Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Canada's Spy Agency "Uses Information Obtained By Torture"

The watchdog of CSIS, Canada's spy agency, has found that it uses information obtained from torture, in the face of multiple domestic and international obligations to absolutely reject torture.

It should be noted that the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the body responsible for oversight of CSIS, is just another piece of the state and not any kind of external source of supervision, and it does not exactly have a reputation for being strict and critical. The fact that it has felt it necessary to scold CSIS in this way is significant.

Here is a news article from Canadian Press reporting on the issue:

Spy watchdog fingers CSIS on torture data
Wed, February 13, 2008
By JIM BRONSKILL, Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- An investigation by the watchdog over the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concludes the spy agency "uses information obtained by torture" -- perhaps its bluntest assessment of CSIS's intelligence-gathering practices to date.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee, which began looking into the issue two years ago, stops short of accepting Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland's assertion CSIS had shown a "total lack of concern" about evidence possibly gathered through coercive means.

But it finds that CSIS's concern has focused on the impact torture might have on the reliability of information it uses, rather than obligations under the Charter of Rights, the Criminal Code and international treaties "that absolutely reject torture."

Questions about Canadian reliance on data extracted from suspected terrorists through brutal methods have arisen in high-profile cases.

Copeland's complaint to the review committee, which reports to Parliament, stemmed from evidence CSIS entered in the case of client Mohamed Harkat who is slated for deportation to his native Algeria under a national security certificate.

CSIS contends Harkat, a former pizza delivery man, is an Islamic extremist and collaborator with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network -- a charge he denies.

During bail proceedings for Harkat in 2005, Copeland questioned a senior CSIS analyst, identified only as P.G., whether he ever asked if information he handled was obtained through torture.

P.G. insisted he would usually try to corroborate such material through independent sources.

Copeland was left with the impression the spy service made no effort to determine whether information was extracted by torture.

In its report, delivered to Copeland, committee member Aldea Landry noted CSIS is required, before entering a foreign liaison arrangement, to address the country's human rights record.

It should be noted that Harkat has never had the chance to defend himself in a fair and open trial. He remains under indefinite detention based on a secret trial, with no chance to know or try to refute whatever evidence CSIS might have against him, and under a process with no resemblance to what Canadians would normally consider adequate due process for depriving someone of their liberty.

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