A 6,000-mile screwdriver - Macleans.ca
 

A 6,000-mile screwdriver


 

A former NATO official steps forward, albeit anonymously.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office used a “6,000-mile screwdriver” to oversee the denial of reports of Afghan detainee abuse when the scandal first erupted in 2007, according to a former senior NATO public affairs official who was then based in Kabul.

The former official, speaking on condition his name not be used, told the Toronto Star that Harper’s office in Ottawa “scripted and fed” the precise wording NATO officials in Kabul used to repudiate allegations of abuse “at a time when it was privately and generally acknowledged in our office that the chances of good treatment at the hands of Afghan security forces were almost zero.”

“It was highly unusual. I was told this was the titanic issue for Prime Minister Harper and that every single statement that went out needed to be cleared by him personally,” said the former official, who is not Canadian.


 

A 6,000-mile screwdriver

  1. It's awfully generous of TorStar to give space to a foreigner, with no first hand knowledge of the matter, to make accusations about our PM and the PMO. But I am sure TorStar does not have an agenda or anything, just trying to give us the 'truth'.

    • "It's awfully generous of TorStar to give space to a foreigner, with no first hand knowledge of the matter, to make accusations about our PM and the PMO."

      You mean *your* PMO.

      Welcome to the world of news journalism.

    • with no first hand knowledge of the matter

      Other than apparently actually working in the NATO spin room at the time, of course….

      • Don't be too hard on Jolyon. He doesn't actually read the linked articles.

      • It is not difficult. When someone says "I was told" that means they are getting second hand information, at best.

        • Unless he was being told by the PMO that it was titanic for them. Then it's firsthand.

          • Funny, jolyon is perfectly pleased when its Harper replying with the "i was told" defence…

    • I seem to recall a story about a Canadian PMO official calling a US president a moron, oh and a Liberal MP being kicked out of caucus for her actions around the same issue, but I guess they were both on the record, all over the US media and neither denied the truth of their actions…how's PM Harper getting along with OweBama?

  2. Nameless NATO guy speculates in newspaper famous for conservative bashing, on the record Canadian diplomat and on the record CAF officers fail to mention same policy in numerous committee grillings and media reports. Gee, this is tough one to assign credibility to…who can one believe???

    • So, will you believe him if he decides to go public and testify in front of the Afghanistan committee saying the exact same stuff he did anonymously?

  3. And the right wing trolls are off!

    Anonymous source? *shriek*
    Ethically-compromised newspaper the name of which is *not* The National Post: *shriek*

  4. Coverups abound..

    • Do you actually believe that torture in Afghan jails started in Jan 2006, once the Harper government took over?

      Do you actually believe that the Martin government was unaware of the reports of abuse in Afghan jails, dating back many many years before the CPC won government?

      • “We were taken to the NDS compound in Kandahar…I was beaten on my back and especially my kidneys with a metal cable… A metal bar was placed under my chained arms and knees and I was hung from the hook on the ceiling and they continued to beat me. I was hung in this position for maybe one hour and lost consciousness.”
        – Testimony given to Amnesty International in December 2005.

        • Testimony given to Amnesty International in December 2005.

          So your evidence that the Liberals knew about is from the same month the Liberals lost power.

      • Well then Wilson.. let's have a full fledged public inquiry and get this straightened out. Go do to Harper's constituency office and demand as a Conservative supporter and an outraged Canadian you want this cleared up.

        I wont hold my breath you will, of course. All you've done on here since this story broke is try to deflect, obfuscate and use the excuse the Liberals did nothing either.

        Fact is, all this latest stuff happened on your guy's watch, and it's becoming apparently clear he and the Conservative Party were doing everything in their power to make sure this didn't cause political blowback on them.

      • Who gives a crap? It's the Harper government that's choosing to suppress the infromation, and it's the Harper government that was in office when the concerns were raised. Answer the questions, show us the reports that contradict Colvin, and get this out in the open. If it was the Liberal Ministers that did the wrong, fine let's get that in front of the public rather than suppressing information and providing assurances from ministers who read nothing, hear nothing and know nothing. Man up up wimp Cons.

  5. The PMO's toolbox is sooo limited. Any weekend do-it-yourselfer knows a 6,000-mile spanner better drives people/nuts.

  6. CSC Correctional Services Canada has been in Afghanistan since Sept 2003,
    and an advisor in 2004 to UNAMA,
    and also reporting for this period is the AIHRC.

    Where are their reports on torture in the Afghan prison system?

    • Keep trying.

    • Good idea, let's release those instead of pretending there are national security issues.

  7. A Robertson screwdriver, I presume.

  8. This is one of those awkward situations where one doesn't know what to make of the accusations. They sound credible, and the source comes across well, but on the other hand (a) he's anonymous, and (b) it's the Toronto Star.

    On balance, I don't think the reasonable "feel" of the quotes outweighs that the source is a useless rag of a newspaper quoting someone they won't name.

    If this guy is real, and really wants to convince people, he should talk to a credible news agency on the record. Otherwise I tend to relegate this to the realm of "creatively-written National Enquirer piece".

    • The Star is far more credible than the Post. This seems pretty legit.

    • I'll take the Star as it relates to "credibility" over the Post, the Sun, and CTV any day.

      • I'm guessing you would also take MSNBC over the Post, the Sun, and CTV any day. Yes?

        • I take it you're referring to Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow being on there, since you're a Con supporter and probably hate their liberal POV. There's a difference in the media between the political opinion commentators and the reporters/reporting you know (except in the case of FoxNews – the mother of all networks in having no credibility).

          If you want to point to a specific case of bias on the Star reporter's Mitch Potter's part against the current government, go ahead.

          I find it amusing however, that most Conservative supporters on here gleefully quote Jane Taber ad nauseam when she's quoting "senior unnamed Liberals" on the LPC's troubles.. yet when a Star reporter quotes a former senior NATO official who's critical of the Harper operation on this, suddenly the Star is biased and the source is not credible.

          • The really sad thing here is you probably believe this ( I hope you are young). A real journalist has one point of view, that is what will credible sources say on the record. Of course the sources are biased, that is why journalists are disinclined to go with a story that has ONE source and he/she is anonymous. Journalists are supposed to find the story, not have it spoon fed from a spin machine (no left/center politics in DC these days eh?)

            If you look at record of the Star over years of advocacy for all things left/center and single source stories that make a one day splash you understand why many look it as a joke.

            On a more important note the Riders are back in the game and that IS important.

          • Perhaps some real journalists, such as the ones here at MacLeans, would like to weigh on small "p" peter's ever so nuanced, wordly assertions?

          • Actually I was just asking an honest question.

            As to your questions:
            (1) I'm not a CPC supporter, although since I am a social conservative / libertarian I probably do have more in common with many CPC MPs than MPs from other parties.
            (2) I do not hate the leftist POV, or disdain commenters who have one. I do have very little respect for Olbermann and Maddow, but that's largely because I find them to be arrogant, dishonest, sneering, crass liars.
            (3) My objections to anonymous sources being taken at their word is unrelated to the point of view expressed by said anonymous sources.

          • Liar.

            Some quotes of yours:

            "Anything that gets the Left upset must have some merit. " –
            "As to the Left, an ideology that is consistently evil is actually a pretty good moral compass. When it points North then you can't go too far wrong if you head South."

            From: http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/11/17/dear-prudence/

          • I'm failing to see how those comments contradict the one above. Either you think that being opposed to the Left is the same as hatred, or you think that being opposed to the Left makes one a CPC supporter. Both assumptions are wrong.

          • So you're suggesting that "Anything that gets the Left upset must have some merit" is absolutely no indication of any disdain you might have for commentators from "the Left"?

            Or that you do not hate "consistent evil"?

            How deep a sophistry hole do you want to dig?

          • As to the first, correct. There is merit to positions opposed by the Left, and this generally gets the Left upset, and yet neither of the above implies disdain for Leftists personally.

            As to the second, leftist ideology is inherently evil in the sense that it's logical consequences are such. However many leftist points of view are not inherently evil in and of themselves.

            For example: many leftists support treating captured Taliban insurgents as POWs. This, in itself, is often just an expression of magnanimity and compassion – clearly not evil. However the logical consequence of this is that all soldiers who fight disguised as civilians have to be treated as POWs, which leads to the targeting of civilians and hence the murder of innocent people.

            Hence the ideology is evil, once you follow it through, but the leftist point of view held by your average Leftist is well intentioned and in many ways admirable, albeit not clearly thought out. This is why seeing that Leftism is "consistently evil" is not the same as hating every Leftist POV.

            Capische?

          • Except now you're trying to twist what you said — you didn't say "positions opposed by the Left have merit" you said "anything that gets The Left upset".

            So according to you the Kent State shootings had merit. And you want to suggest this doesn't imply any sort of disdain or hatred?

            Sure, now that you've been challenged on it, I expect you'll claim that you didn't mean that, but I find people's true nature often comes out when they're not thinking about it. So perhaps you might want to do some self-examination to figure out what your feelings really are.

            Or at the very least, learn not to be an ass.

          • Yes, that's good, take a sentence about comments that get the Left upset, and try to make it apply to a shooting instead. Well done.

            I'll say this: I do disdain people who cast aspersions on others for cheap points, especially if they fail to walk their remarks back after having the mistake pointed out.

            I am also inclined to think that eventually, no matter how well intentioned someone is, if they hold to leftism the logical consequences of that ideology eventually percolate into the person's individual behaviour.

            Your behaviour in this instance reinforces that view, unfortunately.

          • Yes, that's good, take a sentence about comments that get the Left upset, and try to make it apply to a shooting instead. Well done.

            I'll say this: I do disdain people who cast aspersions on others for cheap points, especially if they fail to walk their remarks back after having the mistake pointed out.

            I am also inclined to think that eventually, no matter how well intentioned someone is, if they hold to leftism the logical consequences of that ideology eventually percolate into the person's individual behaviour.

            Your behaviour in this instance reinforces that view, unfortunately.

  9. From that same NATO official on Richard Colvin:

    Many NATO officials in Kabul were also aware how seriously Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin was following the issue, he said. “Richard Colvin behaved as a straight-up-and-down person, completely honest and doing his job to the best of his abilities,” the former official said. “He had to be terribly careful. He couldn't speak to us about this. But it was clear that the tone at the Canadian Embassy had changed. It became far more politicized – and it was clear that Richard Colvin was struggling enormously to do his work on the question of detainees.”

    Very interesting, isn't it, how folks in the diplomatic core and even those who worked in NATO are coming to the defense of Richard Colvin? Perhaps the attacks of Colvin that has taken place this week by Peter Mackay and others in the Conservative government was a bridge too far for them. It appears more then a few have had enough of seeing the smear job being attempted on his work and his reputation from the Conservative government

    • Yes but what about the LIIIIIBERALS?

      /Wilson

  10. “It was highly unusual. I was told this was the titanic issue for Prime Minister Harper and that every single statement that went out needed to be cleared by him personally,” said the former official, who is not Canadian.

    “The lines were, ‘We have no evidence’ of coercive treatment being used against detainees handed over to the Afghans. There were very clear instructions for a blanket denial. The pressure to hold to that line was channelled via Canadian military and diplomatic personnel in Kabul. But it was made clear to us that this was coming from the Prime Minister’s Office, which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”

    Is that a knotted rope i spy in the far distance just waiting for someone? I wonder who could have put it there?

    Yes, yes, i know. The star’s a filthy communist rag published over at olo. Yet the evidence mounts remorselessly, even if it’s only curcumstantial, as yet.

    Now would be a good time to come together liberal party…oh you are…that’s all right then.

  11. Conservatives are all too willing to believe anon sources when they belong to the Liberal party.

  12. This story is spinning off into tangents… just like the CPC wants. It's no longer about whether Ministers have mislead or even lied to the House about prisoners and detainees taken by Canadian Forces, or that they've obstructed inquiries into even the most basic facts. Now it's about the credibility of a senior civil servant.

    O'Connor, MacKay Harper and crew have all made statements in and outside of the House which beggar belief: No one is abused in Afghan custody; the Red Cross would report it if it happened (not); even though there's no problem, we halted transfers and put in a more rigorous transfer agreement (apparently more than once); one of our top guys in Afghanistan (twice) and currently in DC can't be believed (despite taking one of the highest risk positions in Kandahar); anyone critical of the mission is giving comfort to the Talibs, etc.

    They've obstructed, lied and defamed on this file for nearly four years. It's sad that Conservative supporters aren't the first to demand better.

    What's most disturbing is how most Canadians really don't care about a conflict they've booked 8 years in … and the CPC knows it. Actually, I'm wrong. It's not sad or disturbing. It's pathetic.

  13. I dont know how to reply n this thing..and what to say…..