Why All The Secrets In Torture Inquiry?

Canada’s increasingly tyrannical federal government is facing allegations of “obsession with secrecy” in its inquiry into our country’s own ‘extraordinary rendition’ program, where three Canadian citizens were arrested, shipped overseas, and brutally tortured.

The Canadian Press reports,

government lawyer Michael Peirce argued at a hearing Tuesday that nearly all future proceedings should be held behind closed doors – not just to protect national security but also to speed up the investigation.

“This is an internal inquiry,” said Peirce.

But why all the secrets? Does the government have something to hide? It sure looks that way. All three men, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, were never charged with any crime, and blame faulty CSIS and RCMP intelligence for their treatment overseas.

From the CBC:

Almalki spent 22 months in custody after his arrest in Syria in 2002. He told CBC’s The Current that his Syrian torturers told him they were getting their information from Canada.

Kuwaiti-born El Maati was a truck driver who was tortured in both Egypt and Syria, and has told reporters that both countries spoke of getting information about him from Canadian officials.

Nureddin was the principal of an Islamic school in Toronto and was arrested at the Syrian border as he was returning from visiting relatives in northern Iraq in 2004.

All three men were investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for links to terrorism but were never arrested or had any restrictions placed on their movements in this country. Their lawyers say they were targeted because they were Muslims and knew others who were under CSIS or RCMP investigation.

Government lawyer Peirce outlined the Fed’s terms for the inquiry at Tuesday’s hearing. According to the CP article, he argued that

-Public hearings should be limited to opening and closing statements, procedural questions and motions, and a handful of other matters.

-There’s no need for the three men, or their lawyers, to be present when the bulk of the testimony is heard in secret.

-The inquiry shouldn’t become a fishing expedition to uncover evidence for use in separate civil suits for damages the three have launched against Ottawa.

Paul Copeland, a member of Almalki’s legal team, tells CP what seems fairly obvious,

“I don’t see what participation there is for us in the inquiry if it’s all done in private… It strikes me as a very meaningless process.”

Copeland theorized that the federal position could reflect a fear that, if the inquiry finds fault with the RCMP, CSIS or other federal agencies, it could bolster the civil damage claims of the three men.

He noted, for example, that Maher Arar, who was cleared of suspicion by an earlier inquiry headed by Justice Dennis O’Connor, has since won a $10-million settlement from Ottawa.

“Clearly the government is concerned that they might be held liable for Canadian complicity in the torture of Mr. Almalki,” said Copeland.

These are great motivations for an abusive government to keep secrets. But a more disturbing motivation was brought up by CBC’s security correspondent Bill Gillespie, who “thinks the outcome could have an important impact on the rules that Canadian intelligence agencies must abide by in future”.

If an abusive government wants to continue abusing, the public can’t know too much about it.