McLellan contradicts CSIS on torture policy
Canada doesn't want information gleaned through torture, she writes

By JEFF SALLOT - The Globe and Mail

Friday, September 16, 2005 Page A6

With a report from Bill Curry
OTTAWA -- CSIS does not want intelligence from foreign agencies if the information may have been obtained by torture, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan says, contradicting testimony from senior CSIS officials last year at the Arar inquiry .

In a letter to Amnesty International, 10 months after it raised the issue, Ms. McLellan says that to protect privacy and human rights, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is very careful about the information it exchanges with foreign agencies.

But her comments, released yesterday in response to allegations that Canadian authorities may have been party to torture in Syria, are at odds with CSIS policy as senior officials at the agency outlined it at the Arar commission of inquiry. They said CSIS would use information obtained by torture if it could be corroborated.

Ms. McLellan told Amnesty that in its dealing with foreign counterparts, "CSIS always undertakes a prudent approach that takes privacy and human rights into consideration."

CSIS, she continued, also closely scrutinizes the information it obtains from or shares with a foreign service.

"This is done to ensure that none of the security intelligence information exchanged with the foreign agency is used in the commission of, or obtained by the foreign agency as a result of, acts that would be regarded as human rights violations."

Amnesty International is heartened by this part of Ms. McLellan's letter, said Alex Neve, the group's secretary-general for Canada. "That sentence as a policy statement is quite strong."

Former CSIS director Ward Elcock testified last year "we take intelligence from any source that we can find it from that will offer it."

Mr. Elcock, now deputy defence minister, said the concern about information obtained from torture was reliability. "The fact that we suspected it might have come from torture would cause us to look at it in a different way."

Nevertheless, Mr. Elcock testified, CSIS would use it "if at the end of the day we could corroborate that information."

In final submissions before the Arar inquiry on Tuesday, government lawyers suggested extraordinary circumstances, such as saving lives, might force Canada to co-operate in anti-terrorism investigations with regimes that practise torture, such as Syria.

Mr. Neve said Amnesty and other human rights groups reject torture, and complicity in torture, in all circumstances. "It's wrong because it's wrong."

He said Ms. McLellan's letter outlined policies and human rights safeguards, but ducked Amnesty's main question: Would she launch an independent investigation into the case of Abdullah Almalki, an Ottawa businessman who was detained in Syria and says he was tortured?

Mr. Almalki believes Canadian authorities may have co-operated with the Syrians in his arrest and detention.

Amnesty raised the Almalki case with Ms. McLellan last November. In her reply this week, Ms. McLellan said the inquiry into the arrest and detention of Maher Arar can examine the Almalki case.

Mr. Arar, an Ottawa software engineer, was deported from the United States to Syria in 2002 and held in the same squalid Syrian military intelligence prison as Mr. Almalki.

In a related development, Susan Pollack, the executive director of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, said the committee is happy with the response by CSIS to a report this week that said the agency misled SIRC.

"Our chair has expressed his satisfaction with the assurances he's received from the director [of CSIS] that every effort is going to be made to ensure that our confidence is maintained, that they're providing us with everything we need to do our job," she said.

SIRC said it had been "purposefully misled" when it tried to find out why newly appointed Canadian diplomat Bhupinder Liddar couldn't get a security clearance.

Meanwhile, Liberal MP Paul Zed, who chairs the new Commons subcommittee on national security, plans wide-ranging hearings this fall into how government agencies are using their post-9/11 powers.


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