Friday, April 30, 2010

Omar Khadr - Day One in the kangaroo court

Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights Watch is interviewed as she leaves the courtroom on Day 1 of Obama's first big pretrial for a military commission into the possible terrorist actions of a 15 year old.

Terrible sound, I know, but well worth it for her explanation of how after Khadr has been tortured to confess at Bagram, the "clean team" comes in and tries to elicit the same 'confessions' under friendlier conditions so that the new clean confessions will be admissable in court.

A word about Khadr's confessions under torture. According to Eviator, CIA FBI agent Robert Fuller

elicited from Khadr the identification of another Canadian, Maher Arar, who Khadr during interviews by Fuller claimed was training with al Qaeda operatives at a training camp at a time that, it later turned out, Arar was actually at home in Canada.

Shortly after Fuller reported the identification of Arar to the government, Arar was apprehended at JFK airport and rendered to Syria for interrogation there.

CIA FBI agent Fuller also got Khadr to confess to throwing a grenade at US forces.

Well so much for confessions elicited via sleep deprivation, denial of pain medication, stress positions, being forced to urinate on himself and being used as a human mop, being terrorized by barking dogs, and being threatened with rape and torture. Khadr's defence team has only been allowed to interview three of Khadr's 30 interrogators at Bagram and Gitmo, two of whom admit the 15 year old Khadr was threatened with rape.

In the vid above Eviatar also mentions no one knowing what the rules are. This is because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates only signed off on and issued the 2009 Manual for the Military Commissions Act on Wednesday night 12 hours before the pretrial began, meaning that no one involved had time to read it beforehand and consequently no one knew what the rules were. After a four hour adjournment to read it, now they can't agree on whether or not the US Constitution applies.

Mike Berrigan, deputy chief defense council : "We don’t know what the law is."

You don't really have one, sir. That's why it's called a kangaroo court - it leaps over the law to a foregone conclusion. That's the whole point.

Correction from CIA to FBI, courtesy of Skdadl at POGGE


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inside the International Trade Committee

Debate on the Canada-Colombia FTA resumed at the International Trade Committee today with the Chair stating he wasn't going to allow a whole lot of witnesses to testify just so they could put it on their resume. Very classy, Mr. Chair.

Today's first witness today was Yessika Hoyos Morales, lawyer, Colombian human rights activist, and the daughter of a murdered trade unionist.

Paramilitaries are still in place in 293 Colombian municipalities, she said, and the Office of the Public Prosecutor, as of Sept 2009, has been carrying out investigations into 2,077 executions of people killed by the national army.

While the government has announced an effort to protect trade unionists and human rights people, the Department of Administrative Security scandal has put paid to that. DAS infiltrated human rights groups and then passed lists on to paramilitary groups to target their members, including judges, with intimidation and murder. Ironically, DAS is now promising to work with these same human rights groups to produce human rights reports for Colombia as part of Canada's FTA conditions.

Gauri Sreenivasan, Canadian Council for International Co-operation, was next up. CCIC believes in the potential of trade agreements to lift people out of poverty, she said, but not this agreement. Why, she asked, is the violence in Colombia always spoken of in terms of fights between rival drug gangs with no mention made of the DAS scandal overseen by Uribe's chosen successor? Or the policy of false positives, the army's extrajudicial killing of civilians who are later dressed up as guerrillas to increase the battle body count which secures more US aid for fighting guerrillas and traffickers.

4.9 million people are displaced in Colombia, second only to Sudan. Violence and displacement are directly linked to the struggle for control over land for the development of resources including the oil, minerals, and gas that Canadian companies are heavily involved in. The UN Raconteur For Internally Displaced People has said the taking over of lands is now a policy of displacement. Who accesses those lands for profit?

The deal is a fairly typical aggressive market access agreement. The safeguards and side deals are quite ineffective. New powers of enforcement to secure access to resources that would discourage future environmental and human rights laws. The Colombian government could not introduce laws to deal with illegal seizure of land after Canadian corps in place. There is no obligation on the part of corporations to screen their security forces and no provision for victims of corporate violations to have access to Canadian courts for violations created by Canadian corps.

Agriculture market access. A very aggressive liberalization of Colombian markets would accelerate displacement. Lifting tariffs on grains, wheat, and pork will undermine 12.000 local wheat farmers and 9000 jobs in informal pork sector. This FTA eliminates measures to protect farmers.

Side note : For an amusing counterpoint to her argument on tariffs, see Con committee member Brad Trost's argument in today's National Post on why this FTA will be good for Colombians :
"Free trade in agriculture will also allow the poor and other consumers to purchase foodstuffs at lower prices because tariffs on Canadian wheat, barley, lentils, peas and other crops will disappear."

This FTA does not even met Nafta standards, Sreenivasan continued. There's no independent means of enforcement and the whole mechanism of the side accord relies exclusively on the goodwill of the governments to enforce the accord. With fines only.

What happened to the proposed independent human rights assessment before implementation?
Canada's seal of approval only serves to pave the way for a US-Colombia deal, currently stalled over human rights complaints.

After all that, it was hard to imagine what former Con now Liberal Scott Brison would counter with. This deal is pretty much his baby in committee now, ever since he forged the Liberal figleaf amendment that would see each country produce ongoing yearly human rights reports instead of a preceding independent one, killed off by the Con in the House in 2008.
Take it away, Scott! :
"It's the most robust FTA agreement ever signed between any two countries.
There's only one party in Colombia against FTAs and it's polling at 5%. Isn't it culturally condescending and sanctimonious for us in Canada to say Colombians don't have the right to self-governance? They are an independent country."
Wow. Scott also asked witness Yessika Morales, daughter of a murdered trade unionist, if things haven't improved and if she didn't feel safer now.
Who is holding the "stupid" gun to Scott Brison's head?
Stewart in Colombia : Liberals Misinforming Public to Promote a FTA with Colombia.

Where in the world is Frank Iacobucci?

Kady has been trying to get some answers on how Justice Frank Iacobucci's inquiry into the Afghan detainee documents is coming along, given that Speaker of the House Peter Milliken ruled on Tuesday that Frank's mandate is outside of parliamentary oversight and he reports only to the Minister of Justice.
Well, at least we know where he is.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Milliken: Parliament is supreme; Gagnon: No, not really

Speaker of the House Milliken ruled today that Parliament is supreme and Steve is not the President of Canada.
Milliken ruled that government was in breach of parliamentary privilege by refusing to comply with the House’s order in December to produce documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees to risk of torture and Steve now has two weeks to figure out the details of a face-saving compromise with the opposition parties that would safeguard national security while still obeying the House's order to produce.
A victory for democracy then.

However ...

Over at the Military Police Complaints Commission today, Major Denis Gagnon testified that those very same Afghan transfer orders that Milliken has just ordered be produced are :
"all thrown together in a storage bin, a sea container" and an assessment of how long it would take to catalogue documents and identify the records requested by the commission may take years."
So. Milliken says Parliament is supreme and has the right to them but some major says sadly it just isn't going to happen.
"Earlier a senior military official testified that some Afghan detainee documents requested by the commission have been delayed to ensure no information gets out that could jeopardize the security of troops in Afghanistan."
Really. How much info from transfer orders made in say 2007 is going to jeopardize troop security today? You've been using this same excuse for years now.
"The commission was also told that Defence officials are screening out documents that military police would not have seen in the course of their duties."
... because last year Steve curtailed the authority of the MPCC to ask for docs that do not directly pertain to the military police.
"Gagnon said he makes the decision on what military police would have seen based on his personal experience in theatre and his knowledge of communications channels within the military chain of command and communications links with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade."
So it's the Dept. of Defence that decides what is relevant then, not the MPCC.

"Commission counsel Ron Lunau asked if the commission could look at the documents that have been screened out since it should be up to the commission, not Defence officials, to determine what military police should have seen.

The answer from government counsel Alain Prefontaine and from Gagnon was a firm no."

Ok. Parliament may be supreme but Defence is supremer. Got it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

George Galloway vs Team Carpet Pee

Just over a year ago, British MP George Galloway was banned from Canada because, in the words of former American Enterprise Institute alumnus and Jason Kenney spokesthingey Alykhan Velshi :

"He is a threat to the security of Canadians. It is actually quite odious and I think it is entirely appropriate for our security agencies to say that if they have advanced notice that Mr Galloway is going to come to Canada to pee on our carpet, that we should deny him entry to the home."

A spokesman said he first heard about Galloway's visit from the Jewish Defence League letter."

Today Galloway's court case to overturn that ban begins in Toronto.

Unfortunately for Team Carpet Pee, in the meantime there have been 'developments', as they say. Despite Kenney's insistance that there was no political interference on his part in the decision to ban Galloway :

Kenney stressed that his political staff never contacted the Canada Border Services Agency – which made the call that the veteran politician was inadmissible under national-security grounds.

"Neither I nor my office have been in direct touch with CBSA officials about it," Kenney said in an interview.

frantic government correspondence between Kenney's office, CBSA, Immigration and Canada’s High Commissioner to Britain about banning Galloway was inadvertantly forwarded to Galloway's lawyer Barbara Jackman. You can read it for yourself in two parts at Rabble here and here.

Also at issue in the case is how newsmedia were able to publish stories about the ban on Galloway entering Canada before he was informed himself :

"... on March 18, Mr. Velshi asked Canada’s High Commission in London for phone numbers of political editors for British newspapers. On March 20, The Sun published an “exclusive” – that George Galloway had been barred from Canada.
Mr. Velshi insisted last week that he did not leak the story: "No. Absolutely not."

Galloway, you will recall, was able to make the speech that so alarmed Velshi, "Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar", to Canadians via video link from New York City, where they are evidently made of sterner stuff and do not share Velshi's view that he is "a threat to the security of Canadians".

"It's all nonsense," says Galloway. "If you want my honest opinion, I think the Canadian government is more afraid of my views on Afghanistan than they were on my views on Palestine."

One of the sponsors of Galloway's proposed Canadian tour last year, the church group KAIROS, subsequently had its government funding cut off later that year for apparently entirely unrelated reasons I'm sure.

Opening arguments in the case begin today. Insert popcorn-munching smiley here.

Update : Laura at We Move To Canada attended the hearing. Her excellent and amusing coverage in three parts here. Thank you, Laura!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Combating Terrorism Act 2010, redux, redo

Your government announced today it needs more powers to combat terrorism.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson : "These provisions are necessary to protect our country from the threat of terrorism."
A redo of the panicky now defunct Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, the new Combating Terrorism Act includes preventive arrest and forcing people to testify at secret hearings about terrorist acts that might happen in the future, and if you don't like it you can go to jail for up to a year with a judge's option to extend.

There are more safeguards included this time round - you can have a lawyer! at any time! - which will only allow the Libs to go along with it so as not to be painted as soft on terrorism. Mark Holland, Liberal critic for Public Safety and National Security, already looking to cave.

The argument in favour of anti-terrorism legislation is that criminal law only deals with crimes already committed. What to do about people who feel that crimes perpetrated by the state against their people require a response like blowing things up?

The argument against it is ... well, let's look at how they're doing with the laws they've already got.
The federal government case against Ottawa terror suspect Mohamed Harkat appears to have suffered a significant blow Wednesday when a document was introduced in court showing that Abu Zubaydah, once considered a master terrorist and 9/11 mastermind, actually had nothing to do with the attacks.

Even more surprising, the document, which quotes U.S court filings declassified last week, shows that Zubaydah, once believed to be one of the top leaders in al-Qaeda, was not even a member of the terrorist group.
The unfortunate Abu Zubaydah got waterboarded 83 times in the US, coughed up Harkat's name, and the Canadian government obligingly held Harkat for 3 1/2 years.
A clue about the reliability of Abu Zubaydah's "testimony" might have been found in his confession to terrorist acts committed after his imprisonment, but sadly, no, it wasn't.

Abdelrazik? "Closely associated" with the same hapless Abu Zubaydah.
Result? Abdelrazik was tortured, then exiled in Sudan for six years. Still on the UN's 1267 terror list, and the Canadian government has frozen his bank account and he can't work.
Help him get off that list? Blow me, said Minister of Public Security Peter Van Loan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon.

Maher Arar - the first inkling for many of us that something had gone terribly wrong.
Adil Charkaoui - in custody 21 months, now free.
Hassan Almrei - in custody for 8 years, now free.
Mahmoud Jaballah - in custody for 6 years, now free.
Mohammad Mahjoub - in custody for 7 years, freed, requested return to jail in 2009 to protest bail conditions worse than jail.
Benamar Benatta - rendered to US for 5 years
Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, Muayyed Nureddin

And then there's the ever-expanded definition of what constitutes terrorism.
According to Jason Kenney's "infandous" Mr. Velshi, George Galloway's proposed visit to Canada last year to give a speech entitled "Resisting war from Gaza to Kandahar" was sufficient for him to brand a sitting British MP on tour in the US "a terrorist supporter".

Nothing about these vile clowns inspires any confidence in their wanting to accrue more secretive powers to their already abused arsenal of abominations.

Over at the Afghan Committee, things are very "robust"

In fact Wednesday's testimony by three former Canadian ambassadors to Afghanistan on the Afghan detainee transfer-and-abuse system marks perhaps the single most frequent use of the word "robust" - eleven times in two hours by my count - evah.

Globe and Mail :
"The court Tuesday heard of documentation, drawn from military files, relating to six known cases in which Afghan captives handed to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) prisons, including one in Canada’s military jurisdiction in Kandahar, are said to have been tortured using electric shocks, beatings with wires, whips and metal rods, sleep deprivation and cuts, between early 2007 and late 2008."
Oh sorry, that was in Britain on Tuesday.

In Canada on Wednesday, our ambassador to Afghanistan in 2008, Ron Hoffmann, told the Afghan committee :
"There were no allegations of abuse in 2008"
while Dept of Foreign Affairs' David Sproule, ambassador from Oct 2005 to April 2007, said although "they were under no illusions about the treatment of detainees" :
"We never transferred detainees from Canadian forces if there was any risk of torture . We exceeded our international obligations. ... There was not a single incidence of detainee abuse during my tenure."
Not a single incidence from Oct 2005 to April 2007?
And Arif Lalani, ambassador from April 2007 to Aug 2008?
Paul Dewar, NDP :
"With regards to the NDS, Mr Lalani, one of the questions we had as to the new agreement, is that it's become evident to me through evidence that has been given and what I've heard today - when an allegation was made, that the responsible entity at the NDS facility to look into that allegation and investigate it was the NDS. Is that your understanding as well?
Lalani :

"Point #1, I think we had a number of allegations that were made as a result of our monitoring.

Point #2, the agreement that we signed had clearly in it that the Afghans would exercise their obligations and their sovereignty by investigating allegations, and so that was done.

Point #3 as has been made very clear in all of the reporting that you may have seen and that others have seen, we also inform the ICRC who undertook whatever action they wanted to take and I want to be very careful about saying more about their work.

Dewar :
"Will you then confirm then that when an allegation was made, from a detainee or from another source about torture, that it was the NDS who investigated that?"
Lalani : "I think from my other ..."
Dewar :
"Sorry to interrupt but I know the ICRC was involved and I understand their mandate, but according to the agreement - I mean Ms Buck made this statement in Federal Court as well - was it the NDS that was responsible for following it up?"
Lalani :
"From my recollection of the cases that involved the NDS, they most likely made the investigation."
Dewar :
"And do you understand why I would have concerns - and many others - that in the case of Mr Colvin's claim that there was torture going on and that there was concerns that had to be removed from the report and wasn't giving the full picture, and the fact of the matter is what we've heard is - and I think you halted transfers of detainees because you had concerns about the NDS - that it really isn't a strong enough agreement to have the NDS investigate itself."

The NDS investigating itself might go some distance in explaining why, according to Hoffmann earlier, there were no further allegations of abuse in 2008, supposing that is indeed the case.

Meanwhile, over in unredacted Britain, internal memos from named British officers outline the continuing impossibility of monitoring detainees disappeared by the NDS, along with all the gruesome unredacted details of their torture.

Fed up with two year's of government obstruction in delivering of our detainee documents, the Military Police Complaints Commission has summoned the military and foreign affairs officials responsible for the documents to testify next Tuesday.

Whatever is in those documents, Steve seems desperate to hide them at any cost but he can't rely on the self-inflicted Jaffer/Guergis misdirection scandal continuing to distract the public once the unredacted details of Britain's apparently identical detainee problems start heavy rotation in the national media.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trade - As It Really Happens

On CBC's As It Happens last night, they were interviewing someone from Kenya who was unable to ship his flowers and produce to Europe by air due to the ashfall from Iceland's unpronounceable volcano. We will lose millions of dollars, he said, and it will all go to compost and cattlefeed.

You could hear the gears turning over in the CBC interviewer's head. Don't you have people starving over there? the gears said. Why is 95% of your crop flowers ? Why aren't you growing food ?

Well here ya go, CBC. Here is a 2 minute vid on trade in Kenya as it really happens, information that would have added a little much-needed context to your flowery interview.

And you 37 Libs who helped pass the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Investment Agreement yesterday, you too.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Friday night Canada-Colombia FTA news dump

(Monday night update below)

On Thursday, the US Dept. of Defense issued a presser from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praising Colombia as an "exporter of security" and "a model for the region" in its "crackdown against a leftist insurgency".

Touting the U.S.-Colombian Defense Cooperation Agreement under which the US operates seven of Colombia's military bases, Gates called for a renewal of efforts to pass a US-Colombia free trade agreement, "noting that he talked with National Security Advisor James L. Jones Jr. before his trip here about renewing that effort".

Because, as I posted over at The Galloping Beaver on Thursday night, any discussion of a free trade investment agreement naturally originates with the Defense Dept and the National Security Advisor, so we can take Gates' call for renewed strategic meddling in South America as Canada's midwifing marching orders.

And voilà ... right on schedule ...
On Friday afternoon, as not noted in any of our national media, Con House Leader Jay Hill moved to curtail any further debate of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia FTA, before it passes second reading and goes back to committee where a combined LibCon effort will likely pass it .

Lib Ralph Goodale noted the motion was "a bit of a surprise on a Friday afternoon" - indeed it was not mentioned in the daily Order Papers - and Lib Dennis Lee fretted about process, but other than that, no Liberals spoke against it, leaving the Bloc and NDP to point out for the umpteenth time what a completely crap bill it is. Unsurprisingly, Hill's motion passed and Peter Van Loan advised the last day for debate on C-2 will be today.

In Sept 2009 Scott Brison said in the House :
"If we isolate Colombia in the Andean region and leave Colombia exposed and vulnerable to the ideological attacks of Chavez's Venezuela, we will be allowing evil to flourish."
Last month in an effort to stave off criticism for supporting a free trade investment agreement with the country with the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, Brison brokered a deal with Colombian President Uribe at Davos wherein Canada and Colombia will each conduct their own annual human rights assessments, handily circumventing the recommendation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade that an independent human rights impact assessment must be done before the agreement is considered.
Yes, their own human rights assessments; their own environmental assessments too.

I don't have a *lol* loud enough for the concept of Uribe and Co. being forced to do their own assessments - something Uribe does yearly already - but the Cons lapped it up, the Libs are happy to have been provided with a fig leaf, and the media are congratulating them both for "making parliament work".

"Making parliament work" apparently means the Cons killing debate on a crap bill after they get a sufficient number of the Libs onside.

Write those Libs before today's vote !

Dear Honourable Members:

In February 2008 Colombian MP Daniel García-Peña appeared before you to explain that the agreement as written would be "very negative for Canada and Colombia."

"Canadian companies would be attracted to Colombia for all the wrong reasons, namely to take advantage of the country's weak labour, human rights and environmental laws.
Many companies will come to bypass the laws Canada has and take advantage of Colombian standards, which are much lower. In many ways [this could] promote the exploitation of workers."

Furthermore, Mr. García-Peña said, a trade deal could destroy the livelihoods of many small Colombian farmers by flooding the market with subsidized agricultural imports.
"The small peasant farmer would be unable to compete with the cheap imports of food," he said. "[This] would wipe them out."

Those who would benefit are the large agro-businesses in Colombia that would buy up the land of destitute farmers for the production of biodiesel, palm oil and beef for export.
Worst of all, Mr. García-Peña added, these large agro-businesses have ties to the paramilitary squads at the heart of the ongoing rights abuses and violence in the South American country.

According to the Washington Post, the millions of dollars in US aid funnelled into Colombia go to the wealthy landowners to grow oil-producing palm groves : "four families received most of the $10 million provided in 2007 and 2008".

45 trade union leaders were killed last year in addition to thousands of indigenous people pushed off their land for mining interests.

And for what?
According to Glen Hodgson, VP and chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada :
"Our annual trade with Colombia is about the same level as that with South Dakota and is actually smaller than that with Delaware or Rhode Island. Compared to other markets much closer, Colombia is not really a major player. 80% of Colombia’s imports to Canada are actually duty free already."

I urge you to vote against the investors rights bill C-2 today.

Thank you.
Monday night update. Canada-Colombia FTA passes 183 to 78
37 Libs voted with the Cons in favour; Bloc and NDP against.
Turns out the media pundits were right about Libs and Cons working happily together to secure agribiz dumping and investment rights for Canadian companies to exploit Colombia.

In the House today, Liberals Bob Rae, Scott Simms, Scott Brison, Martha Hall Findlay, Paul Szabo, Justin Trudeau, and Robert Oliphant joined the Cons in praising Uribe's remarkable progress in reducing poverty by 1% per year while simultaneusly increasing the gap between rich and poor. "We'll be helping!" said the lovely Hall Findlay. "Windows, not walls!"

No Libs voted against the bill, although some abstained. However the debate did gave Lib Scott Brison the opportunity to bring up Hugo Chavez a few more times so that he and Con MP Ed Fast, the Chair of the Justice and Human Rights Committee, could grill NDP's Olivia Chow on why she had never publicly denounced Chavez. I think I liked Brison better when he was a Con.

The bill now heads off to committee for rubberstamping by the 7 out of 12 committee members who already voted in favour of it today.

Walk of Shame - Liberals who voted with the Cons on C-2, the Canada Colombia FTA : Ignatieff, Dion, Rae, Bagnell, Brison, Bagnell, Belanger, Crombie, Cuzner, Dryden, Kirsty Duncan, Easter, Eyking, Fry, Garneau, Goodale, Holland, Hall Findlay, LeBlanc, MacAuley, McCallum, McGuinty, John McKay, Mendes, Shawn Murphy, Murray, Oliphant, Proulx, Ratansi, Regan, Rota, Russell, and Trudeau.

Friday, April 16, 2010

First Nations' Lawsuit to Protect Wild Salmon

First Nations Chiefs apply to bring a class action suit to protect the wild salmon of BC from fishfarms.

Chief Bob Chamberlin :

"We look forward to stripping away the denial the provincial government chooses to trot out when it comes to the aquaculture industry. We look around the world and we can see the problems this industry represents. We also are very aware of the delay, deny, and distract approach that industry has and which our provincial government has whole-heartedly embraced. ... We will not stop. We will protect the wild salmon and we will protect the environment of our people."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Colvin, Kafka, and Catch-22

Over at the Military Police Complaints Commission, Department of Justice lawyer Alain Préfontaine is trying to prove that diplomat Richard Colvin's emails flagging abuse of Afghan prisoners were so vaguely worded that the government could not possibly be held responsible for failing to understand what he was talking about.

Colvin and MPCC chair Glenn Stannard have the blacked out versions to work from. Colvin is not allowed to divulge what he remembers is under all that black ink.

If we could just all see the unredacted versions, says Colvin, they would reveal the crucial information.

Well I have seen the unredacted versions, says Préfontaine, representing the government that blacked out the emails, and I can tell you there's nothing of importance there.

Then why can't we see them? asks MPCC chair Stannard, who apparently doesn't have the clearance to see the very emails he's holding hearings about.

"Because," Préfontaine answered, "disclosure would be injurious to either national defence, international relations or national security."

I do hope you're keeping up here. Colvin's emails are apparently so sensitive they must be blacked out while simultaneously being so unimportant there's no need to see them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rights and Democracy : Gonging the Gong Show

A witness appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Situation at Rights and Democracy today was simultaneously smeared in a Canwest editorial. (h/t Dr. Dawg)
After hearing his new allegations of financial irregularities on the part of the board below, as well as its ties to NGO Monitor, the rightwing Israeli think tank the HarperCons are currently getting their Mideast foreign policy from, you can see why someone might want to pre-empt his credibility.

Rather longish I'm afraid but as I haven't seen this covered anywhere else, here are my excerpted notes from the testimony of Payam Akhavan, Professor of International Law at McGill, and, before he quit in disgust in January, a former member of the R&D Board of Directors.

Akhavan : I was honoured to be appointed by this government as a director of R&D in Feb 2008. Faced with abuse of power in an organization devoted to human rights I cannot remain silent.

Remy Beauregard was appointed June 2008. The Aug 2008 five year review of R&D by Foreign Affairs was positive. Auditor General's June 2009 report also positive. Contrary to Braun's testimony, R&D was not dysfunctional but in the months that followed his appointment the organization disintegrated due to a hostile takeover of the board.

At Braun's first meeting as chair on March 26th, the board was highly satisfied with Beauregard's performance but the Chair instructed the secretary not to record this in the minutes. Braun and Gauthier were concerned about small grants to 3 orgs. As a compromise, Beauregard agreed not to provide further funds. Braun also insisted that he should have a veto over all future grants. Again we accepted a review procedure as a compromise.

Beauregard had already decided to boycott Durban with the unanimous support of the board. Their review of him attempted to paint him as anti-Israel on the very issues that had already been resolved to every body's satisfaction. The review looked to us like character assassination.
A law firm was retained at $17,000 to justify their decision to keep the review secret. When disclosed through Privacy Act at June 18 board meeting, we gave them the opportunity to amend it and they agreed. One board member resigned. On oct 19, Braun and allies cancelled board meeting on two days notice to avoid amending the report. On Nov 8 after two new board appointments, Braun called a meeting of board for Jan 7th. With a one-vote majority, the new board met with Beauregard in acrimonious meeting. Navarro-Genie referred to us in an email exchange as 'third worldists', comparing us to Robert Mugabe, and contrasted us to 'Her Majesties North American subjects'.

Sima Samar and I decided to walk out in protest. It was a moment of utter shame. Beauregard was distressed knowing he would probably have to resign. After his passing but before his funeral could be held, we were shocked to learn that internal documents were leaked to Ezra Levant and Gerald Steinberg to continue smearing his reputation. The call for resignations by the 45 staff was motivated by loyalty to the institution. An estimated half a million dollars is now being spent on private investigators to investigate staff without tender.

Unethical conduct cannot go without consequences. Gauthier wrote that Beauregard met with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah, saying the legality of these meetings was questionable under the criminal code, punishable by 10 years imprisonment. Beauregard said the allegations were patently false and an attack on his reputation.
Recommendations : Remove smear review of Beauregard with an apology; call on Tepper, Gauthier, and Braun to resign; and reconstitute the entire board.

Bob Rae : I knew Beauregard and worked closely with him - a man of great intelligence and integrity.
In an article by Mr [Barry] Cooper in the Calgary Herald - Mr Cooper is a prof at the University of Calgary - he claims to have received information from board member Mr. Navarro-Genie in which he states between May 2009 and Jan 2010 :

"Beauregard managed to turn several "international" members of the board against the performance review committee by granting them favours, including travel perks, interns, and funding for projects in their home countries, according to Marco Navarro, an R&D board member."

Could you comment on any conflicts of interest you may have been under while a member of the board?

Akhaven : There were 3 distinguished international board members.
Astonishing to suggest that Dr. Sima Samar was bought by giving her an intern. In Canwest today I am accused of requesting a nomination to a UN position. Absolutely baseless. You have before you the email where I asked Mr Beauregard's advice in relation to a war crimes inquiry in Sri Lanka which was not established by the UN and which members of this government wanted me to participate in. I asked his advice regarding a nomination. They have hired private investigators to go through thousands of Beauregard's emails and this is the best accusation they can come up with?

Bob Rae : Do you have any idea how would Canwest have received that email? Presumably it is proprietorial to the investigation and the board.

Akhavan : Presumably the same way Ezra Levant and Gerald Steinberg got them.
Mr Navarro-Genie has been in Haiti on behalf of R&D and charged $1,400 to R&D for four extra days "for personal purposes".
Gauthier went on a 6 day trip to China, received 11 days of fee from R&D of $3,575 where other members received a $500 honorarium.
The Board's budget for $130,000 for the previous fiscal year was already approaching $300,000 when I left. A big part of that were honoraria paid to board members to come and speak here as if they are volunteers. The honoraria which were budgeted at $40,000 were approaching $80,000 by the time I left the board.

Rae : Board members are paid? How?

Akhavan : Board members are paid an honorarium for every full day of work that they do.

Rae : If they travel do they get permission if they go on a mission? And expenses?

Akhavan : Mr Navarro-Genie, who has been leaking info to the press was for a week at the office of R&D in a position as a senior advisor. We don't know what his mandate was, how much he was paid. The contract was given to him by acting president Gauthier. Was it to go through Beauregard's emails to find dirt about me and international board members to leak them to the media? Is this a good use of taxpayer's money? Astonishing.

Lalonde : Regarding the 3 grants to two Palestinian and one Israeli group.
On the weekend on Radio Canada there was a report on NGO Monitor and its influence in Canada. Is there any link between NGO Monitor and any board members?

Akhavan : There are legitimate concerns about the demonization of Israel at the UN. 80% of resolutions at the UN are against Israel while Sudan Iran etc escape scrutiny, but organizations like NGO Monitor have gone too far at suppressing all dissent. Mr. Braun had tried unsuccessfully against the opposition of the board to get Mr [Gerald] Steinberg to address the board and one of the first articles to come out after the death of Mr Beauregard was from Mr Steinberg in the Jerusalem Post and then the National Post. He had access to internal documents of the board. Matas' repudiation of the 3 grants is based entirely on NGO Monitor. The link is clearly there.

Yosi Alfer, former advisor to Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak says this about NGO Monitor :

"NGO Monitor seems dead set against human rights monitoring of Israel and smearing anyone who supports this vital activity."
Within Israel, NGO Monitor is seen as a far right political organization. I am baffled as to how such an institution can have so much influence over R&D. In describing B'Tselem, the chair says it is 'Israeli in name only'.
This is the language of the far right in Israel.
On Feb 13 2007, because of a libel lawsuit that was brought against NGO Monitor before the Israeli courts, Gerald Steinberg issued the following retraction : " I regret having called El Mizan an organization that justifies violence".
There are legitimate concerns about one-sided attacks against Israel but we are now more extreme in Canada than people are in Israel.

Jim Abbott : Should the staff be telling the board which direction to be going in?

Akhavan : One staff member did not sign the letter asking for the three board members' resignations and is the source of the allegation that a collective agreement was signed in exchange for signing the letter. On the day the Director of Communications Charles Vallerand was fired, Mr Gauthier tried to promote that staff member to the position of Director of Communications.

Paul Dewar : Board member Marco Navarro-Genie was awarded a contract by the board to work for the board?

Akhavan : While Mr Gauthier was acting president, Navarro-Genie was hired for a week as a senior advisor, for an unspecified sum and an unspecified mandate.

Note : Marco Navarro-Genie wrote an editorial in the National Post on March 30 : The Rights & Democracy gong show arrives in Ottawa
in which he described the Foreign Affairs committee's investigation into the situation at R&D as "a kangaroo court" orchestrated by "the coalition-government- wanabees (Bloc-Liberal-NDP)" to "try and then convict good Canadian citizens whose only crime is to do their duty to look out for Canadian taxpayers".

Jim Abbott - Not clear on the concept ...

Today's Wanker Award once again goes to Con MP Jim Abbott at today's Rights and Democracy committee hearings.

Abbott twice states he finds it "quite breathtaking" that former Liberal MP and previous R&D president Warren Allmand would "be attacking" R&D board member David Matas because, as Abbott is at pains to point out, Matas describes himself as ...wait for it ... "a prairie Liberal".
"Are you trying to say he is a lapdog of the PM?" asks Abbott.

Allmand responded that "Matas once being a Liberal candidate has nothing to do with it" and it's Matas' "extreme bias towards the State of Israel along with the other members of the board that is causing the problem". Further, when he was head of R&D there were Con and NDP members on the board and they always respected the non-partisan mandate of protecting human rights.

Abbott chooses this moment to accuse Allmand and co-witness Ed Broadbent of "bringing partisan politics into this issue when this is supposed to be a non-partisan organisation".


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Icelandic Modern Media Initiative

With the help of Wikileaks, Iceland is aiming to become an international safe haven for investigative journalism and whistleblowers, in the same way that other small countries provide offshore financial havens for corporations. Interesting idea. In passing the world's strongest combination of protection of sources, freedom of expression and information, and libel-tourism prevention laws, Iceland would become an offshore online publishing centre for free speech - "a Switzerland of Bits" as Wikileaks cofounder Daniel Schmitt once described it.

Last week Wikileaks published videos shot from the cockpits of two US Apache helicopter gunships, showing the brutal attack on a dozen people, including two Reuters employees, walking down the street in Baghdad. Reuters was itself unable to obtain those videos. Think about that for a moment.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Canada in Afghanistan after 2011

"After 2011, the military mission will end," said Defence Minister Peter MacKay, repeating the Conservative government's well-worn line.
"What we will do beyond that point in the area of training, will predominantly be in the area of policing. And that is very much a key component part of security for Afghanistan."

Training the Afghan National Police. That was contracted out to DynCorp in 2003, wasn't it?
They put together a training program for police that went from being 8 weeks long, to 6 weeks, now down to 3 weeks.
How's that going so far?

Afghan Cops - A $6 Billion Fiasco - excerpted :

"More than a year after Barack Obama took office, the president is still discovering how bad things are. At a March 12 briefing on Afghanistan with his senior advisers, he asked whether the police will be ready when America's scheduled drawdown begins in July 2011, according to a senior official who was in the room.
"It's inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren't training the police," replied Caldwell, taking part in the meeting via video link from Afghanistan. "We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform."

The president looked stunned. "Eight years," he said. "And we didn't train police? It's mind-boggling." The room was silent."

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who took over in November as chief of the U.S. program : "You constantly hear these stories about who was worse: the Afghan police that were there or the Taliban."

Since January 2007, upwards of 2,000 Afghan police have been killed in action—more than twice the figure for Afghan Army soldiers. U.S. officers say as many as half the police casualties were a result of firearms accidents and traffic collisions.

Fewer than 12% of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Yet of the 170,000 or so Afghans trained under the program since its inception, only about 30,000 remain on the force.

Steve Kraft, who oversees the program for the State Department : "Once they leave the training center, we currently don't know whether they stay with the force or quit," Kraft says. "The bottom line is, we just don't know."

Tracy Jeansonne, a former deputy sheriff from Louisiana who worked for DynCorp from May 2006 to June 2008. "A lot of the police officers wanted to be able to extort money from locals. If we caught them, we'd suggest they be removed. But we couldn't fire anybody. We could only make suggestions."

Ann Jones : "In many districts, the police recently supplemented their low pay and demonstrated allegiance to local warlords by stuffing ballot boxes for President Karzai in the presidential election."

And then there's the missing and unaccounted for billions of dollars in US government contracts.
AEY Inc., based in Florida, and described by the New York Times as "a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur," dispatched to the Afghan security forces 100 million Chinese cartridges, some 40 years old and in "decomposing packaging," under a $10 million Pentagon contract.

Currently, the Pentagon has given the Space and Missile Defense Command Contracting Office in Huntsville, Alabama, the task of deciding between DynCorp and Blackwater/Xe for the new billion-dollar training contract.

On March 12th, President Obama devoted much of the monthly video conference call between his Washington national security team and his senior commanders in Afghanistan to questions about how the police training problem should be tackled.
I guess that's where we come in.
MacKay, today :

"We will work within the parameters of the parliamentary motion, which states very clearly that the military mission will come to an end in 2011. We will then transition into some of the other important work that we’re doing. That includes a focus on police training. The prime minister has been clear in saying our commitment to Afghanistan is for the long-term."
Training the Afghan police alongside either DynCorp or Xe will be the new parliamentary "parameters" necessary to keep those trucks rolling between Windsor and Detroit .
April 12 Update from Hansard.
Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) :
"Mr. Speaker, I can only say again that the government has been very clear.
Canada's military mission will end in 2011. Officials are now considering and examining Canada's potential and non-military role post-2011."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This week in Canadian foreign policy

Military Police Complaints Commission told that military police had no idea what happened to Afghan prisoners after they were handed over to Afghan authorities, follow-up not part of job description.

Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Canadian indigenous peoples are excluded from Cannon's Arctic summit.

Steve's G8 maternal and child health initiative fails to include support for family planning issues including contraceptives and abortion, putting it at odds with the other G-8 countries and drawing a rebuke from Clinton.

The Ethics Commissioner reports that Israel is the top destination of choice for MPs seeking junkets abroad paid for by outside organizations.
Embassy Mag : "In almost every instance, the visits were organized and paid for by the Canada-Israel Committee."

Former Con, now Liberal, Trade critic Scott Brison tabled an amendment to the Canada-Colombia FTA, requiring the country with the worst human rights record in the western world to carry out its own annual human rights assessments -- after the deal is approved and not as a precondition. This is expected to win sufficient Liberal votes to get it passed.

Monday, April 05, 2010

WikiLeaks : Collateral murder

WikiLeaks has acquired from whistleblowers in the US military a video and the chilling conversations between two Apache helicopter pilots as they open fire on people milling about on a street in Baghdad in July 2007, killing 12. A civilian van containing two children stopped to help the wounded and was also fired upon and destroyed.
"Well it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle," says one pilot.

Among the people killed were a Reuters photographer and his driver. Note that it requires the death of a Reuters employee to force the military to walk back from their original statement that :
"There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force."

Elisabeth Bumiller at The New York Times confirms : "A senior American military official confirmed that the video was authentic."

Glen Greenwald : The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters

Skdadl at POGGE : Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out (and then lie, lie, lie)

Governor General Captain Kirk ?

Steve is trolling for someone new to prorogue parliament on demand.
He is apparently pissed at Governor General Michaëlle Jean because the first time round she kept him hanging for a couple of hours over what he considered to be "a routine matter".

The Governor General William Shatner facebook page has over 2,000 members.

Somehow I'm not seeing it happening.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Chairman Braun before the Rights and Democracy committee.

The Rights and Democracy chair, vice-chair, and two board members got their say before the Foreign Affairs committee today.

The main problem, said Vice-Chair Jacques Gautier, is that too much power accrued to the former now deceased chair Remy Beauregard, and the organization also lacked transparency, accountability, and oversight and just did not follow the rules.

Item : In the past few weeks, the new recalibrated R&D board has hired 1)the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, 2)the security firm Groupe Sirco, 3)the auditing firm Deloitte and Touche, 4)the PR firm Prima Communications, and 5)a new CEO.

Item : "Under current rules, the agency is required to call for tenders for contracts worth more than $10,000; must seek at least three tenders; and justify the choice “taking into account the price, the services offered and their quality."

NDP Paul Dewar was annoyed docs had not been supplied to the committee as requested. Were these contracts for more than $10,000?
After considerable prodding from Dewar to the effect that it was just not credible that an acting president have no idea what five contracts handed out under his watch might be worth, Vice Chair and interim President Gauthier eventually answered: Yes. Certainly more than $10,000.
Dewar : And were they tendered?
Gauthier : Um, no.

Oh dear.
But no worries. A week ago Chairman Aurel Braun recommended a bylaw change which would exempt the R&D president from having to follow those rules when "engaging agents, consultants and advisors."
Probably will need to be backdated to cover these five contracts from back in January and February though. And would this not in itself constitute the dreaded "accruing more power and control to the president"?

Chairman Aurel Braun's largely incoherent answers bore little relevance to the questions put to him but did at every opportunity inveigh against past R&D funding given to Al Haq in the West Bank, Al Mezan in Gaza, and B'Tselem in Israel, which he called "terrorist organizations which pretend to be human rights orgs". Al Haq, according to Braun, is a front for terrorists and also money has gone to the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and this is apparently anti-Israel and a bad thing. War crimes were mentioned, he said, and other things "not within the conscience of the Canadian people."

Libs Bob Rae and Bernard Patry and Bloc Johanne Deschamps both try to nail this anti-Israel business down, pointing out that the Israeli NGO B'Tselem is universally respected by virtually every government in Europe and the Israeli army, but as Board member and B'nai Brith lawyer David Matas pointed out while advising the committee to read his book - presumably Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism - "the Palestinians are called civilians but they throw stones."

Honourable mention for skating around in circles as far away from the puck as possible goes to Con Peter Goldring in collaboration with former Con candidate, missionary, and R&D board member Brad Farquhar. Goldring asked about political party development - some countries have 40 or 50 parties! - and how about Haiti, huh? Haiti has a serious lack of understanding about how democracy works. Farquhar was more than happy to answer at length a question having nothing whatsoever to do with the issue at hand. What is an election platform? he asks rhetorically. "In Tajikistan we had to teach them how to go out and doorknock and they weren't sure they were even allowed to do that. The transition from a former totalitarian state to a democratic state ... . We brought people from Bolivia to help in Haiti..." Oh look - time's up!

Overall the board's statements were remarkably short on the "documented facts" they kept insisting were their only concern despite the fact they hadn't brought any, not counting Matas' book. Braun charged that 46 out of 48 R&D staff who signed a letter calling for the resignations of board members were possibly coerced into signing it in exchange for a "rushed collective agreement". Much was made of the fact the board was not advised of the collective agreement. Mention was made of a contract awarded to a past R&D employee. Braun blamed the staff for the break-in and the stolen computers. The one thing none of them much wanted to discuss was Tuesday's gong show editorial written by the fifth R&D board member Marco Navarro-Genie not present at the meeting today.

Grisly blow-by-blow ably live-blogged by Kady.

Steve's Big April Fools Joke

Move over, Google! The Government of Canada is getting in on the April Fools Day action.

March 4 2010 Federal Budget Speech :
"Due to unprecedented demand under the ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes program, the government is allocating a further $80-million to support additional retrofits by Canadian homeowners."

Natural Resources Canada, March 31 2010
Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) about ecoENERGY Retrofit – Homes
Can I still enter the program?
No. Effective March 31, 2010, the program is not accepting new bookings for pre-retrofit evaluations.

G&M :
"The program, which is conducted in co-operation with the provinces, stipulated that a post-retrofit audit had to be completed by March 31, 2011. But, until Wednesday, there was no deadline for the initial application."

Christian Paradis, Minister of Asbestos :
"We have a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure the program operates within its existing budget and no longer accepting new bookings for pre-retrofit evaluations is the kind of prudent fiscal management Canadians have come to expect from this government."

Well, it's still early in the day yet. So far we do not know whether the whole Budget Speech or the Natural Resources Ministry advisory is the April Fools joke. Or whether other programs announced in the Budget Speech are also part of the joke.

h/t Dave

Blog Archive