Thursday, March 8, 2007

Turf Wars: CSIS and the RCMP

It seems that these turf wars are damaging intelligence operations. Problems of oversight of RCMP projects surfaced in the O'Connor report. CSIS did not provide proper direction and oversight of the RCMP project investigating Arar. There were gross failures by the CSIS in the Air India case as the mountie notes. What is common throughout both agencies is that no one seems ever to be punished for failures. Quite the opposite in the Arar case people who were involved in passing on false info on Arar or were involved in the investigation have been promoted.

Creation of CSIS made Canada less safe: ex-Mountie
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2007 | 4:53 PM ET
The Canadian Press
Stripping the RCMP of responsibility for intelligence-gathering and handing the job over to CSIS made Canada a more dangerous place, not a safer one, a former senior Mountie says.

Henry Jensen, testifying Wednesday at the public inquiry in Ottawa into the Air India bombing, stopped short of drawing a direct link between the creation of CSIS in 1984 and the terrorist attack that took place the following year.

But he painted a rosy picture of the way intelligence operations had been run under the RCMP, and contrasted that with the difficulties that plagued the new regime.

The assertions led Justice John Major, the head of the inquiry, to wonder whether things improved by the time Jensen retired from his post as deputy commissioner of the national police force in 1989.

"Was Canada a safer place as a result of CSIS being cut out of the RCMP?" the judge asked.

"You want my honest opinion?" Jensen replied. "No. I think Canada became a riskier place, certainly, in that period of time."

Rivalry between CSIS and the Mounties has been widely blamed for the failure to head off the Air India attack, and for recurring problems that dogged the criminal investigation that followed.

When Major raised the issue, Jensen was quick to absolve his former police colleagues and put the blame for precipitating the turf war squarely on the other side.

"Within the RCMP I did not notice that," he said. "With respect to the new CSIS organization, yes, I felt they believed that there was an issue [of] staking out their turf."

Others have been less charitable in assessing the role played by the RCMP in the conflict.

CSIS was spun off as a separate agency in 1984, after an inquiry by Justice David McDonald uncovered evidence that the old RCMP security service had committed criminal acts — including burning a barn and stealing dynamite — in the name of fighting Quebec separatism.

Limited by law
But the new intelligence agency was limited by law to collecting information and monitoring security threats. It had no authority to arrest anyone or lay criminal charges, powers that remained with the RCMP.

Jean-Paul Brodeur, a national security expert at the Université de Montreal, testified Wednesday that things were complicated by the fact that Robert Simmonds, then the RCMP commissioner, never really accepted his force's loss of the security role.

"The RCMP felt that terrorism was a crime and it belonged to them," Brodeur said. "So you had two investigative agencies that were competing against each other."

The crunch came barely a year after the creation of CSIS, when Air India Flight 182 was downed by a terrorist bomb in June 1985 with the loss of 329 lives.

The attack was blamed on militant Sikh separatists in British Columbia, but only one man was ever convicted for his role in the plot. Another was shot dead by Indian police in 1992 and two more were acquitted in Vancouver in 2005.

CSIS had some of the suspects under surveillance before the attack and shared much of its intelligence with the RCMP during the subsequent criminal investigation. But key wiretap tapes were erased, and other material couldn't meet the legal test for use in court.

Under one roof
Jensen, who was in charge of RCMP criminal operations for most of the 1980s, contended Wednesday that relations with intelligence officers were smoother when everyone worked under one roof at the RCMP.

"It was a co-operative arrangement," he told Major. "Our files were open to the security service [and] security service files were open to us."

Once CSIS was created, the Mounties signed a memorandum with the new agency that they hoped would ensure the same unfettered access. In Jensen's view, CSIS had a duty to turn over anything the RCMP needed for a criminal prosecution: "It was mandatory, not discretionary."

Major appeared to have trouble accepting that interpretation, noting that the whole point of creating CSIS was to separate intelligence powers from police powers.

Replied Jensen: "In its wisdom, the government of the day chose that path — and left us with the problems."

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