CSIS is lost in translations
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
In the summer movie hit Bon Cop, Bad Cop, an anglo officer and a Quebecois flic team up to solve a murder in both official languages. It's a comedy. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service isn't supposed to be.
Inside Canada's spy service, according to a Citizen report, the two solitudes have not always co-operated. Insiders say reports written in French have been ignored or delayed, sometimes by weeks, by the need to translate them so unilingual English-speaking senior officers can understand them.
The 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington were partly a consequence of failed intelligence: wilful ignorance and futile competition between the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. Hard, sharp tools for protecting America had softened and dulled.
In Canada, intelligence errors played out before and after the Air India bombing. And now we have these new revelations about CSIS. For now, these remain allegations from ex-CSIS men with axes to grind. But the Office of the Official Languages Commissioner is taking them seriously.
It is a fact of our immigration policy that we have encouraged people from French-speaking Muslim countries to settle in Quebec. The great majority of these immigrants are contributing members of Canadian society, but some might not be. The "Millennium Bomber" Ahmed Ressam was from Algeria.
We can't afford this kind of stupidity. Our intelligence services shouldn't be tripping over language barriers.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
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