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POSTED AT 10:18 AM EDT ON 08/06/06

Canada to send more spies abroad, Day says

Globe and Mail Update

OTTAWA — The next front in Canada's war on terrorism will involve sending more spies abroad, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says.

In his first appearance before a Parliamentary committee since the roundup of 15 alleged terror suspects in Southern Ontario, Mr. Day said Canada needs to increase its ability to collect foreign intelligence abroad.

The government is determined to increase its foreign intelligence-gathering capability one way or another, Mr. Day said, telling MPs he'll "you can be confident of that."

Whether this means creating a new espionage service along the lines of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency or expanding the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has yet to be determined, Mr. Day said.

He indicated a decision could come soon.

Mr. Day noted that the government has already promised millions of additional dollars for public safety and security programs and cost might well be a factor in deciding whether to simply expand the CSIS mandate. Some advisers have suggested the startup costs for a new service would be exorbitant.

Canada gets much of its foreign intelligence from allies, such as the U.S. and Britain.

CSIS posts about 50 officers abroad to act as liaison with friendly governments and provide such services as intelligence for Canadian troops serving in war-ravaged Afghanistan. But CSIS's capacity for overseas work is limited, said CSIS director Jim Judd.

Mr. Judd said the service has rather limited dealings with governments with poor human rights records.

It's unclear whether there were direct links between the 17 charged in the weekend raids and foreign terrorism suspects. Mr. Day said he couldn't talk about this possibility because it could interfere with the court cases.

Federal security officials have said the government needs to spread its intelligence-gathering net beyond Canada's borders because of the global influence of extremist groups such as al Qaeda and the ease with which groups can plan operations in one country to attack targets in another country.

Mr. Day reminded the committee that the Conservatives plan a major increase in spending by federal public security agencies. The CSIS budget will increase 18 per cent this year. The Mounties will be getting 11 per cent more.

But even with this increase, the number of CSIS officers will still be below Cold War levels when the service's primary concern was detecting Soviet-bloc spies. The agency had 2,750 employees 15 years ago, dropping to about 2,000 just before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. CSIS now has about 2,450 and has recently launched a recruiting drive.

RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said his next big priority will be to put the heat on organized crime, particularly in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The police can deal effectively with only about one-third of the organized crime groups that they have identified, he told a Senate committee last month.

Mr. Day and other security officials are celebrating the recent anti-terrorist operation as evidence that turf wars between the RCMP and CSIS are over. He said the two agencies worked together seamlessly along with local police. "The information sharing was very high as was collaboration and co-operation."

Several MPs on the committee said they were concerned that some U.S. news media accounts of the weekend raids depicted Canada as a haven for terrorists and an uncertain partner in the war on terror.

Mr. Day said it's unfortunate when some commentators repeat old canards, such as the story that some of the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada. But Canadian diplomats and other officials move quickly to try to correct the record when this happens, he added.

American officialdom, however, has gained a better appreciation of Ottawa's determination to fight terrorism and the professionalism of Canadian agencies, Mr. Day continued. He spoke recently with two senior U.S. cabinet secretaries about the weekend operation.

The government, he said, will review how the investigation unfolded over many months to see if there needs to be any changes to federal anti-terrorism laws. But he had no immediate plans along these lines. "We're always open to changes if there is a need."

Stockwell Day

Public Security Minister Stockwell Day (File)

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