Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Air India Inquiry: Watchdog reviewed only some of the tapes

This inquiry has revealed that there were constant turf battles between the CSIS and the RCMP. This portion reveals that in effect the oversight body SIRC was probably mislead or perhaps the body itself did not report the facts correctly. Only fifty tapes of several hundred were reviewed. One wonders too why on earth normal protocol of erasing tapes would be followed given that the main suspect in the case was recorded. There are all kinds of weird aspects to the case that show that in some areas the intelligence agencies were uncoordinated and uncooperative and at times incompetent.


Watchdog reviewed only part of the tapes

November 8, 2007

OTTAWA -- The oft-cited 1992 report exonerating Canada's spy agency for erasing key tapes related to the Air India bombing got it wrong, a retired Mountie testified yesterday.

The federal government had long cited the conclusions of the 1991-02 annual report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the civilian watchdog that oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in arguing that a full public inquiry was unnecessary.

However, retired RCMP Sergeant Terry Goral, who was involved with the Air India investigation and an 11-page RCMP memo assisting SIRC's Air India report, said SIRC's highly publicized conclusion was based on a misunderstanding.

"It is often said that there was nothing on the tapes and that we agree with that," Mr. Goral testified yesterday. "However, if you read further, they talk about 50 tapes that are reviewed and that there was no significant criminal information uncovered on these 50 tapes. Well, those were only 50 tapes out of a couple hundred tapes."
Mark Frieman, the inquiry's lead counsel, pounced on the comment.

"So am I to understand from that, that the message of [SIRC chairman John] Bassett may not have been entirely in alignment with the facts in the matter, on tape erasures?"

"On that issue, yes," Mr. Goral replied.

He said the police did get some leads out of the summaries of the tapes, which, he said, suggests the actual tapes would have been useful for the criminal investigation.

The decision by CSIS agents to erase audiotapes once they had been translated and summarized has long been a key point of concern for the families of Air India victims. The agency has said it was simply following normal protocol, but some former agents have testified they regret no one set the tapes aside once the bombing occurred.

Canada's spy agency had been taping the phone conversations of several individuals in British Columbia leading up to the bombing, including Talwinder Singh Parmar, who is widely believed to have been the mastermind behind the 1985 bombing that killed 329 people.

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