July 16, 2020 / 5:31 PM / 18 days ago

Canadian federal court recommends external review of spy agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian federal court on Thursday recommended an external review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service after it found the agency failed to disclose it relied on information that was likely obtained illegally when seeking court warrants.

FILE PHOTO: A vehicle passes a sign outside the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) headquarters in Ottawa, November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

In a decision, Justice Patrick Gleeson recommended a comprehensive external review of the country’s main spy agency that aims to “fully identify systemic, governance and cultural short-comings and failures.”

The review, the judge said, should also consider the manner in which legal advice is being delivered to intelligence agency and its interactions with Canada’s Justice Department.

“This Court and the Canadian public must have confidence that respect for the rule of law is and remains a foundational principle underpinning all national security intelligence decision-making,” Gleeson wrote.

Justice Minister David Lametti told a news conference that the Canadian government planned to appeal the decision.

David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said in a statement the agency often relied on help from human sources who have access to individuals or organizations that could pose a threat. Those individuals are sometimes paid for information or provided with logistical supports, like a cellphone.

“Let me be clear, the types of activities that are in question in this decision are representative of routine, bread and butter practices used by allied intelligence agencies around the world,” Vigneault said.

Both Lametti and Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said they took the court’s finding “very seriously.”

“We want to reassure Canadians that at no time was the safety of Canadians at risk, nor were our rights and freedoms,” the ministers said, adding they had requested a national security watchdog look into the concerns raised by the court.

The Canadian government has also retained a former Supreme Court of Canada justice as an external adviser.

Reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney

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