WORLD NEWS TOMORROW – OTTAWA Former CSIS director Jim Judd complained to U.S. diplomats in 2008 that the Canadian courts were tying his agency “in knots” and making it difficult to detect and prevent terror attacks in Canada and abroad, according to a leaked diplomatic cable from the American embassy in Ottawa.
The cable is just one of thousands that are being released by Wikileaks; a copy of it appeared Monday on the website of the New York Times, which is among several media outlets given advance access to the documents.
Also in the cable:
– Judd told U.S. officials that a videotaped recording of a tearful Omar Khadr at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would trigger “knee-jerk anti-Americanism” and “paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.”
– Judd said that CSIS was not encouraged by progress in Afghanistan, due in part to President Hamid Karzai’s “weak leadership, widespread corruption, the lack of will to press ahead on counter-narcotics, limited Afghan security force capability (particularly the police) and, most recently, the Sarpoza prison break.”
– Judd told the Americans that “he and his colleagues are ‘very, very worried’ about Iran.” CSIS had talked recently to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security after that agency requested its own “channel of communication to Canada,” he said. The Iranians had agreed to “help” on Afghan issues, including sharing information regarding potential attacks. But Judd told the Americans “we have not figured out what they are up to,” adding that it was clear the Iranians wanted the NATO military force in Afghanistan to slowly “bleed.”
– Judd said CSIS had “responded to recent, non-specific intelligence on possible terror operations by ‘vigorously harassing’ known Hezbollah members in Canada.” CSIS felt no attack was in the offing but Hezbollah members and their lawyers were considering using recent court rulings to hamper the work of the intelligence agency.
According to the cable, marked “Secret,” Judd met with a senior official from the state department and admitted that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was “increasingly distracted from its mission by legal challenges that could endanger foreign intelligence-sharing with Canadian agencies.”
The cable from Ottawa summarizes how Judd and U.S. official Eliot Cohen discussed “threats posed by violent Islamist groups in Canada and recent developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
It says that Judd shared the American’s “negative assessment of current political, economic, and security trends in Pakistan.”
“Director Judd ascribed an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ world view to Canadians and their courts, whose judges have tied CSIS ‘in knots,’ making it ever more difficult to detect and prevent terror attacks in Canada and abroad. The situation, he commented, left government security agencies on the defensive and losing public support for their effort to protect Canada and its allies.”
Under the headline “Legal Wrangling Risks Chill Effect,” the cable quotes Judd as deriding recent Canadian court judgments “that threaten to undermine foreign government intelligence-and information-sharing with Canada.”
Says the cable: “These judgments posit that Canadian authorities cannot use information that ‘may have been’ derived from torture, and that any Canadian public official who conveys such information may be subject to criminal prosecution. This, he commented, put the government in a reverse-onus situation whereby it would have to ‘prove’ the innocence of partner nations in the face of assumed wrongdoing.”
The author of the cable continued: “Judd credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government for ‘taking it on the chin and pressing ahead’ with common sense measures despite court challenges and political knocks from the opposition and interest groups. When asked to look to the future, Judd predicted that Canada would soon implement U.K.-like legal procedures that make intelligence available to ‘vetted defence lawyers who see everything the judge sees.'”
The cable makes references to two specific “terror cases.”
“Judd commented that cherry-picked sections of the court-ordered release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr would likely show three (Canadian) adults interrogating a kid who breaks down in tears. He observed that the images would no doubt trigger ‘knee-jerk anti-Americanism’ and ‘paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty,’ as well as lead to a new round of heightened pressure on the government to press for Khadr’s return to Canada. He predicted that PM Harper’s government would nonetheless continue to resist this pressure.”
Judd is also reported to have mentioned other major cases that provided CSIS with “major legal headaches due to the use of intelligence products in their development.”
Among the cases mentioned were the prosecution of Momin Khawaja, who had been on trial for his role in a bomb plot in the United Kingdom, and the trial of the “homegrown Toronto 11 (down from 18) terror plotters.”
“Judd said he viewed Khawaja and his ‘ilk’ as outliers, due in part to the fact that Canada’s ethnic Pakistani community is unlike its ghettoized and poorly educated U.K. counterpart. It is largely made up of traders, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and others who see promise for themselves and their children in North America, he observed, so its members are unlikely to engage in domestic terror plots. He said that therefore CSIS main domestic focus is instead on fundraising and procurement, as well as the recruitment of a small number of Canadian ‘wannabes’ of Pakistani origin for mostly overseas operations.”