CSIS Not Blameless
Date: Thursday, November 02 2006
O'Connor inquiry pointed out role
Nov. 1, 2006. 03:43 PM
In the aftermath of the Arar affair, most attention has focused on the RCMP. The Mounties have been pilloried for passing on erroneous information about Canadian computer engineer Maher Arar to the Americans, information that, according to a judicial inquiry, almost certainly led to his arrest, deportation and torture.
But, as Justice Dennis O'Connor's inquiry concluded, Canada's other snoop agency wasn't blameless in this matter. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was happy to receive information on Arar from his Syrian jailers.
It knew the Syrians practised torture but, for some bizarre reason, concluded that Arar himself was not at risk. It passed on to other agencies information it received about Arar from Syria — without mentioning it might have come from torture.
It sandbagged efforts by officials in Canada's foreign affairs department to lobby the Syrian security services in the hope of gaining Arar's release.
Indeed, testimony before O'Connor's inquiry showed that CSIS was worried that if Arar were able to return to Canada and describe the barbaric treatment meted out by his jailers, Ottawa would find it more difficult to deport other suspected terrorists to Syria.
(The federal government is anxious to deport to Syria or Egypt five permanent residents it claims are linked to terrorism. While none has been charged with any crime, under the immigration act all may be detained indefinitely without trial).
In the wake of O'Connor's report has CSIS changed the way it works?
A Commons committee asked CSIS director Jim Judd that question yesterday. The answers it received are not encouraging.
First, citing national security concerns, Judd said he could not say much. He said that issues of national security prevent him from talking in detail about what CSIS does.