Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Work on Better Spy Monitoring Still Underway Four Years after Promise: Feds

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Work on Better Spy Monitoring Still Underway Four Years after Promise: Feds

Article excerpt

Work on better spy monitoring still underway

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OTTAWA - The Conservative government says it is working on more comprehensive monitoring of Canadian intelligence agencies -- over four years after committing to do so.

In December 2010, the government promised to allow the review of national security activities involving multiple departments and agencies. The goal was to eliminate barriers that prevent spy watchdogs from talking to each other.

It also pledged to create an internal mechanism to ensure accountability and compliance with the laws and policies governing national security information-sharing.

The commitments were included in the Harper government's response to a federal commission of inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people, most of them Canadians.

Josee Sirois, a Public Safety Department spokeswoman, says the government is still developing options for inter-agency security review, adding she has no details on when it might be done.

"The government of Canada recognizes the importance of independent review in maintaining Canadians' trust in our national security activities," Sirois said.

"I don't have any more specific details in terms of a timeline."

Opposition parties have criticized the government for not bolstering intelligence oversight in the anti-terrorism bill introduced last month -- legislation that allows increased information sharing among federal security agencies.

For instance, the bill would enable a federal passport official to share information with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about a terror suspect.

While there are efforts to improve information exchanges between intelligence agencies, calls to break down walls between the watchdogs that keep an eye on those agencies have largely gone unheeded.

Pleas for new rules that would permit greater co-operation between watchdogs have come from Chuck Strahl, former head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors CSIS, and Robert Decary, who once led the oversight agency for the Communications Security Establishment, the electronic spy service. …

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