Friday, August 10, 2007

"Nothing to Hide" and Torture by Louis Evan Palmer

Recent revelations about the rendition of Maher Arar by the CIA confirm what many people who have a modicum of knowledge about so-called "intelligence" services already know: that the various intelligence operations have more than their share of wildmen, incompetents, blowhards and cover-up artists. The frightening component of this though is that unlike others of their faltering, stumbling ilk, they can abuse secrecy and other laws to block oversight and accountability and to torment and punish alleged "threats" into silence.

However, to zero in on the salient point, people like Mr. Arar shouldn't be complaining because as we well know if he has "nothing to hide" then he has "nothing to fear". The torture will exonerate him - why else would we do it unless it really worked, unless it was quick and effective? Yes, it might hurt temporarily but that would be gone and forgotten soon enough. Right? Can't seem to recall why we don't torture people ourselves though - at least not officially since the days of the Inquisition?

There is something ludicrous and malevolent about people who dwell in the shadows, who obscure their identities, their work, their whereabouts, and, who invoke secrecy and "need to know" at every turn, claiming that there is something wrong with personal privacy and people who need some privacy.

These individuals, safely hidden away, insist that we need to torture selected persons so that "we" can quickly confirm that they truly have "nothing to hide" or, if not, that we know what they know. If you're innocent, you'll be released albeit with some "bad" memories which will diminish over time, in most cases.

There is so much that avails itself to the "nothing to hide" argument.

If you have "nothing to hide" then you can have no bonafide objections to security forces tearing your place of residence apart. Or, tearing your luggage apart at the airport. Or, subjecting you to a strip search or a body cavity exploration or an x-ray. After all, you're innocent so you have "nothing to fear". Maybe we'll extend the same courtesy to your family especially as they, in turn, also have "nothing to hide".

With the new paranoiac, "reasonable doubt" and habeus corpus are unwelcome, and seemingly to many in the enforcement and investigative branches, not understood. This lack of knowledge and understanding about core democratic values and beliefs could prove to be its undoing.

"Reasonable doubt" was a key restraint on the search and seizure powers of the police and quasi-police agencies.

As Gwynne Dyer has amply demonstrated in many of his recent writings, the threat of terrorism is minuscule compared to other violent threats. In addition, other much more serious and daunting threats present themselves which we conveniently ignore: curable and preventable diseases, malnutrition, poor water, war, car and industrial accidents, pollution and massive climate change.

We have a phony threat being callously used to increase the power of the executive branches of government and certain investigative and enforcement arms and employing coercive techniques and propaganda such as "nothing to hide" to pry away the hard-won protections of a democracy.

As many a former agent will tell you, the biggest threat to an intelligence agency is other intelligence agencies. We need people who understand that and act appropriately to protect Canadians, and their rights, first and their "relationships" with other intelligence services well down the list.

The answer is less power, less scope, and a smaller mandate.

"Nothing to Hide" and Torture, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2007 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


No comments: