Neil Macdonald: Government sensitivity over you hearing about ‘sensitive’ information

While MacDonald is unfair to CIC DM Anita Biguzs (she had no option but to investigate the leak), his broader points are valid:

But to Biguzs and her fellow mandarins at Citizenship and Immigration, the public should never have been told any of these things in the first place, and the fact that it was constituted a grave crime.

Interestingly, Biguzs’s memo does not call the information leaked “classified.” She calls it “sensitive.” There’s a big difference.

Classified information is an official secret, determined by security professionals to be potentially injurious to national security. (Or at least that’s supposed to be how it works.)

Disclosing an official secret is a crime.

“Sensitive information,” on the other hand, is anything the government doesn’t want the public to know, and, as noted, the government that Biguzs has served for a decade doesn’t want the public to know much.

Prosecuting embarrassment

Using Biguzs’s logic, federal scientists who decide the public should know about a scientific finding about the quality of the air we breathe or water we drink are unethical underminers of democracy, too, unless they seek permission to speak, which is rather difficult to obtain nowadays in Ottawa.

Of course, when a government does want reporters to know something, the information is suddenly not sensitive at all anymore, and democracy is well-served by its disclosure, sometimes even — and I speak here with some experience — when it’s an official secret.

In the case of the immigration and passport stories, apparently, the government was embarrassed, so the RCMP are now stalking the department’s hallways, further intimidating an already scared group of bureaucrats.

Politicians, including Harper’s Conservatives, love to talk about the supreme importance of accountability. It is a word that has been milked, flogged and ridden practically to death.

So Biguzs and her political masters might want to ponder this: If the information about the refugee review and the faulty passports had been divulged in a timely fashion, as a matter of public accountability, democracy would not only have been served, there’d be no need to call the police.

Source: Neil Macdonald: Government sensitivity over you hearing about ‘sensitive’ information – Politics – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

One Response to Neil Macdonald: Government sensitivity over you hearing about ‘sensitive’ information

  1. Pingback: Citizenship ceremony got ‘heated’ over niqab | Multicultural Meanderings

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