A new scandal is implicating an operative working for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and linked to the Canadian Embassy in Jordan, with transporting young recruits from Britain to Syria to join ISIS. The trail of responsibility leads right to the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa.
Such recruitment, from Canada and other western allies, is a prime argument for granting unprecedented power to our domestic and foreign spy agencies. But the question is: is CSIS responsible for fighting a terrorist threat of fomenting one?
CSIS and ISIS
Mohammed Mehmet Rashid has been arrested in Turkey for his role in transporting three young British women into the war zone. The recruitment of the school-aged women has made front page headlines around the world. According to the Turkish press, Rachid claims he has been an agent working with CSIS, traveling regularly to Jordan to report to the Canadian Embassy in Amman. Reports claim that Turkish officials are in possession of Rashid’s phone and computer, which he says were provided by the Canadian embassy.
The ambassador is Bruno Saccomani, a former RCMP officer who was once Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief bodyguard. Harper hand-picked Saccomani for the job in 2013, over loud objections about his lack of diplomatic credentials. The embassy in Jordan is also responsible for Canada’s imperialist intervention in Iraq.
To date the only word from the government is a carefully worded statement saying that Rashid “was not an employee of CSIS,” but no prominent figure has categorically denied that he is connected to the spy service. So far, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has refused to comment on grounds of “operational security”. CSIS, the RCMP and the PMO have refused comment. Defence Minister Jason Kenney, speaking to reporters in Calgary said: “We don’t comment on allegations or operations about our intelligence agencies.”
C-51: the secret policeman’s bill
The timing of the revelations is bad for Harper’s rush to enact new anti-terror powers for the secret police–Bill C-51. Among other things, the new law would allow CSIS free rein to gather any information about any Canadian citizen without warrant; defines terrorist so vaguely that government can apply it to anyone who opposes its plans for economic development; allows police to detain citizens without charge for longer periods of time; and authorized the secret police to break domestic and foreign laws in the interests of “security.”
The proposed increased powers for secret police, at home and abroad, do not come with any increase in independent oversight or democratic review. The Office of the Inspector General, which was mandated to keep an eye on CSIS and the RCMP was shut down by Harper in 2012. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) is a rubber-stamp board larded with Tory and Reform Party patronage appointments doled out by Harper.
People across Canada have a right to know what the Harper government and CSIS are up to in our name. Is their job to expose terror threats or to act as agents provocateurs encouraging, recruiting and then entrapping young people? Is their role to end terrorism or to stir it up, to justify war without end? Why are Canadian embassies being turned from centres of diplomacy into espionage and cold-war operations? And why, when even the assessment of the Canadian Forces warned of disastrous consequences, did Harper aggressively pursue Canadian military intervention in Libya?
The role of the Canadian government and CSIS in the Middle East stank before the revelations about Mohammed Rashid and Bruno Saccomani. The stink is far worse now.