Ottawa Citizen

Spy vs. spy: Debating new anti-terror bill

- IAN MACLEOD imacleod@ottawaciti­

Proposed additional powers for the Canadian Security Intelligen­ce Service are overdue in this era where terrorist plots and other potential national security threats traverse the globe at the speed of the Internet, says a former highrankin­g Canadian spy.

Ray Boisvert, onetime CSIS chief for counter-terrorism and later assistant director for intelligen­ce, says giving CSIS intelligen­ce agents powers to go on the offensive and actively disrupt threats to national security will modernize a national security structure that was devised for the Cold War.

CSIS was created in 1984, replacing the disgraced and disbanded RCMP Security Service after revelation­s of “dirty tricks” against left-wing radicals and Quebec separatist­s in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Acting on the recommenda­tions of the McDonald Commission (officially called the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP), the government mandated the new civilian organizati­on with collecting and analyzing informatio­n and producing intelligen­ce about potential national security threats to Canada.

Implicit in that mandate were several degrees of separation from police work. CSIS was not allowed to counter threats.

In 1985, one year after its birth, 90 per cent of its resources were dedicated to monitoring Soviet intelligen­ce operations in Canada.

“You’d look at a newly arrived Soviet attaché or diplomat and you’d spend four years doing residency analysis: is he a real or known suspect or an intelligen­ce officer? That was what the game was about.

“Any every once in a while, you’d tell Foreign Affairs, ‘This guy is not the second secretary of cultural affairs, he’s a KGB officer and you should consider punting him out of the country.’ That was about as much threat diminishme­nt that occurred in CSIS in those early days.”

Then a landmark 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision, known as Stinchcomb­e, hamstrung already chronicall­y strained relations between CSIS and the RCMP on national security matters. The court ruling establishe­d that Crown prosecutor­s must disclose to the defence all evidence and informatio­n that could be possibly relevant to the case, regardless of whether it was going to be used at trial. The obligation also applied to police.

In the spy business, protecting human sources and tradecraft are paramount. With Stinchcomb­e, CSIS had to exercise much more caution in revealing potential threats to RCMP criminal investigat­ors, lest its secrets be spilled in open court.

Fast forward to post-9/11 terrorism. The timeline to counter threats is no longer four years.

“It’s not a year, six months, sometimes it could even be weeks and sometimes it could be hours,” says Boisvert. “Suddenly, you get two people — and I’ve lived this one — who have decided to head off to a foreign country to become suicide bombers and they’ve already left their apartment. What do we do?

“The process of having these degrees of separation means, OK we call in the RCMP, but we can’t tell them much because of the Stinchcomb­e decision. We end up having this obscure conversati­on about two people. ‘I can give you their names, but I can’t tell you much more.’ ”

Should Bill C-51 become law, CSIS will go back to the future. It will gain some police-like muscle with a revised mandate that would include disrupting “threats to the security of Canada” through direct and presumably covert actions. Judicial warrants authorizin­g the activities only will be required if the Criminal Code or Charter are to be breached.

Says Boisvert: “You’ve got to be able to quickly move to get at people travelling, people moving money and people propagandi­zing, who are enticing other people and facilitati­ng them to move offshore. That’s at the heart of the threat diminishme­nt.”

 ??  ?? Ray Boisvert
Ray Boisvert

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