Let us now split hairs


November 8, press conference to announce the release of Melissa Fung.

Reporter: “Ransom often is part of these cases and I wonder if any money was paid by anyone, the government or the CBC or even a third party to help secure her release”

Stephen Harper: “No ransom was paid. It’s the government of Canada’s policy not to pay ransom and no ransom was paid by anyone in this case and all laws of Canada and Afghanistan were fully respected.”

Reporter: “Just to clarify on the question you were asked about ransom. You said no ransom was paid, no money was paid. But was any other kind of goods or services passed on, either through a third party or insurers or otherwise? Can you just clarify on that?”

Stephen Harper: “I think the answer to that is no.”

November 10, press conference following First Ministers’ meeting.

Reporter: “There are reports there were two Taliban released in exchange for Miss Fung. Can you comment on this at all?” 

Stephen Harper: “Yes I can. That is not correct. I think I said already there have been continued reports about ransoms or money being paid. That was not done in this case. Likewise there has been no release or exchange of political prisoners. This matter is being handled according to the laws of the government of Canada and the government of Afghanistan and that’s all I’ll say in that regard.”

November 12, Melissa Fung’s interview with CBC.

Melissa Fung: “I now understand that Afghan intelligence had sort of fingered the family of the ringleader of this gang and had arrested a whole bunch of them. And it was a prisoner exchange. They agreed to release the family if the group would release me and that’s what ended up happening.”


Let us now split hairs

  1. I’ll bite.

    Releasing people already held (Harper says no) vs. hunting down the family members of those involved, holding them, and saying that they wouldn’t be released until Fung was released (seems to be the case).

    Hair split.

  2. I cannot condone the tactic of scooping up other innocent hostages (whose freedom is valued enough by these criminal scum) as a direct response to the kidnapping, because that is not what this country stands for.

    But I am happy that it worked. I am not comfortable imaging what would have happened if the creeps called the Afghan government’s bluff, because every imaginary journey leads to more innocent victims.

    If they are innocent relatives, they should be left alone. If they are accomplices, they should not have been released.

    Harper’s careful choice of words here appears quite justified. May the actual criminals rot in misery.

  3. MYL, you are such a blind apologist for the CPC and Harper in particular.

    Being forthright is a quality of leadership that is sorely lacking from the CPC.

    To engage in any form of hostage exchange and excusing it under the cloud of “do as the Afghanis do” is absolutely reprehensible. Full stop.


  4. madeyoulook is correct and so are Harpers words therefore no issue here.

  5. Not sure what I think about the morality of it — in this case the journalist was freed and no previous prisoners were released, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

    Better to win than to maintain our moral purity, but there can come a point when we have compromised ourselves too much…

  6. Does it matter at all what “we” knew, and when?

    After all, it’s not as though Canadian Forces personnel went out and grabbed these scumbags’ (yeah, I said it) families and stuck ’em in a cell. It was the Afghan government that did that (if that is what happened). This was a case of the government of Afghanistan responding to the the kidnapping of a foreign national on their soil. We may not feel totally comfortable with what they (apparently) did, but did any Canadians know they were doing it? I mean, sure, I’m sure the authorities were keeping Canadian authorities “in the loop”, but what does that mean? I can certainly see an Afghan official saying to his troops, “We know who took this lady, so go shake things up… Oh, and no one tell the Canadians, they wouldn’t feel comfortable with this tactic, and if we play by their rules we may never get her back”. Now, we may not like that, but it having happened, and (frankly) succeeded, I’m not so sure it’s the PM’s responsibility to throw the Afghan government under the bus for it, after the fact.

    Of course, maybe that’s not how things went down either. Maybe the PM knew exactly what was happening (well, I kinda doubt that, but maybe some Canadian official(s) in Afghanistan did) but I do think the above is certainly plausible.

    If we didn’t know what they were doing, and they did it and it worked, I’m less eager for our government officials to chastise the Afghhan government for it. It’s their country after all. I seem to remember us once invoking the War Measure’s Act in Canada, and I don’t think Quebec was ever quite as bad as Kabul.

  7. It’s legal to arrest and detain people as accomplices to a kidnapping.
    It is also legal to drop the charges once the victim is found safely.

  8. I agree with Allan Sorensen. If things went down as described by Mellissa Fung then I am OK with how this was handled. This was not a political prisoner exchange that would set an example to encourage future kidnappings.

  9. If you pay attention to what Ms. Fung says that exchange involved some or all of her kidnappers’ family who had been taken into custody as a result of her kidnapping. Going by her words the family was not a group of “innocent” bystanders. Kidnapping for ransom is the family business and she was basically a random victim – a profit centre.

    So there was an exchange of prisoners. But it had the kind of flavour of a “do-over”. Give the family back. Get the reporter back. And we’ll all start over again.

    Two things to be a little wary of, though :- The head of the family business – the father – apparently operated out of Pakistan. Was he arrested ? If so, by whom ? Where is he now ? Or was he the fixer in the deal ?

    And, apparently the deal was in the hands of the Afghani intelligence service. I would question the reliability and credibility of any narrative they have to offer.

    In any case, from the Fung point of view, it all had a happy ending. From what I saw, a very classy young lady.

  10. I don’t think the lack of forthrightness should be all that surprising to anyone. Of course some people will rationalize it away. I’m waiting for ‘reasons of national security’ to come up. It justified everything!

  11. For heaven’s sake, who cares how the Afghans went about doing us this big favour? It’s not like we’re obliged to wander around the world enforcing the Charter (though of course if the kidnappers’ family had declared an intention to one day immigrate to Canada it would be a different story). Kudos to Afghan intelligence for thinking outside our box.

  12. I’m just not so sure this qualifies, exactly, as an “exchange of prisoners”.

    Seems to me, as someone said above, kidnapping is a bit of a family business for those who took Ms. Fung. So, the authorities rounded up those members of the family they could find in order to detain them for questioning, in order to find Ms Fung. Now, if Ms. Fung is released, perhaps the authorities decide there’s no reason to continue detaining the family members in their efforts to find out from them where Ms. Fung is, her being now found.

    “Exchange of prisoners”, to me, reads as acquiescing to a kidnappers demands that someone be freed (in other words, “We kidnapped her to get you to release X, Y and Z, so release X, Y, and Z”). No one, it seems to me, kidnapped Ms. Fung to get their families released, their families were in custody because the authorities detained them in their search for Ms. Fung. If their families were subsequently released after Ms. Fung was returned I don’t have a problem with that. Heck, even if the kidnappers called up and said “look, our families weren’t involved, so we’ll release Ms. Fung, but please release our families when we do” I don’t have any particular problem with that either.

  13. Wow.

    Melissa Fung herself has stated that she was released in exchange for two people being held by police. I’m surprised people are making such a deliniation between prisoners and detainees.

    I’m not sure what is gained by CBC management and the Government of Canada trying to walk such a fine line… I don’t think many people are fooled into thinking there’s a huge difference.

  14. I think that special medals should be struck for everyone here in resolving this issue Karzai and the Afghani Intelligence have just gained some serious cudos here and that’s for sure. Harper deserves a lot of credits big time here not too mention the fact that Melissa owes her life – all around amazingingly good nes and the usual crowd of nambie pambies can pull up their big boy underoos and deal with it.

  15. Who can really have much faith in a PM who would rather tell the lie than ever give the impression he is weak?

  16. Scott, I don’t think people are making a distinction between “prisoners and detainees” it’s about what the word “exchange” means. These kidnappers didn’t kidnap Fung in order to get their buddies (/families) released – their families were being detained in an effort to find out where Fung was. Once Fung was released, there was no reason to continue to detain potential accomplices in an effort to find out where Fung was, since the authorities then knew where Fung was.

    Prisoners or detainees, these people were taken AFTER Fung was kidnapped, in an effort to find Fung. One could certainly argue, I think, that Fung being released, there was no reason to continue to hold these people in an effort to find and rescue Fung.

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