Monday, November 28, 2011

Everybody loves a SIRCus

In response to media reports that CSIS had been complicit in the detention of Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan, outgoing CSIS director Jim Judd requested that CSIS watchdog and review panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, "investigate and report on the performance of the Service’s [CSIS's] duties and functions with respect to the case of Abousofian Abdelrazik at the earliest opportunity". That was in March 2009.

Three months later Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn ruled that CSIS was indeed "complicit in the detention" of Abdelrazik in Sudan. Then in September of this year, newly released CSIS documents revealed the spy agency's attempts to delay Abdelrazik's return to Canada long enough for the CIA to spirit him off to Guantanamo, even as Foreign Affairs diplomats were arranging for his return, making this the biggest known Canadian  intelligence agency scandal since Maher Arar.

So how's that full investigation by SIRC requested by Judd coming along then? 

Dead in the water apparently.

Steve promoted Dr. Arthur Porter, the SIRC committee member charged with leading the Abdelrazik investigation, to chair of the committee in June last year, and then accepted his resignation this month following a NaPo story regarding Dr Porter's offshore cash payment to a former Israeli arms trafficker - now acting as a lobbyist for the Russian Federation - to sell infrastructure deals to Sierra Leone where Porter has mining interests and holds the title of "His Excellency, Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Republic of Sierra Leone".
"I wish to state for the record that I have fulfilled with diligence my mandate," 
wrote Dr. Porter in his letter of resignation to Steve.

... which got me to wondering just what was so gosh-darned important in SIRC's mandate last year that it bumped the Abdelrazik investigation requested by CSIS right off the list.

From the Security Intelligence Review Committee 2010-2011 Annual Report
Checks and Balances : Viewing Security Intelligence Through the Lens of Accountability

The Lens of Accountability interested itself in five SIRC-initiated reviews and three public complaints.
The Reviews :

~ a pitch for "retooloing" SIRC to allow for "independent review" of Canada's other intelligence agencies as well as CSIS

~ "SIRC also followed through on its commitment to pay close attention to CSIS’s expanding foreign investigative activities. Although overseas operations unfold in unique circumstances and present different challenges, CSIS should strive to ensure that the management of its operations abroad mirrors, to the extent practicable, the standards of administration and account­ability that are maintained domestically."

"Today the Service is also reaching out to non-traditional partners, such as the private sector."
"In SIRC’s opinion, an effective strategy would involve identifying those sectors with the greatest potential to be of investigative value to the Service. ... the Service strives to engage and support the private sector’s security needs in other ways. Efforts are also underway to increase the number of security clearances for individuals in the private sector."
~ "an appreciation of the way in which the internet supports CSIS’s activities"
although it notes :
" At issue was the volume of information pertaining to young people being retained by CSIS as part of its operational reporting."
~ A positive review of CSIS’s cooperation "with a “Five Eyes” partner" - which could be either the US, UK, Australia, or NZ.

Note to SIRC : If you have to use evasive terminology like "a Five Eyes partner" in your "positive review" rather than actually name the country you are feeling positive about, it's not really much of a public account, is it?

~ "a positive impression of RCMP–CSIS cooperation"
"The relationship between CSIS and the RCMP, in particular, has moved to the forefront following the passage of the Anti-terrorism Act (2001). As a result of this legislation, CSIS and the RCMP have had to work more closely together"
~ "Canada is experiencing levels of espionage compa­rable to the height of the Cold War."

~ Afghan detainees.
" In particular, SIRC’s review found no indication that in the period during which CSIS conducted detainee interviews, CSIS officers posted to Afghanistan had any first-hand knowledge of the alleged abuse, mistreatment or torture of detainees by Afghan authorities."
however :
"SIRC noted that CSIS did not comprehen­sively document its role in the interviews of Afghan detainees by keeping records that would confirm the numbers and details of all of the detainee interviews"

SIRC also handles citizen complaints against CSIS. This year three were investigated and written up, which included the following complaints :
CSIS failing to identify itself as CSIS, harrassment of family members, suggesting to interviewee that a lawyer was not necessary, delay in providing security assessment for a site access, and allegedly providing an "unjust, unfounded, and unethical" assessment to Citizenship and Immigration Canada regarding  a complainant's application for permanent  resident status.

Aside from providing some gentle advice, like that in its reports to Citizenship and Immigration Canada "the Service not include certain information unless it has been corroborated", SIRC did not find anything unduly alarming in its public report of the three out of 48 new and carried-over complaints.

I'm sure the four out of five health industry experts that comprise SIRC's review panel on CSIS did the best they could with their unwieldy $3-million Lens of Accountability. Unfortunately that lens is looking the other way in the case Abousfian Abdelrazik, the largest CSIS intelligence scandal since Maher Arar.

Update : SIRC reviewed CSIS re Abdelrazik for their 2012-2013 report, covering the period from March 2003 to December 2004. 
It found "no indication that CSIS had requested Sudanese authorities to arrest or detain Abousfian Abdelrazik" , but that "CSIS inappropriately and, in contravention of CSIS policy, disclosed personal and classified information." Further, "in mid-2004 in preparation for Mr. Abdelrazik’s possible release, SIRC found that CSIS assessments to its government partners contained exaggerated and inaccurately conveyed information" and that "CSIS excessively reported, and hence retained in its operational databases, a significant amount of information not related to the threat, originating from individuals who were not targets."


Anonymous said...

Translate that into English...

- Centralize control/oversight of all Canadian intelligence agencies (eep)
- CSIS turning into a foreign intelligence agency (it isn't already because we learned from the Nazis and the Soviets why that's a bad idea)
- Relatively vast online spying, especially of youth
- Getting corporations to help CSIS with its work, and then helping corporations with their security needs. This could just be like the NSA's selinux, where the agency provides tools, guidelines, and advice on improving security. Hopefully it's nothing more sinister.
- Close integration with the US - the only of the 5 partners that could become politically uncomfortable if publicly announced and the media ran with it
- CSIS and RCMP cooperating since 2001, including on sending Canadians to foreign countries to be tortured
- This one is scary if true. Who is spying on Canada as much as the Soviets did? The statement could be based on the number of acts of espionage detected by CSIS, or just on the number of people CSIS has gone after/harassed. Maybe they're just doing lots of political spying ala RCMP & Tommy Douglas.
- First-hand knowledge. They weren't in the actual rooms themselves when people were tortured. Doesn't say they had no reason to believe it was happening.

Alison said...

Great translation! I should get you to do all my posts!

Anonymous said...

The Translation is helpful and provides an oblique and engaging perspective.

But I really like Alison's poetic analysis and agree we are at the wrong end of the telescope.

Peace, babies.

the waterbaby

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