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CORRECTED - Report lashes Canadian spies' gross incompetence
14 Sep 2005 16:51:12 GMT
Source: Reuters
In OTTAWA story headlined "Report lashes Canadian spies' gross incompetence" please read in second paragraph ... "who was deported to Syria by the United States in 2002"... instead of ..."in 2003"... (corrects year of deportation).

A corrected repetition follows. (Eds: Note spelling of Paule paragraph 6)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Canada's spy service was guilty of gross incompetence in the case of a diplomat who was wrongly denied a security clearance, according to an official report released on Wednesday.

The 23-page document is a deep embarrassment for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), already under fire for its involvement in the high-profile case of a Canadian man who was deported to Syria by the United States in 2002.

The declassified report -- released to Reuters under access to information legislation -- is particularly interesting because it affords a rare glance into the workings of CSIS, which is responsible for monitoring security threats.

The latest woes for the spy service stemmed from its decision in 2004 to deny a top security clearance to former journalist Bhupinder Liddar, who had been named as Canadian consul-general to the Indian city of Chandigarh.

CSIS said Liddar's association with Arab diplomats as well as "negative character qualities" made him a potential security risk. Liddar appealed the decision to a review board, which concluded the CSIS probe was riddled with errors.

"The denial brief was fundamentally flawed and biased in that it contained conclusions that were simply not supported by the information in the possession of the service," wrote Paule Gauthier, head of the review board.

Gauthier faulted virtually every aspect of the CSIS probe, condemning its "categorical and misleading statements" and noted with dismay the fact that the inexperienced investigating agent destroyed the notes he took during his interviews and then forgot what he had been told.

She also accused CSIS of deliberately misleading her as she carried out her probe, something she called a "very regrettable occurrence" and one that she hoped would never happen again.

Liddar has now been granted his security clearance and Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew apologized on Wednesday "for the impact the delays related to Mr. Liddar's ... appointment have had on him both personally and professionally".

Pettigrew and Liddar declined to comment further. No one at CSIS was immediately available for comment.

Doubts about CSIS were recently triggered by a public inquiry into the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian man who was deported to Syria in 2002 by U.S. agents and who spent almost a year in jail there.

Shortly after Arar was jailed, CSIS agents visited Damascus for talks with their Syrian counterparts. Evidence presented to the inquiry showed the Syrians concluded that the Canadian government did not want Arar to be returned to Canada, a suggestion that Ottawa firmly denies.

The inquiry also heard that CSIS had advised then Solicitor-General Wayne Easter -- the government minister in overall charge of law enforcement -- not to sign an official letter asking Syria to release Arar.

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