Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Only in Canada

Canada continues to ignore national wake-up call

One of the most-chronicled tales of recent American history has been the abject failure of various American intelligence agencies to work together to prevent 9/11.

While many of the aforementioned intelligence agencies had various pieces of information regarding the plot, they failed to share it appropriately. Even when the threat was made known to decision-making authorities, including the administration, it was ignored.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Yet it’s all too easy to allow one’s vision to be clouded if they can’t see the entire picture or, worse yet, willfully ignore it.

In Canada, we have a catastrophic terrorist attack of our own which revealed the clogged channels of communication between our intelligence agencies – the 1985 Air India bombing.

In the years following the Air India bombing, the failure of the RCMP and CSIS to share key information regarding the plot has revealed various rivalries between the two agencies that served to undermine their effectiveness in preventing these attacks.

Air India, like 9/11, was preventable.

And while the United States moved quickly in realigning their intelligence gathering capabilities in order to prevent future terrorist attacks, Canada, with an additional 16 years of time to do this, has, as yet, failed to do the same.

Today, the National Post reports that CSIS is apparently afforded little knowledge regarding whether or not information they pass along to the RCMP is being used or not. Nor does the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

“I cannot speak a great deal about the downstream results -- the charges, the prosecutions,” said FinTRAC spokesperson Mark Potter. "We are not in a position to answer questions about how many convictions there have been."

This actually contradicts recorded comments by FinTRAC director Horst Intscher, who, in the agency’s last annual report, announced, “It is especially gratifying to see the results of our work now being reflected more and more frequently in criminal investigations, charges, prosecutions and convictions. The positive feedback we are getting from law enforcement agencies and from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) shows us that our efforts are making a valuable contribution to protecting the Canadian financial services sector from abuse by criminals and terrorists."

If the seeming inability of Canadian intelligence-gathering and law enforcement agencies to work together toward a common cause seems silly to the average Canadian, it seems equally so to Air India Enquiry Commissioner John Major.

"It just seems to me that this is getting awfully complicated, that there could be easier ways if we weren't sort of wrapped in barbed wire about exchanging information between agencies,” Major said.

Only in Canada would our intelligence-gathering agencies be allowed to continue to work is disaccord and disarray more than 22 years after such a terrorist attack, which should have been interpreted as a national wake-up call. The United States took less than a year to overhaul its ability to gather, share and act on intelligence related to national security.

It should be considered a national embarrassment – at best – that Canada has, with more time to work with, failed to do the same.

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