The Conservative government was warned last summer that working with the Afghan secret police would lead to allegations Canada condoned abuse and that Canadians could face legal liability for complicity in torture.
The information, contained in a candid top-level government memo shared with CBC News, shows that officials were worried that Canada's relationship with the Afghan National Directorate of Security was risky — and possibly illegal — even while the government was defending it.
The document warns that the directorate, or NDS, is so secretive, even Canada and its allies are in the dark about much of what it does.
The NDS has wider powers of arrest and detention than most intelligence agencies, the memo says, and as a result, "there is considerable scope for the use of improper methods." Engaging with the NDS "entails a degree of risk to Canadian interests," it adds.
The document doesn't detail those risks specifically, but human rights lawyer Paul Champ said he has an idea of what they are.
Champ is the lawyer at the centre of several investigations into the alleged abuse of Afghan detainees. He said the NDS can't be trusted with detainees transferred into its custody by Canadian soldiers, and the Conservative government is well aware of this.
"Make no mistake, the methods of the NDS are well known," Champ told CBC News. "It's electric shocks, it's pulling out toenails, it's beating people with chains, it's hanging them for days. So when someone says abuse, that's a euphemism for torture."
Please tell Stephen Harper and the leaders of all the opposition parties that Harper is wrong: we do care about this.
Terrible things are happening in Afghanistan in our names. We care, and we've had enough.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Michael Ignatieff, MP
Jack Layton, MP
Gilles Duceppe, MP