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RCMP tightens intelligence standard

The RCMP is assuring Parliament that it has officially entered a post-Arar world.

Senators asked a top Mountie this week whether dubious intelligence from Canada could ever again be used by the United States to deport a suspect to a third country to face torture.

It was precisely this scenario, in 2002, that appears to have led to the Maher Arar affair and its fallout.

Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell testified that terrorism investigations are now highly centralized within his office, where he and his officials carefully examine all information input and output. He says the national security criminal investigations squad runs on discipline.

"We are very careful about staying within our mandate," the official repeatedly stressed to the Senate committee on national security. He added that he can even ensure international partners don't cross lines either.

"I am satisfied that in my dealings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, my information will be protected and that I will be notified and consulted before any action is taken with respect to the information I provide to the bureau," Mr. McDonell testified.

"I am satisfied that, if I said the information could not be used in a certain way, we could work through that."

Five years ago, there was confusion about how information was gathered and how it was treated.

In 2002, Syrian-Canadian engineer Maher Arar was flagged as an "Islamic extremist" on an international no-fly list after the Mounties spotted him while monitoring another suspect.

When Mr. Arar passed through a New York airport, authorities there labelled him an al-Qaeda member and flew him in shackles to Syria, where he was detained for nearly a year.

A Canadian judge who spent years looking into this found that inaccurate information from Canada likely led to the engineer's ordeal.

Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor also found that Mr. Arar was tortured in Syria, though he had never represented any threat to Canadian national security.

Mr. McDonell says that today, the Mounties have "gotten out" of strategic intelligence work and left that job entirely to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"We take our strategic national security priorities from the service," he told the Senate committee. "We do not produce them."

He added that most of Judge O'Connor's recommendations related to the Arar affair have been "fully implemented" by the Mounties.

In fact, "we were well on our way to that before the recommendations came out" last winter, he said.

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