Thursday, September 03, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to Resign Now

Let us not beat around the bush: Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled the world about the seriousness of a breach of secret information under his watch that, it turns out was so major, risked compromising Canada's - and NATO's - mission (on several fronts). It also may have provided crucial information to our enemies, according to the lede in le Devoir reporter Bahador Zabihiyan's explosive front page story in this morning's edition.

Yes, thanks to the Montreal daily newspaper, whose editors waited over a year to receive the now heavily-censored documents under the Access to Information Act, we now know that Stephen Harper was at best, disingenuous and completely lacking in judgment in May, 2008, when he dismissed opposition calls for a full inquiry into the matter.

In lieu of the highly sensitive and broad-ranging scope of detailed information we now know was contained therein, it more than stretches credulity to imagine Harper was unaware of the wide-ranging international security implications of the breach - especially given the fact the documents were in the possession of a woman linked to organized crime, and for a period of weeks, before they were retrieved. At the very least, a breach (and possible cover-up) of this importance requires a criminal investigation by the RCMP, since the information may have compromised national security, not to mention that of our NATO allies.

As you'll recall, then Foreign Affairs minister Maxime Bernier was hastily relieved of his portfolio over the incident - but only once the news broke a month after the actual breach occurred, in May of 2008.

Browsing through the points of interest contained within the 560 pages of classified information, Zabihiyan notes that few global flashpoints are absent:
De l'élargissement de l'OTAN aux pays des Balkans à la contribution de celui-ci dans la lutte contre le terrorisme, des prisonniers talibans en Afghanistan à la défense antimissile, du contrôle des armements au conflit israélo-palestinien, de la situation en l'Ukraine à la présence d'al-Qaïda au Pakistan en passant par la position du Canada en ce qui concerne le dalaï-lama et le nucléaire iranien, tous les grands sujets de la politique canadienne à l'étranger y sont abordés de manière détaillée.
The CBC sums that up in english like so:
The documents include classified information about NATO's plans to expand operations in the Balkans, Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan, arms control in the Middle East, security in Ukraine, and al-Qaeda's presence in Pakistan.

Almost every page obtained by the newspaper has large sections blacked out.

The original copies — left at (Bernard's girlfriend, Julie) Couillard's house in April 2008 — were not censored.
Given the seriousness of this breach, there can be no justification for Harper's downplaying of it as being simply a mix of public and confidential material, and briefing notes for meetings, as his government said at the time.

In lieu of the inevitable questions brought up by the scope of the information leaked, the potential damage to Canada's worldwide reputation is incalculable. Our NATO allies must be deeply concerned, with gusts to appalled, that one of their most trusted partners could undermine our collective international security with such flippant disregard for a possibly treasonous breach of secret information - and without any sort of credible investigation having been undertaken into the matter in the 18 months since.

Given what we know today, one imagines that leaders in London, Washington, Brussels, Paris, etc. must be (privately, if not publicly) livid that the Canadians still cannot ascertain:

1) The breadth of the Bernier leak
2) How it was ever possible
3) What was done to mitigate the risk of future breaches (and how come other ministers - hello Lisa Raitt - evidently cannot keep track of their sensitive documents either).

One imagines our allies would be equally unimpressed that Maxime Bernier was allowed to remain in place within the Conservative caucus, then run again for the party mere months later, whence the voters in his riding re-elected him.

So please, Mr. Harper, do it. Visit Rideau Hall and resign as Prime Minister of Canada.

Do it before the Governor-General needs to step in and remove you from power. Because like a chain, NATO security is only as strong as its weakest link. Canada, under the Harper Conservatives, has proven itself unable to live up to its responsibility in regards to its NATO allies' collective security. There may be no way to save our national credibility as a fair partner. But Harper's immediate resignation would be a necessary first step in rebuilding the trust that lies at the foundation of NATO and Canadian security.

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1 comment:

BC real estate said...

I basically agree. Harper should have resigned months ago. However, I doubt he ever will. He is too self-confident to do that.

Regards, Jay.