From the National Post in Canada:
NDP files complaint to release figures
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, June 22, 2009
In a significant policy shift, the Canadian government now believes that telling the country’s taxpayers the future cost of the war in Afghanistan would be a threat to national security, Canwest News Service has learned.
The Defence Department cited a national security exemption when it censored a request under the Access to Information Act by the federal NDP for the military costs of Canada‘s military participation in the NATO-led, United Nations-sanctioned military mission to Afghanistan.
When the NDP asked for the identical figures last year, the military made them public. [It] was able to disclose in April 2008 that the yearly incremental cost of the Afghan war would top $1-billion for the first time since Canada’s military became involved in Afghanistan in 2002.
But this year, military censors cited Section 15 of the act in blocking out the figure.
In a June 3 letter to an NDP researcher, Julie Jansen, the director of the military’s access branch, cited “the defence of Canada or any state allied” with it in justifying the withholding of the figures for the three next fiscal years.
Section 15 of the act allows the withholding of any “information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs, the defence of Canada or any state allied or associated with Canada or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.”
Ms. Jansen also invoked a Section 21 exemption, which gives a government department the discretionary power to disclose records that include negotiationplans, deliberations or consultations, or “administrative plans that have not yet been put into operation.”
In an identical request last year, the Defence Department released the estimates for the fiscal years leading up to 2011, the year that Parliament and the government has said Canada’s current military mission in Afghanistan must end.
“In the face of more public interest in the ongoing cost of the war, it is surprising the DND would now take the attitude that now is the time that we will start pulling back on information and not be as transparent as before,” NDP defence critic Jack Harris said. …
In a recent speech, Defence Minister Peter MacKay touted the price tag of the government’s program to buy new equipment for the military, telling an audience of defence contractors and lobbyists that the government would spend $60-billion on new capital acquisitions by 2028.
The NDP has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s office to force the release of the figures for the recently started fiscal year of 2009-10, as well as for 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Last year, the military estimated the incremental cost for 2009-10 to be $261-million and for 2010-11 at $150-million but did not address the costs for 2011-12. This year, it blanked out those numbers.
In the past, the government has underestimated its incremental cost, particularly as the insurgency has grown stronger, killing soldiers, as well as inflicting heavy damage on armoured vehicles.
Last year’s figures showed the cost ballooning to $1.007-billion for 2007-08 and projected they would reach $1.009-billion by 2008-09.
But this year’s figures show that the cost for 2008-09 was higher than projected, at $1.190-billion.
“Some of the existing numbers changed so dramatically. It’s not clear what the reason was for it,” Mr. Harris said. …
Afghan Star, a documentary about Afghanistan’s version of American Idol, the television talent show, includes some interesting human material, but glosses over all the complex questions: here.
Britain: Navy carriers ‘£1bn over budget’: here.
British defence organisations will exhibit their wares at a major arms fair in Libya, anti-arms trade campaigners have announced: here.