Mohamed Harkat has won a measure of freedom.
Jailed under the provisions of a security certificate for more than four years, he was released in 2006 under onerous bail conditions into a particularly oppressive, fishbowl form of house arrest. Towards the end of this period, and this may in fact have been a precipitating factor in Judge Simon Noël's decision yesterday, his home was tossed, partly it seems for the fun of it, by Canadian Border Services officials.
As a result of the new ruling, Harkat may now travel unescorted in Ottawa, the video surveillance cameras have been removed from his house, and Border Services won't be sitting outside his residence 24/7 any more, at least not in plain view.
I don't know whether this guy is an al-Qaeda sleeper agent or not. No one has seen the evidence. No one ever will. Why? Because CSIS destroyed it.
CSIS, as we know, also withheld vital evidence going to the credibility of a key informant against Harkat, possibly Abu Zubaydah, who allegedly pointed to him as an al-Quaeda operative without actually naming him. Rumours that the mentally-ill Zubaydah, waterboarded 83 times in one month (August, 2002) by the CIA, also confessed to sleeping with Catherine the Great and unmasked Stephen Harper as an extraterrestrial lizard-person remain unconfirmed.
Judges are rightly getting impatient with CSIS and its dirty tricks. The federal government, for its part, is wisely stepping back. Centimetre by centimetre, it seems, we are moving away from the sacrifice of essential liberty for a little temporary safety. One hopes that the Canadian body politic will soon be able to pass a sobriety test.