Skip navigation

City Hi Lo
Conditions across Canada
Visit the weather page to get the latest temperatures.

POSTED AT 4:41 AM EDT ON 20/06/06

Canada could escape attack, CSIS says

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Security work is a labour-intensive business, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said yesterday. Maintaining discreet surveillance on a suspect in a city can take as many as 20 people. And about a dozen people are involved in planting an electronic monitoring device.

Jim Judd did not respond directly yesterday when asked by Liberal Senator Colin Kenny whether CSIS's staffing levels were adequate, but noted that the agency planned to add to its current 2,400-member workforce. That's down from its onetime peak of 2,700 but up from a post-Cold War low of 1,900.

In his first appearance before a parliamentary committee since the arrest of 17 terrorist suspects in Southern Ontario three weeks ago, the soft-spoken Mr. Judd delivered a calm, reassuring message, saying Canadians generally need to be more aware of the risks of a major terrorist attack, but "I do not recommend that they toss and turn at night."

Mr. Judd said it's possible Canada will be spared major terrorist attacks like those that have hit other Western countries in recent years.

"I like to be more optimistic," he said, drawing a clear distinction between his current threat assessment and that of his predecessor, Ward Elcock, who once said Canada inevitably will become the target for a major terrorist attack.

"It is certainly possible . . . we would be successful in averting an attack," Mr. Judd told the Senate committee on national security and defence.

Mr. Judd, who succeeded Mr. Elcock 18 months ago, said that in some areas of national security, Canada is doing better than its allies.

For example, CSIS, the RCMP, other police forces, the Department of National Defence and other national security agencies are working together effectively in contrast to some other countries that have seen turf battles, he said.

"My impression is we are doing a better job than other jurisdictions in working together."

Canada is certainly not immune to a terrorist attack, he said, noting that Canadians were the victims of the Air-India bombing in 1985. Al-Qaeda has named Canada as a target nation, and the country is next door to the world's biggest target, the United States.

Moreover, it's unlikely that the underlying causes of global terrorism are going to disappear quickly, Mr. Judd added.

He warned against complacency. Countering terrorism is a long-haul task, but not a hopeless one, he suggested.

Asked by Mr. Kenny if Canadians should pray to avoid attack, Mr. Judd chuckled and said "praying is always a useful daily thing."

Two years ago, Mr. Elcock told the House justice committee: "It is no longer a question of if, but rather of when and where we will be specifically targeted."

Since then, according to internal RCMP reports, Canadian authorities have successfully disrupted a dozen terrorist plots. Mr. Judd said disruption tactics sometimes involve explaining to parents that their teenagers are involved with dangerous groups.

CSIS would be just as happy to deter young people attracted to terrorism as to see them arrested.

Mr. Judd played down the suggestion of some senators that the government is not adequately screening immigrants from Pakistan and other parts of Southern Asia to weed out potential security threats. "We're not doing badly in regard to those countries."

He said he wants to demystify the work CSIS does to help dispel the notion that certain ethnic groups are the subject of racial profiling.

CSIS is sending more of its intelligence officers abroad on specific investigations involving threats to Canada that originate in some other corner of the world, he said.

The service also has more than 50 liaison officers posted in foreign countries, including the U.S.

Back to top