Jim comment: Harper feeds his base. Guter Deutscher. Good Canadian. Salute! As for me, I cultivate white roses in my garden.
CSIS powers to be expanded under Harper’s ‘Anti-Terrorism Act’
Karl Nerenberg rabble.ca blogs Canada January 30, 2015
The government has tabled its massive new prevention of terrorism legislation.
It includes a new offence: knowingly “advocating” commission of terrorism offences “in general.”
The key words here are: “in general.”
Currently, it is a crime to advocate or promote a specific terrorist act. Now it will be a crime to more broadly promote something at once more general and more ephemeral, in ways the law does not define.
Government officials say this provision does not include what they call “glorification” of terrorism — that is, praising the acts of “terrorists” but not encouraging others to commit such acts.
However, the legislation itself is not specific on that point.
The guarantees against abuse of these new and broader criminal code provisions, officials say, are in the fact that the Attorney General of Canada and a judge must agree that an advocacy offence has been committed.
The law will significantly expand the powers of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s ‘spy agency’.
CSIS currently is primarily an information gathering organization. It is supposed to analyze and identify actual and potential foreign or foreign-directed threats to Canada. It is not mandated to spy on Canadians or engage in law enforcement actions.
The new law will give CSIS the power to act, not merely analyze.
The law is vague on the nature of CSIS’s new powers to act, but government officials cite the example of a young, radicalized man who might be tempted to join an active terrorist group.
The new law will give CSIS the power to not only interview such an individual in order to gather information, but also to intervene to prevent the young man from engaging in notional terrorist activity. CSIS officers could also now report this supposedly dangerous young person to the RCMP and the RCMP could arrest him.
The new legislative package — it is in fact an omnibus bill that includes a number of significant measures bundled under the title of the “Anti-Terrorism Act” — will also expand the capacity of the police to hold suspected “terrorists,” without charge, fromthe current three to seven days, and it will lower the legal threshold for such detentions.
Currently the authorities must be convinced that terrorist activity will happen; now they will only have to establish that such activity may happen.
There is lots more, and the bill raises many questions about protection of fundamental freedoms.
For now, the government has had its big and highly controlled media show, complete with ringing rhetoric from the Prime Minister at a carefully staged event in suburban Toronto.
Parliament will have to deal with this bill, but the government didn’t think it necessary to introduce it there.
No, instead of a statement in the House of Commons, you will be seeing the Prime Minister’s face all over the media today and tomorrow, looking straight at the camera, surrounding by adoring Conservative partisans, pledging to be “vigilant” and keep Canadians “safe.”
This is an election year after all, and this initiative is as much about politics as it is about protecting us all from the threat of “terrorism.”
Spy service to get new anti-terror powers
Jim Bronskill Canadian Press/National Newswatch Canada January 30, 2015
Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes an announcement in Richmond Hill, Ont., on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Photo: Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Canada’s spy agency could soon have the power to derail terrorist plots — not just gather and analyze information about them — as the government moves to confront radical threats with an array of new legal tools.
Legislation tabled Friday would allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to thwart a suspected extremist’s travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly meddle with jihadist websites.
The plan to boost the spy service’s ability to counter terrorism flows from a review of fatal attacks on two Canadian soldiers last October — incidents the government believes were fuelled by Islamic extremism.
The Conservatives say the new powers are needed to help keep Canadians safe in an increasingly dangerous world.
Initial reaction from opposition parties was cautious and muted. Privacy advocates and civil libertarians expressed fears about trampled rights and inadequate oversight.
The proposed expansion of CSIS powers also conjured memories of past misdeeds — such as burning a barn to prevent a meeting of radicals — by the old RCMP security service, the scandal-plagued outfit from whose ashes CSIS rose three decades ago.
As expected, the bill would also make it easier for police to obtain a peace bond to restrict the movements of a suspect and it extends the period for preventative arrest and detention.
In addition, the legislation would expand the no-fly regime to cover those travelling by air to take part in terrorist activities, whereas currently there must be an immediate risk to the plane.
The bill proposes giving the RCMP power to seek a judge’s order to remove terrorist propaganda from the Internet. It would also create a new criminal offence of encouraging someone to carry out a terrorist attack.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a gathering in Richmond Hill, Ont., the Conservative government is prepared to both condemn and confront extremism.
“Jihadist terrorism is not a future possibility, it is a present reality,” Harper said.
“It seeks to harm us here in Canada, in our cities and in our neighbourhoods through horrific acts.”
Existing law requires a fear that someone “will commit” terrorism before police can obtain a peace bond — a tool that can mean jail unless a suspect abides by strict conditions, for instance that they surrender their passport and regularly report to police.
The new, lower threshold would be reasonable grounds to fear a person “may commit” a terrorism offence.
Current anti-terrorism law allows police to arrest someone without a warrant and hold them for up to three days before a hearing. Under the bill, the maximum period would be seven days.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said there must be a balance between security and civil liberties. “We are capable of doing both at the same time and we’ll make sure that this bill ensures that and we’ll ask the appropriate questions.”
Under existing law, CSIS may interview someone with the sole aim of collecting information, not dissuading that person from, for example, travelling to Syria to join militants.
With its new mandate, CSIS would need “reasonable grounds to believe” there was a security threat before taking measures to disrupt it. The spy agency would require a court warrant whenever proposed disruption measures violate the charter of rights or otherwise breach Canadian law.
Threat disruption warrants would be limited to 120 days, with the possibility of limited renewal if a judge agreed.
The new powers would allow CSIS to engage in a joint operation with a foreign partner to divert a shipment of dangerous chemicals, keeping it out of extremist hands.
CSIS could also ask the overseeing court to issue an “assistance order” that would, for instance, require a landlord to allow the spy agency to plant listening devices in a tenant’s apartment. Currently CSIS cannot force a building owner to comply with such a warrant.
In addition, the spy agency could provide online “counter-messaging” or even “disrupt radical websites and Twitter accounts” to protect impressionable young Canadians, says a federal background document.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee, which keeps an eye on CSIS, would report annually on threat disruption warrants.
The government is giving CSIS more powers less than three years after abolishing another watchdog — the inspector general’s office — meant to be the minister’s early-warning system on CSIS, noted Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor.
“The combination of more power — and explicitly disruptive power — but less oversight for CSIS is ultra-dangerous.”
Other proposed measures would:
— Allow for more information-sharing when the material — such as passport or immigration information — is relevant to an agency’s national security mandate;
— Give the government more power to object to disclosure of classified information in immigration proceedings.
Related” From Twitter to Question Period, some nasty talk in Canadian politics
Bruce Anderson Globe and Mail Canada January 30, 2015
Visit this page for its related links.
No sooner did I say, on national TV, that Canadians were going to see more Jekyll and less Hyde from the federal Conservatives this year, than they proved I was out to lunch.
This week’s tone as the Prime Minister returned to the House of Commons made me sense that he had given up snarling, at least for 2015. Irrational exuberance, as it turned out.
No matter what party is in office, I wish a Canadian Prime Minister wouldn’t stand up in the House of Commons and say the kinds of things Stephen Harper chose to say to opposition leaders earlier this week.
In answering a question from Thomas Mulcair about Canada’s mission in Iraq, he suggested that New Democrats feel compassion for jihadist killers, and indifference to Canadian troops.
Appalling accusations, and beneath the office of the Prime Minister. This is someone he hugged in solidarity, mere weeks ago. Back then: “We may be across the aisle from one another, but when faced with attacks on the country we all love and the things we all stand for, I know we will all stand together.” This week: “I know the opposition thinks it’s a terrible thing that we’re actually standing up to jihadists. I know they think it’s a terrible thing that some of these jihadists got killed when they fired on the Canadian military.”
Similarly, the Prime Minister didn’t like a line of questioning from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau about income splitting tax changes. He could have used the question to proclaim the merits of his tax break and resume his seat. But he thought better of that, and took aim below the belt.
He commented on the fact that Mr. Trudeau inherited money when his father passed away. As though the Conservative Party considers receiving an inheritance some sort of character handicap, and that anyone on the receiving end of a bequest should just shut up and let others decide things?
I know. The jaded and cynical will say: politics is a blood sport, toughen up. But the jaded and cynical are the problem. Following their lousy advice has coarsened our politics, driven away good potential candidates, and caused a steady decline in turnout at elections. Moreover, privately, pretty much any politician I’ve talked to in the last decade bitterly laments this race to the bottom, and yearns for leadership that will set a different tone, a better standard.
So what makes it so hard to turn things around?
One newish reason is the bad chemistry that happens when you mix rabid partisanship and a social media platform like Twitter.
On any given day, Twitter does a lot of good. A fine example this week is the #BellLet’sTalk campaign to promote a more open approach to mental illness. Does it matter how much money it raises? Not to me. It promotes thoughtfulness and compassion. It reminds us there are people who need our help, but are afraid to say so. It encourages policy makers to embrace their responsibilities to help, too.
I appreciate social media, including Twitter, for the sense of community it can build.
But when it comes to politics, Twitter can also create some pretty nasty neighbourhoods. Places where the ultra-cynical come to spit and spew, often hiding behind fake names, making juvenile arguments, and indulging in pathetic name-calling. There are lots who hate Liberals, or New Democrats, and many who hate Conservatives. Some loathe the media.
If you wander into this neighbourhood, you’ll find a seething, stinking place. And it’s getting worse. For people who get up in the morning hoping to insult others, success is about shock value and provocation. Ignore them and they come back with a worse insult. Reveal annoyance and they’ll double down, overjoyed at the thought they’ve drawn blood.
And so the floor keeps getting lowered.
Stephen Harper is probably appalled at some of the things that are said about him on Twitter. He should be – there’s a lot of awful garbage thrown his way.
But as the politician with the biggest podium in the country, he has a lot to do with setting the tone and the standard for political discourse. He can deliver an argument with style, wit, incisiveness and impact. But he also knows how to get the blood boiling among the angriest people in his party.
So “to be clear,” as the PM likes to say, it’s a choice.
It’s possible that Mr. Harper and Conservative strategists see merit in lighting up their most hostile partisans, as this week’s call to invective did. Maybe they believe it will scare and demoralize their opponents and improve turnout among their base.
But what this Conservative Party needs to win re-election isn’t more evidence that it likes to travel on the low road. Or that this Prime Minister is capable of insults.
Through the fall and beginning of winter, Mr. Harper’s approval ratings were on the rise, and his party more competitive as a result. The question now is whether he can stick with an approach that was working, or revert to a style that wasn’t.