Terror report blames CSIS
Monday, October 29, 2007
A government committee has come down hard on CSIS over the way it handled the case of Canadian al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Mansour Jabarah.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee says in a report to Parliament that CSIS went too far when it helped Mr. Jabarah surrender to FBI agents five years ago.
The committee, chaired by former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon, has delivered its report to Stockwell Day, the Minister of Public Safety. The Minister is expected to release it publicly as early as today.
The report's recommendations are not binding on the government, but the findings amount to an unflattering portrayal of the conduct of CSIS during one of its most important counterterrorism cases since 9/11.
There is also speculation the report could pressure the government to order an inquiry into the Jabarah case. If so, it would become just the latest probe into the conduct of Canadian officials during the war on terror.
In a highly unusual move, the committee, known by its acronym SIRC, brought in a retired Supreme Court justice to examine the Jabarah case and provide an opinion on whether CSIS may have violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But Mr. Jabarah is unique among the others who have complained their rights were violated by Canadian counter-terrorism officials: The 25-year-old has admitted he is a trained al-Qaeda terrorist and that he oversaw the attempted bombing of the American embassy in Singapore in 2001.
He not only confessed in detail to both CSIS and the FBI, he also signed a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice in which he agreed to plead guilty and co-operate with FBI agents.
He is now being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, apparently angry that he is facing a sentence estimated at more than 20 years. SIRC's concerns revolve around the role CSIS officers played in his surrender.
The report is at odds with past assessments by senior Liberals, who were in power at the time. In a memo to then-prime minister Jean Chrétien in August, 2002, Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Pricy Council, wrote that CSIS had acted appropriately.
"Mr. Jabarah voluntarily agreed to return from Oman to Canada. While in Canada he was not under arrest or detention. Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has no powers of arrest. He freely consented to going to the U.S., where he is currently. CSIS helped with the arrangements."
Born in Kuwait, Mr. Jabarah immigrated to Canada with his family in 1994. After graduating from high school in St. Catharines, Ont., in June, 2000, he used his Canadian passport to travel to Afghanistan to train at Osama bin Laden's terror camps.
The chief planner of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohamad, later trained Mr. Jabarah personally in Pakistan and sent him to Southeast Asia on Sept. 10, 2001, to bomb Western embassies.
When the embassy bomb plot was discovered by Singaporean security authorities, Mr. Jabarah fled but he was captured weeks later in Oman. CSIS officers accompanied him back to Toronto in April, 2002.
According to classified Canadian government documents, CSIS spent at least five days talking to Mr. Jabarah, who spoke candidly about his involvement in al-Qaeda.
Among his admissions, according to the classified intelligence documents obtained by the National Post, he: fought at the frontlines with the Taliban; formally joined al-Qaeda in 2001 by pledging allegiance to bin Laden in person; and oversaw an operation to bomb U.S. and Israeli embassies in Southeast Asia.
When the RCMP decided it lacked the evidence to lay criminal charges against Mr. Jabarah, CSIS helped arrange his surrender to the Americans, who wanted him for the attempted bombing of their embassy in Singapore.
Mr. Jabarah allegedly went along with the deal because he believed he possessed valuable information about al-Qaeda which he could barter in exchange for a light sentence.
On May 3, 2002, a small plane landed at Toronto's island airport. On board were several U.S. officials offering Mr. Jabarah leniency if he would co-operate. Without consulting a lawyer, he signed the papers and boarded the plane to New York.
U.S. officials say they learned valuable information from their interviews with Mr. Jabarah. Within months of his arrest, the U.S. captured his two bosses, Khalid Sheikh Mohamad, the planner of 9/11, and Hambali, planner of the 2002 Bali bombings.
Information he provided to the FBI is being used by the U.S. military against several detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He has given information to the FBI on at least five "high-value" detainees.
But after his best friend and brother, both trained terrorists, were killed in separate incidents in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Mr. Jabarah stopped co-operating and at one point even stabbed a U.S. official in the face.
Critics in Canada have long raised questions about the role CSIS played in Mr. Jabarah's surrender, but Ottawa has consistently maintained he went to the U.S. voluntarily and that CSIS acted properly.
The solicitor-general at the time, Lawrence MacAulay, and his successor, Anne McLellan, both declined to launch a review, saying CSIS acted within its mandate in providing assistance to U.S. authorities.
But following repeated requests by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for a "full and immediate" review of the case, and complaints from his father printed by news outlets, SIRC launched a probe on its own in 2005, and came to a much harsher conclusion.
The SIRC report also criticizes CSIS for the way it has characterized the Ottawa aid group Human Concern International, which once employed the late Toronto-based al-Qaeda kingpin Ahmed "The Canadian" Khadr.
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