Exceptional circumstances - Macleans.ca

Exceptional circumstances

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As I reported in September, the Harper government quietly directed CSIS in December 2010 that it could make use of information obtained through torture—this after publicly renouncing a CSIS lawyer’s public testimony that such information might be used. Jim Bronskill has now obtained the full text of the ministerial directive issued by Vic Toews.

The latest directive says in “exceptional circumstances” where there is a threat to human life or public safety, urgency may require CSIS to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.” In such rare circumstances, it may not always be possible to determine how a foreign agency obtained the information, and that ignoring such information solely because of its source would represent “an unacceptable risk to public safety.” “Therefore, in situations where a serious risk to public safety exists, and where lives may be at stake, I expect and thus direct CSIS to make the protection of life and property its overriding priority, and share the necessary information — properly described and qualified — with appropriate authorities.”

The directive says the final decision to investigate and analyze information that may have been obtained by methods condemned by the Canadian government falls to the CSIS director or his deputy director for operations — a decision to be made “in accordance with Canada’s legal obligations.” Finally, it says the minister is to be notified “as appropriate” of a decision to use such information.