Canada's secret spy days are over: CSIS chief
Public terrorism trials have changed rules of conduct, Judd says
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Public terrorism trials are changing the way government spies operate, says Canada's spymaster, Jim Judd.
As a consequence of the fight against global Islamic terrorism, an increasing number of open-court criminal prosecutions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have, at their genesis, information collected by shadowy secret agents rather than police officers.
That's led to the "judicialization" of what has traditionally been considered covert government information and to "some interesting and important debates on a range of legal issues such as disclosure, evidentiary standards, the testimony of
intelligence personnel in criminal prosecutions," and the boundaries between law enforcement and intelligence services, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director said in a speech about challenges facing the security intelligence community.
"These do have significant potential implications and consequences for the conduct of intelligence operations," Mr. Judd said, without elaborating.
Prior to 9/11 and in several cases since, most of those detained for suspected terrorist links in Canada were immigrants or refugees and the government conveniently relied on immigration laws and security certificates to quietly deport them to their countries of origin or hold them in custody.
But the alleged terrorist activities of Ottawa's Momin Khawaja and the "Toronto 11" -- all Canadian citizens awaiting trial in the first of Canada's post-9/11 terror prosecutions -- must be heard in open courts, where the prosecution's evidence is subject to the rigours of defence counsel scrutiny and the rules of evidence.
In the Toronto 11 prosecutions, CSIS is believed to have played a critical role in building the cases against 10 Toronto-area men and one youth charged by the RCMP with conspiring to bomb CSIS's Toronto regional office, the Toronto Stock Exchange and an unspecified military base.
Mr. Judd's comments at a recent and closed CIA-sponsored Global Futures Forum conference of international security services in Vancouver touched on other emerging issues, including:
- On managing growth: "Some have talked about the post-Cold War period as a 'paradigm shift' that is still unfolding before us. That in turn begs the question as to whether our investment decisions today are keeping pace with that or whether we are constructing the new best Maginot Line ever devised."
(CSIS has added 352 new people to its ranks since 2001, part of an intensive recruiting drive that saw it add 100 intelligence officers last year alone, for a full-time equivalent staff of 2,449.)
- On demography: "As a consequence of the combined impact of growth and (baby boom) demography, intelligence and security agencies now have very young and relatively very inexperienced work forces -- certainly relative to past circumstances.
"So far, however, the infusion of youth -- albeit relatively inexperienced -- does seem to be working well given the quality of the newcomers in terms of their education, technology skills, dedication, imagination, and new perspectives.
"That said, the loss of decades of experience with the departure of the baby boomers is something we have to cope with in terms of ensuring knowledge transfer between the generations and the efficacy of our training and development programs for new recruits."
- On transparency and secrecy: "More now must be known publicly about the world of intelligence than ever before. Much of the dropping of the veil of secrecy has been forced on the intelligence community through a variety of mec hanisms including: public inquiries, court proceedings, the reporting of oversight and review bodies; more aggressive media reporting; and greater use of freedom of information or access to information provisions.
"But to be fair, some of the growing transparency has been motivated by other more noble factors including a desire on the part of governments to respond to greater levels of public concern and interest in national security issues.
"Much of this move towards greater transparency has much to commend it, but it does raise the issue -- which I suspect we will face more and more in the future -- as to what is legitimately secret and what is not?"
- On the 'Information Tsunami': Information collected covertly by intelligence agencies "has been overwhelmed by the explosion of public source information that is increasingly another and critical focus of intelligence agencies. Not only has the volume of information grown dramatically, but so has the speed with which it is disseminated which has become both instantaneous and ceaseless.
"All that said, I am not at all sure that the proverbial wheat-to-chaff ratio that has always challenged intelligence analysis has improved in the process. As someone once pointed out, the Internet treats both idiots and savants indiscriminately."
- On technology and cyber terror: "The second dimension about technology ... is the heightened level of destructive power that is increasingly available to individuals and small groups. What had hitherto been largely a capacity of governments has now been 'popularized,' if you will, to an extent that is sometimes astonishing and one that has likely not yet run its course."
- On credibility and legitimacy: "The last several decades have seen a steady increase in what some have referred to as the 'deference deficit' vis-à-vis institutions -- public, private, and voluntary. Public trust and confidence in these has been steadily in decline and the intelligence community has certainly not been exempt from this trend.
" 'Intelligence failure' has become a commonplace phrase to apply to almost any act of commission or omission that is attributed to the community. It also seems that there is far too often a view held by our clients and others that we are expected to know everything about everything, including the unknowable. It does occasionally make one wonder whether the standards against which we are judged are as rigorous with other institutions.
"All that notwithstanding, my basic point is that the balancing of risks and expectations and performance is likely to continue to be a major challenge for many of us."
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
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