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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2006

Allmand Replies

Contrary to Martin Rudner’s assertion, as a former solicitor general, I feel very strongly that public trust in security agencies is fundamental to national security and that transparency, judicial safeguards and accountability can instill that trust.

Professor Rudner asserts intelligence agencies operate on the basis of “reasonable grounds to suspect” rather than the higher standard of “probable cause” police are generally subject to. This is true of CSIS. This is not the case with CSE. Furthermore, the minister responsible for CSE has been given the power under the Anti-terrorism Act to authorize mass interception of Canadians’ international telephone calls and e-mails simply by asserting it is for the purpose of “obtaining foreign intelligence.” This is no standard at all. It is more like carte blanche discretion.

Professor Rudner also asserts the CSE commissioner ensures CSE acts in accordance with law and policy. Once again the law — the Anti-terrorism Act — is flawed and the commissioner’s powers are very weak.

Since the attacks of 9-11, the Canadian public has witnessed many examples of security operations gone terribly wrong. The cases of Maher Arar and the 25 men targeted by Operation Thread in Toronto are well-known examples of lives destroyed by ill-founded allegations of terrorist links. In these cases, the RCMP was acting with a new national security mandate granted by the Anti-terrorism Act that was not accompanied by adequate safeguards.

The act also gave CSE new powers and we need judicial safeguards and a more robust oversight mechanism to ensure the privacy and constitutional rights of Canadians are not violated — and more innocent lives are not destroyed — in the name of national security.

Warren Allmand