Share: Information Sharing about Threats

AuthorCraig Forcese; Kent Roach
Share: Information Sharing about Threats
The Connect-the-Dots Intelligence Failures
In , James Bartleman was the head of the intelligence d ivision at what was
then the Canadian Department of External A airs. He later testied that he
had been given a secret Communications Securit y Establishment document
indicating that Sikh extremists were targeting Air India Flig ht . As dis-
cussed in Chapter , on  June , a bomb exploded while Flight  was
in mid-ight, killing  pa ssengers and crew. Another bomb destined for an
Air India ight killed two baggage handlers in Tokyo.
Bartleman’s recollection — ercely resisted by the government at the
commission of inquiry that followed decades later — wa s, in the words of
that inquiry’s head, “credible.” More than that, there were other documents
“that should have led the Government to have anticipated the bombing of
Flight  and to have acted to put in place security precautions to minimiz e
the risk.” Justice John Major, the commissioner, concluded that “there was
enough information in the hands of various Ca nadian authorities to make it
inexcusable that the system was unable to process that information correctly
and ensure that there were adequate security mea sures in place to deal with
the threat.” e facts that the government had before it created “a mosaic of
information which clearly identied a particu larised threat to Air India for
the month of June . is constellation of factors should have compelled
the Government to tailor and implement security measures to meet thi s iden-
ti ed t hre at.”
ese kinds of botched eorts to “connect the dots” are the most no-
torious (and arguably most commonplace) form of “intelligence failures.”
In some notable respects, the Air India experience was replicated years later
when in  American authorities also failed to piece together the jigsaw
puzzle pointing to the / attacks.
In the ndings of the subsequent US / Commission, the “FBI did not
have the capability to link the collective knowledge of agents in the eld to
national priorities. e acting director of the FBI did not learn of his Bureau’s
hunt for two possible al-Qaida operatives in the United States or about his
Bureau’s arrest of an Islamic extremist ta king ight tra ining until Septem-
ber .” e CIA knew ab out a key FBI investigation “weeks before word of it
made its way even to the FBI’s own assistant director for counterterrorism.”
e National Security Agency, for its part, had information in its possession
in  that would have helped identify one of the / hijackers. No one
asked for this information. Other informat ion was distributed but in narrow,
compartmentalized, a nd “siloed” channels. Sti ll other information was avail-
able, and agencies asked for it, but sharing was impossible, presumably for
some bureaucratic or legal reason.
e / Commission recommended that “information procedures should
provide incentives for sharing, to restore a better balance between security
and shared knowled ge.” Likewise, Canada’s own Air India Commission
urged that the CSIS Act “should be amended to require CSIS to report in-
formation that may be used in an investigation or prosecution of an oence
either to the relevant policing or prosecutorial authorities or to the National
Security Advisor. As we discuss at lengt h in Chapter , this recommenda-
tion was ignored — and despite the occasional puzzling government claims
to the contrary, Bill C- does not honour it. Instead, Bill C- responds to
legitimate concerns about siloed information, so evident in the Air India a nd
/ cases, by throwing wide open the ba rn doors on information sharing but
in such a complex and unnuanced way that the only cer tain consequence will
be less privacy for Canadia ns.
While Bill C- creates a new permissive regime for information sharing
about a vast array of security threats, it does not compel information sharing for
the most serious security threats, including terrorism. It takes no steps to
cure the problem that the Air India inquiry spent four years studying and that
we examine in Chapter : the critical quest ions of how intelligence can be
shared so as to prevent terrorism and how it can be converted into evidence
for court prosecution purposes.
Chapter Five: Share
Nor does Bill C- prioritize the sharing of in formation that could pre-
vent another Air India or /. Instead, it risks drowning terrorism-related
information in a data haystack that can include information sharing about
peripheral matters of all avours, not all of them consis tent with long-standing
understandings of national security.
The Careless-Use-of-Authority Intelligence Inquiries
In its few short pages, therefore, the new Securit y of Canada Information
Sharing Act (SoCIS Act) enacted in Bill C- fai ls to grapple with the key
complaints arising from past intellig ence failures while turning a blind eye to
another form of failure: careless use of authority.
And that assert ion brings us to another story about information sharing :
that of Maher Arar. As d iscussed in Chapter , the RCMP’s ill-considered
provision to American authorities of raw information along with sensation-
alist commentary on the false aliation of Arar and his wife, Dr Monia
Mazigh, with al-Qaida was the likely cause of Arar’s troubling treatment at
the hands of the US authorities, including his ultimate rendition to Syria,
where he was tortured. ose events culminated in the Arar Commission of
Inquiry, where t he commissioner, Justice Dennis O’Connor, noted the shor t-
comings of RCMP information sharing practices and recommended careful
steps to forestall a recurrence of the Arar events.
Poor information sharing practices also were revea led by the subsequent
Iacobucci inquiry exam ining the mistreatment of Adbullah Almalki, Ahmad
Abou-Elmaati, and Muayyed Nureddin i n Middle Eastern jails. Justice Frank
Iacobucci concluded that Canadian ocia ls had likely contributed to the
maltreatment of these individuals in foreign custody when they had shared
information about the detainees (especially suspected terrorist involvement)
or communicated suspicions by making eorts to interrogate the individuals
or have them questioned by foreign ocials.
Framing the Information Sharing Objectives Clearly
Together, these inquiries point to the importance of information sharing —
what we call “share.” eir ndings need to be read in conjunction with
one of the points made in Chapter : specically, that our old model of
protecting privacy by superimposing “gatekeeping” rules limiting collection
does a poor job in an information-rich environment where the government is
able to accumulate rich databases of mi nable data. In other words, traditional
privacy protections focus on the acquisition of information whereas modern

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