Defence Minister Peter MacKay is reported to be refusing to answer questions as to when he learned of the military’s decision to cease turning detainees over to Afghan authorities (Jan. 26 – “PMO Backtracks”), on grounds that to do so could “endanger the lives of Canadian Forces personnel”.
This is utter rubbish, as there is no conceivable scenario in which the disclosure of when he learned of the decision could be of any value to insurgent forces in Afghanistan, far less impact on any actual operations in Afghanistan. But it is far more dangerous that we increasingly allow our government to use assertions of “national security” and “military operations” considerations to shield their own acts, omissions, and policy decisions from the public eye. The detainee issue involves questions of Canada’s compliance with international law, and is thus of public importance.
There are times when national security requires secrecy, but we must be rigorous in demanding that the government justify with precision their attempts to invoke such secrecy. The media, in particular, should demand explanations of public figures as to how, exactly, the disclosure that is being refused would pose a threat to national security.