SIRC completes its review of CSIS’s role in the matter of Afghan detainees

Ottawa, September 15, 2011 – As announced at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in May 2010, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) has conducted a review on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) involvement in the interviewing of Afghan detainees, and has submitted its report to the Honourable Victor Toews, Minister of Public Safety. This report was prepared pursuant to section 54 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which allows SIRC to provide the Minister with a special report on any matter it deems appropriate, pursuant to SIRC’s mandate.

CSIS Director Richard Fadden also commissioned an internal study of the Service’s participation in the interviews of Afghan detainees – the key findings of which were reported in the media in February 2011. The purpose of CSIS’s study was to provide an overview of the Service’s role in this matter, and to review its knowledge (or lack thereof) of the abuse/mistreatment of detainees, to ascertain the legal risk of its involvement in these interviews. Overall, SIRC found that CSIS’s study achieved its goals, and that the report accurately reflected the chronology and content of CSIS’s involvement in the Afghan detainee interviews.

The Chair of SIRC, the Honourable Arthur T. Porter, P.C., M.D., stated that “in the course of SIRC’s review, we found no indication that in the period during which CSIS conducted detainee interviews, CSIS officers posted to Afghanistan had first hand knowledge of abuse, mistreatment or torture of detainees by Afghan authorities.” That said, SIRC’s report did raise two important issues for CSIS’s consideration. First, Dr. Porter noted that the review reinforces how important it is that CSIS assess and qualify with care and consistency, information originating from agencies that may engage in human rights abuses. SIRC was concerned that the Service could be open to criticism regarding its policy on information-sharing with agencies that have a poor human rights record, and recommended that the preamble of a Deputy Director Operations (DDO) Directive be reworded to bring it into alignment with its other policies on this issue.

Second, Dr. Porter suggested that “should CSIS continue to expand its activities abroad and to provide support to Canadian efforts in volatile regions of the world, CSIS needs to ensure that the management of its operations abroad mirrors, to the extent practicable, the standard of accountability and professionalism that is set and maintained domestically.” This conclusion stems from SIRC’s finding that CSIS did not comprehensively document its role in the interviews of Afghan detainees by keeping detailed records. Further, SIRC found that early in CSIS’s involvement there was enough information available on the situation in Afghanistan for CSIS to have appreciated the complexity of the operational environment. “In light of this,” stated Dr. Porter, “CSIS could have moved more quickly to put in place additional guidelines to promote greater accountability.

A declassified version of SIRC’s review of CSIS’s role in interviewing Afghan detainees is available on SIRC’s website. “It is the Committee’s desire,” concluded Dr. Porter, “that the findings and recommendations contained in SIRC’s report will provide guidance to CSIS to ensure that it is able to perform its duties and meet expectations in future operations abroad.

— X —

Review of CSIS's Role in Interviewing Afghan Detainees (PDF 749 KB)*

For further information, please contact SIRC at:
(613) 991-9111

For general information about SIRC, please consult the Committee’s website at:

*Note: To view PDF files you will need Adobe Reader.

Date modified: