WikiLeaks spills Canadian terror details
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon speaks to the media in response to WikiLeaks on November 29, 2010. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA - The former head of Canada’s top intelligence agency told American officials that Canadians have an “Alice in Wonderland” worldview and that courts have tied intelligence agents in knots as they fight against Islamist terror plots in Canada and abroad.
The blunt view from Jim Judd, the former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), is contained in a leaked cable from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa to the State department in Washington. The cable details a conversation between Judd and then Counselor of the State Department Eliot Cohen in July 2008.
The cable also details Judd’s reaction to the court-ordered release of a video showing Omar Khadr being interrogated.
“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,” reads the American account of the meeting.
Khadr is a Canadian citizen who recently pleaded guilty to murder, conspiracy and terrorism charges.
The leaked cable, one of more than 250,000 stolen from the United States and given to the website WikiLeaks, also describes Judd’s views on several other terror cases in Canada. Judd told Cohen that the use of intelligence sources was a source of legal headaches for CSIS in cases such as Momin Khawaja, the Toronto 18 and Said Namouh.
Khawaja, the first Canadian charged under the 2001 anti-terror laws in connection with his part in a British terror plot, is described by Judd as an outlier and not representative of the Canadian Pakistani community, which he described as being made up of lawyers, doctors and engineers unlike its “ghettoized and poorly educated U.K. counterpart.”
The cable also reveals that Canada has active Hezbollah living in this country. Judd told Cohen that CSIS has responded to possible terror operations by "vigorously harassing" known members of the banned terrorist group.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon strongly condemned the release of the information but downplayed any significance for Canada, including the revelation the U.S. diplomats in Ottawa were asked to spy on foreign dignitaries by collecting personal data.
“No, I’m not concerned,” Cannon said when asked about the possibility of Americans spying on Canada.
Cannon called the leaked data raw information and maintained that Canada-U.S. relations are strong.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the release of the info and said the Obama administration “deeply regretted” the release of private information.
Canada naïve about terrorism, CSIS head says in WikiLeaks memo
Mitch Potter WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON—Canadians have an “Alice In Wonderland” attitude toward global terrorism, the former head of Canada’s spy service told a U.S. counterpart in 2008, according to a secret American memo disclosed Monday.
Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Jim Judd is also quoted as saying that Canadian courts have the security service “tied in knots,” hampering their ability to detect and prevent terror attacks inside Canada and beyond.
Judd further praised the Harper government for “taking it on the chin and pressing ahead” with possible adjustments to toughen Canada’s prosecutorial stand against terror suspects, the leaked diplomatic cable reports.
“When asked to look to the future, Judd predicted that Canada would soon implement UK-like legal procedures that make intelligence available to ‘vetted defense lawyers who see what the judge see,’ ” according to the U.S. account of the 2008 meeting forwarded to Washington by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
The Judd memo marks Canada’s first newsworthy exposure to the vast and widening WikiLeaks disclosures in which troves of sensitive American secrets are dumping daily in ways that are making friends and allies squirm the world over.
It came only hours after Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon downplayed concern that Canada is poised for a diplomatic bruising in any of the more than 2,600 as-yet-unreleased U.S. State Department documents known to reference Canada.
“In terms of the significance of the documents as it pertains to Canada, I’m saying it’s not that significant,” Cannon said.
The Judd memo, posted online Monday by the New York Times, one of five major news outlets with exclusive access to the stolen files, describes a candid Ottawa meeting between the ex-CSIS boss and a senior State Department counsellor, Elliot Cohen, a close adviser to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
Judd told his American counterpart that CSIS officers were “vigorously harassing” known Hezbollah members in Canada but that the service’s current assessment was that no attacks were “in the offing.”
Other comments by Judd, in reference to a major Taliban prison break in Afghanistan, appeared to contradict later accounts by senior Canadian government and military officials.
Judd is quoted as telling Cohen that Canadian spies had prior warning that a Taliban explosion at Kandahar’s Sarpoza Prison was in the works “but could not get a handle on the timing.”
Shortly after the attack on the prison, former chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier told a committee hearing, “Obviously we would have liked to have known so we could have pre-empted or helped, more accurately, the Afghans pre-empt that kind of thing.”
The post-attack investigation into the intelligence failures was headed by former Conservative foreign affairs minister David Emerson, who also said that Canada was essentially caught unaware when the prison break happened.
Judd’s comments on Canadians and their courts echo private remarks made at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa, where security officials sometimes sarcastically refer to the legal obstacles as “judicial jihad.”
But the newly disclosed Judd document is likely to become fodder in arguments calling for greater oversight of the mercurial spy service.
The document emerged at the end of a day in which red-faced diplomats the world over joined the United States in a message of unity, insisting the ongoing leaks will have no serious impact on international relations.
With weeks of withering diplomatic blows still to come, Washington shifted to offence, blasting WikiLeaks.org as perpetrators of an attack not just on the United States but all nations.
“There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, facing reporters for the first time since Sunday.
WikiLeaks and five prominent newspapers continued to control the pace of the unprecedented revelations with continuing daily reports based on a trove of more than 250,000 stolen State Department documents in their possession.
Another leaked cable, cited by the French newspaper Le Monde but not yet published, presents Canadian diplomacy in a sharply positive light.
The 2009 memo is said to offer a U.S. diplomat’s description of how a Canadian ambassador to Tunisia boldly condemned the practice of torture, even as his counterparts from France, Spain and Italy remained silent.
“The Ambassador of Canada, supported by the UK, is clear: the Tunisian denials on torture are ‘bullshit,’ ” the U.S. cable indicates, according to Le Monde.
The cable quotes the unnamed Canadian diplomat as having “direct evidence of abuse and torture practiced for months,” the newspaper said.
With files from Michelle Shephard and Allan Woods
Canadians have 'Alice in Wonderland' approach to security, Wikileaks documents say
By Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News November 29, 2010 8:29 PM Comments (29)
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: WikiLeaks documents.
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."