The Privy Council Office says it has launched an investigation into who leaked confidential information about settlement money paid to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr.
Following a report from online political news website iPolitics published on Wednesday, PCO spokesperson Shane Diaczuk confirmed that his office “is following up to determine the facts surrounding this release of information and will be taking appropriate measures.”
The PCO is responsible for providing public service support to the prime minister and cabinet. It’s unclear when the probe began, or how far it has progressed.
“All employees have a responsibility to know and comply with all applicable laws and policies in the handling of sensitive or privileged information, and are responsible for protecting such information under their control from unauthorized disclosure,” Diaczuk said in an emailed statement to Global News.
The fact that a settlement had been reached with Khadr in his civil suit against the Canadian government, along with the alleged amount of that settlement ($10.5 million), was initially leaked to the media in early July.
News of the payout quickly became a political nightmare for the governing Liberals, prompting a backlash from the opposition Conservatives, the families of the American soldiers Khadr is alleged to have killed and injured in 2002, and broad segments of the Canadian population.
At the time, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he didn’t blame journalists for reporting the story, but considered the leak itself to be “very, very serious.”
“The individuals, whoever they are, that took it upon themselves to release confidential information in an unauthorized manner should reflect very carefully on the consequences of their behaviour for the course of justice and also for their professionalism in the roles that they are presently filling,” Goodale said.
Khadr, now living in Edmonton, was 15 when he was captured by American soldiers after a firefight in Afghanistan. The battle, during which Khadr threw a grenade, ended in the death of U.S. special forces soldier Chris Speer and the wounding of another U.S. soldier, Layne Morris.
Khadr was eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and later pleaded guilty to five war crimes — including killing Speer — before a military commission. He has long claimed to have been tortured, saying he confessed only to be allowed to leave Guantanamo and return to Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada subsequently found, in two separate cases, that Canada violated Khadr’s rights. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of cabinet have maintained that settling Khadr’s civil suit was the only option to avoid an even higher payout and millions in legal fees.
WATCH: ‘No doubt’ gov’t violated Omar Khadr’s human rights, says Goodale
But the Conservatives have argued that Ottawa should have fought Khadr to the end, and that the Supreme Court never specified what type of compensation the former inmate was owed.
“The only court decision that spoke to remedy spoke to repatriation (to Canada), which happened,” said Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on July 20. “The very fact that Omar Khadr is free in Canada today is because of actions that the previous government took to remedy the rights violation that the Supreme Court ruled took place. Anything above and beyond that was a choice made by the Liberal government.”