Dr. Dawg

Stephen Harper's secret police

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CSIS thoughtcrime.jpg

What’s worse than a toothless, barkless watchdog? What about appointing an active criminal to run a police oversight body? Objectivity virtually guaranteed. But if that gets politically embarrassing, as it almost certainly will—Canadians are, after all, a drearily law-abiding lot—then what about a house-trained puppy as a replacement?

Enter Chuck Strahl, unflinching, unquestioning Conservative loyalist. He has zero experience for the job of chairing the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, which is supposed to oversee the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, our country’s secret police. But he does bring unquestioning loyalty to Stephen Harper as a key—in fact, apparently the only—prerequisite for acquiring his latest plum.

But there’s a serious problem: he’s in a clear and obvious conflict of interest. He’s a registered lobbyist for Enbridge, and indeed he has worked for that company in one capacity or another since 2011. But Enbridge has been collaborating with CSIS in spying on anti-pipeline activists. So the man now responsible for keeping CSIS on a leash is also a lobbyist with a company assisting CSIS in its operations.

See the problem here? Harper doesn’t. But it’s so blatantly obvious that even elements of the far Right are alarmed.

We can be sure, in any case, that CSIS won’t be getting much critical oversight. The Harper government already moved in 2012 to abolish the Office of the Inspector General, and with it any detailed supervision of the day-to-day activities of CSIS. With the appointment of Chuck Strahl, SIRC—with a more restricted mandate—has been, to all intents and purposes, neutralized.

So CSIS, free of any effective control of its operations, will continue to do what it does: spy on ordinary Canadians and on peaceful and law-abiding protest groups, with a little help from the National Energy Board and the RCMP. (When caught at it, CSIS has had the effrontery to claim that it’s been for the protesters’ own good.)

Here’s the actual CSIS mandate, from the horse’s mouth:

CSIS is is mandated to investigate individuals or groups that may pose a threat to the security of Canada. As defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act, threats include espionage or sabotage, foreign-influenced activities or activities in support of terrorism. Section 2 specifically bars CSIS from investigating “lawful advocacy, protest or dissent,”unless it is carried out in conjunction with one of the threat-related activities defined in the Act.

But there would appear to have been considerable mission creep of late, with a nod and a wink from the Harper government. Remember Joe Oliver’s fatuous letter, denouncing “environmental and other radical groups” who allegedly “hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda?” When the top dogs talk like that, cops listen. So the Raging Grannies, for example, have evidently been suspected of being “a threat to the security of Canada,” a bunch of “multi-issue extremists.”

Mandate? CSIS don’t need no stinkin’ mandate.

Nor are our secret police all that fussy about the law of the land, either. In a recent case, it took a sharp-eyed judge to uncover some CSIS funny business, and to call them to account for it. You can bet that we won’t get that sort of thing out of SIRC—especially with the current Harper housepet in charge.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on January 7, 2014 1:12 PM.

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