By Jim Kouri
Canada’s intelligence officers were given the green light to use intelligence gained through aggressive interrogation techniques — described by some as torture — in cases that impact upon the safety and security of the Canadian people, according to a story by the Canadian Press Tuesday evening.
According to the news agency, the two-page directive was secretly promulgated to those with a “need to know” in December 2010. The Canadian Press obtained a copy of that directive under Canada’s version of the Freedom of Information Act — Access to Information Act.
According to those who’ve seen the document, it stipulated that in “exceptional circumstances where there is a threat to human life or public safety” urgency may require the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to “share the most complete information available at the time with relevant authorities, including information based on intelligence provided by foreign agencies that may have been derived from the use of torture or mistreatment.”
Although the language in the 2010 directive doesn’t allow CSIS agents to use “torture” on suspects in their custody, it does permit the CSIS to accept and use information from agencies that may have used torture to gain operable intelligence.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told the news agency that to ignore such sensitive information would be “an unacceptable risk to public safety.”
“Therefore, in situations where a serious risk to public safety exists, and where lives may be at stake, I expect and thus direct CSIS to make the protection of life and property its overriding priority, and share the necessary information — properly described and qualified — with appropriate authorities,” he wrote.
According to the Canadian Press report, the directive stipulates that “the final decision to investigate and analyze information that may have been obtained by methods condemned by the Canadian government falls to the CSIS director or his deputy director for operations — a decision to be made in accordance with Canada’s legal obligations.”
Speaking in Parliament Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Toews told lawmakers that the information obtained by torture “is always discounted. However, the problem is whether one can safely ignore the information if Canadian lives and property are at stake.”
He and Jason Kenney, Canada’s Immigration minister, confirmed the directive is government policy. Besides intelligence, CSIS is also responsible for Canadian border security.
“In situations where a serious risk to public safety exists and where lives may be at stake, CSIS should make the protection of life and property its overriding priority,” Kenney is quoted as saying to lawmakers.
“Of course we oppose the use of torture but we believe that Canada’s security agencies should prioritize the protection of life,” he added.
In 2009, then-Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loon vowed that the Canadian government would refrain from using any and all information obtained through torture, either in Canada itself or in another country when interrogators are allowed to use such methods to interrogate suspects.
However, officials at CSIS issued a statement in 2010 that said “the Canadian people would not forgive the intelligence service if it completely ignored information that could have been used to prevent a terrorist attack because that tip came from a country with a suspect human rights reputation.”