This is typical. The government tries everything possible to keep as much as possible under wraps. So much for accountability and the public right to know. The public has the right to know as little as is legally possible. This may very well end up having to go to a court as in the Arar case. What has the government to lose only taxpayer money for legal expenses, paying for both sides. The material could very well involve some embarassment with respect to relations with other intelligence agencies as happened with the Arar material.
Iacobucci seeks fuller disclosure in torture cases
OTTAWA — The federal inquiry into the torture of three Arab-Canadians is taking steps to force the government to disclose more information about the affair.
John Laskin, chief counsel for the inquiry, said Thursday a legal notice has been filed challenging a federal claim that publication of the material would undermine national security, defence or international relations.
It's now up to the government to decide what to do next, but if no agreement can be reached the matter will eventually go to Federal Court for resolution.
At issue is material relating to one of the three men at the heart of the inquiry, Ahmad El Maati, who was tortured in both Syria and Egypt after being labelled an al-Qaida suspect by Canadian authorities.
Former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci noted, in his report released Tuesday, that he couldn't make as much public as he wanted to about the case because of the government's secrecy claim.
"It might be a page or two pages or something," Iacobucci later told reporters. "It's just something that I think should be in the public report."
Laskin said Thursday the off-the-cuff estimate of a page or two wasn't "quite accurate" but declined to be more specific or to characterize how important the material might be to the overall picture painted in the Iacobucci report.
Michael Peirce, chief counsel for the government at the inquiry, had no comment on the dispute.
Christian Girouard, a Justice Department spokesman, said the legal process for dealing with the exempted material was being followed, and that it was too early to tell how the matter would be settled.
Iacobucci concluded that Canadian officials indirectly contributed to the torture abroad of El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin. He didn't blame any individuals but said the RCMP, CSIS and Foreign Affairs had all been institutionally "deficient" in their actions.
In El Maati's case, he noted, the RCMP told foreign authorities he had links to al-Qaida and was an "imminent threat to public safety" without taking steps ensure the accuracy of those allegations.
Iacobucci also found CSIS had provided questions for use by El Maati's interrogators in Syria, and later expressed concern to the Egyptians about what he might do if released from custody.
Foreign Affairs failed to be aggressive enough in seeking consular access to El Maati during his detention, the inquiry found.
"I have also identified another action that, in my view, likely contributed to mistreatment of Mr. El Maati in Egypt and was deficient in the circumstances," Iacobucci wrote in his report.
He said he's given details to the government in a confidential version of his findings, but they can't be made public at this point because of the national security claim.
A similar dispute arose at a previous inquiry into the ordeal of Maher Arar, who was arrested by U.S. authorities, deported to Syria and tortured after the RCMP wrongly labelled him an al-Qaida suspect.
Federal Court rejected the government's secrecy claims in that case and ordered release of the disputed material - which, although not extensive, proved to be embarrassing to Ottawa.
It revealed for the first time that the RCMP had used information extracted under torture abroad to obtain search and wiretap warrants against suspects in Canada - an issue further explored by Iacobucci.
The excerpts also showed that, despite public claims to the contrary, CSIS had suspected almost immediately after Arar's disappearance from New York that the CIA had spirited him to the Middle East for interrogation.