CSIS pays some informants, court toldposted on December 07, 2004 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Harkat's lawyer obtains information despite government's objections
The question of whether Canada's spy agency pays its sources for information led federal lawyers yesterday to suggest the answer to that question could imperil national security. A former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agent, Jean-Luc Marchessault, was asked the question as the lawyer for accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat sought to understand what motivates CSIS informants. CSIS is accusing Mr. Harkat of being an al-Qaeda operative, in part on the strength of unnamed sources. Before Mr. Marchessault could answer, however, a federal lawyer interjected, reminding Justice Eleanor Dawson of her duty to protect national security. James Mathieson suggested she should consider closing the court to the public in order to hear Mr. Marchessault's answer. That answer, he argued, falls within the ambit of the Security of Information Act, which became law in late 2001. The law makes it an offence to disclose any information about how the government uses, collects, deciphers, assesses, handles or reports security intelligence information. "CSIS needs to have their methodologies and operational methods protected," Mr. Mathieson said. "To reveal some would be injurious to national security." Mr. Harkat's lawyer, Paul Copeland, said the suggestion "boggled" his mind. "If it threatens our national security to find out whether or not CSIS pays its informants, then we're in real trouble in this country," he said.
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