Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ex-CSIS chief rejects new anti-terror powers

The Tories are bound and determined to throw tid bits to their right wing base and show that they are tough on terror. You would think it would be embarrassing to ask for powers that a former intelligence chief says are not necessary. But being necessary and being politically advantageous are not the same. Harper is depending upon the fear developed by the war on terror to help moves such as this boost his political fortunes. The opposition should call him out on this one and perhaps he will change his mind. This is from the montrealgazette.

Ex-CSIS chief rejects new anti-terror powers

Tories try to revive 'preventative arrest'


Two contentious anti-terrorism powers the government intends to revive are unnecessary, potentially dangerous and cross the line between state security and individual rights, Canada's former spymaster says.

"We should think very carefully before we take that step," Reid Morden said of the government's proposed Combating Terrorism Act, unveiled Friday by federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have "perfectly sufficient powers to do their jobs," said the former director of CSIS. "If they're properly resourced ... they don't need more powers."

The bill would re-introduce two lapsed laws to the Criminal Code giving police extraordinary powers to apprehend imminent terrorist threats.

"Preventive arrest" would allow individuals to be arrested without warrants in the belief that the arrest will disrupt terrorist activity and prevent a looming attack. Those arrested need not have committed any crime and can be detained for up to 72 hours. A judge can also impose conditions on their release and violators can spend up to a year in jail.

The other exceptional power, investigative judicial hearings, would allow police and prosecutors to bring a person before a court and compel them to disclose information related to possible terrorism. Self-incriminating evidence they might give cannot directly be used against them in any subsequent legal action. Judges also could order the hearings be held in secret.

The powers were originally introduced by Jean Chr├ętien's Liberals in November, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Criticism from civil libertarians and others forced the government to water down the provisions with a five-year sunset clause.

But when the Harper government proposed a three-year extension in February 2007, the Commons was engulfed in days of bitter debate, with MPs finally voting 159 to 124 against the resolution.

The Justice Department said the proposed legislation would add "safeguards" to those in the original legislation to protect individuals snared by the laws. No specifics were given.

That neither power was used in their first five years is proof, the government has argued, that the measures were not abused.

Morden takes a different perspective. "I honestly don't see that we have either suffered, or that (police) would have been able to do anything more if they'd actually had these powers."

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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