Thursday, June 04, 2009

Have You Heard of the CSIS, Canadian Security Intelligence Service?

CSIS is at the forefront of Canada's national security establishment and as such, its programs are proactive and pre-emptive. The Service's role is to investigate threats, analyze information and produce intelligence; it then reports to, and advises, the Government of Canada, so as to protect the country and its citizens. Key threats include terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, espionage, foreign interference and cyber-tampering affecting critical infrastructure.
Through its Security Screening Program, CSIS prevents non-Canadians who pose security concerns from entering Canada or receiving permanent resident status or citizenship; the Service also safeguards the confidential information of the Government of Canada from foreign governments and other entities that may present a risk.
However, countering terrorist violence is the top priority for CSIS. Terrorism, which has become a global phenomenon, is a very real threat to our national security. Terrorists and their supporters span countries, cultures, political systems and socio-economic backgrounds. They include both highly educated elites and more humble "foot soldiers." Followers are recruited from around the world, including our own country. CSIS strives to prevent terrorist acts from being planned in Canada, from occurring on Canadian territory and from affecting Canadian citizens and assets abroad.
CSIS' proactive role contrasts with the reactive one of law enforcement agencies such as police forces, which investigate crime and collect evidence to support prosecutions in courts of law.
CSIS intentions questionedBy Jim Brown, THE CANADIAN PRESS
May 27, 2009
OTTAWA - A Federal Court judge is raising questions about whether Canada's spy agency has been withholding information and lying to the court in its effort to deport terrorist suspect Mohamed Harkat.
In a toughly worded judgment released Wednesday, Justice Simon Noel said the "troubling situation" casts doubt on the good faith of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The comments were sparked by a letter from government lawyers, delivered to Noel earlier this week along with a top-secret file that deals with the reliability of an informant CSIS used to help build its case against Harkat.
The letter, prepared by counsel for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, acknowledged that the material should have been turned over earlier and that "failure to do so is a serious matter."
It added that CSIS was investigating to find out why the delay occurred and would provide further details to the court as soon as possible.
In his ruling, Noel wrote that the delay raises questions about the spy service's compliance with past court orders and about "possible prevarication" by CSIS witnesses who have testified before him.
Norm Boxall, one of the lawyers for Harkat, said it's too early to tell what impact the new developments will ultimately have on the case.
But he said it's clear CSIS hasn't been as forthcoming as it should have been.
"The integrity of the system is based on the integrity of the security service," said Boxall.
"They've been given a huge amount of trust and it appears, based on this, they've breached the trust . . . . It appears that there's been deliberate action not to supply the court with information."
CSIS responded to the ruling with a terse statement saying it has "the utmost respect for the Federal Court of Canada and for the Canadian judicial system."
The service sad it would be inappropriate to comment further because the case remains before the court.
Noel has postponed hearings that had been scheduled for next month in Harkat's case while the matter is sorted out.
In the meantime, he ordered CSIS to hand over copies of the newly delivered file to special advocates Paul Copeland and Paul Cavalluzzo, two security-cleared lawyers appointed to ensure Harkat gets a fair hearing.
The judge made the order despite the fact that the file's contents could help identify the CSIS informant, something that's virtually never done.
In a previous ruling, in fact, Noel had rejected an effort by Copeland and Cavalluzzo to see similar material, upholding the "absolute bar" that normally protects an informant's identity in the interests of national security.
There's one exception to that rule, Noel said Wednesday - if failure to share the material would create a "fundamental breach" of fairness that could undermine public confidence in the justice system.
The new ruling doesn't necessarily mean the name of the informant will be made public, but Noel said the file must at least be shared with the special advocates in confidence.
"The rule of law requires no less," said the judge. "To do otherwise would bring the administration of justice into disrepute."
Noel said he'll be reviewing all the previous orders he's made for production of information "to see if any further judicial action is required . . . . This review will require the recalling of several CSIS witnesses."
Boxall said he doesn't expect the identity of the CSIS informant will be disclosed to him and co-counsel Matt Webber, nor to the general public.
But he said there are theoretically several legal remedies available if the credibility of the CSIS source turns out to be shaky.
The security service could, for example, simply withdraw the evidence and continue with its case based on other information. Or if the source is so crucial the case can't proceed without his information, the government could stay the proceedings.
CSIS contends the Algerian-born Harkat, a former Ottawa pizza delivery man, should be deported as a security risk because of alleged ties to al-Qaida.
Harkat denies any terrorist links and has been fighting for years to clear his name.
The shameful truth
Kerry Pither (Ottawa Citizen)
October 23rd, 2008
It’s no wonder CSIS, the RCMP and the government wanted to keep the Iacobucci inquiry so secret. Despite all the faults with the process, the inquiry’s report offers up a startling and shameful record of Canadian complicity in torture. It effectively clears the names of men that the government has tried to portray as terrorists. And it backs up everything these men have said about what happened to them. In short, the report is bad news for the government, CSIS and the RCMP, and good news for Ahmad Abou-ElMaati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin.
For years, these men have been saying they were tortured while they were in Syrian, and in the case of Mr. El-Maati, Egyptian detention as well. They’ve described in gut-wrenching detail how, among other unspeakable atrocities, they were whipped with cables, and, in the case of Mr. El-Maati, subjected to electric shock.
Mr. Almalki has described what it was like to be stuffed into a car tire and whipped. He has described what it was like to survive daily life, for 17 months, in a dark, underground cell the size of a grave.
Mr. El-Maati has described what it was like to spend most of the two years and two months that he was detained in solitary confinement, in wretched conditions. He has described how at times, with his hands locked behind his back, he was forced to eat, “like an animal” off the floor.
Mr. Nureddin has described how his Syrian interrogators would periodically stop whipping his feet to douse them with cold water, to ensure the blood kept circulating and the pain returned.
And despite the consistencies between their accounts of the physical and psychological torture they endured and the well-documented records of torture in Syria and Egypt, our government, CSIS and the RCMP, have repeatedly tried to cast doubt on their claims. But in his report, former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci agrees with the men. He finds that all three suffered “treatment amounting to torture as that term is defined in the United Nations Convention Against Torture.”
For years these men have been saying that the questions they were asked, under torture, could only have come from Canada. Once again, Justice Iacobucci agrees. In all three cases, he finds that the information did come from Canada. In Mr. El-Maati’s case, it was CSIS that sent the questions to his interrogators. In Mr. Nureddin’s case, the information came from CSIS. In Mr. Almalki’s case, it was the RCMP that sent the questions.
For years these men have been asking how Canadian agencies used their so-called “confessions” — the statements they were forced to make under torture — back in Canada. Justice Iacobucci’s report confirms that it was Mr. El-Maati’s “confession” that was used to justify search warrants back in Canada (the Arar Inquiry had already determined that the RCMP didn’t bother to mention to the presiding judge that the information being presented to justify those warrants was likely the product of torture). The search warrants were used against Mr. Almalki’s family home, and Mr. El-Maati’s father’s apartment.
What’s worse is that CSIS then used information obtained in the searches to send more questions to Syria to be posed to Mr. El-Maati. In Justice Iacobucci’s words, this could have been seen by Syrian interrogators as a “green light” to continue their interrogations, not a “red light” to stop them. And so the sorry and vicious circle of these agencies’ complicity in torture continued.
Finally, for years these men have asked why, if the RCMP or CSIS had any evidence to substantiate their allegations of terrorist ties, they have refused to produce it publicly or in a court of law. It appears we have that answer now too.
Justice Iacobucci finds that the RCMP was “deficient” when it described Mr. El-Maati as someone who posed an “imminent threat” in communications with foreign agencies, as they did so without bothering to ensure that the claim was accurate. He found the same for CSIS, which failed to clarify that it was sharing suspicions, not assertions of fact, when it labelled Mr. El-Maati an associate of an “Osama bin Laden aide.”
Ditto for Mr. Almalki. The RCMP told foreign agencies that he too posed an “imminent threat,” a description Justice Iacobucci found to be “inflammatory, inaccurate and without investigatory foundation.” Indeed, the report shows that when the RCMP used information from another source to describe Mr. Almalki as “linked through association to al-Qaeda,” it didn’t bother to mention that the description they were using was actually about someone else.
And we see the same again in Mr. Nureddin’s case. CSIS shared information with “several foreign agencies” describing him as a courier for Ansar al Islam in northern Iraq, without first ensuring the allegation was either accurate, or reliable.
Neither the RCMP, nor CSIS, considered the implications for the men when they labelled them in this way. It seems they didn’t care much about the possibility that they’d be whipped or subjected to electric shock.
And we, the Canadian public? Canadian officials — the ones who are supposed to make us feel more secure — did the opposite. Hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, they told us, through the media, that we should be afraid of these men, that there had been an “al-Qaeda cell” lurking in our midst, plotting attacks.
In the end, Mr. El-Maati, the first to be detained, spent two years, two months and two days in Syrian and Egyptian detention. For Mr. Almalki, it was 22 months in Syrian detention. For Mr. Nureddin, it was 33 days.
These men, and all of us, have been kept in the dark for far too long. Now we have the answers, the government needs to come clean, take responsibility for what went terribly, tragically wrong in these cases, and apologize.
First, to the men. And then, to the rest of us.
CSIS, Canada's leading neo-Nazi organizationBy Ezra Levant on July 31, 2008
I am sympethetic to CSIS these days. They have an enormously challenging job to keep Canada safe from real threats -- such as those being plotted continuously by foreign jihadis and their domestic agents. It is partly to CSIS's credit that the acts of terrorism Canada has endured in recent years have been low-level activities, difficult to detect in advance -- such as the fire-bombing of a Jewish synagogue by a Muslim radical in Edmonton; or the fire-bombing of the Jewish school library by Muslim radicals in Montreal; or the assault on a Jewish teenager by a Muslim radical in Calgary.
Perhaps it's precisely because CSIS is now engaged in a real battle against real threats that it no longer -- as far as we know publicly -- spends government time and money building up neo-Nazi organizations like the Heritage Front.
During the 1980s and 1990s, CSIS -- that is, the taxpayers of Canada -- helped organize and build Canada's leading group of white supremacists. Funding, strategy, organization support -- all of it came from the government.
Their point man was Grant Bristow. He was one of Canada's neo-Nazi leaders, who worked as an agent for CSIS. Without Bristow, Canada's neo-Nazis would have been less-organized, less prominent and more poorly led. Thanks, CSIS.
Now, I understand the need for undercover police work to stop some tough-to-fight crimes. And there might even have been a few cases where the other neo-Nazis that Bristow met were genuine threats of violence. They probably were. But there's an important moral and practical difference between sending in some infiltrator and building up the biggest neo-Nazi group in the country. At what point is the cure worse than the disease?
CSIS and Bristow didn't just track potentially violent criminals. They engaged in political dirty tricks. They attempted to take over the Reform Party when it was in its formative years. The "discovery" -- funny how that leaked out, eh? -- that CSIS's front organization was trying to take over the Reform Party was a political embarrassment for that party, and the unfair legacy of that accusation continues even to this day. That wasn't crime-fighting; that wasn't even the more nebulous "hate-fighting". That was using a government agent and a government front to smear a political opponent that both the Tories and the Liberals of the day hated. No wonder CSIS got the green light. (The fact that Warren Kinsella's "definitive" "history" of Canada's "hate organizations" strategically omitted mention of Bristow, adding him in only to later editions once Bristow was outed, is simply more proof of the partisan infection of Bristow's mission.)
I mention all of this because that key CSIS neo-Nazi organizer, Grant Bristow, had an Op-Ed in yesterday's National Post, defending... the Canadian Human Rights Commission, its patron the Canadian Jewish Congress and even Bernie "Burny" Farber. Besides a modest recitation of how brave he was, and how brave Burny is, Bristow gave his opinion that:
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been at the forefront of the war against hate in this country for decades. I personally believe it played a key role in eviscerating Canadian hate groups in the 1980s and 1990s.
But that's simply not true. The CHRC didn't have the mandate to go after real criminals. And it certainly didn't shut down the Heritage Front -- that would have meant arresting Bristow, a CSIS agent himself. The Heritage Front unwound party because of its own incompetence, and largely because Bristow abandoned his leadership role there when his cover was blown. The CHRC really had nothing to do with it.
That's an obvious point to anyone who looks at the Canadian Human Rights Act itself. It doesn't deal with real acts of violence -- such as street fights, or death threats. It deals with "hate speech" on telephone lines and the Internet. That wasn't the problem with the Heritage Front -- indeed, it has never been the real "hate" problem in Canada, but a placebo for the human rights industry to noisily and showily deal with, while ignoring real threats.
Bristow knows nothing about the CHRC -- he was never a complainant under its sections; he never worked for it; in fact, the only possible relationship he has with it is as an offender of its thought crimes provision, he himself having generated an enormous amount of "hate", while undercover.
Bristow's Op-Ed -- besides being a self-serving piece of revisionist history (revisionism being something that the Heritage Front was always good at) -- conflates real crimes, crimes of violence, with "thought crimes" that the CHRC seeks to police. Whatever grains of truth lie at the bottom of Bristow's autohagiography apply to matters for real police to solve. The CHRC has no role in stopping violence. Bristow can marshall whatever "authority" he has towards discussions about policework, but his experiences in thought crimes policing are nil. If Bristow has any credibility, it's in regard to street crime, of which he has plenty of experience, not thought crimes.
But Bristow popping his head up now -- in a clearly ghost-written Op-Ed -- serves to remind us of some of the lessons of that awful CSIS experiment in neo-Nazism. Even with CSIS's police oversight, in the form of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, Bristow got out of control, and the Heritage Front started to engage in political adventures. Imagine how much worse it is at the CHRC, which has no oversight committee.
No need to imagine, actually -- you can see how contorted the CHRC has become, how self-righteous, how it violates its own laws constantly, how it has become a political weapon. Like CSIS creating Canada's biggest neo-Nazi group -- creating it, instead of fighting it! -- the CHRC has become Canada's largest disseminator of hate speech itself -- creating it, instead of fighting it. Richard Warman himself has admitted, under oath, to posting hundreds of messages on neo-Nazi websites, and other CHRC staff have also admitted to joining those neo-Nazi groups, under codenames like "Jadewarr". That's one of the reasons why the B'nai Brith renounced HRCs today -- the cure has become worse than the disease.
CSIS created Canada's biggest neo-Nazi group. The CHRC has generated more neo-Nazi hate than any other entity in Canada. You can even see examples of one "covert" neo-Nazi talking to another, each "investigating" the other. Anytime I see a conveniently-timed outburst from some racist group, especially if it's online, I immediately think of Bristow and Warman and the rest of them. (Example: the white pride "rally" of two dozen misfits in Calgary on the eve of the spectacularly embarrassing March 25th human rights tribunal hearing in Ottawa. Frankly, even Fred Phelps' looming visit to Red Deer smacks of an act of an agent provocateur.)
And Burny? He's at the heart of it. Because he need hate groups to be big and strong, if his anti-hate obsession is going to remain valid and important. (Correction: He needs impotent "hate groups", like the Heritage Front to be big and strong. There really are big and strong hate groups out there, like the Canadian Islamic Congress, but they're a little bit too big and strong for Burny to, well, do anything. When was the last time the CJC filed a "hate speech" complaint against a Jew-hating Muslim?)
There is a grotesque symbiosis between the Canadian Jewish Congress and the hate groups; they need each other, actually. The hate groups need a Jewish demon, who lives down to their worst stereotypes and prejudices. The CJC needs Nazi caricatures, to play on old wounds about the Holocaust -- not troublesome threats of a Muslim jihad.
I have copies of an old Maclean's magazine article from the 1960s in which the Grant Bristow of that day was hired by the Canadian Jewish Congress to help build the Canadian Nazi Party. Jewish money was actually used by the CJC to start a Nazi party. I'll get those scans in a useable form and try to upload them shortly. It's 40 years later, and Burny is still doing the same thing -- except that CSIS is paying the freight today.
I believe that going undercover to fight real criminals is sometimes appropriate -- subject to proper internal controls, to make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease. Those checks and balances weren't strong in Bristow's case, which is why he was able to smear the Reform Party politically. And the fact that CSIS actually built up the biggest neo-Nazi group in the country is another ethical problem. But at least SIRC, CSIS's Internal Affairs oversight committee, realized that (here's their report).
The CHRC doesn't have an internal affairs department, and as I've written before, it doesn't even have a code of ethics. That's the problem -- or one of them at least. The fact that a long-time neo-Nazi organizer like Bristow speaks out in the CHRC's defence isn't persuasive. Rather, it only points out the problems with government provocateurs like the CHRC.