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NEWS: CSIS sharing names with US raises perimeter security concerns

CBC reports, “The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s principal intelligence agency, routinely transmits to U.S. authorities the names and personal details of Canadian citizens who are suspected of, but not charged with, what the agency refers to as ‘terrorist-related activity.’ The criteria used to turn over the names are secret, as is the process itself.”

“A new cache of WikiLeaks documents pertaining to Canada lays bare the practice. (They contain) the names of 27 Canadian citizens turned over by their own government as possible threats, along with 14 other names of foreign nationals living in Canada. …The cables are a snapshot of periods in 2009 and 2010. Over the years, the number of names handed over is certainly much higher. …Of the 41 people named, 21 do not appear to have ever been charged, and some had never come to the attention of the Americans before being named by their own government. Most of the remaining 20 names comprise the group known as the Toronto 18. Some of that group were charged and convicted; others had charges against them stayed.”

“These names (go to) the so-called Visa Viper list maintained by the U.S. government. Anyone who makes that list is unlikely to be admitted to the States. …The names also go into the database of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Centre. Inclusion in such databases can have several consequences, such as being barred from aircraft that fly through U.S. airspace. …Interviews with several Canadian security sources confirm that the practice of naming people who are suspected, but not charged, has been going on for many years.”

The article notes that if this information were not shared, “U.S. authorities, already suspicious that Canada is ‘soft on terror’, would likely tighten the common border, damaging hundreds of billions of dollars worth of vital commerce.” In fact, “In another of the WikiLeaks cables, U.S. Embassy officials in Canada make it clear they think Canada already accords too many rights to suspects. ‘Canadian services do not appear to be as proactive as U.S. law enforcement regarding terrorist cell penetration and source development,’ says the cable, which is classified as both secret and ‘noforn’, meaning not for foreign eyes. ‘Both [CSIS and the RCMP] are supportive and co-operative with U.S. law enforcement for the most part, although restricted by the Canadian Charter of Rights, which is the basis for Canada’s strict privacy laws.’”

Paul Cavaluzzo

Though not mentioned in the CBC article, this practice and the US perception of Canadian security raises concerns about what could be further negotiated under a new perimeter security deal with the United States. The Harper government has made this a priority and there is speculation that it will be signed by January 2012.

“Paul Cavalluzzo, who acted as chief counsel for the Canadian commission of inquiry that cleared Arar of any wrongdoing, points out, the process is secret, with no judicial oversight, and takes place without the knowledge of the individual being ‘targeted’.”

Clayton Ruby

Clayton Ruby

“Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, who also has had considerable experience in national security cases, (says), ‘This is information that is being handed over with the knowledge that it will have adverse consequences on Canadian citizens. And Canadian citizens have a right to be protected by their government.’ Ruby said the threshold for naming someone to the Americans should be ‘reasonable suspicion of a crime’. In other words, that the authorities have reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the individual has planted a bomb, or is planning to plant a bomb. Canadians have a constitutional right to privacy and to protection from unreasonable search and seizure, said Ruby. ‘This is clearly a search. They’re searching out information about you. They’re invading your privacy. And the question is whether it’s reasonable. Well, clearly it’s reasonable when there’s an actual crime being investigated. But short of that, some generalized threat to the state because the state says so? All in secret? I’m not sure it’s legal. I think it isn’t.’”

The full article is at http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/05/15/rfa-macdonald-csis.html.