CensusLeaks.ca

Sunday at around 5pm, the story hit the blackberries of government staffers and journalists alike in Ottawa that over 200,000 pages of classified documents describing operations of the war in Afghanistan were posted on WikiLeaks.org, an online clearinghouse for classified government information. It has been argued by the Pentagon and by Foreign Affairs that the information released puts soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan at risk and it has certainly has handed the Taliban a propaganda victory over allied war efforts against the extremist forces in that country.

This news comes in a time period where Ottawa-watchers have been discussing the disclosure, security and privacy of data collected by governments. First, opposition parties argued that the government declassify thousands of pages detailing the detention and transfer of Afghan detainees, and then there’s been that war of numbers over the utlility and intrusiveness of the governments ability to collect data on the citizenry via the census.

Is all data created (and withheld) equally? Do defenders of an open and free society sincerely believe the new axiom that “all information wants to be free”? Is our society free because some information is held secure?

If journalism is — by one definition — to bring comfort to the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, do information dumps on the execution of the war in Afghanistan bring transparency to decisions made by our elected leaders, or do they provide comfort to the enemy? Even the decision to reveal classified documents on detainee transfers to Parliament was done reluctantly and the documents were revealed under strict guidelines.

Two arguments against the long-form census — in a debate that has turned into a “national crisis” according to one breathless account from a journalist at macleans.ca — are that the census could violate the privacy of individuals and that a mandatory burden comes with state penalty of jail or a fine or both.

We used to live in a world where releasing classified information to the enemy in wartime was akin to treason because it violated a clear national interest — our security. Yet, the founder of wikileaks and those that participated in the release of classified information will likely never see the inside of a jail cell. Our world has evolved such that it may not be reasonable for the government to expect that information can remain secure. Society has changed such that the average citizen can instantly react to information as it continuously breaks. Has our war cabinet been expanded to include the hoards of sarcastic tweeters deskchair-quarterbacking the conflict? Has elected leadership been replaced by liveblogging and instant polls? Does information want to be free because now we all can make the day-by-day decisions to effectively execute this war? No, of course not.

As the wikileaks release has shown, information can never be confidently be deemed “secure”. Even information vital to national security can be compromised and the security of this data is held paramount by our government compared to concerns over personal privacy. In this case, breach of secure information was done so according to a unilateral and unaccountable political agenda of “openness”. Troubling still, a significant subset of the voices against scrapping the long-form census are now heralding this new “transparency” of information that compromises the security of our troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Transparency, openness, privacy and security are all important principles here. How you justify any of these at the expense of others is of course how your agenda is constituted. In this modern world, we must presume a full spectrum of agendas and since we can no longer stand together united behind one interest, we must be vigilant in protecting our own. If the state cannot ensure security in the private data it collects, we as citizens should not be open and transparent to it. If for the sake of transparency and openness, activists compromise the security and safety of their fellow citizens, they should be afforded neither from the state.

Comments

comments

  • Kingston

    kenn2, First my position, I hate to break it to you my friend, if someone in the CF doesn't want to go to KAF, trust me there are multitude of ways out of it, and trust me some people take advantage of it. I thank you for the acknowledgment of my service

    You have basically chosen to ignore and flip backwards on your argument previous, you referred to the length of the conflict as being a factor in your being against the mission, when I stated that one of the reasons for the length of the conflict is the massive undertaking to avoid civilian deaths and casualties you just trot out civilian cas and destruction, while previously stating WWII only took six years although the warring factors on both sides did nothing to avoid these Casualties in the strategic planning and implementation of the war, i.e. fire bombing, carpet bombing, the first use of a nuke, the planned aerial attacks of Britain using V1 and V2 rockers.

    As to the CF being equip properly, will a soldier ever have everything that he wants and needs, not going to happen my friend, but I can tell you that when I deployed in 2002, we wore green combats, had Ilitis's (based on a VW rabbit chasis), no air transport and borrowed almost everything from the US when we got there. My last mission, we if not the best equipped, we were tied for first with the US and other nations came to us to borrow equipment and pick our brains for knowledge and tactics.

    As to when to deploy us, well tell me when, it was a NATO article 51 if my memory serves, I could be wrong on that number but I am sure you will forgive. I do not agree with alot of things that PMJC did well in office but on this one, he did the right thing, even if he had no real choice in the matter, after the US and NATO carried our collective asses through out the last third of the Cold War.

    As to the standard of life and mass destruction in KC and Afgan, well your getting different information then I have seen, the standard of life in 2002 was horrible, I am talking what seemed to be late middle ages, my last tour two years ago, KC was a totally different place, the markets were booming, hospitals are being build and staffed, and of the next point I strongly state and challenge you to provide facts differently, I would approximate that 80% of all civilian casualties and damages are caused by the Taliban not by coalition Forces. Have you or can you provide one example of where the coalition forces have purposely targeted civilian forces, yes, there have been incidents where targets have been misidentified and these in all cases are regretted but we have yet to send a vehicle full of explosives into a packed market and detonate it all in the hopes of maybe killing one or two coalition members.

    As to Iraq, I am not here to debate that mission, I have my own feelings about that one, and I would be surprised to find they differ greatly from your own, but even the level of combat there was different, as the beginning of that conflict, it was two opposing armies slugging it out, then it was terrorists attacking the Victors, and at the end it was different religious sects attacking each other as the western soldiers tried to get in the way.

    I would also like to see a link to the exodus of professionals, as I have personally witnessed medical professionals returning, as well other well trained person, not enough by any means, but again, if it doesn't bleed it doesn't lead with our MSM.

    As to the mission goals and obstacles, the mission hasn't changed, provide security while training the Afgan Army and Police Force to do the job themselves. Help organize and fund Reconstruction and development projects in conjunction with the Afgan Govt( so that the local population see them to be governing),local agencies and NGOs.

    As to the Colvin allegations, While I have no personnel dealings with the transfer of any detainee, I will wait to see what comes out in the wash with this one, What I have noticed is that when there is a whistle blower, there is normally a lot more people who worked there climbing on board to support him, every report I have seen has gone directly the other way, with all his peers, superiors disavowing what he is saying, with his support coming mainly from people who were not even there with the odd exception of people like Taylor of Esprit to Corp. oh by the way, do I personally suspect that Afgan prisons are not a nice place, ya,, I can agree with that. No Cable TV or pool tables there my friend. The laws are a little more strict over there too my friend and when you cross them, there is no criminal advocate to stick up for you.

    It is nice to sit back, read the MSM and blogs, do a little investigating on line, and come to a conclusion of what is going on, i.e. see my original complaint concerning the communication policy of the present govt, and I hate to say this Kenn2 because I usually find your comments thought provoking, but on this one my friend, your not even close.

  • Kingston

    Kenn2, Can you direct me to a statement by PMPM when he send the troops from Kabul to KC that it would be over quickly. I remember lots of quotes about, taking casualties and we would lose soldiers, but how it was our duty as a responsible member of the world. The quick surgical strike part ended in 2002, when the US put the Taiban on the run. Would you of had them do what the USSR did when they withdrew, leave a huge political vacuum so the likes of the Taliban could through violent means fill it, and we are back at step one.

  • ShawnC

    kenn2

    1 – The Wikileaks have no standing with the troops that were engaged in that particular firefight. Wikileaks MADE A CLAIM that was later dis-proved (by eye-witnesses that were actually involved) – therefore, the rest of Wikileaks are suspect.

    2 – I never said personal date was sold – it was implied that only its findings are sold.

    3 – Colvin – yep, a minor irritant but akin to C4 in the hands of Iggy and company. What bothers me about Iggy and Jack and jill is they make mountains out of molehills.

    4 – Why would anyone agree to attend any Parliamentary order that is based on hearsay? Frankly, that puzzles and scares me. To me, this was nothing but a cheap election point geared to “proving” that Conservatives are scary, religious, and war-mongers.

    Finally, let's not forget the oft-repeated myth that the CP will (from the liberals and socialists) – and start drum roll – ban abortions (not true), establish Christianity as a state religion (not true), and establish the “Republican International” along with the Tea pary of the US (Bob Rae's favourite mantra and also not true). Oh, there's lots more, but thats another story.

  • kenn2

    I very much appreciate your input. You've given me some more things to research and chew on.

    Couple of small points
    - I have not said outright that I'm currently for or against our current involvement in Afghanistan. For the record, I'm questioning it, and mostly wanting a clear understanding of what the end game is, and when will it be done. The Russians were in there for, what… 8 years and couldn't get a handle on it, the current invasion is going on 9 years… I'm looking to be convinced that this is still do-able.
    - There's wild disagreement about the number of Afghan civilian dead, as a direct or indirect result of OED. I've looked at many sources, from the US's insanely low figures, to the puffed up estimates of anti-war sites. The closest thing to consensus that I've found is here, and the figures still indicate that more Afghans have died as a result of Coalition action than from insurgent action. I do believe you and other sources that currently, the Taliban with their stepped-up IED campaigns, have killed more citizens in the last couple of years… but they haven't yet caught up. If you can point me to more accurate and verified figures, I'd be grateful.

  • kenn2

    Military strategy isn't my forte, but you don't have to be a graduate of RMC to look around and think that there must a be a better way to protect ourselves from this remote country than by a prolonged and costly (gold, blood) occupation.

  • kenn2

    2 – I never said personal date was sold – it was implied that only its findings are sold.
    The findings are not personal data. So, selling findings (statistics) to anyone does not violate anyone's privacy…. so what's your point?

    3 – Harper has made the Colvin affair into a mountain, by refusing to cooperate in clearing away the molehill. Where's the accountability and transparency that Harper promised?

    4 – Why would anyone agree to attend any Parliamentary order?
    A Parliamentary order is a Parliamentary order. Or do the CPC only follow parliamentary rules when it suits them? Why is Harper hiding from this? See #3 above.

    Finally, let's not forget the oft-repeated myth that the CP will (from the liberals and socialists) – and start drum roll – ban abortions (not true), establish Christianity as a state religion (not true), and establish the “Republican International” along with the Tea pary of the US (Bob Rae's favourite mantra and also not true). Oh, there's lots more, but thats another story.

    If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

  • Kingston

    http://www.afghanconflictmonitor.org/civilian.html,,,

    I just looked quickly and found this site concerning the civilian death rate. The numbers look fair in my mind, for what that is worth. I rarely trust Wikipedia because any site where anyone with an agenda can edit, well, I think that is asking for trouble.

    “I was conditionally supportive of the invasion of Afghanistan, including Canada's involvement, back in 2001/2002.”

    As to your position of the conflict, I took the above quote from yourself to mean I was conditionally supportive but I am no longer. Damn words, can have so many meaning and interpretations ,, lol

  • Kingston

    Kenn2 further to my last, another good read about this subject, and it also deals with your comment about professionals leaving Afgan and the reason for it.

    http://unama.unmissions.org/Portals/UNAMA/human

  • Cytotoxic

    Well it's now clear that the Tories are really only interested in using this issue as a distraction from their drive to incarcerate people for the 'crimes' of gambling and growing marijuana. Your silence on this issue speaks volumes as to what kind of libertarian you really are-no kind at all. Just stop pretending.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    My silence?
    http://www.stephentaylor.ca/2005/07/liberty-on-

    Perhaps you can refer me to your article on the topic?

  • Cytotoxic

    Oh, an article from 4 years ago. I guess this means your consciously hypocritical for supporting the ConFarce. Project ConFarce continues apace today:
    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Public+service

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    All I have to say is that I stand by the same today. Where is your stand? I have yet to read it. Stand up for your beliefs, publish your name to an op-ed. I'd love to read it. Or are you a faux-libertarian?

  • Cytotoxic

    Your attempt to turn this around is pretty transparent. My belief is simple: legalize all drugs and reduce the public service. Your ConFarce party is opposed to both of these things and is making the situation much worse with your silence on the matter serving as approval.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Publish your opinion on the matter under your own name. My silence? Read my article again if you want. Read it out loud if it's too silent for you.

  • YoungHaligonian

    I’ve been trying to figure out why there is such debate over such a non-issue, either side is completely baseless. Now Stephen in regards to privacy, that information while apparantly probing is useless to the government when placed for a single individual. It’s use comes when it’s unattached to you and placed in grander statistical data. Regarding safety of the information, the government for the most part already has it, whether it be municipal, provincial, or federal in both secure and unsecure databases for multiple reasons. The point of protecting privacy by scrapping the long form census is completely ineffective. Google probably knows more about my interests, political leanings, and etc then I do personally.

    Now in regards to the left who complain about it hurting the statistical data by making it voluntary. Yes it does, however in reality the impact on the overall data would be minor, we’re talking about a percentage, not 10 or 20% inaccuracy. The Long form census and Short form census have both been effectively voluntary for decades because there is no enforcement to make it mandatory, and people who don’t want to do it simply won’t.

    So in summary what I’m basically saying is that this change has no real impact positive or negative other then we have something new to polarize ourselves on. My thoughts as to why this is going through probably has more do with Harper trying to bait the opposition into calling an election by taking on minor issues that don’t have long term impact with voters. I believe that is silence on the issue is the biggest indicator to that.

  • Mcalli5

    I suggest you study German history, then post back (and while your at it, you'll encounter numerous juxtapositions in countries around the world).

  • ShawnC

    in reply to kenn2

    (2 – I never said personal date was sold – it was implied that only its findings are sold.
    The findings are not personal data. So, selling findings (statistics) to anyone does not violate anyone's privacy…. so what's your point?)

    Once again, “personal data” is not what I'm raising. My point is (drum roll, please) – stats are sold to private interests. What is the raison d'ĂȘtre of StatsCan? To help businesses or to help government policy?

    (3 – Harper has made the Colvin affair into a mountain, by refusing to cooperate in clearing away the molehill. Where's the accountability and transparency that Harper promised?)

    Actually, no. The loyal opposition made a mountain out of a molehill with unproven allegations from Colvin.

    (4 – Why would anyone agree to attend any Parliamentary order?
    A Parliamentary order is a Parliamentary order. Or do the CPC only follow parliamentary rules when it suits them? Why is Harper hiding from this? See #3 above.)

    OK – Why would parliament even issue an order based on unproven allegations? And that “parliamentary order” was issued by a kangaroo committee. So Harper didn't attend or any of his minions – so what? Was it illegal?

    (Just about all of the CPC's contentious moves have come from the GOP playbook of 5+ years ago.)

    Your complaining that conservatives follow conservative policy and somehow Dubya is somehow connected to Canada? That's just wrong, and you know it.

    One thing I should make clear – I support the short form but not the long form. And yes, I was threatened with jail and fines.

    If the supporters want to fill out the long form, then just add un-necessary data to the short form. There – problem solved.