OPINION: Canada plays a dangerous gameposted on March 08, 2012 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
Date: March 7, 2012
It has recently been revealed that last summer, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews authorized CSIS in “exceptional cases” to send information to foreign entities even if there was a substantial risk that it would result in torture. Have we learned nothing from the Arar and Iacobucci inquiries held into the torture of Canadians held abroad?
The directive — written in Ottawa’s Orwellian language where torture becomes mistreatment — pays lip service to some of the recommendations of the Arar Commission. The director of CSIS will now have to consider the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs (and any other agency) before sending information to Syria or some other country that uses torture.
There are references to Canada’s international and Criminal Code obligations not be complicit or participate in torture, but no substantive engagement with those obligations.
It is tempting to blame Canada’s descent from a leader on human rights to a nation associated with torture (even as the U.S. right repudiates it) on Toews and his government, but the story is more complex.
Canada went offside on torture immediately after 9/11. The Supreme Court accepted that while deportation to torture is never justified under international law, it might in “exceptional circumstances” be permissible under the Charter. In 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal refused to apply the Charter even as it assumed that Canadian Forces handed off Afghan detainees to torture. There are echoes of these regrettable decisions in the July, 2011 directive.
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CSIS directed to use info extracted through tortureposted on February 08, 2012 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
OTTAWA — The federal government has directed Canada's spy agency to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.
The order represents a reversal of policy for the Conservative government, which once insisted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service would discard information if there was any inkling it might be tainted.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority."
A copy of the two-page December 2010 directive was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
It drew swift condemnation from Amnesty International Canada, which said information obtained under torture "has no place in the justice system, full stop."
The directive from Toews expands upon a May 2009 ministerial order that states CSIS must not knowingly rely upon information derived from torture, and have measures in place to identify such tainted information.
The latest directive says in "exceptional circumstances" where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to "share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment."
In such rare circumstances, it may not always be possible to determine how a foreign agency obtained the information, and that ignoring such information solely because of its source would represent "an unacceptable risk to public safety."
"Therefore, in situations where a serious risk to public safety exists, and where lives may be at stake, I expect and thus direct CSIS to make the protection of life and property its overriding priority, and share the necessary information -- properly described and qualified -- with appropriate authorities."
The directive says the final decision to investigate and analyze information that may have been obtained by methods condemned by the Canadian government falls to the CSIS director or his deputy director for operations -- a decision to be made "in accordance with Canada's legal obligations."
Finally, it says the minister is to be notified "as appropriate" of a decision to use such information.
In spring 2009, a senior CSIS official ignited controversy when he told a Commons committee the spy service would overlook the origin of information if it could prevent another Air India jetliner bombing or a terrorist attack along the lines of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings in the United States.
The government quickly moved to extinguish the public flareup.
Peter Van Loan, then public safety minister, said CSIS had been clear about rejecting information extracted through coercion.
"As a practical matter, they get intelligence from all kinds of sources, a myriad of sources. An important part of their process is to try and identify how credible that is," Van Loan said at the time.
"If there's any indication, any evidence that torture may have been used, that information is discounted."
Neither the Public Safety Department nor the minister would agree to an interview Monday.
In an emailed statement, the department said the 2010 directive "provides greater clarity to CSIS" and that "all CSIS activities, including sharing information with foreign agencies, comply with Canada's laws and legal obligations."
Added Mike Patton, a spokesman for Toews: "Our government will always take action that protects the lives of Canadians."
Canadian law enforcement and security agencies should focus on getting rid of information that bears the taint of torture, not on carving out exceptions for when it can be used, said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
"The bottom line is that as long as torturers continue to find a market for the fruit of their crimes, torture will continue," he said. "Firmly rebuffing torturers when they offer up information extracted through pain and suffering is a critical plank in the wider campaign to eradicate torture once and for all."
CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti had no comment.
However, the spy agency has said previously -- including before the 2010 directive was issued -- that it would use torture-tainted material.
Canadians would not forgive the intelligence service if it completely ignored information that could have been used to investigate and prevent a terrorist attack because that tip came from a country with a suspect human rights reputation, CSIS said in 2010 briefing notes.
In addition to sharing such information with Canadian police, CSIS would pass it to relevant foreign agencies after taking steps to ensure it would be used appropriately, the notes said.
A federal inquiry by Justice Dennis O'Connor into the Maher Arar torture affair recommended in 2006 that policies include specific directions "aimed at eliminating any possible Canadian complicity in torture, avoiding the risk of other human rights abuses and ensuring accountability."
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was jailed in Damascus in 2002-03 and tortured into giving false confessions about terrorist links.
CSIS maintains it has implemented all of O'Connor's recommendations to prevent a recurrence.
Recently it became public that former CSIS director Jim Judd balked in 2008 at a proposed legislative change that would have prevented the spy agency from using information suspected of emerging through torture.
Judd said the change could spell the end of the security certificate -- an immigration tool for deporting alleged foreign-born terrorists.
"It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the service to confirm whether information is derived from mistreatment or torture," he wrote.
© 2012 CTV All rights reserved.
CSIS head urged government to fight ban on information obtained through tortureposted on December 04, 2011 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The Montreal Gazette
Date: December 3, 2011
MONTREAL — Canada's spy agency was so reliant on information obtained through torture that it suggested the whole security certificate regime, used to control suspected terrorists in the country, would fall apart if they couldn't use it.
That's the essence of a letter written in 2008 by the former director of CSIS, Jim Judd, obtained by the Montreal Gazette.
It suggests a disturbing acceptance by the national security agency of torture as a legitimate strategy to counter terrorism.
The letter, dated Jan. 15, 2008, was sent from Judd to the minister of public security just as the government was finalizing Bill C-3, legislation to replace the security certificates law which was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in February 2007.
The government had been given a year to come up with new legislation that would respect the charter rights of those targeted by the certificates.
In the letter, Judd urges the minister to fight an amendment to C-3 proposed by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh that would prohibit CSIS and the courts from using any information obtained from torture or "derivative information" — information initially obtained from torture but subsequently corroborated through legal means.
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CSIS fails accountability standardsposted on May 22, 2011 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
OTTAWA — Canada’s spy service has failed to meet strict new accountability standards set by the Supreme Court, says a watchdog report obtained by The Canadian Press.
The latest annual review from the inspector general of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says the spy agency hasn’t lived up to a high-court ruling that requires it to retain all operational notes, electronic intercepts and other investigative material.
Almost three years ago, in the case of Montrealer Adil Charkaoui, the country’s top court found the agency’s destruction of notes violated its legal duty to keep documentation and — out of fairness — disclose the material during judicial proceedings.
Charkaoui, a native of Morocco, was arrested in 2003 under a national security certificate for suspected terrorist links. He was set free in 2009 after the case buckled and the certificate was quashed. As a result of the 2008 high court decision, CSIS made it a policy to file away all notes and other information that make up a case record. The agency also gave personnel a training seminar on note-keeping. During her review, CSIS inspector general Eva Plunkett asked the service for original, hard-copy notes cited in agency reports.
"In a number of cases the service was unable to locate hard copies of the operational notes," Plunkett wrote.
After further examination, CSIS determined that its own reports were wrong and that no notes had been taken to support the information in them, she found.
The Canadian Press obtained a declassified version of Plunkett’s top secret November 2010 evaluation under the Access to Information Act.
Overall, Plunkett concluded CSIS had not strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers "unreasonably or unnecessarily." She also praised CSIS employees for their "level of commitment and dedication," saying they "deserve our respect and appreciation."
© 2011 The Halifax Herald Limited.
Secret Trials, Blackmail and Other Adventuresposted on March 01, 2011 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
+++++++++++++++++++++++ In the Hands of Canada’s Secret Service
Secret trials, blackmail and other “dirty tricks” were on the table at “CSIS: Who needs them?” an event held at Concordia’s Hall Building over the weekend.
Panelists, offering first-hand accounts, spoke about the history of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, kicking off the People’s Commission Network Popular Forum on national security on Saturday morning.
Sharing the panel were Laurentian University professor and editor of Whose National Security? Gary Kingsman, lawyer Yavar Hameed, Kanehsatake activist Clifton Arihwakehte Nicholas and Palestinian-rights activist Marie-Ève Sauvé.
Hameed, who acts as counsel for Muslims and Arabs in CSIS investigations, is currently representing Mohamed Mahjoub, one of the last remaining security certificate cases in Canada.
Security certificates allow for permanent residents and refugees in Canada to be imprisoned indefinitely on secret evidence, with the presumption that they are connected in some way to a threat to national security.
Evidence is not disclosed to the defendant or their legal counsel, and once a judge upholds the certificate there is no access to an appeals process. The result of an upheld security certificate is deportation, often to countries where the defendant faces torture.
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CSIS wins three court rulings on terrorism suspect Harkatposted on December 09, 2010 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The Globe and Mail
Date: December 9, 2010
Canada’s embattled spy service won three key court rulings Thursday, all centred on a single terrorism suspect: Mohamed Harkat, said a Federal Court judge, is a probable terrorist sleeper agent, one who needs to be banished for the greater good.
The rulings by Mr. Justice Simon Noel amount to a rare and unequivocal victory for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which has suffered many legal setbacks of late. A battery of top defence lawyers had failed to impugn CSIS – a fact made all the more significant given that some of Mr. Harket’s counsel had scrutinized highly secret “human source reports” whose release to outsiders would have been unthinkable not very long ago.
The judge’s rulings could have big implications for Canada’s so-called security-certificate law, a polarizing power that allows federal ministers to jail and deport foreigners on the basis of secret CSIS intelligence.
The rulings uphold three points. First, the security certificate alleging Mr. Harkat is a terrorist threat is reasonable. Second, CSIS’s investigative missteps – and there were some – do not constitute “abuses” significant enough to fundamentally undermine the Harkat case. Third, the government’s security-certificate power remains consistent with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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CSIS accused of spying on Toronto mosquesposted on November 27, 2010 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Dozens of Toronto-area informants are being paid by the Canadian security service to spy on mosques in the GTA, a well-known Arab community leader says. Khaled Mouammar, the national president of the Canadian Arab Federation, said he has received at least a dozen community complaints about Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spies who target worshippers and offer cash for information. He accused agents of flashing wads of cash in front of worshippers who are paid to pass on “sensitive information” obtained at mosques. “There are CSIS informants in all the main mosques in the Toronto area,” Mouammar said. “People in our community are unemployed and need the money.” He said operatives are paid in cash based on the sensitivity of the information they provide their CSIS handlers, who are Middle Eastern and fluent in Arabic. “The information they provide leads to a lot of baseless investigations,” Mouammar said. “Families have been ruined by their allegations.” He said agents target Muslim scholars who frequent attend mosques, the unemployed or young men with questionable immigration status. “They are given money and forced to bring back information,” Mouammar said. “People were interviewed by agents two days after something was said at one mosque.” Federation members said men, who do not have immigration status in Canada, are told their situation can be rectified if they agree to work as spies. “This activity has been going on for some time,” Mouammar said. “The amount of activity has increased dramatically in the last few months.” He said the spying by CSIS against Arabs has gone overboard and must be stopped. “People can’t talk freely at their mosques and are cautious to speak out,” Mouammar said. “People are concerned and worried.” He said complaints range from agents showing up during work hours to interview Muslim women without their husbands and young people pressured by agents to report on their friends or co-workers. CSIS spokesman Tahera Mufti said the agency’s mandate is to advise the government of potential security threats. “CSIS works with various communities in Canada via outreach and liaison programs,” Mufti said in a statement. “We receive useful information from all segments of Canadian society.” Mufti said “the agency does not publicly discuss its activities, interests or methodologies.” Copyright © 2010 Toronto Sun All Rights Reserved.
CSIS would use torture-tainted info, briefing notes sayposted on September 13, 2010 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The Globe and Mail
Date: September 12, 2010
Canada's spy agency says it would use information obtained through torture to derail a possible terrorist plot – a position critics argue will only encourage abusive interrogations.
The statement from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, contained in briefing notes released to The Canadian Press, echoes remarks by a spy agency official that sparked a public controversy – and a quick retraction – last year.
CSIS will share information received from an international partner with the police and other authorities “even in the rare and extreme circumstance that we have some doubt as to the manner in which the foreign agency acquired it,” say the notes prepared for CSIS director Dick Fadden.
The notes say although such information would never be admissible in court to prosecute someone posing an imminent threat, “the government must nevertheless make use of the information to attempt to disrupt that threat before it materializes.”
The CSIS position is “alarming” and contravenes a federal government directive to the spy agency to shun brutal methods, NDP public safety critic Don Davies said. “CSIS appears to be trying to open the door to be able to rely on information derived from torture, and that's in violation of the policy.”
The federal directive, made public last year, says the government “is steadfast in its abhorrence of and opposition to the use of torture by any state or agency for any purpose whatsoever.”
It instructs CSIS to “not knowingly rely upon information which is derived from the use of torture” and to take measures “to reduce the risk that any action on the part of the Service might promote or condone, or be seen to promote or condone the use of torture.”
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Ten reasons not to talk -- or listen -- to CSISposted on June 17, 2010 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The People's Commission Network // Rabble.ca
Date: June 15, 2010
Over past months, reports have multiplied of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) visits to the homes and even workplaces of people working for social justice. In addition to its longstanding and ongoing harassment and intimidation of indigenous peoples, immigrant communities, and others, the spy agency has become much more visible in its surveillance of movements for social justice.
The People's Commission is aware of dozens of such visits in the Montreal area alone. People visited range from writers and artists to staff at advocacy organizations and anarchists living in collective houses. Unannounced, in the morning, the middle of the day or the evening, CSIS agents knock at the door of private homes. Their interest is far ranging: from the tar sands, to the G8, to indigenous organizing, Palestine solidarity, Afghanistan; who you know and what you think. Their very presence is disruptive, their tone can be intimidating, and their questions intrusive, manipulative and inappropriate. They guarantee confidentiality -- "just like in security certificate cases" -- and invariably ask people to keep quiet about the visit.
The People's Commission Network advocates total non-collaboration with CSIS. That means refusing to answer questions from CSIS agents, refusing to listen to whatever CSIS may want to tell you, and breaking the silence by speaking out whenever CSIS comes knocking.
If you are in immigration proceedings, or in a vulnerable situation, we strongly advise you to insist that any interview with CSIS be conducted in the presence of a lawyer of your own choosing.
Here are 10 good reasons not to talk -- or listen -- to CSIS:
1. Talking with CSIS can be dangerous for your health
Even though CSIS agents do not have powers of arrest and detention, CSIS can and does use information it gathers in seemingly innocuous conversations to write security assessments for immigration applications, detention and deportation under security certificates, various blacklists (the no-fly list, border watch lists, etc.) and other purposes. Innocent comments you make can be taken out of context and misinterpreted, but you will have no opportunity to correct errors, because intelligence information remains secret. This can have a serious impact on your life.
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Spy watchdog growls over "deeply concerning" mistakes by CSISposted on May 26, 2010 | in Category CSIS | PermaLink
Source: The Winnipeg Free Press
Date: May 25, 2010
OTTAWA - The ministerial watchdog over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has warned the government of "deeply concerning" inaccuracies in CSIS's work — errors that could have serious "negative consequences" for people the spy agency investigates.
In her latest top-secret report card on CSIS to the public safety minister, Eva Plunkett reveals a "notable increase" in errors spotted in the spy service's records and a "substantially larger number" of cases of policy breaches.
Plunkett uncovered dozens of instances of failure to adhere to CSIS policy and 43 errors in operational reporting.
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