CSIS agents cited for sloppiness but man’s complaint dismissed
A civilian oversight body has dismissed a Hamilton resident’s complaint that he was intimidated by CSIS agents when they showed up at his door four years ago.
But the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) recommends the spy agency revisit its interviewing policy, and chides the two agents’ sloppiness with notes.
Ken Stone says he finds “solace” and “satisfaction” in the SIRC suggestion that CSIS do a better job of telling people interviews with agents are voluntary.
“Thousands of Canadians were made aware of my complaint,” Stone said Monday. “These people now know that yes, they don’t have to speak to CSIS if they come knocking at your door.”
Stone complained to CSIS after the two agents tried to ask him in January 2013 about a trip to he took to Iran in October 2011 and his subsequent op-ed in The Spectator.
Stone, a well-known social justice and environmental activist, attended a conference in Tehran about Palestine and penned a column critical of the then-Harper government’s position on Iran.
Stone alleged the agents’ visit was an attempt to intimidate him and trample his charter right to lawfully express political dissent. Agents raised the Iran trip and his op-ed during the visit.
After CSIS, Stone took his complaint to SIRC.
The SIRC report, which follows hearings held last September, dismisses the retired postal worker’s complaints of intimidation and anxiety.
However, after considering testimony, presiding member Gene McLean expresses concern over the way agents inform people interviews are voluntary.
“They only go so far as asking them if they would like to talk to them … They do not explain directly that it is voluntary.”
As such, CSIS should review its policy to “clarify the responsibilities” of employees on the matter.
McLean is also critical of one agent for losing her operational notes and takes the other to task for not taking notes at all during the October 2011 visit.
Stone likens CSIS to the “Keystone Kops” and says he’s worried that the one agent’s notes with his personal information and her observations are now “out there.”
Citing another concern, McLean concludes that in a letter to Stone, a CSIS official “misrepresented” efforts to look into his grievances. “No such inquiries were made.”
SIRC makes recommendations to the minister of public safety and to the CSIS director.
Public Safety Canada, which oversees CSIS, declined to comment on the report, saying the spy agency “would be best placed” to respond. CSIS couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Stone praised his Ottawa-based lawyer for representing him pro bono throughout the process.
They do not explain ... it is voluntary (to speak to them). GENE MCLEAN PRESIDING MEMBER OF SIRC
Hamilton activist Ken Stone