Thursday, March 10, 2005

CSIS eyes mosques suspected in terror

Believed to be assisting with recruiting

TONDA MACCHARLES
OTTAWA BUREAU

OTTAWA—Canada's spy agency is monitoring certain mosques in the country that it suspects are raising funds for terrorist activities and recruiting terrorist sympathizers, a senior CSIS official says.

Under questioning by senators reviewing Canada's anti-terror laws, the former interim director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and now second-in-charge, corrected the new boss who denied knowledge of suspicious mosques in Canada.

Asked by Liberal Senator David Smith whether Canada has seen a repeat of the British experience where mosques are viewed as recruiting venues for sympathizers to go conduct terrorist activities in Iraq, CSIS director Jim Judd replied, "I know of nothing personally."

That prompted CSIS operations director Dale Neufeld, who was interim head of CSIS until Judd's November appointment, to intervene with a stunning admission.

"There certainly are mosques in this country — again I wouldn't say they're representative of the Muslim faith — but there are a couple that we believe have that role of facilitating fundraising and perhaps talent-spotting individuals to go for training."

Neufeld was not pressed further by Smith, nor did he offer further details.

Judd, in his opening remarks, had said "the ranks of trained terrorist fighters in Iraq are bolstered by individuals from around the world, including from Europe and Canada." He mentioned only an unnamed Canadian citizen who is "believed to be a member of a group affiliated with Al Qaeda and Abdul Jabbar, a landed immigrant, is believed to be a key commander and ideologue with that same organization in Iraq."

Judd went on to outline an emerging and "surprising" threat from "second-generation Canadians" who sympathize with "homeland" causes and are getting caught up in terrorist activities.

He said "the type of persons attracted to terrorist networks is changing in worrisome ways."

That prompted Senator Mobina Jaffer to chide him not to look "at second generation as homeland people or from immigrant communities because we are not."

"My children are not immigrants; they were born in this country. Bill C36 has already started creating an us-and-them, and that is a concern to me."

The appearance of Canada's two top spymasters yesterday revealed several other aspects of CSIS activities:

Judd said Canada's spy agency has never exported or aided another country to ship abroad suspected terrorists for tough interrogations or torture.

Judd denied CSIS had any role in the decision by the United States to deport Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, to his native country where Arar says he was tortured.

But in doing so, he acknowledged there was communication "after" that deportation occurred.

He revealed the service is actively considering whether to recommend the Tamil Tigers be blacklisted as a terrorist organization, but admitted the government does not want to adversely affect the peace process in Sri Lanka.

He disclosed that the intelligence agency's internal list of terror or espionage suspects contains a list of individuals "in the triple digits," although he would not say if it was closer to one thousand or one hundred names.

He revealed that, despite passage of a law last year in response to "urgent" appeals for access to more airline passenger information, CSIS has not yet begun to use airline information to try to cross-reference it and identify terrorist suspects. The explanation? The "technical" aspects of the computer system that would do the work have not been finalized, and "privacy concerns."

"We want to be absolutely scrupulous in how we would proceed with this provision," he said.
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