Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another form of extraordinary rendition

Canada's secret spy days are over : CSIS chief, said at a "recent and closed CIA-sponsored Global Futures Forum conference of international security services in Vancouver"

"Public terrorism trials are changing the way government spies operate, says Canada's spymaster, Jim Judd.
As a consequence of the fight against global Islamic terrorism, an increasing number of open-court criminal prosecutions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have, at their genesis, information collected by shadowy secret agents rather than police officers.

Prior to 9/11 and in several cases since, most of those detained for suspected terrorist links in Canada were immigrants or refugees and the government conveniently relied on immigration laws and security certificates to quietly deport them to their countries of origin or hold them in custody.

But the alleged terrorist activities of Ottawa's Momin Khawaja and the "Toronto 11" -- all Canadian citizens awaiting trial in the first of Canada's post-9/11 terror prosecutions -- must be heard in open courts, where the prosecution's evidence is subject to the rigours of defence counsel scrutiny and the rules of evidence."

Judd refers to this as the "judicialization" of what has "traditionally been considered covert government information".

OK, hold that thought a moment - I'm coming back to it.

Yesterday, in The Lesson of the Arar inquiry : Keep it under wraps, Pogge wrote about Mr. Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen fingered by CSIS and arrested "at our request" in Sudan five years ago, where he alleges he was beaten while in custody, and frequently visited by CSIS.

In 2004, Sudan cleared him of all allegations that he was a terrorist or a member of al-Qaeda and released him. They further offered to fly him home but Canada obstructed the deal. !!!
A few months later, Mr. Abdelrazik was then bundled off back to prison for another five months after suggesting he wanted to make his case to the prime minister. Now released a second time, he remains trapped in Khartoum, his health failing, his family back here in Montreal.

And here's the perfect Catch 22 : He can't fly home because he's on a no-fly list and he can't go by land or sea because Canada continues to refuse him a passport.

From the G&M, who, to their eternal credit, put this on their front page yesterday :
"[Abdelrazik's lawyer] says the similarities with Mr. Arar's case are compelling. In both instances, a Canadian citizen is fingered by CSIS as a terrorist suspect. In both cases, no charges are laid in Canada. In both, the person is arrested and imprisoned abroad. In both, Canadian officials say there is little that they can do because the person is in the country of their other citizenship."

In both, he might have added, there were allegations of torture and extraordinary callousness on the part of government officials. The G&M article does a fine job detailing the blatant ass-covering, Lib and Con, that appears to have formed the bulk of Foreign Affairs' concerns regarding Mr. Abdelrazik over the past five years. Just like with Arar, CSIS didn't want him to come back to Canada to embarrass them.
As chief of CSIS, Jim Judd oversaw both.

POGGE asks for the second time now : How many more of them are there out there?

May 16, 2007, Day seeks security powers
"Anti-terror measures would restore `preventive arrests’ and help CSIS spies overseas
"The federal government plans to try to revive the extraordinary anti-terror police powers of "investigative hearings" and "preventive arrest" as part of a series of major security initiatives."

"Preventative arrest" allows police to arrest without charge and judges to penalize without trial, people who the authorities fear might commit future terrorist offences.

"The government also says it will expand the ability of Canada's spy agency – the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – to do covert foreign intelligence gathering abroad.
The two police powers slated for revival were killed by the opposition parties in a parliamentary vote in February.
In an appearance yesterday before the House of Commons public safety committee, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day indicated he has drafted a bill to reinstate those powers."

The bill is still pending, and as noted here, now also enjoys the support of the Liberals.

So when CSIS chief Jim Judd laments for the CIA the late great days of publicly unacknowleged extaordinary renditions, the pre-'judicialized' days unsullied by the "rigours of defence council scrutiny and rules of evidence", just remember it's because they're planning to bring those days back.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Canadian Nixon

Buckdog discovered this very good post at The Guardian yesterday.
Here's the part he quotes, in case you missed it :

"The historian Garry Wills once observed that Richard Nixon wanted to be president not to govern the nation but to undermine the government. The Nixon presidency was one long counterinsurgency campaign against key American institutions like the courts, the FBI, the state department and the CIA. Harper has the same basic approach to politics: attack not just political foes but the very institutions that make governing possible. The state for Nixon and Harper exists not as an instrument of policy making but as an alien force to be subdued.

Canadians have never had a prime minister who has literally made his career attacking and undermining the legitimacy of Canadian institutions. Until now."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shorter Monte Solberg :

: If only there were something like a Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development ... just think what we could accomplish!

ReformaTory Alliance MP Monte Solberg, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, returned from a fact-finding trip to Portland Oregon to study their plan to end homelessness within ten years and pronounced it "a terrific idea" but explained it wouldn't work here because "Portland regularly assesses the number of people on the street" and adjusts its programs accordingly.
Solberg :
"We don't have those kinds of measurements in place. We don't have an actual number we can point to in Canada to say we know there are this many people on the street in Canada at any one time.
If you're going to set any targets at all, you have to know where you're starting from and have some kind of measurement in place, and we don't have that today."
Yes, Monte, I absolutely agree you would definitely need to have some kind of fucking clue first.

Daphne Bramham at the Vancouver Sun, via Mostly Water :
"Canada has become the only developed country in the world that has neither a national housing plan or a national mental health strategy."
Very good article. Everything you wish you didn't already know about homelessness and all on one page.

Bill C-537 - Vellacott's Trojan Horsefeathers

Bill C-537 : An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of conscience rights in the health care profession)
1. The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 425.1:
Definition : "human life"
"human life" means the human organism at any stage of development, beginning at fertilization or creation."
This snowball-in-hell from ReformaTory Alliance parliamentary prat Maurice Vellacott is just another backbencher wedgie against abortion, and, like Epp's Bill C-484, it will be stoutly defended by the usual Trojan horsefeathers crowd as being not against the right to choose - oh no, not at all - it's for the health professional.

Then if, like these women in Pennsylvania, you get raped but manage to get yourself straight to the nearest hospital to be examined and still have the wit to also ask for a morning after pill but are denied one by the attending ER physician on the grounds it's against his religion to give you one, you'll at least be able to thank your lucky stars that his "conscience rights" have been "protected" by Vellacott's peculiar version of the Criminal Code. (H/T Diane Demornay at enmasse)

One thing puzzles me here though : "the human organism at any stage of development, beginning at fertilization or creation" ???
What's with "or creation"? What "stage" could possibly need the further embellishment of "or creation"?
Well I guess the Second Coming is covered.
Further raised eyebrows on C-537 :

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Three Amigos shovel some PR for Uribe

in advance of news of his cousin's arrest.
Seems my question on Tuesday night about why each of the three amigos mounted such a stirring and seemingly completely off-topic defence of Colombia's President Uribe in their joint press conference was answered in the following day's news :

WaPo : Cousin of Colombian President Arrested in Death Squad Probe
"Authorities on Tuesday arrested former senator Mario Uribe, a cousin and close ally of President Alvaro Uribe, for alleged ties to death squads in a widening inquiry that has implicated nearly a quarter of Colombia's Congress.
The arrest of the former senator, who built a formidable political movement that helped his cousin win the presidency in 2002, comes during an institutional crisis that has tarnished a country closely allied with the United States."

AFP : Colombia's Uribe under probe over 1997 massacre
"Colombian President Alvaro Uribe denied Wednesday charges he helped plan a 1997 massacre by right-wing paramilitaries, while confirming that his role was being examined in an official investigation."

At their Summit presser, Bush, echoed by Harper, proclaimed : "we got no better friend in South America than President Uribe."

So The Three Amigos presumably already knew about the arrest and thought they'd shovel a little PR manure for the Uribe government before the rest of us heard about it.

Linda Carlsen of the Americas Program, Center for International Policy, also writing before news of the Uribe arrests broke, dissects "the prominence of this issue in the official statements" here:
"Again the summit is being used to advance the failing Bush administration domestic agenda.
Considering again that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is not an issue in Mexico, the geopolitical strategy of building alliances among rightwing governments in the hemisphere to confront the growing number of leftwing governments becomes clear. This ideological taking sides has no place in a trilateral summit dedicated to North American integration issues and panders to the Bush agenda."

The whole article is an excellent read :
Dissecting the North American Summit Joint Statement: Bush's Last Stand

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So the Three Amigos Summit was really about...Colombia?

While Canadian media mostly concentrated today on Harper and Bush's comments on NAFTA - NAFTA good! - I was rather surprised by how strongly the proposed US and Canadian free trade deals with Colombia figured in the transcript of their "Joint Press Availability" statement.

Calderon brings it up in his opening statement.
The first question from a reporter is about the Dem candidates' remarks on reopening NAFTA, a question you will note does not refer in any way to Colombia, and Bush responds :
"Actually, my biggest concern on trade right now is with Colombia", and
"my biggest concern is to turn our back on our friends in Colombia".
He goes on to bitch some about his failure to get his FTA with Colombia past Pelosi, and concludes with :
"when America turns its back on a strong leader like President Uribe and a friend for democracy like President Uribe."
With friends for democracy like that...

Finally the three amigos get a question that actually is about Colombia and they really light up.
Bush :
"in terms of President Uribe, we got no better friend in South America than President Uribe. He believes strongly in rule of law. He's a reformer, and he's working hard to protect his country from a bunch of narco traffickers who murder innocent people to achieve their objectives."
and quite a bit more in the same vein, then :
"if we don't agree to a free trade agreement that we honest -- negotiated in good faith with them, it will undermine his efforts, and will destabilize parts of the world. And it would be a big mistake for the Congress to turn its back on Colombia."

And Harper! Harper uses up three of the transcript's paragraphs on it -
"We want to be in the game. We don't want to be out of it."
- and finally echos Bush with :
"if the United States and our allies turn their back on an important ally in this region, that that will have long-term security consequences for all of our countries in North America."

Good lord, its the FTAA all over again.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas was intended to expand NAFTA to include Central and South America plus the Carribean - all but Cuba.
Seven years ago on April 20, 2001, the tear gas was so strong at the anti-FTAA protests at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City that the FTAA delegates inside the conference could smell it.
The "FTAA Declaration of Quebec City" : "We, the democratically elected Heads of State and Government of the Americas, have met in Quebec City at our Third Summit, to renew our commitment to hemispheric integration" went down in flames only to rise again before limping to its grave.
But here it is - back from the dead and walking around : an SPP expanded to include Colombia, presumably as an inroad into the dangerously non-NeoCon south with its new lefty governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and now Paraguay.
The issues are the same. Even the protagonists are the same : Maud Barlow vs Tom d'Aquino and Derek Burney, who has just been fingered to lead a new Canadian SPP panel comprised of business, government agencies, and some of those deep integration fans residing at Carleton U.
Someone remember to bring the silver stake this time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CTV : "Harper praised outing Bush"

LuLu at Canadian Cynic posted this photo from the Three Amigos Summit and commented:

"It looks like Big Daddy just doesn't know how to quit Dubya.Eewwwwwwwww"

Bad LuLu.
That comment is exactly the kind of gratuitous scurrilous hyperbole the main scream media is always slagging the blogosphere for. Furthermore....

Hang about. What's this from CTV?

Latest : Three amigos summit :
CTV News: Robert Fife with more from the summit

" Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised outing US President George Bush Monday to start the "Three Amigos Summit"

Harper praised outing Bush?

Sorry, LuLu, I didn't realize you already had Harper's endorsement on that "outing" thing. Please carry on.

(And everyone else go look quick before they fix it)

Cross-posted to The Galloping Beaver

SPP : Lobby-fest on the Bayou

While Harper, Bush, and Calderon mug for the cameras in the ruins of New Orleans and the North American Competiveness Council get on with the business of mugging the rest of us, here's a few words for the populist Right from Greg Palast at Tom Paine : José Can You See? Bush's Trojan Taco

"There will be other anti-SSP protesters in New Orleans as well, from America’s populist Right. They are concerned that the Security and Prosperity Summit is worse than the “NAFTA on steroids” that Barlow fears. The populists see in the SPP a nascent “North American Union,” and the elimination of the good old US of A.
They’re wrong, of course. The U.S. of A. has been long eliminated, at least economically. The Competitiveness Council is a multinational crew, with one shared set of country clubs, beach homes, art collections, union busters and lobbyists knowing no borders.

The populist radio hosts railing against the coming North American Union don’t realize that these CEOs won’t take away their flags or Fourth of July or Star-Spangled Banner. The rags and flags will always be kept around to con the schmucks along the Yahoo Belt into donating their children to the Iraq Occupation or other misadventures.

So there is no United States of America nor Canada nor Mexico - at least as we like to imagine ourselves in our national fairy tales: self-governing democracies run by we the people or nosotros el pueblo. There’s just the diktats of the North American Prosperity Council. Get used to it."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A load of fertilizer

Remember this? Sure you do.
It was back in June 2006, coincidentally two weeks before the vote on whether or not to let the Canadian Anti-Terror Act expire, that the RCMP sold a load of fertilizer to two CSIS moles embedded in a Muslim outdoor club,had it delivered to a warehouse rented by the RCMP a block from the RCMP Regional HQ, and the Toronto 18 were born!

The outdoor camp had been under fruitless investigation by the RCMP for the three years previous, but following the RCMP to CSIS fertilizer sale, it metamorphosed into a jihadi terrorist training camp whose members were going to storm Parliament, although they weren't sure where that was exactly, and cut off the head of Prime Minister Martin, having apparently failed to register that there had been a change in government.

Oh and they were also going to blow up the CBC, the CBC breathlessly reported.

On Friday the taped testimony of one of the 18 from the day after the big bust was played in court :
"Basically we were just chilling, reading the Qu'ran," the teenager recalled of the activities at the 12-day camp that took place in December 2005 near the town of Washago, Ont. "Some guys are lazy, y'know, they're gaining weight. For two weeks we just kind of worked out."
The workouts, he said, included playing around in the snow, chopping down trees, playing with paintball guns and jogging. He also admitted to shooting a gun, which he said was primarily handled by someone whom the officer reveals to be an informant."

...prompting the Star to ask : "So was it simply a fat camp?"

Clearly the kid was not exactly an Al Qaeda insider and was released.
No matter - the Toronto 18, now the Toronto 11, saved the anti-terror act, albeit with restrictions placed on it by the Libs, Bloc, and NDP.

But now those restrictions might be coming off, says Thomas Walkom :

"Last year, Stéphane Dion's Liberals enthusiastically helped to kill two controversial elements of Canada's 2001 anti-terror laws. Now they are quietly allowing them to be brought back.
One, dealing with preventive detention, would allow police to arrest without charge and judges to penalize without trial, people who the authorities fear might commit future terrorist offences.
The second would let judges compel testimony at so-called investigative hearings from those the authorities think might know something about terrorism.

The Harper government has passed in the Senate and introduced into the Commons a new bill to reimplement slightly amended versions of both measures.
Now, the Liberals say they will support them.
In fact, the Liberals now use the same arguments once employed against them.
"We recognize that this is necessary," public safety critic Ujjal Dosanjh said."

Let's have that again : "Would allow police to arrest without charge and judges to penalize without trial people who the authorities fear might commit future terrorist offences."

Say, didn't we used to have something called habeas corpus back in the good old pre-fertilizer days?
Seems that load of RCMP fertilizer has turned out to be pretty dangerous after all.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Skytrain : Ticket or TASER™

On Wednesday CBC reported BC transit police stun fare cheaters with TASER™ :
"In one case, a person ran from transit cops during a check for free-riders and "the Taser was deployed as the subject fled," the documents say. Another person who didn't pay the fare was arrested but "grabbed onto the platform railing and refused to let go … the Taser was deployed."

A Taser may be used when "the situation demands control over a non-compliant, suicidal, potentially violent, or violent individual and lower force options were ineffective," according to the transit police policy."

Note the transit police policy does not include clinging to a frigging railing on its list of occasions justifying use of a TASER™

Today's G&M : Transit police deny tasering fare evaders
"The police force that patrols Vancouver's Skytrain system says it has never used a taser on a rider for refusing to pay a fare, contrary to documents released under provincial freedom of information laws.
Insp. Bob Huston said at a news conference Friday that officers only use force to ensure the safety of passengers.

“We do not, have not and will never taser those in our care for non-payment of fares,” Insp. Huston said."

Well of course not, Bob, it would be ridiculous to zap someone over "non-payment of fares".
No, according to your own incident reports, you only zap them for clinging to a railing to avoid arrest for "non-payment of fares" :

"File 2008-3246 offence - Obstruct Peace Officer
Officer were checking subject for no fare paid on Skytrain. Subject refused to identify self and was placed under arrest. During the arrest procedure the subject became uncooperative and grabbed onto the platform railing and refused to let go. After several warnings to the subject to stop resisting arrest and the subject refusing to comply with the officers' demands, the Taser was deployed and the subject taken into control.
Internal review re the Use of Force was conducted by the Supervisor and the Inspector of Operations. They concluded the action taken, by the member(s), was within the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (GVTAPS) policy and training standards and within the guidelines set out in the National Use of Force model."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Paging Charles McVety to the white evangelical courtesy phone

Tory bill could lead to abortion ban: Que. doctors

"Quebec's medical specialists say a private member's bill that would make harming a fetus a crime is likely to outlaw abortions.
Gaetan Barrette, who heads the province's association of specialist doctors, criticized Bill C-484 for opening the door to recognizing the rights of a fetus.
The bill, tabled by Conservative MP Ken Epp, would amend the Criminal Code to allow separate charges to be laid in the death or injury of an unborn child when a pregnant woman is attacked.
It passed first reading last month with support from both Conservative and Liberal MPs.
Barrette, whose association rarely weighs in on policy debates, pointed out that the bill's supporters are already eyeing a court challenge to Canada's abortion laws.
He says the association wants to protect abortion doctors from possible lawsuits and avoid a return to back-alley abortions."

Meanwhile, evangelist Charles McVety has been doing yeoman's work inadvertantly scuttling Bill C-10, the bill to deny government tax credits to tv shows and movies the SoCons don't like, by boasting he'd personally been the guiding hand behind the bill all along.

Hey Chuck, what about Bill C-484? Don't be shy. Surely you and the Canada Family Action Coalition had at least a little influence on writing up this one, huh? C'mon, Chuck, help us out over here - tell the Canadian people you're the force behind C-484 too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Pop Quiz

Why is Ratso "deeply ashamed" of clergy sex abuse?

Is it #1) Pope led cover-up of child abuse by priests

"In 2001, while he was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church's interests ahead of child safety.
The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated."

I've read that the rationale behind this edict was merely to encourage people to come forward and speak freely without fear of reprisal or publicity, an excuse which would possibly hold more holy water if it weren't for the fact that :

"priests accused of child abuse are generally not struck off or arrested but simply moved to another parish, often to reoffend. It gives examples of hush funds being used to silence the victims."

So he was for it before he was against it but hasn't said word one about it since so no, not #1

Is it #2) "Pedophilia is "absolutely incompatible" with the priesthood," Benedict said.

Nope, because pedophilia is a regular ongoing historical feature of the priesthood, mate :

"Book of Gomorrah, an 11th-century tract written by St Peter Damian which, while condemning all forms of "immoral" sexual behaviour, holds priests who defile boys in special contempt. Such clerical offenders should not only be publicly flogged but also, writes St Peter, their tonsures should be "shorn" and their faces "foully besmeared with spit". Next, he recommends six months of imprisonment and fasting, followed by a further six months of prayer in solitary confinement. Even after their release, St Peter writes, offenders should never again be allowed to "associate with youths in private conversation or in counselling them"."

Catholic apologists fed up with being blagged with the Spanish Inquisition because "it was a long time ago" take note : Nothing in there anywhere about moving them to the parish next door.

or #3) "There were 691 new accusations in 2007 alone, according to an annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The U.S. church has paid out $2 billion in abuse costs since 1950, most of that in just the last six years."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Operation Enduring Freedom From Difficult Facts

It was back in October when we first heard about US Marines relocating from Iraq to Afghanistan :

"The US Marine Corps has insisted that its forces be removed from Iraq and sent to Afghanistan instead to take the lead in combat there.
According to senior military and Pentagon officials, the suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defence Secretary Robert M Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders, the New York Times reported.
This would leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while the Marines would play an important role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command."

Then came the Manley panel report and the whole drama of Harper's conditions for staying on in Afghanistan - where oh where would the 1000 extra troops and air power evah come from? - and now the US Marines are indeed relocating to Afghanistan as planned and Operation Enduring Freedom is in da house!

CBC : Afghanistan joint command
"There were sighs of relief in government circles earlier this month when the United States agreed to provide at least an additional 1,000 marines to the Canada-led mission in Kandahar.
Finding an extra 1,000 combat soldiers to help the 2,500-strong Canadian military mission in troubled southern Afghanistan was a key Canadian condition — along with more air power — for keeping our troops there until the end of 2011."

Way to keep up, CBC. I do believe we've already bitched that one.

But in what CBC refers to as the "new, more side-by-side relationship between American and Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan", a few questions arise about our differing policies. Quite apart from how the command structure is supposed to work, there's the American propensity for wiping out marijuana and poppy crops, ie Afghani livelihood; their greater reliance on air strikes, ie bombing Afghan civilians; and the little matter of their torturing detainees/POWs, ie Bagram., the US internment facility where Afghan detainees known to be innocent of any crimes are beaten to death.

Uh-oh - detainees. This issue is already a big optics headache for Harper in Canada, and news that detainees might fall under US - Canadian joint jurisdiction is going to play badly for the Cons.
But wait!

CTV : Ottawa hopes to block probe into Afghan detainees :
"The government is seeking to block an independent investigation by the Military Police Complaints Commission into Canada's handling of Afghan detainees, according to court documents filed in Federal Court.
Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the commission last year, after allegations surfaced that detainees had been tortured by local Afghan authorities.
Government lawyers filed an application Friday to halt the investigation, saying the commission does not have jurisdiction to probe the complaints."

Something they might have mentioned at any time since the commission began its investigation.
And as Pogge points out, if the commission doesn't have jurisdiction, why has the government of Canada been complying, however reluctantly, with its demands for documentation up till now?

Possibly because now we're under deadline to align our Operation Enduring Freedom From Difficult Facts policies with those of the US before the 'partnership' begins in July - that's why.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"The material has been cleansed too much"

The missing tapes
Five out of the six hours of Canada Border Services Agency security video tape doesn't show Robert Dziekanski at all ; the CBSA says this "may have been due to construction in the area blocking camera angles".
The few minutes in which he does appear are put onto disc by CBSA and then the original tape is "inadvertantly erased".

The internal memos
"The material has been cleansed too much," reads one.
"The documents, obtained by CTV News, show significant co-operation between the airport, RCMP and border services officials in controlling the release of details following the Oct. 14, 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski".
"... the federal agency and the Vancouver airport authority worked closely with the RCMP to ensure the three had their media messaging synchronized after an agitated Mr. Dziekanski died."

The HoC investigating committee
"The House of Commons committee on public safety and national security will hold two days of meetings at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday [with RCMP, border and airport officials], where Robert Dziekanski died after RCMP stunned him with a Taser last October" .
The proceedings will not be open to the public or video-taped, although committee members will take notes.

Note to The Coast of Bohemia : 1) No and 2) All of us

Omar Khadr

G&M : "The U.S. soldier Omar Khadr is alleged to have killed may have died as a result of friendly fire, Mr. Khadr's lawyers argued at Guantanamo Bay yesterday.
Mr. Khadr's U.S. military defence lawyer, Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, revealed in court that several accounts of the 2002 gun battle show that U.S. soldiers were throwing grenades when they stormed the Afghan compound containing Mr. Khadr.
Mr. Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade at U.S. troops, mortally wounding a medic. The Canadian was 15 at the time."

That's Khadr in the picture at his time of capture.

"It was also revealed that an official with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs met Thursday with lawyers in the Khadr case in Guantanamo Bay, and showed them a copy of a report compiled by the Americans in the months after the 2002 Afghan battle."
The report was originally deemed classified, but was then declassified when it was handed over to the Canadians.
Military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay, after reviewing the report, said it may still contain classified information, so Cdr. Kuebler would not comment on its details. However, he said it includes exculpatory information because it contains a description of events that is inconsistent with — and, at times, contradictory to — other reports.
The Canadian copy of the report is especially important because the Americans have since been unable to locate the original copy, meaning the Canadian copy of the report may be the only one still available."

This may prove a breakthrough for Khadr.

In February a leaked copy of witness testimony revealed that Khadr had not been the only survivor in the compound, as previously claimed, and that nobody had seen him throw the grenade.

In March, Kuebler insisted that "Lt. Col. W.", the Army Commander for Eastern Afghanistan at the time of the attack, had initially written in his report the day after the firefight that "the person who threw a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer also died in the firefight", meaning that the grenade had not been thrown by Khadr. The report was rewritten several months later to say that the grenade thrower had been "engaged", rather than "killed", changing the wording that would have exonerated Khadr.

In 2005, Guantanamo's chief prosecutor told presiding officers that any evidence suggesting a suspect was innocent would be given a secret security classification, so that defence teams would not learn of its existence.

Although the G&M story doesn't specifically say so, I sincerely hope this visiting DFAIT official brought the Canadian copy of the original US report because Canada has behaved shamefully up till now, refusing to request the extradition of a child soldier despite third party testimony of his having been tortured.

Not that Canada hasn't been involved - Khadr was visited six times in Guantanamo by CSIS officials who then turned his testimony over to US officials. CSIS showed him pictures of people they wished identified, including Maher Arar. Khadr's US military lawyer had to request that CSIS officials be refused further access to Khadr for his own benefit.

Currently Cdr. Kuebler is waiting on whether the Canadian Supreme Court will ask the government to hand over all documents relating to Khadr's case.

"Cdr. Kuebler said Mr. Khadr's conviction is effectively a done deal if a trial commences under the current conditions. "I don't believe anyone can get an acquittal in Guantanamo Bay," he said."

"Canada had reason to know that Omar was being, if not tortured, at least seriously mistreated by the U.S. government and yet it did nothing and has done nothing," said Kuebler.
"I think it's shameful that Canada has displayed indifference for the plight of a Canadian citizen for no other reason than his father and family are unpopular."

On Tuesday, standing next to Condoleezza Rice in Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said : "Mr. Khadr faces serious charges and it will be premature to comment about the legal process right now and appeal process because they’re still ongoing. And what we will do is we’ll do -- and I received also assurances that Mr. Khadr has been treated humanely. So we’ll see the legal procedure, and after that we’ll react."

Friday, April 11, 2008

SPP and Server in the Sky

CP : U.S. security chief says fingerprints not private
"The U.S. homeland security czar says Canadians shouldn't fear plans to expand international sharing of biometric information such as fingerprints.
Michael Chertoff says a person's fingerprints are like footprints.
"They're not particularly private," Chertoff said in an interview Wednesday during a brief visit to Ottawa.
"Your fingerprint's hardly personal data, because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world."

Well that's just crap. Having a glass of wine in a public restaurant is not at all like having your fingerprints fed into a database like Server in the Sky.
You remember Server in the Sky, don't you? It's the FBI's proposed shared database of biometric information - our fingerprints, palm prints, and iris scan data - to be exchanged among the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
The International Information Consortium, as the five founding nations including Canada call themselves, will meet behind closed doors in May in San Francisco to plan their strategy.

CP : "An internal RCMP briefing note on the Server in the Sky project recommends the national police force continue to support the initiative."

As noted back here, one of Server in the Sky's most alarming aspects is that Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, heard of it for the first time in January by reading about it in a UK newspaper.
No Canadian officials had informed her of the project.

Stockwell Day met with Chertoff on Wednesday to discuss SPP initiatives in advance of the Leaders' Summit in New Orleans on April 21.

Integrate This! on the new biometric BC Enhanced Driver's License developed in conjunction with Washington state. Jennifer Stoddart describes it as creating a de facto national ID card in both countries.
IT : "The EDLs require biometric and other personal information on Canadians and Americans to be stored in a common database that is accessible by security agencies in both countries. Because Canada’s Public Safety department is insisting on all provinces developing a similar EDL to B.C.’s, and all of them will be compatible with the REAL ID program in the U.S., the Harper government is essentially working on a de facto North American ID card behind closed doors through the SPP."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SPP : What's good for General Motors ...

Condi Rice, Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier gave a statement Tuesday following their mini-SPP meeting to discuss the upcoming North American Leaders’ Summit in New Orleans, but only Le Maximator managed to say nothing badly in both official languages.

From the US Dept. of State website : Maxime Bernier :
"So we discussed what is important for our countries. And as you know, we want to ensure that North America is a secure and economically dynamic region. This is important for us, but this is also important for our citizens."

Why, thank you for noticing, Maxi.

Condi did clear up any worries we might have had that the North American Competitiveness Council has the loudest and only non-gov voice at the SPP talks though :
"This SPP ... is work that bridges all of the important issues: security, trade, prosperity. It also has permitted the leaders to engage the public – the private sector and civil society through the North American Competitiveness Council."

General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Chevron, Ford, Canfor, Home Depot, Bell, CN, and PowerCorp - they got your back!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Harper's 'Let's not and say we did' Mulroney inquiry

Harper's "hand-picked independent third party" advisor has regretfully noted that his mandate "does not allow him to recommend that a public inquiry not be held" at all into the Mulroney Schreiber scandal, but that doesn't preclude him recommending a very narrow limited one behind closed doors.
Right off the top David Johnston suggested it shouldn't be fully public, and

CP : "Johnston's limited terms of reference do not include the $2.1-million libel settlement Mulroney negotiated with the Canadian government in 1997 while allegedly misrepresenting, under oath, his relationship with Schreiber.
And they would likely keep an inquiry from following the $10 million in "grease money" that German court records suggest was given to Schreiber by Airbus International to bribe Canadian officials in the 1980s."

Chronicle Herald : Also, it "should not examine the business dealings of Brian Mulroney’s friends who profited from an agreement the government signed to build an armoured car factory at Bear Head in Cape Breton."
- the one that was never built.

or the Muldoon's tax records.

Yesterday Con House Leader Peter Van Loan told the Commons - surprise! - the government intends to follow the valued advice of their hand-picked advisor, and Mulroney has graciously said in a statement that he would co-operate with the inquiry "within its mandate" recommended by Johnston.
So what the hell is left for the inquiry to do exactly?

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert : "The conclusions that he [Johnston] came to were very similar to the recommendations that we provided in our minority report, basically acknowledging that there was no wrongdoing, and that if there was going to be a public inquiry, it should be focused on the transition that high public office-holders make to private life."

That is not even fucking close.
What Canadians would like to know is why they paid Mulroney $2.1M in libel fees because he didn't care to talk about $10M in grease money or the $300,000 he has since admitted to personally receiving from Schreiber.
I think they'd also like to know that their government is not so irretrievably broken or crooked that it can't handle an open public inquiry.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Straight from the trojan horse's mouth

Over at the Fraser Institute, in "Saving the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership : The Case for a North American Standards and Regulatory Area" Alexander Moens seeks to dispel the many injustices so unfairly foisted upon the SPP.

First of all it is totally wrong to say the SPP is just about the interests of the 30 CEOs in the NACC :
"Some have called for a broadening of representation in the SPP talks to advocacy groups other than the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC). However, it is better that groups such as labor and environmental lobbies work with both government and business to develop best practices, rather than adding even more players to the crowded SPP talks."

See? It's just too crowded already. There simply isn't room for even more players and .....hang on, what's this?

"Given the effectiveness of NACC, the business advisory process could be expanded to add specific sectoral groups working under NACC’s direction...
Privatizing some of the security and customs processes may be another venue to make these functions more cost effective and to accelerate cross-border standardization."

Okay but all that paranoia about erasing the Canada-US border? How do these crazy conspiracy theories get started any way?

"The most important of these reforms is a new or reinvented border.
Unlike many in the European Union, both Canada and the United States want to maintain sovereign borders. At the same time, the traditional "undefended border" is no longer an option. Several studies have pointed out that we need to overcome the traditional border (Canadian Council of Chief Executives, 2004; Goldfarb, 2007)"

Yeah, overcome traditional borders! Um, why?

"Security against modern threats requires a deeper level of cooperation than border controls. At this point, this deeper level can only be achieved between Canada and the United States (not Mexico)."

Concerned that the SPP was misunderstood, the Fraser Institute stepped forward to clarify things. This is what friends do for each other (not Mexico). Thanks, Fraser Institute!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Great moments in journalism

Headline : MacKay won't rule out boycott of Beijing Olympics

Lead : "The Conservative government has not ruled out a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing, says Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
The issue has yet to be raised at the federal cabinet table, and until that happens, no decisions can be made, MacKay said Monday outside the House of Commons."

Way, way down the page : "MacKay's director of communications, Dan Dugas, later said the issue would not be discussed at cabinet."

Also file under Great moments in Con accountability

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday - the day we typically set aside to discuss exorcisms in Ottawa

Ottawa Citizen : "Ottawa's Catholic archbishop has appointed at least two new exorcists, one each for the English and French communities, replacing the region's last exorcist who retired five years ago."

Five years ago! Holy shit! You must have quite the backlog to deal with then.

"-- in the past 15 years, Ottawa clergy say they have had only one case of demonic possession."

It wasn't by any chance the guy who retired five years ago, was it?
Ok, never mind, but tell us : who is most likely to become possessed by demons?

"In fact, ordinary sinning doesn't seem to interest demons much; they go for people reading horoscopes, playing around with New Age spiritualities, lonely, alienated kids getting into a Goth lifestyle, and especially anyone having a fun night with a Ouija board. Even that yoga class at the community centre might be suspect."

Yoga. Yeah, I can totally see that.
So what would be a typical symptom of possession then?

"esoteric information that the victim could not have otherwise known."

Oh noes ... bloggers!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

SPP : Now with 100% more North America!

With the April 21 SPP leaders' summit looming on the still devastated New Orleans horizon, suddenly all the usual deep integration players are "North Americans" looking for the next new and improved incarnation of the SPP.
Why? Well because we ruined the last one.

"Canada-U.S. efforts to resolve post-9/11 border problems plaguing North America's economy have fallen victim to conspiracy theories.
The Security and Prosperity Partnership, launched in 2005, is so misunderstood by the public and so discredited by opposition groups it should be relaunched and rebranded.
That's the view of Simon Fraser University political scientist Alexander Moens who has just completed a study of the SPP for the Fraser Institute. Moens asserts "the time has come to rebrand the talks and give them a clear mandate."
In a not very remarkable coincidence, this is also the view of the US right wing think tank Hudson Institute in their study, "Negotiating North America : The SPP" : who note that due to "xenophobes who fear fictitious superhighways" ... "it may ultimately be necessary to re-design and re-launch a new process to take up the work of the SPP under a new acronym."

Happily Moens has come up with one already :
"He's calling for the SPP to be replaced by NASRA, which stands for a North American Standards and Regulations Area. It "would include further economic integration beyond free trade but not political integration."

North American Standards and Regulation Area?
Good god man but that's a lame-ass name.
Would it have killed you to call it the N.A. Standards and Regulation Anschluss?

Moens attended the Network on North American Studies in Canada conference in Vancouver in March, where he chaired a presentation from a book project entitled The North American Experiment.
NNASC, according to their website, is "a new initiative between Canada and the U.S., in partnership with leading universities, government agencies, think tanks and civil society. It is a unique private sector-public sector partnership"

Another presentation at the same conference was "Managing Shared Resources Across North American Borders" chaired by Rick Van Schoik of Arizona State University who is also a director of The North American Center for Transborder Studies. In a recent essay "North America's Forgotten Agenda : Getting Development Back on Track", he lists among his key recommendations : "Implement a North American security perimeter".

Van Shoik will head ASU's participation in the Dept of Homeland Security's new $15M "Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration" :
"The establishment of the center by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security follows more than two years of work assembling a team of U.S. universities, Mexican and Canadian institutions government agencies, technology companies and national laboratories."

Did I mention this Vancouver conference was funded in part by Dept of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and that they also participated in Van Shoik's session?

On March 29 NNASC held a panel discussion "Bridging the North American Divide From Economic Integration to Community" in San Francisco, featuring Dan Schwanen from the Center for International Global Innovation. In his essay "North American Integration Post Bush", Schwanen admires the success of the Dec 2001 Smart Borders initiative and proposes a similar "Smart North American Economy" within a "North America that badly needs rethinking".
See what I mean? It's all North America all the time in the tanks.

And finally in Tuesday's Financial Post ,ubiquitous professional Canada slaggers Michael Hart and Bill Dymond from Carleton University quote from their C.D. Howe Institute paper in which they advise dropping the SPP in favour of a whole new agreement :
"What Canada needs is a trade policy that recognizes the increasing importance of global value chains and the critical role of Canada-U.S. integration in gaining full benefit from their exploitation...
The only cost that would arise is political : in Canadians' exaggerated preoccupation with ephemeral concepts of sovereignty and nationhood."

Fuck you, Michael "Canada blew it!" Hart, NAFTA and FTA negotiator, former official at the Dept of Foreign Affairs and Int. Trade, and sometime deep integration teacher at the North American University.
Too bad we had you defending our 'exaggerated preoccupation with ephemeral concepts like sovereignty and nationhood' when you were our voice at NAFTA.
But no worries, as Barbara Yaffe reassures us :
"Conspiracy theorists should recognize that the governments directing the SPP are separate entities, with politicians looking out for their own respective national interest.
No Canadian government interested in reelection is going to sell out to U.S. interests on border policy."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wanted : Device to Root Out Stupid

According to a few local residents, a public park at the foot of Bute St. in Vancouver is evidently no place for a Device to Root Out Evil.
Well, obviously. A device to root out overly sensitive meddlesome Jeebus thumpers should have been installed there first.
The decision to remove the 25' steel, aluminum, and Venetian glass sculpture after 2 1/2 years was approved unanimously by Vancouver Park Board commissioners.
Artist Dennis Oppenheim "has denied any anti-religious design to his sculpture.
"Pointing a steeple into the ground directs it to hell as opposed to heaven," he told one interviewer. "It's a very simple gesture."
The Park Board should have responded to the complaints with an even simpler one.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A month of non-confidence

Today's vote of non-confidence :
Mr. Layton (Toronto—Danforth) : April 02, 2008
"That, in the opinion of the House, the Conservative government's massive corporate tax cuts are destroying any balance between taxes for large profitable corporations and ordinary Canadians; they are stripping the fiscal capacity of the federal government; they are disproportionately benefiting the financial, oil and gas sectors, while leaving others behind, including manufacturing and forestry; and in so doing have failed to invest in those hard-hit sectors and the needs of everyday working Canadians; therefore, this House has lost confidence in the government."

Defeated 198-63, with only the NDP and Bloc Quebecois supporting it.

Liberals opposed the motion because they said it reflects an outdated, doctrinaire refusal to recognize that cutting corporate taxes helps make the country more competitive.
During the last election, Dion promised to match and exceed the Cons on cutting corporate taxes.

On March 10 the NDP tabled a non-confidence motion against the Cons for failing to respect international climate agreements and for its refusal to adopt legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Only 11 Liberals voted for it.
On March 4 the Con's Budget 2008, an automatic confidence vote, passed with 11 Liberals voting and the rest abstaining.

Not to be left out, on March 5 the Liberals tabled a motion of non-confidence of their own -- against the opposition parties - the NDP and the Bloc - presumably for not being sufficiently supportive of the Liberals' support of the Cons.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SPP and nukes in the tarsands : "a marriage made in heaven"

In 1957 the US Atomic Energy Commission was looking for peaceful uses for nuclear bombs. They began to explore the possibilities of using them in engineering projects and in '58 Project Ploughshares was announced to the world by Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb. According to historian Dr. Michael Payne, "the cabinet of Alberta Premier Ernest Manning seriously considered allowing the underground detonation of a 9 kilotonne atomic bomb at Cheechum Crossing in northern Alberta in an experiment to determine if nuclear power might help remove oil from the oilsands."

They don't give up easy, do they?

On Friday the Alberta and US governments signed an agreement to jointly research the use of atomic power for oilsands development. The Alberta Research Council and the U.S. Energy Department’s main nuclear laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, announced they will collaborate on "the potential application of current and future nuclear energy technology".

But what I found illuminating was how differently the "partners" chose to announce it :

Mel Knight, Alberta’s Minister of Energy :
"Meeting our province’s electricity demands both now and in the future begins with reliable and clear information on all of the available energy options,” said Mel Knight, Alberta’s minister of energy. “We welcome collaborations such as the one announced between the Alberta Research Council and Idaho National Laboratories to provide the solid analysis and research on the options available to address Alberta’s unique needs."

So this is for Alberta's electricity demands, Alberta's "unique needs" then?
According to INL - not so much...

INL : "This is a marriage made in heaven," said Idaho laboratory associate director Bill Rogers.
Although no budget for the collaboration was announced, he said potentially all his operation’s 3,800 scientists can be drafted into the Alberta project. “The U.S. is dependent on Alberta for energy security,” Rogers said, pointing to the province’s "essential" role as the biggest source of increasing American oil and natural gas imports."

Not that we haven't had, you know, inklings :
Bruce Power buys assets of Energy Alberta Corp. in bid to build nuclear plant

Alberta doesn't yet have a written nuclear policy, according to Premier Stelmach .
I'm betting the US Energy Department can help them with that.

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