'Just a real silly question then: any reason why we don’t have it?' - Macleans.ca

‘Just a real silly question then: any reason why we don’t have it?’


The Globe’s Steve Chase nicely captures an absurdist moment at the MPCC hearings yesterday.

The full transcript of Richard Colvin’s testimony yesterday can be downloaded here.


‘Just a real silly question then: any reason why we don’t have it?’

  1. I'm truly speechless. Not least at the fact that we have a military complaints commission that doesn't have the necessary security clearance to do its job.

    • Except they do. They're all cleared for Top Secret material.

      This stuff is so sensitive, it's apparently above Top Secret.. I think the classification is "Criminal Acts of Government"

      • It is nice to see your balanced view, great compassion for those "poor farmers". I did not see any posts on the recent loss of another Canadian.

        We have cleared over 40,000 land mines.

        • Look! Over there! Cleared land mines! Pay no attention to the man on the witness stand!

          • Are you also upset the Colvin save the farmers from our military are being unheeded?

            Why does our military and our government not like those poor innocent "gun residue" farmers" from uncomfortable treatment in their own countries by their own guards?

            You guys should start a support group for comfort including pillows and blankets for those farmers.

          • Ok, I know this post is technically english, but it's almost completely unintelligible.

            Can anyone decipher this?

          • Just went through his own site. No posts about our troops. Funny from a gal/guy who criticizes others for not "heeding" our military. Made it as far back as February. Why do you hate our troops so much CS?

            But boyo boyo are you obsessessed with the the Liberal Party. What a crush on Ignatieff you must be harbouring!

          • Thanks for proving my point. How many posts did you find in support of those "gun residue farmers"?

            Clearly some of you are obsessed with blaming the government and the military.

            Are you guys frustrated farmers?

          • If we were a country of scoundrels and criminals, your points would resonate stronger in a favourable fashion.

            Unfortunately, many of us think it is wrong to support torture chambers, extortion, inciting violence against our allies, murdering UN workers, murdering whoever, supporting drug traffickers…

          • Did you cancel your trip to Mexico?

          • Am I supposed to have plans for one?

          • The Taliban Comfort Committee: Devotion

            A shame the pattern is to ignore the reality on the ground lay blame.

          • Ok seriously: are you drunk or possibly high?

            Not a word you've written here has made sense. And not your usual nonsense, but completely disconnected from the discussion here. Because sentences like "A shame the pattern is to ignore the reality on the ground lay blame." sound like Sarah Palin on Wasilla meth.

          • You lack nuance and critical thinking.

            Nice editing of a post after a response, BTW.

          • Sarcasm and the personal attacks does not change the facts about the Mission.

            The opposition and several posters have chosen to only focus on a very small part in order to attack the government and the military.

            The opposition did not support the mission. Many posters in defence of the Taliban prisoner treatment also don't support the government or military.

            Good work is ignored. Thousands of lives have been saved and been improved with the contribution from Canada..

            For some of us perspective, bias, balance are less important.

          • Sensational Sense!!!

        • Do you have to call yourself "Canadian" Sense, necessarily?

          What about Common Sense, or Dollars & Sense, or Uncommon Sense – that last one is extra clever, don't you think?

          • How about "Incoherent"?

          • Or Nonsense?

          • Two Sense?

            Cause two's enough, damnit!

          • Senseless Canadian?

        • That's a lovely red herring. Did you fish for it long?

          • Balance. bias, perspective is something fishy

            Enjoy your diet on catfish only.

          • I''ve dealt with chatbots that are more coherent than this.

  2. And on that note, if the MCC has any courage of its convictions, it will simply (and publicly) refuse to provide a ruling until the government provides the documents. What's the government going to do – jail them?

    • I doubt the government is that worried about that possibility. There's an initial burst of bad press, sure, but with no meetings, no rulings, etc., the issue would quickly drop off the radar. Something that, I'm sure we can agree, they'd love to see happen.

      • Perhaps, instead of refusing to provide a ruling, the MPCC should continue to meet and continue to request, publicly, that the government provide them with the unredacted documents. Every day, for as long as necessry.

        • Maybe they should refuse to allow that lawyer to speak about documents which he has seen but no one else has.

          • I really would like to know what level of security clearance that lawyer has, that he is permitted to see documents that the chair (dommissioner?) of the MPCC may not.

        • Hasn't helped the Information Commissioner. Hasn't helped Electons Canada. Hasn't helped the Liberals (that much). For that matter, it didn't help the MPCC earlier when they were seeking these documents.

          The government does not want to be held accountable. And so far, no one is really forcing it to be.

      • Um, couldn't they simply rule against the government? Now THAT would get some attention.

        • As above, the Information Commissioner has been issuing report after report after report about how badly they have been failing the accountability minimums. The Conservatives keep ignoring accountability standards because they can get away with it.

          • And this is what has me close to nearly giving up.

            I suspect even the conbots around here at this point, were they to actually stop and think about it, would realize that this Harper government has become as corrupt in 4 years as the Liberals were after nearly a generation in power. Yet still they fight, and with the most pathetic of tactics — pedantry, appeals to the masses (nobody cares), and red herrings.

            Don't they realize that it's *them* that has the best chance of changing the Harper gov't into something decent? Something that resembles good governance? Hell.. I'd even take a good conservative government over what we have now. I mean, let's be honest. Harper and crew will never listen to people like me.. the only thing they listen to is those that keep them in power, and I'm already out of that loop.

            I have to admit, some days it almost brings me to tears to see these people, heads firmly in the sand, using any techniques that they can to try to justify the latest activities of the Harper government.

            I mean, at this point, can they not see the glaring problem with accusing Colvin of lying but preventing the evidence — which is right there — from being brought forward to this committee that all has the appropriate clearance? If an HRC did this, you'd never hear the end of it from them. But when a member of Harper's team does it.. then it's deflect, distract, detract.

            I mean, support Harper, support the Conservatives if you want.. fine.. but support them only when they do the right thing.. when they do the wrong thing, call them on it.. if their supporters won't, how do they expect the behavior to ever get better?

            I.. I just can't understand it.

  3. Other than to offer bloggers an excuse to blog, is there any other purpose for these Wherry columns?

    • Zey are not columns

    • I find them useful for flushing out conbots.

    • You don't like them, don't read them. Is your problem really that you don't want anyone asking pertinent questions about Harper's torture coverup?

    • Other than to offer commenters a reason to bemoan whining Conbot commenters, is there any other purpose for these incessant whines about these Wherry columns?

      • You're getting a little too meta there… Oops, did I just commit another level of whine?

    • "Ex" Canuck?

    • To help inform those who might feel the need to question the government line.

    • It's a question I've asked more than once, usually to the displeasure of the majority of the commenters. It's not like we don't have google or another search engine in order to discover these headlines on our own, truth is I've usually read the article being mentioned before it's brought to my attention here. Sometimes they do a good job of rounding up several articles that at least show opposing points of view. But what really gets me is when all they do is point to another macleans article that is already in the headlines using a meaningless headline like "look what he said", which gives the reader no clue that they are waisting there time clicking on a non-article. The reason for all this? $$$ every time you click on a new macleans page they generate ad revenue, plain and simple. Keep coming back to check comments on this non article and you are just adding to there pot,

      • And what a good deal that is for us, eh?

    • To send Macleans traffic to other news outlets, apparently. He rarely quotes anything from Macleans, and never engages in the comment board. All Wherry's posts seem to be designed to drive traffic away from this site. That's the only "purpose" I think he has.

      • And how does that make you feel, dear?

        • Indifferent? If I were running the blog, I know what I'd have Wherry doing. Obviously they're going a different direction. I would be interested to know what the bounce % of visitors to Wherry's posts are compared to say Coyne and Wells. Other than the "usual suspects" on this forum, Wherry's posts don't usually generate a lot of discussion. Just an observation, really.

          How does it make YOU feel?

          • Tingly.

          • Funny, this very post has over 70 comments. Seems like a lot of comment to me.

            And you don't seem to understand a business model beyond "generate as much advertising revenue from on-site clicks as you possibly can!" In fact, Wherry's editors might see value in an interesting, widely-discussed blog (like this one) and aren't bean-counting slave-drivers.

            Sheesh. I come here regularly because it's an interesting blog. If editors were to introduce local traffic requirements, that could only reduce its relevance (from my perspective) and incent me to visit less.

  4. Is there some sort of Alberto Gonzales cult controlling the Justice Department? Their behaviour gets more bizarre by the day.

    Here we have a representative of the department that redacted the documents, supposedly for reasons of national security discusing those documents in public and questioning Colvin's characterization of the redactions.

    If national security was actually the issue, presumably Prefontaine would avoid any discussion of the redactions, but instead he tries to score points by claiming knowledge of what was redacted while Colvin responds with restraint.

    • Hey, that's a good one! I can see the headlines now — Government Squashes Dissent Using "Gonzales" Move . . . Again.

  5. If they're so concerned about the Canadian public getting our grubby little meathooks on the unredacted documents, offer them over to the MPCC and have the committee meetings held in camera.

    It's not to my personal benefit to read the unredacted documents, it's to the government's credibility that they show them to those to whom they should be accountable, by law.

    Hiding the unredacted documents and then badgering back and forth with Colvin about how important or unimportant they are is just annoying, and it serves no purpose other than to waste my time and tax dollars.

  6. Aaron, did you mean "absurdest" or "absurdity"? Either makes perfect sense, unlike the government's case.

    • I think a better word is Surrealist. The Department of Justice is apparently being run by the Cirque de Soliel.

      I think I'll send a dozen red rubber noses to Rob Nicholson in tribute.

    • Sure, Aaron, edit your entry to make my post incomprehensible. Thanks a lot.

  7. So wait, we 'trust' this lawyer to read the unredacted emails, we 'trust' the public servants who had to read them to redact them, but we don't trust the MPCC or the representives that we sent to Ottawa to look at them and hold the information private? Really?

    • Good point.

      You could add that we trust certain committees of MPs with extremely sensitive documents and even make opposition leaders members of the privy counsel sometimes too.

  8. So lawyers at the Department of Justice can see the unredacted documents, but a handful of our MPs cannot?

    Ridiculous and unacceptable.


  9. Even crazier, a bureaucrat was allowed to *write* the dunredacted documents! And he's not even a lawyer…

    • Odd how Conservative has become an antonym to transparency and accountability.

      • Why is it odd?

        • Well, even I never expected they'd be so comfortable with the complete opposite of transparency and accountability. Even more, that they'd defend the complete opposite so enthusiastically and robustly.

          You gotta admit, it's pretty surprising.

          • What surprises me, and really disappointments me, is how many Conservative voters who were genuinely outraged by the excesses of the Liberal governments (Chretien's in particular) are seemingly happy to excuse or condone the same (or worse) behaviour from *their* Conservative government.

            No-one likes to admit that they were wrong, but some folks seem to be absolutely horrified by the very idea and will go to ridiculous extremes to avoid it. So you get the spectacle of stubborn people dutifully opening wide while Harper sh*ts all over them and loudly insisting, through clenched and soiled teeth, that they really *like* it!

            Excuse the graphic imagery.

          • It's your opinion that it's the same or worse, not mine. It's my opinion that this whole issue is not within a country mile of the worst excesses of Chretien's government.

          • Just wait until the bills come due.

          • It's only not within a country mile because the Harperites aren't allowing us to see what's actually in the documents.

            Or are you honestly saying that if Chretien had taken this same stance — redacting everything around the Sponsorship Scandal in the name of "National Interest", you wouldn't have minded so much?

            Actually, that wouldn't surprise me, as that tends to fit into my general assessment of Harperites.. they don't care what actually happens, just so long as they can't be held accountable.

          • This is not the sponsorship scandal. It's not withing a country mile of the sponsorship scandal. It's laughable that people even think to compare it. And when it comes to the sponsorship scandal, there were no documents to redact. That's what criminals do, they don't write their crimes down on paper. So far none of the money has been recovered and only one government official has been convicted in adscam.

            This isn't even an issue that started with the current government, it started with Martin's government. And when it comes to accountability, you're completely up the tree, the government is plenty accountable. Accountability doesn't mean playing along with every damn witch-hunt the opposition can concoct out of thin air.

          • You're right in one way – criminals try to avoid recording their crimes in writing:"

            "The Afghan National Directorate of Security "tortures people, that's what they do," he recalled saying at the meeting. "And if we don't want our detainees tortured, we shouldn't give them to the NDS."

            Colvin said that statement was met with silence and the note-taker at the meeting put down her pen."

            Colvin has also testified that he was instructed by Canadian officials not to put any concerns regarding torture in writing, but to rely on verbal communications only.

            You're surprisingly hasty to blow off this issue, considering nobody knows exactly what happened. I'll wait until the truth comes out. But maybe I'm just less likely to blindly trust politicians than you are.

            And as far as I'm concerned, torture is worse than financial fraud. Complicity in torture is a war crime and strikes at the heart of Canada's principles. Financial fraud is completely unacceptable, but at least nobody had their genitals shocked with a car battery. Not "within a country mile" indeed.

          • I'm with TJ up to a point – but then I go past it.

            It's not the difference between financial crimes and (alleged) complicity in torture. It's the difference between being caught cheating (as the Liberals were) and flatly rejecting the very authority of Parliament (as the Cons are currently doing). In a very real sense, the current Conservative government is repudiating the authority of all of us. They are governing without our consent. That's far more serious – although it takes nothing away from the crimes and abuses of past governments.

          • Parliament could easily force the documents to be released. Harper called their bluff. Now they've backed off. If they really want to see the documents, all they need to do is vote the government in contempt of parliament (a vote they could win easily if they chose to do so) and voila, the documents would be handed over.

            So all your blusters is a waste of breath.

          • You're not really paying attention, are you?

          • No, you're not, are you?

          • My mistake, you are payingvery close attention to what happened 6 weeks ago.

            I guess in another 6 weeks, when you catch up with this weeks news, you can say " I thought of that first."

          • Well, when there has been no vote on the matter for 6 weeks, then that's the latest. Are you always this daft?

          • "and only one government official has been convicted in adscam."

            If you have information that would lead to more convictions, why are you sitting on it?

          • The worst excesses of the Chretien government were not discovered until years after the fact and there were more and better safeguards and oversight on sponsorship than there has been on the EAP and stimulus spending. Add to that a government that thumbs its nose and gives the finger AND moons any sense of accountability and you have a disaster of excess that will make every corruption look like lunch money just from the shere size of the record-shattering spending under Harper.

          • Only if you believed Mr. Say Anything Steve back then. And I suppose I too was so done with the Liberals in 2006 that I was willing to buy the "doing things different" schtick.

            The sick thing is that the Cons are using our disgust to their favour. If you pay attention to their responses, especially supporters, they are basically saying we're no better than the Libs and the Libs are still bad so why switch horses now. They are using our malaise against us.

          • "They are using our malaise against us."

            Very true. The latest revelations about the Quebec Liberal Party only serves to reinforce the cynicism and strengthens the Conservatives as result. Let's face it; the Conservatives are still winning the battle of public perception by ruthlessly choking off the flow of information. Therefore, I don't expect them to quit voluntarily. It's very discouraging.

          • My counterpoint to that is that at least the Liberals could run a sponsorship scandal and leave the budget in the black.

            If we're gonna have crooks, I'd prefer the ones that know how to budget properly.

          • From Sir John A to King to Chretien… Canadians have a long tradition of forgiving a little corruption in exchange for some competence.

            From Meighen to Clark to Martin… Canadians have a long tradition of being brutal at the election box to those who might be squeaky clean but incompetence.

            Harper is not been corrupt in the sense of personal reward – at least so far, remember it was years after that we found out about corruption around sponsorship and there has been even less accountability over the EAP and stimulus – and he has not been a complete incompetent flop in the sense that he has been tactically smart.

            But he has been corrupt in the sense of government accountability and abuse of the discretionary powers of government and tactically smart is not the same as competence in the performance of their duties as government for which they have been woefully inept – isotopes, immigration, finances, etc..

          • And – I hasten to add – the Liberals didn't whip anybody with electrical cords, string them up by their wrists or shock their genitals with car batteries.

            All crimes are not equal.

          • Yeah, what you said.

            This government is the embodiment of hypocrisy.

            All message, no substance.
            All sound bites, no vision.
            All bluster, no courage.
            All spin, no plans.

            And using the wrongdoing of the Liberals as benchmarks for your own wrongdoing is not the kind of improvement a country needs.

            Perhaps it is the NDPs turn to run on a platform of accountability and transparency… everyone else has failed miserably so far in my lifetime.

  10. So:

    According to the government lawyer fella, redacted portions of Colvin's emails contain no actual sense of urgency, and provide nothing that could be constituted as "notice" of bad stuff happening.

    However, they're important enough to be redacted for security reasons.

    Logic: Missing in Action

  11. KAFKA revisited:

    "But there he is, this soldier, outfitted, facing his nightmares whether he's fully awake or finally asleep. At least the image is forever and consistent: the men and women standing tall within their ivory towers, propped up in leaning their wine and spice filled bodies carelessly against one another diplomatically, as if dreaming, holding clutched within their manicured hands the hefty volumes of the Geneva Conventions.
    There is the image. There must be the consistency. There they are, pressing their noses up against the paned, blue sheened glass looking down on him, this soldier, outfitted. Whether he's awake or asleep, the soldier knows it's impossible for him to reach through to what stands above and beyond. And there then, this soldier finds his own state of imprisonment: it's impossible for him to explain the inescapable: that would there be no barbaric outburst, that would there be no torture chambers, that would there be no Taliban, he wouldn't have been employed here to begin with, for there would have been no need for war. Silly questions.

    • …….This soldier retuns his attention to the man who has come to talk to him. And, as if by a sense of duty, as if by a sense of wanting to live for another day, he picks up a pen's simplicity and begins to write."

      • Honestly, given the dialogue quoted at today's hearing, I can think of far more apropos excerpts from Franz Kafka…
        The Trial…

        "You can read in
        your book as much as you like, sir, I really don't have anything in this
        charge book to be afraid of, even though I don't have access to it as I
        wouldn't want it in my hand, I can only touch it with two fingers." The
        judge grabbed the notebook from where it had fallen on the desk – which
        could only have been a sign of his deep humiliation, or at least that is
        how it must have been perceived – tried to tidy it up a little, and held
        it once more in front of himself in order to read from it.

        • So in your opinion, the "sir" is supposed to be government official. But you are wrong. The 'charge book' is the Genena Convention Volume wherin the charges have been determined regardless. Except, of course, the Taliban is not included within the "charge book"!

          I don't think you understand Kafka if you believe he was in favour of distant authority, because he wasn't. In fact, most of his work deals with revolting against this authority, including his father's.

          • So when are you going to revolt against your authority, Harper?

          • I would want for Harper to revolt against the suits at the UN.

          • So you're fine with accepting that your own personal distant authority doesn't do what you want it to then?

          • For me, distant authority is not my own national government, but an outside government, such as the UN, unelected by anyone, accountable to no one in particular, and yet the UN comes up with all of these unrealistic conventions to uphold.

            What our own national government is doing in respect to the Aghan detainee question is the way it should be done: to be very, very careful about what to release and what not. I agree wholeheartedly that an independent judge is looking over the files in its totality. I wouldn't trust various members of the house to be consistent enough in this regard.

          • Um, no, I was actually referring to the whole "I don't have access to it" part. because, you know, he was being told what he'd said was unimportant, yet not allowed to see it or show it to others to counter an argument. About what he'd said.

            So he couldn't say what he said to prove that what he said was important. To the guy who could see what he said and told him what he said without actually saying it.

            Not so much a "distant authority" concept as an "unbelievably stupid, unjustifiable situation" concept.

          • Um, no, I was actually referring to the whole "I don't have access to it" part. because, you know, he was being told what he'd said was unimportant, yet not allowed to see it or show it to others to counter an argument. About what he'd said.

            So he couldn't say what he said to prove that what he said was important. To the guy who could see what he said and told him what he said without actually saying it.

            Not so much a "distant authority" concept as an "unbelievably stupid, unjustifiable situation" concept.

          • A.I don't believe what Mr. Gosselin offered, frankly, is an assessment. This is a it's a comment which is sort of, from my point of view, a meaningless comment, and in fact a very ambiguous comment. What does he mean I am just this is what I read: The allegation should be taken very seriously, but should be addressed strategically. I personally don't know what that means.


          • Methinks Mr.Colvin, and perhaps many others within the system, are not exactly sure what the hell is going on………………..paper-pushing-wise I mean………

          • I would urge you to read the entire transcript of Mr.Colvin's testimony and then decide for yourself what the meaning of "elliptical" is.

            Q.Yes. When you say he was somewhat traumatized, you don't specify by what?
            A.Well, we are just conveying the impression he conveyed.

            Read it all, you may learn something………….or not!

  12. I meant "commissioner" …sigh

  13. I think Macleans and "Steve" reporting on this testimony is completely unbalanced. Shame on Macleans to slant the issue of Afghan detainess in such unbalanced way, time and again……………shame on you!

    Read the entire transcript between PRÉFONTAINE and COLVIN and you would not have reported only on the blocked-out-portion aburdity.

    You do the Canadian public a dis-service by presenting out of context bits and pieces

    • Perhaps you need to be more explicit.. what are *you* getting at?