Summary of Reviews, 2002-2003

SIRC carries out reviews to determine whether CSIS has acted appropriately in the performance of its duties and functions, and met all requirements set out in law, ministerial direction and operational policy. SIRC's reviews are not intended to provide oversight of current CSIS activities, but rather to examine CSIS's performance on a retrospective basis. The findings of an individual review are not intended to be a judgement on CSIS's operations as a whole.

Each review provides a “snapshot” of a Service operation or program at a defined period in time. The reviews can include findings or recommendations. Although these are not binding, SIRC's role is to advise and warn, so that CSIS and those agents of government which direct it, may take steps to modify policies and procedures as needed.

In the Matter of Ahmed Ressam

Ahmed Ressam garnered much media attention following his arrest in December 1999, when he attempted to enter the United States from Canada with explosives hidden in the trunk of his rental car. He was subsequently convicted on charges related to his unsuccessful attempt to carry out a terrorist attack at the Los Angeles International Airport to mark the beginning of the new millennium.

Having reviewed all the relevant documentation from the time of Ressam's arrival in Canada in February 1994 through to March 2001, the Committee concluded that the Service did not possess information that would have forewarned it specifically of Ressam's planned terrorist operations, and that Ressam's ability to escape detection after his return to Canada in 1999 could not be attributed to a lack of vigilance on the part of the Service.

A Review of CSIS Regional Investigations

SIRC also examined related CSIS investigations into Sunni Islamic extremism by two CSIS regional offices. This review completed a public undertaking made by SIRC in its last annual report. The review period was April 2001 through to March 2002.

The Committee found that the Service had reasonable grounds to suspect that the targets investigated were involved in activities that constituted a threat to Canada. Consequently, the levels of investigations undertaken against these targets were deemed to be proportionate to the threat activities observed.

The Committee concluded that in obtaining targeting authorities and conducting investigations, the Service had met all the requirements set out in law, ministerial direction and operational policy, and that it had collected only the information strictly necessary for the investigation. The Committee also found that in executing the warrant powers obtained, CSIS acted appropriately and complied with all warrant clauses and conditions. With minor exceptions, both regions respected operational policies concerning the collection and retention of information obtained under the warrants.

Interviews within the community were deemed to have been conducted fairly and with sensitivity to the interviewees' civil liberties and religious freedoms. The Service's efforts to build strong and cooperative relationships with other domestic agencies were noted. While the Committee found that CSIS's overall management of human source recruitment and direction was appropriate, it identified minor errors and oversights in one Region's record-keeping of human source meetings.

Domestic Threats in Conjunction with Lawful Advocacy, Protest and Dissent

This study examined CSIS's investigation of groups and individuals whose activities were suspected of being directed towards threats of serious violence while in the course of advocating for or protesting about issues of social and economic concern. SIRC's objective was to determine whether the Service had respected its obligation to weigh the requirement to protect civil liberties against the need to investigate threats to national security. The Committee reviewed Service investigations of 13 targets for the period April 2000 to June 2002.

Overall, the Committee found that the Service conducted its investigations in an appropriate, lawful and professional manner, taking considerable care to implement policy measures designed to prevent intrusion into legitimate political activity. That said, the Committee did identify a number of issues that warranted recommendations with regard to targeting authorities, the execution of warrant powers, and the administrative handling of human source files.

In this study, the Committee found evidence of some friction in exchanges with domestic agencies. This situation did not, however, materially impact upon the Service's effectiveness in conducting its investigations. SIRC recommended that CSIS examine whether negotiated cooperative agreements between the Service and its domestic partners would be of benefit.

Section 16

Under Section 16 of the CSIS Act, both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Minister of National Defence have the authority to call upon CSIS to assist in the collection of foreign intelligence in Canada. Foreign intelligence is defined as any information collected in Canada about the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign state, foreign national or foreign organization.

SIRC concluded that all requests for assistance complied with the requirements of the governing Memorandum of Agreement (MOU). No new CSIS policies, ministerial direction, judicial instruction or other guidelines were issued that had an impact on the collection or retention of information. There were no irregularities or other concerns regarding the authorizations for, and the management of, the collection of intercept information under Federal Court warrants. All requests for supplementary information that CSIS sought from the Communications Security Establishment were consistent with its mandate. There was no contravention of the CSIS Act regarding the retention of information on Canadians. Finally, access to the foreign intelligence database was permitted strictly on a need-to-know basis.

Foreign Arrangements

SIRC found that the establishment of new arrangements with foreign states and the expansion of existing arrangements complied with the CSIS Act, Ministerial Direction and the Solicitor General's conditions for approval. The Committee took special care to examine information relevant to the human rights record of the agencies' host countries. It noted several new relationships where the Service will need to exercise vigilance to ensure that no information received from an agency is the product of human rights violations, and that no intelligence transferred to an agency results in human rights abuses.

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