Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Light from the North

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Light from the North

Article excerpt

Excessive government secrecy hurts the global fight against terrorism. And as Sunshine Week approaches this month, don't take our word for it -- ask Canada's spy master, Jim Judd.

The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warns that Western values of free and open public debate and expression are essential weapons in responding to the threat of terrorism, and that a nation tosses them aside at its peril. Speaking recently at the 2007 Raoul Wallenberg International Human Rights Symposium, Judd put the case plainly: "More broadly, there is a risk that, absent adequate public dialogue and a surfeit of secrecy, the justification for action by governments against terrorism will be undermined or misunderstood. This in turn can put in jeopardy the legitimacy of the government response."

Judd is no starry-eyed idealist. In the same speech, he warned that Canada and the West in general face "an adaptive adversary that learns from its mistakes," and has proven alarmingly successful at nurturing homegrown fanatics. Nor is he a loose-lips kind of guy. In a speech titled "Transparency and Intelligence" that he delivered a couple of weeks after the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, Judd forcefully reminded his audience that the CSIS cannot talk about the methods, identity, or whereabouts of its operations or operatives.

But he also pointedly quoted a predecessor who used to say, "We are not a secret organization, but an organization with secrets. …

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