Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SIRC identifies concerns with Canada's spy agency's investigation of terrorism and reliance on information obtained by torture

The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) is a body created in 1984 and empowered under the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to review the actions of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada's spy agency. It also investigates citizen complaints about CSIS. The SIRC review model was discussed recently by the Supreme Court of Canada in Charkaoui v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), [2007] 1 S.C.R. 350 at paras. 71-74.

In its 2007-2008 Annual Report, SIRC pointed to a number of problems with the investigation of suspected terrorist activity. In one instance, SIRC was critical of the failure of CSIS to include the relevant literature concerning whether a particular group was a terrorist organization in the "targeting approval process." In another investigation involving what CSIS calls "second-generation terrorists" or "homegrown" terrorists, CSIS had failed to obtain the proper approval before it sent a "human source" to obtain information within a sensitive institution (e.g. academic, political, media, religious or trade-union fields). There were also concerns raised about the investigation's target-approval documentation.

SIRC also recommended that CSIS adopt the recommendations made out of the Arar Inquiry as it relates to Canada's dealings with countries or agencies that use torture as a means of gathering information. As SIRC put it in their review:

Based on these facts, SIRC found CSIS is concerned with human rights, but nevertheless may use information obtained by torture. Although it did not find a “total lack of concern” for evidence obtained by torture, SIRC did find that CSIS focused on the impact that torture might have on the reliability of information used in carrying out its responsibilities under the CSIS Act, rather than on its obligations domestically under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code of Canada, as well as internationally under the treaties signed by Canada that absolutely reject torture.

Posted by Professor Tanovich

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this really brings the issue home doesnt it? I mean, we always think of these things going on in America, not in Canada...