COLIN FREEZE AND CAMPBELL CLARK
FROM SATURDAY'S GLOBE AND MAIL
AUGUST 11, 2007
TORONTO, OTTAWA — The civilian appointed to lead Canada's national police into a new era of accountability revealed Friday he was among the secret group of bureaucrats who had met to censor findings of the Maher Arar report.
The government broke with Mountie tradition to choose the career bureaucrat for the top job, in an apparent attempt to distance the RCMP from recent controversies like the Arar affair, which forced the resignation of Giuliano Zaccardelli.
Mr. Elliott insisted Friday that
Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli watches a change-of-command ceremony for new commissioner William Elliott Friday in Ottawa.
Mr. Elliott directly addressed concerns that were revealed to the public on Thursday, when previously censored portions of the Arar report were disclosed.
The new information showed that RCMP officers had provided misleading information to a judge when seeking a warrant and had entered into problematic relationships with Syrian military intelligence and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
“There are a number of lessons which we have learned,” he said.
Most of the fallout from the affair – which involved an inconclusive RCMP investigation that briefly touched upon Mr. Arar before U.S. authorities detained him as an alleged al-Qaeda member and sent him to Syria for interrogation – occurred last fall.
But because the government had censored references to many of Canada's intelligence exchanges with the United States and Syria, the disclosures released this week prompted renewed interest in the scandal and in official secrecy.
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said in an interview that
A spokeswoman for Mr. Day, the past and current boss of Mr. Elliott, said “senior officials from various departments” decided to block out the passages before the government signed off on the recommendations.
Some security officials says there is no great mystery as to why such references were blacked out: Foreign intelligence is not viewed as fundamentally different from any other borrowed good or service. For that reason, Canada is wary of passing along secrets it gets from other sources, or even pointing to those sources.
Canada has no dedicated foreign intelligence service and is somewhat beholden to the goodwill of allies. One RCMP inspector testified recently that the Mounties export one nugget of that security intelligence for every 75 tips they import. For that reason, keeping the goodwill of partners like the United States is seen as paramount.
But censors often use these reasons as pretexts to invoke too much secrecy, critics say.
He said that the unknown officials who wanted to shield the government from embarrassment failed – badly.