Today’s example of a woefully uninformed journalist spouting off on a subject of crucial national importance is John Ivison, whose Monday column in the National Post is what presently passes for “balanced” commentary on what Ivison says is a renewed push by the government to transform the Canadian Security Intelligence Service into a foreign intelligence agency. By “balanced” I mean that Ivison blathers something about pros and cons, not that he provides anything in the way of intelligent and informed commentary. According to Ivison, we just need to remove one pesky piece of red tape from the CSIS Act and then Canada can have the foreign intelligence agency that a grown-up country should have.
There are two problems with this, both of which strike at the heart of Canadian democracy. I might accuse Ivison of trying to skate over them, but I don’t think he is. I think he is simply, woefully, ignorant. My reason for thinking this is that he claims we must make good reforms at CSIS to prevent another “operational failure” like Maher Arar. First of all, the Arar scandal happened at the RCMP, not at CSIS. It was their Project O Canada which betrayed the country and the values of the police force itself by handing over their database of suspected terrorists to the Americans, free of charge and without caveats.
Second, the Arar scandal was not an “operational failure.” It was actually an operational success: a suspected terrorist was captured after the Canadian and American secret police collaborated against a common enemy. He was detained, interrogated (read: tortured), and supplied information about Middle Eastern terrorist groups. The only “failure” was that the rest of us found out about it. At that point, he was released. But otherwise, that’s exactly how a security police system is supposed to work. Ask an ex-KGB officer, or an ex-Stasi one, or any North Korean or Iraqi. If you find it disturbing that a secret police service should have the power to swipe citizens off the streets and torture them, that’s because you have a more sophisticated moral sense than Ivison or his apparent sources in CSIS.Tweet