Agency must reveal source of allegations against terror suspect Mohamed Harkat, judge rules
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – A federal judge says Canada’s spy service "has seriously damaged confidence" in the court process and must help restore trust by handing over a secret file in the case of terror suspect Mohamed Harkat.
In a decision made public Tuesday, Federal Court Justice Simon Noel ordered the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to give him details of a confidential source the spy agency is using to support allegations against Harkat.
The government is trying to deport the Algerian-born Harkat using a national security certificate, a rarely employed immigration provision.
CSIS alleges Harkat, arrested almost seven years ago, is involved with the al-Qaida terror network – a claim he denies.
In his ruling, Noel said CSIS "undermined the integrity" of the court’s work by failing to disclose relevant details of a polygraph examination of another source in the Harkat affair.
CSIS neglected to tell him a secret informant in the case failed portions of the lie-detector test – a lapse the service itself has called "inexcusable."
Further, Noel said he was unimpressed with evidence about the polygraph matter – which first made headlines last spring – from three CSIS witnesses, whose names are confidential.
On the contrary, the CSIS explanations led Noel to conclude information the government filed in support of the certificate against Harkat has been "filtered" and that promises to the court have been broken.
"Filtering evidence, even with the best of intentions, is unacceptable," Noel wrote.
The judge said while it doesn’t appear the witnesses deliberately tried to mislead him, CSIS failed to give them "proper advice or support," amounting to an institutional failure by the spy service.
"The rule of law cannot be set aside because of a lack of time, resources or institutional resistance to the evolving context of security certificate proceedings."
Noel gave CSIS five days to turn over copies of the file on the second covert source to the court and to two special advocates, appointees who have clearance to see secret evidence and serve as watchdogs for Harkat.
Neither Harkat, his counsel, nor the public will be allowed to see the classified source file.
In a statement Tuesday, CSIS stressed that the court determined the shortcoming in disclosure was not an intentional effort to hide information.
"The service reacted promptly to this incident by informing the court, and quickly implemented new processes, including enhanced training, to improve the accuracy and completeness of information that CSIS provides to the court relating to the reliability of human sources," CSIS added.