Monday, June 26, 2006

In the news: Lamer on CSE and the law

CSE Commissioner Antonio Lamer "says he's not getting the detailed information he needs to be sure the secretive spy outfit is obeying the rules," reports Jim Bronskill ("Canada's high-tech spies leave Lamer in the dark," Canadian Press, 26 June 2006):
The dispute stems from differing legal interpretations held by Mr. Lamer's independent counsel and the deputy minister of Justice, whose department provides legal direction to the CSE.

“The lack of clarity in this regard has made it difficult for my staff to assess compliance with certain of the conditions that the legislation requires to be satisfied before a ministerial authorization is given.”

Mr. Lamer says he has “offered specific recommendations” to the defence minister and CSE to iron out “ambiguities” in the legislation governing the CSE.

As a result, Mr. Lamer qualifies his finding that CSE activities 2005-06 complied with the law “as it is currently interpreted by the Department of Justice.”
See the CSE Commissioner's Annual Report, released on June 22nd, for the full text of Lamer's comments.

Update: 2 July 2006
Thomas Walkom comments on the lack of media interest in Lamer's comments ("Is Ottawa listening in? No one seems to care," Toronto Star, 1 July 2006): "This week, when former Supreme Court chief justice Antonio Lamer hinted that a secretive government snooping agency called the Communications Security Establishment may be breaking the law, he received 630 words on page eight of the Globe, nothing in the Post or Star and 126 words in The Record of Kitchener-Waterloo."

The reasons for the lack of attention to the CSE Commissioner's comments and to other activities of the security agencies, says Walkom, "stem from this country's overweening culture of bureaucratization." Among other points, Walkom argues that "more often than not, [government-appointed] watchdogs adopt the bureaucratic sensibilities of those they are overseeing — with the result that, when they do say something noteworthy, it is almost incomprehensible." Exhibit A: the CSE Commissioner's latest report.

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