Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Reliable Are the “Secret” Keepers?

Given that we don’t even know what the evidence is, how do we know how it is being treated? How do we know information is not being taken out of context and presented? And where does this evidence come from?

If it hasn’t been offered yet on this blog, I’m going to give you a quick rundown of how a security certificate is obtained. First The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) gathers “secret” evidence from “secret” sources. Sometimes this “secret” evidence might be “secretly” leaked. The Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship review and sign the Security Certificates. There are “secret” court proceedings which allow the Feds to consider “secret” information. They claim it is all done in “secret” because disclosing the information would seriously harm the government’s ability to protect Canadians.

As an aside, I find this rather odd, because the hearings of the Toronto 18, who were accused of planning to bomb us and behead the Prime Minister, were completely open to the public. Anyone could go into the courts and view that hearing of evidence in person.

A “special” advocate (of the detained) is exposed to the “secret” evidence but cannot relay that information to the detained or family.

Yes, don’t worry, all this “secret” evidence, “secret” sources, “secret” hearings and “special” advocates sounds like a bunch of 7 year olds’ treehouse game or something from Lord of the Rings to me too.

So let’s move on to what we know about the sources. Who are they and how reliable are they? Let’s look at one of the sources. In 2003 Adil Charkaoui was arrested under the Security Certificate mainly due to a claim from convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam. 21 months later, Ressam retracted his claims saying that he was “psychologically imbalanced when he was interrogated” and offered the information about Charkaoui. Basically, they made a deal with Ressam that if he throws out some names, he’ll get a lighter sentence. He threw out a few names under pressure, and as a result, Charkaoui was detained for almost 2 years. When this information was retracted, Charkaoui was released, having to be tracked electronically, having an escort all day at work, and subject to have his house invaded by the police if needed any time of day, among other restrictions.

One: The source is unreliable. Who is to say the others are not?

What does CSIS do with the information? How is it handled? Believe it or not, in June the Supreme Court of Canada reprimanded CSIS for destroying evidence. This is the first time CSIS has been told to keep careful check of their steps.

Evidence and information that has been destroyed includes original notes and taped conversations. CSIS has also been reported to document and file information that are just summaries of events and facts, but does not present the context that information is taken in. As we all know, information that is presented without context can be manipulated in any way to give a completely different meaning. It is this non-contexual information that is presented to the Federal judge.

CSIS is violating their own acts. The Supreme Court reported, “The meaning of the word 'intelligence' in Section 12 should not be limited to the summaries prepared by officers. The original operational notes are a better source of information and evidence," and the "destruction of operational notes is a breach of CSIS duty to retain and disclose information".

Two: CSIS breaches their duty to retain and disclose information. They illegally destroy evidence and violated Charkaoui’s charter rights by destroying original records, the basis of the case.

It is all done behind closed doors, where we suspect anything can be done with the information, and that suspicion has now become fact. What we can take away from this, is the source of their information is questionable, and the evidence that they do hold is tampered with.

The fact that this is all masked from beginning to end is a great injustice to the accused, to the justice system and to the Canadian people.

For more information on CSIS and their manipulation of 'evidence':


Anonymous said...

This definitely goes to show the actual reliability of "secrecy". Interesting insight.

Anonymous said...

haha yeah, quite the secret eh? it's funny that evidence gets destroyed, made up, etc...really...who is that has to keep quiet and is innocent until proven guilty??

Shanelly said...

Well there's the 5th amendment from the American Constitution- witholding information which could incriminate just goes to show that in any government, as long as you're elite enough to find the loopholes, you can remain completely "innocent".

Anonymous said...

I like to think that we are different from the united states in terms of security, but this information doesn't make it seem like we are much different...

Reezo said...

But check out this Rassan guy Shanelly, he was an American convicted over there.

Sure, I guess he had the right to hold incriminating information, but I guess they get it out of you by torturing you or persuading you by telling you that you'd get a lighter sentence if you spout more info.

Mavierick said...

Is not about "withholding" information per se if you are accused, but rather that you have the right to excuse yourself from self-incrimination. In other words, you are asserting that it is indeed the accuser who must prove your guilt. It has nothing to do with you being "elite" or being in the government.

Furthermore, in the interests of fairness and justice, one incident cannot be used to paint any entity in a definitive manner. So in this case, we cannot say the CSIS are definitely this or that. For all we know this may have been the one singular exception which is not representative of their institutional behavior or established guidelines.

Thought Is Free said...

Mav - their sources are unreliable and they tamper with the evidence.
We're talking about someones life.
That destroyed evidence and the context it was in will never resurface.
If its been done once, who's to say it cant be done again.
The problem is that its too 'secret' and done by a small unchecked group.
-Thought is Free

Mavierick said...

I'll say it again, for it to be proven that CSIS uses unreliable sources, handles information improperly, is biased against certain individuals, or is in dereliction of its duty, it must be proven via more than just one or two weak examples.

You quoted an unreliable source as being Ahmed Ressam but the fact remains that Ahmed Ressam was not a CSIS informant or agent. He threw out those names to US authorities, who then gave those names to their Canadian counterparts.

For it to be overwhelmingly established that CSIS acts improperly or is severely negligent - or even criminally negligent - in its duties, it must be shown that such behaviors are a pattern, with an apparent and disturbing trend towards continuing such behavior.

Let us bear in mind that in the pursuit of justice we cannot allow emotions to cloud our vision. As much as we may dislike CSIS and their activities, our charges against them must be backed up by a substantial amount of thoroughly tested, tried and true evidence that will stand up in the court of law.

The Anti-Oppression said...

Yes Mav - thats the problem isnt it.
because the process is not transparent, they are at liberty to do whatever they like.

We want the process to be open, just at the Toronto 18 cases.

We know how the evidence is obtained, and what the evidence is, and we know how the evidence is being preserved and context that it is in.

Anonymous said...

Very well supported. I agree that the whole notion of secret trials, the withholding of evidence undermine secs 7-11 of the Charter. The balance between security and freedom is precarious in nature. But it is important to remember those that fight terrorism over a long period of time may become guilty of the crime that they fought. Finally, the actions of CSIS demonstrate that there are two justice systems at work in the post9/11 era.

From The Margins said...

Why does America elicit threats from other countries?
'cause they keep getting involved in stuff that doesnt involve them, but always looking for the economic benefit.

They support Israel that plows Palestinians down. They support the war in Afghanistan where soldiers use humans as target practice.... and now Canadians are totally behind this. The Canadian gvt is welcoming terrorist threats and I dont think we should have to suffer as a result! Its OUR everyday security that is at stake.

Previous anonymous, when you say they are becoming what they are fighting against, you're right.
We seem to be becoming terrorists ourselves.

Rosie (O Donnell) said American's are viewed as terrorists by Iraqi's and people got pissed, but shes totally right. Hello! Americans go there, rape the women, shoot the men, piss in their churches, raid their houses randomly etc. If thats not terrorism, I dont know what is.

I always wondered when I was young, why is that when we are war with others, the war is always in their homeland. Why not in ours? Well, I guess people are finally giving us a taste of our own medicine, and after 9/11, people are learning what an atrocity war really is.

I guess it all comes down to economy. If we were economically dependant, we wouldnt have to go into other countries, claim to support them, then make deals with them to exploit their staple products.

I think I went off on a tangent there, but ultimately, its all related. People are pissed that we're encroaching and exploiting and thats why we have security issues.


aypatel said...

Great post! Secrecy is definitely an interesting and relevant topic in today's world. The only secrets that are safe are the one's in your own heart... If you tell anyone your secret, whatever drove it from your heart will drive it from theirs...