Hunter Thompson employed a deranged Samoan attorney on his notorious Las Vegas run. My attorney is Hungarian rather than Samoan, but he is similarly deranged, his suitability for my purposes being his instinct for the jugular. I trust him implicitly. He’s advising me informally, as I can’t pay him what he’s actually worth.
I need his advice because I’m now formally engaged with Canada’s national-security state in an attempt to get credible evidence that Canada is obeying international humanitarian law.
There is good news. First, the law of the land still seems to work. An ordinary citizen can request information from the government of Canada, and even if he is jerked around, he has recourse to an independent judiciary. Second, the government has an impressive track record of losing when it argues for national security. Third, there is widespread doubt among the citizenry that arguments for national security hold water.
The arguments concerning the conflict between public interest and national security have been set forth exhaustively in 2007 FC 766, a Federal Court of Canada ruling that forced the government to publish evidence it tried to hold secret about Maher Arar. Having read the judgment, I still find a worrying trust that the executive knows what it’s doing in matters of national security, a trust (in my view) grossly abused by evidence from the American executive’s argument for the Iraq invasion, the British government’s argument for the Iraq invasion, and the Canadian government’s behavior in the Maher Arar case, and in particular the leaking of comments by Canadian government officials, not for attribution, that turned out to be wrong and defamatory. The subsequent inquiry cost $C15 million and the compensation to Mr. Arar over $C10 million, for a minimum cost to the Canadian public of $C25 million. No members of the Canadian government or its agencies have been held to account.
So let’s talk about accountability. Winston Churchill, whatever you might think about him, made the following observations:
“It is impossible to complete this account without referring to a terrible decision of policy adopted by Hitler towards his new foes, and enforced under all the pressure of the mortal struggle in vast barren or ruined lands and winter horrors. Verbal orders were given by him at a conference on June 14, 1941, which to a large extent governed the conduct of the German Army towards the Russian troops and people, and led to many ruthless and barbarous deeds. According to the Nuremberg documents, General Halder testified:
“‘Prior to the attack on Russia the Fuehrer called a conference of all the commanders and persons connected with the supreme command on the question of the forthcoming attack on Russia. I cannot recall the exact date of this conference. At this conference the Fuehrer stated that the methods used in the war against the Russians would have to be different from those used against the West. He said that the struggle between Russia and Germany was a Russian struggle. He stated that since the Russians were not signatories of the Hague Convention the treatment of their prisoners of war did not have to follow the Articles of the Convention. He [also] stated that the so-called Commissars should not be considered prisoners of war.’
“And according to Keitel:
“‘Hitler’s main theme was that this was the decisive battle between the two ideologies, and that this fact made it impossible to use in the war [with Russia] methods, as we soldiers knew them, which were considered to be the only correct ones under international law.'”
Keitel was hung at Nuremberg. I’m only saying. Halder got off because of evidence he systematically tried to subvert Hitler’s purpose. Which brings us to Dick Cheney talking to Tim Russert, Sept. 16, 2001:
CHENEY: “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
RUSSERT: “There have been restrictions placed on the United States intelligence gathering, reluctance to use unsavory characters, those who violated human rights, to assist in intelligence gathering. Will we lift some of those restrictions?”
CHENEY: “Oh, I think so. I think the one of the byproducts, if you will, of this tragic set of circumstances is that we’ll see a very thorough sort of reassessment of how we operate and the kinds of people we deal with. There’s if you’re going to deal only with sort of officially approved, certified good guys, you’re not going to find out what the bad guys are doing. You need to be able to penetrate these organizations. You need to have on the payroll some very unsavory characters if, in fact, you’re going to be able to learn all that needs to be learned in order to forestall these kinds of activities. It is a mean, nasty, dangerous dirty business out there, and we have to operate in that arena. I’m convinced we can do it; we can do it successfully. But we need to make certain that we have not tied the hands, if you will, of our intelligence communities in terms of accomplishing their mission.”
RUSSERT: “These terrorists play by a whole set of different rules. It’s going to force us, in your words, to get mean, dirty, and nasty in order to take them on, right? And they should realize there will be more than simply a pinprick bombing.”
CHENEY: “Yeah, the I think it’s the thing that I sense and, of course, that’s only been a few days, but I have never seen such determination on the part of well, my colleagues in government, on the part of the American people, on the part of our friends and allies overseas, and even on the part of some who are not ordinarily deemed friends of the United States, determined in this particular instance to shift and not be tolerant any longer of these kinds of actions or activities.”
Does the gallows at Nuremberg still work?