The release of a small percentage of heavily redacted docs reviewed by the three judges of the Panel of Arbiters completely vindicated the Canadian Forces, they read nervously from their notes. As if anyone other than them had insinuated allegations about "the troops" into what was their responsibility to comply with international law on the treatment of prisoners of a country we invaded.
Reading the panel's many restrictions on unredacting the documents, you might wonder how Speaker Milliken's order to release the docs to Parliament 18 months ago got watered down to whatever survived the following censorship :
REPORT BY THE PANEL OF ARBITERS ON ITS WORK AND METHODOLOGY FOR DETERMINING WHAT REDACTED INFORMATION CAN BE DISCLOSED , excerpted
The Panel of Arbiters can determine, at the request of the government, that certain information should not be disclosed due to the solicitor-client privilege.Also not to be released :
The Panel of Arbiters, after consultation with the Clerk of the Privy Council, can also determine, at the request of the government, that information constituting Cabinet confidences should not be disclosed.
... information relating to the characteristics, capabilities, performance, potential deployment, functions or role of any defence establishment, military force or unit; and information obtained or prepared for the purpose of intelligence relating to the defence of Canada or an allied state.So what was left to disclose on Wednesday after all the above censorship?
... communications and documents obtained in confidence from third parties, generally allied states, should not be disclosed without the prior consent of the providing third party.
... information not widely known or accessible, where the authenticity of the information is neither confirmed nor denied, and where the information was inadvertently disclosed.
Government officials expressed serious concern about the disclosure of intergovernmental communications. They told us that all diplomatic communication is undertaken with the expectation of confidentiality and that disclosure of confidential communications would cause serious harm, regardless of the substance of the communication, and whether the “speaker” is Canada or a foreign government.
Certain documents referred by the Committee contain Canadian criticism of, or candid negative commentary about, Afghan institutions or officials. Some documents also contain Canadian reporting about criticism by one Afghan institution or official of another.
If the assessment appears to be merely speculation by a non-senior Canadian official, we generally either leave it redacted or summarize it at a very high level, making it clear in doing so that the assessment is the view of the individual, and not the government of Canada.
We exercise our judgment in each case to decide whether the information at issue is truly critical, and therefore would be harmful if released.
Generally speaking, we do not disclose any information or communications flowing from Canada to the ICRC [Red Cross]. We do not disclose any information, even in summary form, about or from the ICRC that is directly attributed to the ICRC or that it can be inferred comes from the ICRC.
...where information is not attributed to the ICRC, that the ICRC is the source of this information. Where that is the case, we leave the information redacted.
... information from third parties, such as foreign governments or intergovernmental organizations like NATO or NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. ... our approach is to not disclose or summarize third party information.
... the names of Afghan officials, including senior Afghan officials. Our approach is not to disclose these names except where the information, including the name, has already been widely disclosed.
... our approach is not to disclose or summarize information about Special Forces activities
...the use of gunshot residue (“GSR”) testing in Afghanistan ...disclose information indocuments relating to the use of the test and results obtained ... leave redacted other information to avoid compromising national defence.
... solicitor-client privilege is close to absolute ... extends to communications between government officials and government lawyers just as it does to any other lawyer-client communications. Unless it is waived by the client, solicitor-client privilege generally lasts forever.
Cabinet confidentiality may extend beyond Cabinet documents per se ; it may, for example, apply to communications between or involving Ministers.
Just enough to shut it down. Apparently.