The BCCLA National Security blog is posting from sunny Ottawa today, where we finished up the last of the MPCC witnesses until hearings resume again in mid-June. Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA, has been attending the past week of hearings, starting with the international law panel last Thursday.
Today, we heard from Mr. Ed Jager, a DFAIT officer who served as the Political Advisor (or PolAd) to BGen Guy Laroche, Commander of the Joint Task Force in Afghanistan. BGen Laroche testified yesterday, but didn’t finish giving his evidence; he’ll be called back at some later date, yet to be determined.
As you’ll recall from yesterday’s post , BGen Laroche testified that relied on his advisors — and in particular, his PolAd, Mr. Jager — to provide assessments as to whether detainees should be transferred to Afghan authorities. BGen Laroche also indicated that he believed that DFAIT was responsible for investigating whether allegations of torture made by CF-transferred detainees were substantiated.
For his part, Mr. Jager today denied that he provided BGen Laroche with any detainee assessments, and in fact, his role as Political Advisor — with respect to the detainee issue, at least — seemed to consist entirely of passing along copies of site visit reports and other primary source materials to BGen Laroche. When asked on cross examination whether he ever provided any assessments, commentary, or actual advice when passing along these materials, Mr. Jager responded — in effect — that it wasn’t his job to do so. (“Not my job” seems to be a pretty constant theme at these hearings.) Pretty interesting evidence, given BGen Laroche’s repeated assertions yesterday that he relied on assessments from Mr. Jager — assessments that Mr. Jager insists that he never provided.
Similarly, he could not provide any support for BGen Laroche’s assertion that DFAIT had responsibility for investigating whether allegations of torture are substantiated. And also of note was Mr. Jager’s testimony that he never felt it necessary to review DFAIT reports of purported torture in Afghan prisons — reports written mere weeks before his arrival in Afghanistan. Apparently, briefing himself on detainee issues — which he agreed were important and sensitive — wasn’t something he felt necessary to do, as part of his job as the individual responsible for providing political advice to the Commander of the entire Afghan mission.
Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see what BGen Laroche will say about all this when he returns to finish his testimony.
Further on the document disclosures front, at the MPCC and elsewhere: Mr. Jager was shown today the index of a set of documents entitled “site visits”. According to this index, there were no site visit reports for December 2007, January 2008, or much of February 2008.
This is, of course, a crucial time period, given that transfers were suspended from November 2007 through the end of February 2008, so the details of these site visits would be critical in understanding whether transfers should’ve been resumed at all. Furthermore, according to BGen Laroche, one of the reasons he felt that transfers could be resumed was that more frequent site visits were implemented during the suspension of transfer — at the rate of one visit every 48 hours, in fact. So far, the Commission has been provided with no documentary evidence that any visits took place from the beginning of December 2007 through late February 2008. And meanwhile, Mr. Jager testified today that he could not recall whether any site visits took place during these missing months.
Over in Parliament, the deadline that Commons Speaker Peter Milliken has given for MPs and the government to come to some sort of resolution over disclosure of detainee documents has come and gone. MPs have sought and obtained an extension from the Speaker to extend time for negotiations until 1.30p on Friday, so more on this issue later this week.