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What factor is common to Canada, Sweden and Denmark? The snow, perhaps? The cold weather? The social programs? Or maybe smoked salmon?
How about rendition to torture? And how about cooperation with the intelligence authorities of countries which practice torture with total impunity? These may be some of the darkest common factors shared by the three countries, ones that not everyone is aware of.
A little-noticed European Court of Human Rights decision regarding Polish complicity in torture may well have ripple effects on this side of the Atlantic and, hopefully, produce some accountability in the Ottawa bunkers of CSIS, the RCMP, and the foreign affairs and justice bureaucracies. In addition, its precedent would be most useful in hauling some high-profile Liberals out of their comfortable retirement to inquire about their role in the CIA-led global kidnap and disappearance-to-torture regime that has marked much of the 21st century.
"What keeps me up at night, candidly, is another attack against the United States," Sen. Dianne Feinstein said last month in what was, then, her routine defence of the mass global surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies. All that has changed now that she believes that the staff of the committee she chairs, the powerful, secretive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was spied on and lied to by the CIA. The committee was formed after the Watergate scandal engulfed the Nixon administration. The Church Committee, led by Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, conducted a comprehensive investigation of abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies, of everything from spying on anti-war protesters to the assassination of foreign leaders.
The first time the phrase "war on terror" was used was when George W. Bush linked the same phrase to the word "crusade". He declared in September 2001: "This crusade -- this war on terrorism -- is going to take a while..." He was talking about the response of the American administration to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He prepared the ground for the shocked American public for a long war against militant Islamists.
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Canada has long held the unique status of being a nation that puts its secret police on postcards, T-shirts and tacky tourist trinkets. During the 1990s, that same police force also entered a five-year licensing agreement with the creators of Mickey Mouse and Daffy Duck at Walt Disney, "in response to the popularity of unlicensed products and concerns that these products were having a detrimental effect on the RCMP's reputation."
When "Public Safety" Minister Vic Toews released his "new" national security strategy last month, he cautioned the few people paying attention that "no government can guarantee it will be able to prevent all terrorist attacks all the time," as if such catastrophic events were a daily reality as common to Canadians as mosquitoes.
A classified U.S. diplomatic cable records how American officials worked with senior Canadian police and security officials to find "work-arounds" to anticipated restrictions on intelligence-sharing even before the Arar commission report went to the printers in 2006.
The cable from David Wilkins, then the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa, details a series of damage-control meetings he and other senior American diplomats held in 2005 with the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and with the prime minister's national security adviser.