Monday, August 13, 2007

RCMP defends its actions in Arar affair

The RCMP knew very well that the information from El Maati was probably the result of torture but used it any way. If the RCMP did not want to reveal its sources then it should not have used the information since it knew it might very well be tainted.
The RCMP and CSIS did nothing to alert the government about their suspicions that Arar was being rendered. They did nothing to help the government get Arar released either. In fact there were mysterious leakings of classified documents concerning Arar's confessions that made Arar look to be a terrorist. Very convenient.

RCMP defends its actions in the Arar affair
Updated Sun. Aug. 12 2007 12:10 PM ET News Staff

The RCMP is brushing aside suggestions it was wrong to rely on questionable intelligence obtained from abroad to support search and wiretap warrant applications in the case of Maher Arar and another Canadian of Arab origin held in Syria.

A Sept. 2006 report by Justice Dennis O'Connor said the RCMP wrongly labelled Arar a terrorist and passed that information to U.S. authorities, who then arrested Arar and deported him to Syria on Oct. 8, 2002.

On Thursday, newly-released documentary evidence compiled by a public inquiry showed Canada's spy agency suspected -- within two days of Arar's deportation -- that the United States was to ship Arar somewhere in the Middle East to face possible torture.

Canada was unaware at the time that Arar had already been "rendered" to Syria, where he was tortured into false confessions of links to al Qaeda.

O'Connor concluded, in a section of his report that had also been secret until now, that the RCMP used information from an unnamed country to help obtain search warrants against several individuals in January 2002 -- as part of a wider anti-terrorist investigation known as Project A-O Canada.

Those details came out Thursday in the final disclosure of roughly 1,000 blacked-out words from the original 2006 report -- words which government lawyers argued would compromise national security, international relations or the defence of Canada if released.

Assistant RCMP Commissioner Mike McDonnell says Canada was keeping its word in keeping secret and acting upon intelligence information obtained relating to Arar.

"I think it's safe to say that all information comes with a caveat: that it's for our use and our use only and we protect the source," McDonnell said in an interview aired Sunday on CTV's Question Period, explaining the RCMP's view on why the information wasn't released.

"That's a common international practice, it's a common domestic practice on criminal intelligence -- that you need the other person's permission to act on that intelligence. The third party rule, it's called. So when we give our word to another agency that the information is for our use and our use alone, we prefer to protect that and keep our word."

But Marlys Edwardh, one of Arar's lawyers, blasted the Mounties for relying on intelligence obtained abroad -- possibly under torture -- to support search and wiretap warrant applications within Canada.

She told CTV's Question Period that obtaining a search warrant in Canada requires, under the Criminal Code, that a party swears to that information, and a judicial officer assesses whether or not it justifies a search.

But the information the RCMP used to obtain a warrant, said Edwardh, "was either entirely unevaluated or indeed was information that came directly from torture. And the RCMP in characterizing that information and putting it before a judge had really mischaracterized the strength of their case, mischaracterized the kind of inferences that were available.

"And quite frankly that undermines our administration of criminal justice in this country."

The O'Connor report found the RCMP included suspect evidence in an application for a wiretap warrant in September 2002. This time the information came from a purported confession by Ahmad El Maati, another Arab-Canadian who was interrogated in Damascus but later repudiated the statements he made there and said they were extracted under torture.

The RCMP acknowledged, in their affidavit, that El Maati had changed his story but suggested he could be lying in his claims of mistreatment as part of a "damage control'' effort. They also insisted that, whatever the circumstances of the original confession, they had obtained evidence to corroborate what the Syrians had passed to them.

A separate inquiry is currently under way, under former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, into the cases of El Maati and two other men: Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin. All three deny any terrorist links and suspect the RCMP and CSIS collaborated in their detention and torture abroad.

McDonnell would not answer questions as to why the RCMP wasn't more forthcoming before the judge about Syria's poor human rights record or possible use of torture in extracting information.

"Justice Iacobucci has an inquiry into those events, and I wouldn't want to pre-empt his work in any manner," he told Question Period.

McDonnell said since the Arar affair, the RCMP has made substantial changes to its policy and procedures regarding information handling and sharing.

"This includes the creation of a Sensitive Document Handling Unit at RCMP headquarters, which will ensure criminal intelligence is properly vetted and controlled."

When asked why such a system wasn't already in place before the Arar affair, McDonnell replied that police and intelligence agencies in the West just weren't prepared for the terrorist events that were to happen in 2001.

"I think the whole Western world was taken aback by the events of 9/11 and I don't know any of our allies that were prepared for this event, any police agency or intelligence agency that was prepared for such an event," he said.

"I think to be fair we have to look at the context of the times. We just suffered a horrendous attack and everyone was working to stop another one."

O'Connor's report did not find that CSIS, which hasn't yet commented on the new report, alerted the government at the time it suspected Arar would be deported. Critics say this oversight suggests collusion between Canadian and U.S. security authorities in the ordeal Arar ultimately faced in Syria.

Edwardh told Question Period the fact CSIS did nothing with the information they had suggests "rendering" was something the agency supported.

"They did not come forward to any political person in Ottawa, they didn't' seek access or give information to cabinet. Certainly we didn't see anything like that and one can only conclude that knowing what they knew and doing nothing served their interests and supported the U.S."

With files from The Canadian Press

No comments: