Feb. 10, 2004. 05:27 PM
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Spies need more scrutiny, auditor says
RCMP spies, other intelligence agencies need better oversight, report explains

OTTAWA (CP) - The government must fill gaps in the patchwork of watchdog agencies keeping an eye on Canada's spies, the auditor general says.

There should be "more consistency in the extent of independent review" of the intrusive powers of federal intelligence services, Sheila Fraser said in her report today.

She added her voice to the chorus calling for more scrutiny of the RCMP's security activities, noting the complaints commission currently overseeing the Mounties does "very limited" review of intelligence-related cases.

The government has already announced plans to create a new means of keeping tabs on the RCMP's security and intelligence work. The move followed an uproar over questions about the police force's possible role in the deportation to Syria of Ottawa engineer Maher Arar.

Fraser noted other agencies, such as the federal anti-money laundering centre and the Canadian Forces, have no external review bodies that monitor their security intelligence activities.

In a response to Fraser, the Privy Council Office acknowledged a need to ensure "appropriate review mechanisms and reporting requirements."

The RCMP said it collects intelligence with the aim of supporting the law. All criminal investigations are subject to "stringent accountability," such as scrutiny of the courts, the police force insisted.

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