Frustrating standoff

posted on September 27, 2009 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

by Unsigned editorial
Source: The Globe and Mail
URL: [link]
Date: September 26, 2009

It is galling that a suspected terrorist from Morocco is free to roam Canada because of a dispute between the country's spy service and a judge. In this clash between security and liberty, it is difficult to say who won. But Canadians are the losers, in the collapse of the case against Adil Charkaoui.

Canada needs to be able to detain and if possible deport suspected terrorists from abroad. The mechanism it has been using - security certificates signed by the immigration and public safety ministers - may now be unworkable. The dispute is over the public disclosure of information the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says could help reveal the identity of confidential sources.

Canada has alleged for the past six years that Mr. Charkaoui, who had been living in Montreal, was linked to al-Qaeda. He had been jailed for two years, then released with a court order that he wear a Global Positioning System bracelet. The dispute that permitted him to remove the bracelet this week must seem baffling, and beside the point, to most Canadians. If he was suspected of being a security risk for so long, why is he suddenly free of GPS monitoring? How frightened should Canadians be?

Caution is needed in disclosing evidence in national-security cases. It is unclear, however, whether there is less than meets the eye to CSIS's complaints. It may be that its file on Mr. Charkaoui is thin, which would explain why, as Mr. Charkaoui's lawyer Johanne Doyon put it, it stole away like a thief in the night when aspects of its evidence were to be laid bare in open court.CSIS does not allege that Madam Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer wishes to make available the actual names of sources. It does say, however, that in the public summary of evidence she wishes to make available, there are enough clues that terrorists would be able to piece together a picture of who is giving out damaging information.

Judge Tremblay-Lamer no doubt understands why confidential sources in national-security cases are vital. As she herself wrote in May, confidential sources speak at risk to themselves; they're essential to intelligence investigations; it would be impossible to recruit them if they were not given a guarantee that their identity would not be revealed.

She and CSIS, then, have a difference of opinion on whether the information she would make public is meaningful to terrorists. But their standoff led to a poor resolution: CSIS pulled key evidence, so that it would not be revealed publicly; Judge Tremblay-Lamer then said she would soon lift the security certificate on Mr. Charkaoui, because there was no longer enough evidence to support it. All conditions on his freedom have been lifted. He is no longer facing deportation, though that could change, pending a possible appeal of the disclosure ruling.

Mr. Charkaoui was once identified by Ahmed Ressam, the "Millennial Bomber" caught at the United States border, as having been at a camp in Afghanistan. He later recanted, in a letter to La Presse. Moroccan authorities have said Mr. Charkaoui was a member of a group linked to al-Qaeda. Canadians need to know if this man is truly a danger and, if so, what is being done to keep the country safe.

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