February 23rd, 2024

National security world tends to promote secrecy over transparency, professor warns

By The Canadian Press on January 30, 2024.

Commissioner Justice Marie-Josee Hogue waits to behind a curtain to enter the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions following a break, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – A law professor is warning the federal inquiry into foreign interference that there’s a tendency in the national security realm to prioritize secrecy over transparency.

University of Calgary professor Michael Nesbitt says security agency employees are typically warned about penalties for improperly disclosing secrets, but rarely is there punishment for failing to be fully transparent.

The inquiry’s first hearings, taking place this week, are focused on the preliminary point of how to make information about foreign meddling public, even though much of it comes from classified documents and sources.

On Monday, a lawyer for the commission warned that the sophisticated spy agencies of Canada’s adversaries will be closely watching the federal inquiry for every bit of information they can exploit.

The discussions on national security and confidentiality of information will help set the stage for the next public hearings, likely to take place at the end of March.

The March hearings are intended to delve into allegations of foreign interference by China, India, Russia and others in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, with a report on these matters due May 3.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.

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