Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dudley on Steroids - CSIS

The old joke going around was that, when the government of Canada announced it was developing an in-house spy agency, there was a mass-transfer from the Mounties, and that for years afterward members of the RCMP, looking to pad the pension, could 'serve' for a few more years in Canada's super-sleuthing  agency.

Since then, we're led to believe,  CSIS has weaned itself away from the Mountie intelligence mentality and developed its own stable of thoroughbreds - selected and trained  'ab ovo', as civilian agents.  Government-related university profs and 'Law 'n Security' instructors must be collecting millions in finders' fees.

Recent developments, coming as a result of leaked information elsewhere, indicates that the civilians are no more scrupulous than were the RCMP when it came time to seeking that ever-elusive 'actionable intel' and, given what appears to be a hefty dose of organizational paranoia about a defense against terrorism, are almost criminal in their efforts to protect the rest of us.  While the old saw about 'setting a thief to catch a thief' is probably more accurate in theory than in practice - or so we would hope - the notion of setting a spy to catch a terrorist doesn't make any sense at all.  But then if spies aren't 'cutting it',  perhaps some 'patriotic terrorism' might be in order.

One thing that is evident, however, is that a basic requirement to 'do' CSIS well, is to have a tenuous grasp on truth, on honesty or on what is legal. Spies historically, don't consider these things to be qualities.

And so when the Director of CSIS spoke to the media recently, telling the Canadian people that he thought his agency's gathering the personal communications and information of virtually every citizen in the country, and then keeping it for well-over a decade, was, in his, straight-faced civilian opinion, "legal", for no one had told him not to that caused some political huffery-puffery from the Justtice Minister - veteran Ralph Gooddale and while he was naturally 'appalled', he couldn't think of anything he needed to do about it.  The media gave more blowback (or at least the 'radical media' ), but that, apparently, is going to have little effect on how CSIS continues to conduct its business. The business of keeping us safe.

But let's take a look at that 'safety' they've been keeping us in.

Has Canada been attacked by terrorists? Well there are the two headcases who killed soldiers - CSIS would point to them.  But then, CSIS didn't know about them until the NSA told them. And that after a search of Canadian police records - for these two were known to Canadian police - and not as terrorists. Apparently while they can and do collect everybody's phone conversations, CSIS can't scan Canadian police databases to identify anyone. Only one of these is 'known' to be a 'pledged' member of ISIS because he said so on a suicide tape left behind in his stolen car. The other one might have been too, but the police were interviwing him on a regular basis - just a day or two before he went mujheddin. The junior jihadi , subject of a separate blog, is another other-than-glowing example of CSIS in action. There was the notorious plot to transport explosives from Canada to attack California, but aside from 'knowing' the pair arrested at the US border lived in Montreal, CSIS wasn't able to add much to that investigation - they're in a US jail. Then there were the 'Toronto 16', the 'Niagara Train bombers', and a couple of cross-border terror plots - all successfully-prosecuted but involving paid informants and a robust police presence to 'flesh out' and  to assist the miscreants bringing their plans to fruition.  The British Columbia 'pressure cooker bombers', whose case was tossed a month or so ago when evidence before the court indicated that they were a couple of simpletons caught up in what looked like a security service 'practice exercise' - is another example of potential criminality in the line of duty.

That's about it for 'protection' - for Mohammed Arar didn't do anything but get paid damages for ISIS assistance in getting him renditioned. and a couple of other similar exercises were quietly dropped. If we've been saved from anything else it must have been so brutally frightening that CSIS is sworn to secrecy and can't reveal the danger we were in.

I'm no expert but,  given the evidence so far,  CSIS like its American cousin is punching well below its weight class for the money being spent. If it's punching at all.

In this aspect of National security, Canada may have labored and brought forth a malicious mouse.

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