Eavesdropping agency helped shape federal torture directive: RCMP memo


OTTAWA – Canada’s highly secretive electronic eavesdropping agency helped develop a federal directive that lets government agencies use and share information that was likely extracted through torture, a newly obtained document says.

Communications Security Establishment Canada, known as CSEC, and its parent department, National Defence, were among several federal agencies that contributed to the information-sharing policy, says an RCMP memo disclosed to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The memo, prepared in November 2011, notes the federal framework — spearheaded by the Public Safety Department — was intended to “establish a consistent approach across departments and agencies” when the exchange of national-security related information puts someone at serious risk of being tortured.

The federal policy has drawn sharp criticism from human rights advocates and opposition MPs, who say it effectively condones torture, contrary to international law and Canada’s United Nations commitments.

CSEC spokesman Ryan Foreman had no comment Tuesday.

Ottawa-based CSEC monitors foreign communications — from email and phone calls to faxes and satellite transmissions — for intelligence of interest to Canada. Its staff of more than 2,000 includes experts in codebreaking, rare languages and data analysis.

The agency, with an annual budget of about $400 million, is a key component of the intelligence-sharing network known as the Five Eyes — Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The National Security Agency, CSEC’s American counterpart, is at the centre of a storm of leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden that document the U.S. agency’s vast reach into cyberspace.

He recently revealed the NSA runs a top-secret data-mining program known as Prism that provides the U.S. government access to a huge volume of emails, chat logs and other information from Internet companies including Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Other documents obtained by Snowden suggest CSEC helped the United States and Britain spy on participants at the London G20 summit four years ago.

The RCMP says Public Safety began work on the federal information-sharing framework in January 2009 “in consultation with representatives” from the Mounties, CSEC, Defence, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency, Justice, Foreign Affairs and the Privy Council Office.

The four-page framework document, previously released under the access law, says when there is a “substantial risk” that sending information to — or soliciting information from — a foreign agency would result in torture, the matter should be referred to the responsible deputy minister or agency head.

In deciding what to do, the agency head will consider factors including:

— the threat to Canada’s national security and the nature and immanence of the threat;

— the status of Canada’s relationship with — and the human rights record of — the foreign agency;

— the rationale for believing that sharing the information would lead to torture;

— the proposed measures to lessen the risk, and the likelihood they will be successful — for instance, the agency’s track record in complying with past assurances;

— the views of Foreign Affairs and other agencies.

In 2011 former public safety minister Vic Toews issued directives to the RCMP, CSIS and the federal border agency that closely followed the wording of the government-wide framework.

Seven years ago a federal commission of inquiry into the case of Ottawa telecommunications engineer Maher Arar recommended that information never be provided to a foreign country where there is a credible risk that it will cause or contribute to the use of torture.

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was detained in New York in September 2002 and deported soon after by U.S. authorities — ending up in a grim Damascus prison cell. Under torture, he gave false confessions to Syrian military intelligence officers about involvement with al-Qaida.

The inquiry, led by Justice Dennis O’Connor, concluded that flawed information the RCMP passed to the U.S. very likely led to the Ottawa engineer’s year-long nightmare. That led the Mounties to overhaul their information-sharing procedures.

The newly released RCMP memo says the federal directive on information-sharing would “supplement” those changes.

Critics, however, say the federal directive flies in the face of O’Connor’s recommendations.

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Eavesdropping agency helped shape federal torture directive: RCMP memo

  1. Canada + torture….words we haven’t seen together before in our history.

    • What?? Mr. Arar was tortured in 2002 based on information provided to the US authorities by the RCMP. How can you say that Canada was never linked to torture before? It was linked to torture in an inquiry into the actions of the RCMP 7 years ago and we taxpayers paid Mr. Arar a big chunk of money by way of an apology. Please do not re-write history in a way to somehow pretend this is just now happening as a result of behavior by this current government. The last government was running the show when Mr. Arar was tortured.

      • 7 years ago is now ‘history’?

        I wrote one sentence….ONE SENTENCE….and already you’re confused.

        • Well, the Liberals would have us believe that 7 years ago since Adscam is “history”.
          The actual torture of Mr. Arar took place 11 years ago. We paid $10.5 million for the horrendous treatment of him. As for confusion…you are the only one who is confused.

          • Political crap is indeed history in short order….at least you’d better hope so or you’ll hear about Duffy for the next century. LOL

            No, I’m not in the least confused….in our nation’s history…Canadian + torture have never gone together before.

            But then again, the words ‘open sewer’ weren’t associated with Alberta before either.

          • You must have been asleep then through the uncovering of Mr. Arar’s ordeal.
            Now why is it that you feel you must launch an attack on Alberta whenever someone questions an argument you are making? Your reaction makes you look childish and insecure. You might as well say, “well your mama…”

            Further, we might be talking about Duffy for a long to come if his behavior is the impetus to finally launch real reform of the senate or dare I hope, the abolishment of that very troubled institution.

          • I do it because Albertans are always attacking everyone and everything….especially Ont.

            So you get it back.

          • So whenever an Albertan makes a comment you don’t like, you characterize it as “attacking’ and you “attack” back by saying awful things their province. The problem is, Emily, whenever anyone says anything you don’t like, you attack Alberta….even if the commenters aren’t Albertans. I witnessed this behavior when you were defending Ms. Wynne and others from Ontario were taking you to task. You still attacked Alberta. It is a diversionary tactic and it is pretty lame.

          • LOL you are a prime example of Alberta ‘tude. Everything is an argument in your mind. And a confused one again, at that.

            I said Albertans are keen on attacking Ont…..they don’t like it when they get the same in return.

          • Those were your fellow voters from Ontario attacking your provincial Liberal government’s record that day.

          • Yeah right….you have no clue.

    • Audit all the psych hospitals, my dear. They can do whatever they want in them because when you get out and tell people about it, no one takes you seriously because you’re considered “crazy.”

      • Ahh the Soviet approach, yes indeedy.

        • Oh Emily, have you been to a psych hospital?

          • I believe that’s where you hang out, not me.

          • Well then what is up with the “Soviet approach” comment? Ah, I see. You have no real knowledge of the situation but you feel free to endorse that torture rather than treatment is occurring in them.

          • I was talking to Andrea. You put yourself into it.

          • Yes, it concerns when someone believes there aren’t laws that govern the treatment of people suffering from mental illness in licensed, government-funded psychiatric facilities within Canada. It also concerns me when people think that there aren’t mental health acts in each province that outline the rights of a patients to be assessed in a timely manner by licensed psychiatrists; to refuse treatment unless deemed incompetent; to appeal any decisions that are made by the facility and their physicians all the way to the provincial courts and to have a lawyer as well as a patient advocacy service act on their behalf for free.
            Oh, I know you were talking to Andrea but you were spewing misinformation that was harmful. I guess you believe I should let you go on uninterrupted for fear you will feel “attacked’ but I am sorry, that is not my style. If you want to suggest torture is happening in Canadian psychiatric facilities “Soviet approach”, back it up with some source material.

          • See, again you’re arguing just to argue, and over your very confused view of what was being discussed!

            Stay out of other people’s conversations.

            Better yet, stay out of mine.

      • Deleted

        • Of course we house a great many of the mentally in prisons where none of these rights are recognized. And we know many mentally ill seniors in institutions are not being treated with the principles you cite in mind.

          • In Canada, we try to keep those suffering from mental illness at the time of committing a crime out of prison. They are found to be “not criminally responsible” or NCR. People with that designation are housed in Forensic Psychiatry Centres and their privileges are granted by special boards. Even Forensic patients have the right to refuse medication and have to be certified and declared incompetent, etc. under the mental health act in the province of Alberta in order to medicate them against the wishes. The only way you can give them medication otherwise is if they pose a danger to themselves or others. If they are hitting their heads against a cement wall or if they are violent toward others, you are allowed to medicate them due to imminent risk of harm. These aren’t “principles’ but rather laws. Otherwise, the staff can be charged with assault.

            With regard to seniors. In Alberta, there are actual units designated for seniors who have mental illnesses such as psychosis, bipolar disorder or major depression. However, dementia and alzheimer’s disease are not considered mental illnesses and patients with those illnesses are not on psychiatric units. Seniors with mental illness diagnoses are treated with the same legal rights as every other citizen with a mental illness diagnoses. They too require certification.
            They cannot be forced to take medication. They have the right to appeal and they have the right to a lawyer for free.

            I did see a very troubling documentary about the situation in Ontario where they were housing the elderly with very violent psychiatric patients and one psychiatric patient actually killed his room mate who was an elderly man. Thus far, this has not occurred in the province I live in. The truth be known, nurses are far more likely than elderly patients to be hit and bit by patients suffering from dementia in nursing homes.

        • yes. it was ridiculous. i’m suing. i’ll tell you the whole story if you send me your email. I think it might’ve just been that the place was really old school because it’s owned by the Grey Nuns and beside the superjail in Penetang. but there were like about 7 – 10 things that never would’ve happened probably in more progressive facility like CAMH. Seriously TERRIBLE things. andrea.ingham@gmail.com

    • Canadian history is rife with torture. The Iroquois used to torture French missionaries, along with their Algonquin and Huron allies, like it were sport. You’re as clueless about Canadian history as anything else. Now of course you’ll lecture me on how there was no “Canada” back then so you’re still right. Somehow. You just know you are.

      • Ah yes, those evil savage ‘injuns’ ….seen on American westerns and written about by the missionary priests that would have made natives seem like pikers compared to the inquisitions and stake burnings they’d known in Europe.

        Oh and wunnerful people like Columbus and Cortez who enslaved and tortured …..and baptized babies before killing them.

        There was an auto-da-fe in Mexico in 1850

        You think in the 21st century we should do all that?

  2. Since he supports torture we should torture Harper to find out about all the corruption in his government.

    • Certainly but let’s torture the $40 million dollars out of the Liberals for the money the last government still owes us for Adscam and for the torture they were responsible for in the case of Mr. Arar. Remind me, how much money in compensation did we pay to him for his horrendous suffering?

      • There is no 40M dollars….there never was any 40M dollars…..and a political bribe is not, and never will be, equivalent to torturing human beings.

        • Are you also denying that Chretien and the Liberals were in charge of the country when Mr. Arar was tortured?

          • Well see, there’s your problem. No one’s even mentioned Chretien, or the Liberals …except you …..no one has ‘denied’ anything either.

    • Can’t tell if this is a joke but a lot of what Harper attempts to do is to keep Canadian egos in check & it just keeps backfiring on the man because he embodies nerdiness & funhating. The RCMP is like an unchecked not-criminally-responsible pool of low self-esteem and paranoia that breeds ego & brutish tactics when they themselves (the RCMP) ironically, feel bullied… usually by American entities or partisan pressures.