Security and intelligence activities pose a new challenge for Parliament
Ottawa, 5 April 2005 -- In her Report tabled today in the House of Commons, the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, points to the difficulty Parliament has scrutinizing security and intelligence activities, and urges the government to move quickly to resolve it.
Security and intelligence activities account for more than $1 billion in federal expenditures each year. By their very nature, many aspects of these activities must remain secret.
The Auditor General's audit of the 2001 anti-terrorism initiative in Chapter 2 found that some information about the effectiveness of passenger screening had been classified as secret and accordingly could not be reported.
"I must respect the government's information security regime," said Ms. Fraser.
Passenger screening at airports is a delicate balancing act that requires weighing the degree of security desired against other factors such as the cost to passengers and society, passenger inconvenience and waiting times, and the degree of intrusiveness that Canadians are prepared to accept in screening processes.
"Although government must weigh these issues and make these difficult choices, it is Parliament that must hold the government accountable for those decisions on behalf of Canadians," said Ms. Fraser. "But how can Parliament scrutinize the spending and performance of security and intelligence activities if key information is classified?"
The Auditor General suggests that Parliament needs to find a way to receive reports containing classified information from security and intelligence agencies and from organizations like the Security Intelligence Review Committee and the Office of the Auditor General.
"I understand that the government is thinking about ways of resolving this dilemma," added Ms. Fraser. "I encourage the government to move quickly to find a way of providing Parliament with the information it needs to do its job, without jeopardizing national security."
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A Message From the Auditor General of Canada is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada Web site.
Julie Hébert, Communications
Tel.: (613) 952-9213, ext. 6292