimony to the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan, BGen Denis William Thompson established that “we acted on the intelligence we received from the NDS”.  According to your letter, Canada would not explicitly request that the NDS interrogate a Canadian-transferred detainee in order to gather information for our use.  What assurances are in place so that the information provided by the NDS to Canada would not have been obtained through further questioning of Canadian-transferred detainees?

We look forward to your response to these additional questions.


Jack Harris
Member of Parliament
St. John’s East
New Democrat Defence Critic

Paul Dewar
Member of Parliament
Ottawa Centre
New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic


An exchange of letters

  1. Poor Harris and Dewar. They have to compete with "busty hookers" and "cocaine" parties.

    Life is so unfair, especially to a politician looking for valuable TV face time, which is all these guys live for, or so it seems.

  2. Well, now my head hurts, trying to follow the logic from Natynczyk to Davidson to the very logical but complex questions posed by Harris and Dewar. Is Davidson not either directly contradicting Natynczyk or actually contradicting himself? That is just the oddest letter.

    Let me start with a question: Does anyone remember when we first started discussing transfers to the NDS? It seems to me that for the longest time, we were discussing transfers to "the Afghan police," who were made to sound like a fairly hapless bunch. I think we know that isn't a good enough description of the NDS, which is an intelligence service.

    And then a further observation: There is some suggestion, especially in the U.S., that the NDS is something of a laundering operation — ie, they hand some of the prisoners they get over to the U.S. black site at Bagram, which we think is being run by JSOC this time, General McChrystal's old team (but whoever knows now, given the alphabet soup created by the infernal symbiosis between the DoD, CIA, and the contractors … well, McChrystal would know).

    Anyway, using the NDS to extract information would already be criminal, but knowingly and intentionally channelling prisoners to U.S. special-ops interrogation would be complicity in war crimes of a very high order. Somebody has got to start asking those questions.

  3. I suspect the honourable members would be better advised to discover what the RCMP is up to on our turf given the pile of bodies and rash of incidents they have been involved in far more recently than the fall of 1997. Further, I suggest they go to Afgahnistan and spend some time in some APCs and see first hand some of the Taliban's barbaric practises. While I'm certain the NDS is very nasty to their detainees, there is a legal fig leaf our soldiers have as we are there to help THEM, not their foes. Foes who would gut them and rape their wives and daughters and sons for sport before murdering them if the shoe was on the other foot. That would be alright with the honourables members though it seems because they could use a different fig leaf to hide THEIR moral indiscretion of cutting and running.

  4. oops "fall of 2007"

  5. Potential answers to the new batch of questions:

    A1 I am not authorized to discuss specific operational issues that you cite in your question number 1. Sorry.

    A2 We are quite capable of gathering the specific information for our use ourselves. However, we enjoy a high degree of cooperative sharing of information with all of our allies in the region, as you would no doubt hope. Sometimes, a transferred detainee may disclose additional information that would be helpful for us or for our partners, and, you would no doubt agree, it would be unwise to decline this information simply because the detainee had already been transferred. You are most welcome to visit us in theatre to obtain a more concrete understanding of the valuable nature of our intelligence
    gathering and sharing.


  6. … continued

    A3 There is no contradiction at all with the absence of transfer for the specific purpose of gathering additional information for our use, and the acceptance of valuable information should it happen to be obtained. I will, rather, assure you of the exact opposite of the assurance you seek: The information provided by the NDS to Canada will be gratefully accepted whether obtained through further questioning of Canadian-transferred detainees, or whether obtained from anyone else. It would be the height of military incompetence to specifically refuse any additional information on the grounds that it happened to come from a detainee previously in Canadian custody. I am confident that, perhaps with a little additional reflection on your part, you will agree.

  7. Anybody who calls the other side barbaric and then turns around and makes excuses for our side being nasty is demonstrating the barbarism that they complain of. The usual Conservative cry of "They did it too!" Grow up and don't try to justify monstrous behaviour by anybody.

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