SIRC completes its review of CSIS’s role in the matter of Omar Khadr

Ottawa, July 15, 2009 - The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) has submitted its report on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) role in the matter of Omar Khadr to the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister of Public Safety. This report was prepared pursuant to section 54 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which allows SIRC to provide to the Minister a special report on any matter that relates to the performance of CSIS’s duties and functions.

The Chair of SIRC, the Honourable Gary Filmon, noted that the report “raises important issues about CSIS's decision to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in February 2003 to interview Omar Khadr.” In particular, although SIRC confirmed that CSIS had reasonable grounds to travel to Guantanamo Bay to gather threat-related information, the Committee found that CSIS failed to give proper attention to two important matters: human rights issues, and Mr. Khadr’s age when the interviews were conducted.

At the time that CSIS interviewed Mr. Khadr in 2003 there was widespread allegations of mistreatment and abuse of detainees in US custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Filmon noted that, “SIRC did not find any evidence that CSIS took this information into account in deciding to interview Mr. Khadr.

With respect to Mr. Khadr’s age, it is well recognized in Canadian and international law that youth are entitled to special consideration and treatment because of their status as minors. SIRC found no evidence that CSIS took Mr. Khadr’s age into consideration before deciding to interview him. “In light of this,” stated Mr. Filmon, “SIRC recommended that CSIS establish a policy framework to guide its interactions with youth.

The report also noted that, in recent years, CSIS has implemented several changes with respect to cooperating and sharing information with foreign partners which, SIRC hopes, will aid CSIS in carrying out future investigations while taking human rights issues into consideration. However, the matter of Omar Khadr suggests that changes in policies and procedures are but one component of a broader transition that needs to take place. As Mr. Filmon suggested, “the time may have come for CSIS to undertake a fundamental reassessment of how it carries out its work, and to shift its operational culture to keep pace with recent political and legal developments.” He added that it is “vital for CSIS to demonstrate that it has the professionalism, experience and know-how required to make the difficult decisions that arise when conducting operations abroad – particularly if confronted with situations similar to that of Mr. Khadr.

A declassified version of SIRC’s review of CSIS’s role in the matter of Omar Khadr is available on SIRC’s website. “It is the Committee’s hope,” concluded Mr. Filmon, “that the findings and recommendations contained in this report will help CSIS ensure that it is able to meet the growing and evolving expectations of how an intelligence agency should operate and perform in a contemporary democratic society.

Attachments:

1. SIRC’s Role and Responsibilities
2. SIRC’s review of CSIS’s role in the matter of Omar Khadr

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For further information, please contact SIRC at:
(613) 990-8442

For general information about SIRC, please consult the Committee’s website at
http://www.sirc-csars.gc.ca