Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shakeup at CSIS?

There was the murky role played by CSIS, Canada's secret police, in the case of Canadian exile Abousfian Abdelrazik. The then-head of CSIS, Jim Judd, indignantly demanded an inquiry of his agency, protesting its innocence--and promptly resigned.

Since, there have been revelations that CSIS had deliberately withheld evidence in two high-profile court cases.

And now the almost toothless watchdog to which CSIS is nominally accountable, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, has had enough. Referring critically to the interrogation of child soldier Omar Khadr by CSIS agents in 2003, the Chair of SIRC, Gary Filmon, said this morning: "The time may have come for CSIS to undertake a fundamental reassessment of how it carries out its work, and to shift its operational culture to keep pace with recent political and legal developments."

Filmon added: "[It is] vital for CSIS to demonstrate that it has the professionalism, experience and know-how required to make the difficult decisions that arise when conducting operations abroad--particularly if confronted with situations similar to that of Mr. Khadr."

This is as clear a statement as we are likely to get from a competent authority on our out-of-control spy agency. Just as we have seen in the case of the RCMP, thanks to the Braidwood Inquiry, CSIS too has not been held accountable to anyone until recently for its excesses. There are no built-in mechanisms to call it to heel when it rides roughshod over the basic human and civil rights of Canadians.

Now the spotlight is on, full glare. I hope the CSIS brass are fidgeting, because unless I miss my guess it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

[H/t buckets, b/c]

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