The latest National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) report on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s threat reduction activities shows once again that the spy agency cannot be trusted to follow the law or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when they are granted secret powers to disrupt the lives of Canadians.
“We have said from the beginning that we cannot trust a spy agency that operates in secret with tangible threat reduction measures, especially if they get to decide what amounts to needing a warrant or not, and with what we know of CSIS’ troubling internal culture around the warrant process. NSIRA’s report is proof that our concerns are valid,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group.
It is completely unacceptable that CSIS believes it can ask third parties, like private companies, to take action against individuals based on a secret risk assessment without taking responsibility for the possible impacts. It shows they cannot be trusted with these powers.
The fact that CSIS also disagrees with NSIRA’s recommendation that it take the actions of these third parties into account when deciding to seek out a warrant proves that the service continues to skirt the law and should no longer be trusted with these powers.
NSIRA’s findings were released publicly on February 16 in a redacted report entitled, “Review of CSIS threat reduction activities: A Focus on Information Disclosure to External Parties.”
“We’ve been told over and over that we should not be concerned with CSIS’ threat reduction powers, because they have not reached the point of being so invasive that they require a warrant. It is now clear that CSIS is farming out threat reduction measures to third parties, and using that as a reason to avoid considering whether they need a warrant in the first place,” said McSorley.
The NSIRA report’s findings demonstrate the significant dangers to the rights of people in Canada posed by granting spy agencies like CSIS real world, tangible threat reduction powers.
Given all this, it is imperative that the federal government intervene by suspending CSIS’ use of threat reduction measures and referring this issue to the Federal Court. ICLMG also reiterates its call that CSIS’ threat reduction powers should be abolished.
Other troubling revelations in NSIRA’s report include:
- A lack of clarity and specificity in the information disclosed to third parties that CSIS was leveraging to take a threat disruption action
- Concerns that CSIS is not appropriately taking into account the impact of threat disruption measures on the individuals targeted as well as their families
- That NSIRA was unable to properly assess the outcome of threat reduction measures carried out by third parties, because CSIS’ “reporting system was inadequate or that these reports were improperly filed or non-existent”
- That CSIS is employing threat reduction measures outside of Canada that may violate Charter Rights, but that this was beyond the scope of this NSIRA report
- The government continues to censor the number of threat reduction measures requested by CSIS and those carried out. This information poses no threat to national security and should not be redacted from NSIRA reports (while this is not an NSIRA finding, the government censorship is revealed through what is redacted from the report).
The ICLMG has opposed CSIS, an intelligence agency, being granted threat reduction powers since they were first introduced in 2015. The reforms implemented by the federal government in 2019 did not solve the severe threat to fundamental rights that come about when an agency that operates in nearly complete secrecy can carry out real world, tangible actions against individuals. This was true when the McDonald Commission found in 1981 that there must be a division between intelligence services and law enforcement services, and it remains true today.
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