The redacted Colvin memos


The BC Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International have released a collection of documents that appears to include, though heavily redacted, all of the numbered memos cited in Richard Colvin’s affidavit.

By my count, those memos are KANDH-0029, KANDH-0032, KBGR-0118, KBGR-0121, KBGR-0160, KBGR-0258, KBGR-0261, KBGR-0263, KBGR-0265, KBGR-0266, KBGR-0267, KBGR-0274, KBGR-0275, KBGR-0291, KBGR-0292, KBGR-0302 and KBGR-0321.


The redacted Colvin memos

  1. Pedantism is definitely going to clear up why the government denied receiving Colvin's memos…until they the memos mysteriously materialized.

  2. Telling Colvin "don't say X", or "remove Y from your report" is muzzling/censuring him.

    Telling Colvin "Say things are getting better even if you believe they are getting worse" is asking him to lie.

    That's two different things. There's a difference between saying "Don't tell anyone the truth", and "Tell everyone a falsehood". There's no contradiction here.

    "All the way along" Colvin was told to keep his mouth shut. In that memo, for the first time, he reports being told to open his mouth and say something that he believed to be false. Making either request of Colvin is disturbing, but they're clearly two different things.

  3. Yes Doug, that's exactly what Dave was saying.

    Not, "I don't have time to read 130 pages of memos, could a journalist possibly summarize their content for us", but "please tell me what to think".

    • Don't worry, I looked through and it will take 5 minutes tops as it is almost all blacked out.

  4. Wow, Mike R's seen the unredacted memos!

    Let's call Mike to testify, he'll get this cleared up by Friday.

  5. Thank you! Although, I think it's entirely possible that the person who gave me a thumbs down understood!

  6. Sorry, perhaps that was a bit too snarky.

    I just can't get over the "There's noting in there about torture!!!" line given that concerns about, and evidence of, torture is exactly the sort of thing that's known to have been redacted from similar reports for national security reasons, and indeed are precisely the sort of thing that WOULD be redacted from publicly released memos in order to not embarrass allies, and to preserve Canada's diplomatic relations.

    "…the NDP says it has an uncensored version of one report and comparing the two, has found that the "national security" deletions include the line: 'Extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common.'

    'By redacting just that one sentence, the government was able to cover up knowledge of extrajudicial killings and torture in Afghanistan,' (MP Paul) Dewar said, citing this as an example of overzealous censorship".

    I'm not sure it's an example of overzealous censorship vis a vis the public at large, but you can't tell Members of Parliament that redacted memos don't demonstrate any concerns about torture and expect them to just take your word for it, and you DEFINITELY can't tell them that said memos don't contain concerns about torture if it's possible they'll get their hands on the underacted memos, and discover that the reason the redacted memos contain no concerns about torture is because all of those concerns were redacted from the memos.

  7. Nicely said.

  8. Wait, I thought that Colvin said that he was muzzled and censored all the way along.

    But at in his last memo at page 125, after dumping all over the entire Canadian effort in the fall of 2007, he complains that "for the first time" he was recently told to "lie".

    So which is it?

    • Kill the messenger! Kill the messenger!

      Attention, Conbots!

      Crush, kill, destroy!

  9. Aaron
    I think you're doing a great job collecting all this information, but I wonder when you'll give your own summary for those of us who can't read through all the original sources?


  10. I suppose Mr. Wherry doesn't want to give a summary, because a fair summation of the memos would state that Mr. Colvin made no reference to torture or abuse of prisoners until April 2007, after the Globe & Mail raised the issue. Nothing in the memoranda of 2006 indicate any concerns that prisoners were being abused. The only reference in those memoranda are concerns relating to the appropriate and timely notification of the Red Cross, a concern which he appears to have considered to have been resolved.

    No mention of "all prisoners being tortured" at all, as far as I can see.

  11. Somebody gave you a thumbs down – obviously misunderstanding – so I gave you a thumbs up for the wonderful subtle sarcasm.

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