CSIS doesn’t check how info obtained, agent tells court

Posted by admin on Dec 15th, 2008

Sue Montgomery, Montreal Gazette. Monday, December 15, 2008

MONTREAL — Canada’s spy agency doesn’t verify whether information it receives has been obtained through torture or other human rights violations, even if it comes from the notorious American prison in Guantanamo Bay, an agent for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service revealed Monday. The agent, known only as Jean-Paul to protect his identity, was testifying at the public portion of hearings to determine whether the security certificate under which Adil Charkaoui has been living for almost six years is reasonable.

If Federal Court Judge Daniele Tremblay-Lamer decides it is, the father of three and permanent resident would be immediately deported to Morocco, the country from which he emigrated in 1995.

The agent said that all information received by CSIS is evaluated and corroborated, but that the agency doesn’t always know the conditions under which a source is being detained nor how the interrogation is conducted.

“We’re not paid to find out what the conditions are of someone being held in another country,” he said. “There is no formal structure for finding out about torture.”

As for the human rights situation, that’s the job of the Canadian government, he said.

Even information coming from controversial Guantanamo Bay prison, where U.S. “war on terror” suspects allegedly faced coercive measures that included sleep deprivation and being handcuffed in stressful positions, was “taken on a case-by-case basis,” the agent said.

The agent, who is responsible for CSIS anti-terrorism activities in Quebec, was asked about information the agency received from Ahmed Ressam, a Montrealer and convicted terrorist. CSIS claims Ressam identified Charkaoui as someone he met at an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan — an allegation Charkaoui denies.

Following his conviction in the U.S. in 2001, Ressam co-operated extensively with authorities in the hope of leniency, but last year he admitted to having made up the incriminating statements about Charkaoui.

“If you get a statement but don’t know the circumstances under which it was given, how do you know it’s reliable?” asked Dominique Larochelle, one of Charkaoui’s lawyers.

Jean-Paul dodged many questions, saying answering them would jeopardize national security.

“I can’t go into the policies of what makes a person a target,” he said. “We had reasonable grounds to believe (Charkaoui) was a threat to Canada.”

He said that since the June Superior Court decision that struck down the former structure of security certificates because it denied defendants the fundamental right to see the case against them, CSIS must keep all information they receive on a file, no matter how trivial it may seem.

A secret trial on Charkaoui’s certificate is happening elsewhere, at which evidence not even Charkaoui or his lawyers have seen will be viewed by special advocates who will attempt to act on Charkaoui’s behalf. Special advocates, appointed by the federal justice minister, were introduced to the security certificate process in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision.

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