The answer is no.

A question e-mailed to the Prime Minister’s Office this week: “In light of recent reports and revelations, does the government of Canada believe that American authorities did, in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, engage in the torture and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners?”

The answer received just now by phone from the Prime Minister’s press secretary: “No.”

A hasty conversation followed, my microcassette recorder cutting out for a few seconds in the middle. A rough transcript of that chat after the jump.

Aaron Wherry: The answer is no or no comment?

Kory Teneycke: The answer is no.

Wherry: The reason I asked and I put this to public safety and foreign affairs and kind of got the dodge, but a year and a half ago Bernier had that incident with the manual and we apologized and said we didn’t want to embarrass the United States et cetera, et cetera, Van Loan at committee a couple of weeks ago said western democracies don’t torture. So we obviously commented on this in the past.

Teneycke: Right. Well, but, I think what you’re dealing with though is a shifting definition being debated in the U.S. as to what constitutes torture and that’s a debate that is largely a U.S. domestic debate… 

(tape cuts out)

Wherry: … In the process of that issue coming, it became an issue of whether or not we actually believed they participated in torture.

Teneycke: If the question is, do we believe that the United States has a policy of torturing prisoners and detainees, obviously the answer is no … but I don’t think we’re really looking to wade into a domestic debate in the United States around this issue.

Wherry: But we have transferred prisoners to them, no?

Teneycke: We transfer prisoners to the United States and them to us fairly routinely. 

Wherry: So it’s not entirely a domestic debate?

Teneycke: Well obviously we wouldn’t transfer… there are lots of complications around transferring prisoners to states where there is a high likelihood of torture. But the United States is a world leader on human rights and has one of the most well-developed justice systems in the entire world, so you know, we’re not talking about a rogue state here.

Wherry: No, but we are talking about a state that… I mean, let’s be honest, the reports and the revelations and the memos that have come out in the past two weeks, make it pretty clear what has happened.

Teneycke: But clearly the Canadian government does not believe that the United States has a policy of torturing prisoners and we’ll continue to work cooperatively with the U.S. government on a range of issues. But we’re not dealing with a rogue state or a state that detainees people without trial or has a history of systematic human rights abuses. This is not the case with the United States of America.




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The answer is no.

  1. [W]e’re not dealing with… a state that detainees people without trial or has a history of systematic human rights abuses.

    Perhaps he meant on their own soil? It’s pretty clear what’s gone on overseas at CIA black sites, Guantanamo, etc.

    • I don’t think they’re even that sophisticated. It’s more they’re just putting their hands in their ears and crying la-la-la-can’t-hear-you.

      A far better answer would have been something along the lines of “we’re concerned about some of the allegations contained in documents which have recently become available, but it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions at this stage. We can’t make bald pronouncements when the Americans haven’t even decided what route their going to take with these allegations.”

    • The United States does have a history of systematic human rights abuses on its own soil. I believe the American Civil War was, at least in part, about that issue.

  2. One thing I find so charming about Kory Teneycke is that he sometimes seems to be a week behind the news cycle.

  3. A week? More like five or six years.

  4. we’re not talking about a rogue state here.

    Why aren’t we talking about a rogue state?

    • Good point. Under Bush, American exceptionalism reached a high water mark. The US government consistently acted as if they could make up their own rules in a variety of areas, and refused to sign any number of international agreements (I believe that policy preceded the W administration). If that’s not a rogue state, what is it?

  5. The Coyne-Wells podcast tonight happens to be on this subject, more or less. So for what I think about it, tune in then. In the meantime, a wretchedly Macciavellian question: who’s supposed to ring the government’s bell on the torture memos? Ignatieff? He wrote a long article about torture that’s easy to cherrypick to make claims he’d have to tie himself into pretzels refuting. The NDP? They’ve just decided they’re going to Make Parliament Work. The Bloc? A survivable problem, to say the least.

    • “Macchiavellian.”

      • “Machiavellian.”

        Yay, weekend.

  6. Thank you for putting this out.

  7. Sorry Aaron. Your tape is not 110% complete and therefore, by (Conservative) definition, it has been doctored and no part of it can be used for any purpose other than to make the current government look good.

  8. Gosh, I feel so safe and protected with this gang in charge.

  9. “But we’re not dealing with a rogue state or a state that detainees people without trial or has a history of systematic human rights abuses.”

    Um. That is exactly what we are dealing with, Kory. Exactly. Just because it is a short history does not mean that it does not exist.

    • As Rick Salutin and Duncan Cameron have recently pointed out–let’s not even get into Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman–the history is not short.

      It’s extensive.

      The history of official US support for illegal interrogation techniques and for religiously motivated militant extremism, that is.

  10. The United States has confirmed that prisoners were tortured, which includes a young Canadian citizen. This is not just about one individual from a controversial family, it’s about all of us, all our rights as citizens. Our government is telling the world that it’s OK to torture Canadians. Am I the only one who is getting the shivers from these bald-faced liars?

    • Nope. It blows my mind that they claim to be the Law & Order bunch.

      • The “Law and Order Except where it pertains to Human Rights” bunch

    • No, there are lots of other crazy people like you.

  11. Do yourself a favour Aaron and buy a digital recorder. Handhelds are under $100, quality is better than tape, and you can back the files up on a hard drive. Post them to your blog as podcasts. Or e-mail the files to American audio experts so they can analyze the missing sections when Kory sues…

    • I thought using tape left one less open to charges of evidence-tampering.

      • Actually that’s managed by your party membership.

  12. Without disagreeing with any of the above, remember we are a rogue state that executes innocent people without a trial.

    • Explain please.

      • Something I read in a Polish newspaper while I was at the airport.

  13. It reads more like a debate than an interview. Wherry, do you consider yourself a journalist or a member of the opposition?

    • I dunno sf, do you consider yourself an anonymous online commenter, a troll, or the baby pictured in your avatar?

      • “an anonymous online commenter”.

        My point is obvious, but you missed it anyway.

        There’s
        -those who are not classy
        -others who point out how everyone else is not classy (which is worse)
        -others who point out others not classy in a partisan manner, ignoring some and exposing others in an uneven manner (which is worst of all, personified by Wherry)

    • Follow up questions equal a debate? Or would we rather have Wherry say something like “You had me at no.”?

      • My above response to Maggie’s Farmboy refers primarily to a set of different posts by Wherry.

        My comment here is that a question like “But we have transferred prisoners to them, no” is not a question, it is a debating point. Same goes with phrases like “I mean, let’s be honest”.

        It shows that the journalist has no interest in reporting, but rather debating. What is sold as an interview is in actual fact a debate, in which the journalist considers himself part of the news, trying to change government policy. In other words, Wherry did not conduct an interview, he conducted a debate as if he was a member of the opposition.

        • Of course, to the Liberal Kool-aid drinkers, that’s perfectly fine.

  14. I found Teneycke’s last answer particularly laughable. He’s basically saying, “Yes, I know they’ve tortured people, but they don’t have a POLICY of torturing people.”

    • …any more.

  15. “In light of recent reports and revelations, does the government of Canada believe that American authorities did, in the years following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, engage in the torture and mistreatment of detainees and prisoners?”

    It’s passing strange to me that the Canadian government’s answer to this question is a pretty unequivocal “no”, given that the AMERICAN government’s answer to the very same question seems to be a pretty unequivocal “yes”.

    I realize it’s of domestic interest whether or not the Canadian administration agrees with the American administration on this, but given that the American administration has admitted, on numerous occasions, (and has released evidence of, in documents that were released as early as 2007) that they engaged in “torture and the mistreatment of detainees and prisoners” after 9/11, it seems rather moot to discover that the Canadian government remains in denial.

    Of course, this is hardly the only instance in foreign affairs under the current Canadian government in which pretty much every country in the world comes to a conclusion that our government nonetheless refuses to acknowledge.

    • Hear hear. “Moot” is the word for Teneckye’s statements and for the government he serves.

      • The Colin Thatcher school of government: Deny, Deny, Deny.

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