Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Barry Cooper's Testimony on C-51

So, crazy stephen harper's C-51 is now the law of the land. My schoolyard is your go-to place for bite-sized nuggets of expert and smart-type people's testimony about the bill. (As opposed to the nicer looking, but lengthy scrolling needed at the actual website.)
    Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks for the invitation to appear before this committee on such an important matter.

    It will be obvious enough that I'm not a lawyer. I'm a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. Among other things relevant to your deliberations, I've written a book on terrorism as a political religion, major reports on why we need a foreign intelligence service, on the RCMP, and on problems that democracies have in fighting small wars.
    By and large I think Bill C-51 is a useful improvement to Canada's anti-terrorism legislation. I said so in a couple of newspaper columns and I won't repeat myself here. I have some critical and analytical remarks that I expect are more useful for your purposes than half-heartedly praising the government.
Hmm. Well, I call it the GBWT for a reason.
    Let me begin by recalling that the Prime Minister introduced Bill C-51 in Richmond Hill last January with the words, “violent jihadism is not a human right, it's an act of war”. I think this is fundamentally accurate. We are in a different threat environment today than we have been previously. The problem of terrorism is not one of simply violent extremists as President Obama said, but chiefly of violent jihadis.
Yeah. Because violent extremists we can handle. But violent jihadis?? No way! Wait! What?

    That being said, I recognize that, as in any law of general application, Bill C-51 has aroused the anxieties of Canadians concerned with peaceful and sometimes not-so-peaceful protests and how this activity will be treated under the provisions of this bill. However, the chief conflict I would say is not between the police and criminals. In order to understand the main threat to Canadian security, it's important to look first at how the opposition understand themselves, and they say they're at war.
Did Cooper just say that "not-so-peaceful" protesters are "criminals"?
    In a study published last year by Clark McCauley and Sophie Moskalenko, the authors deal with the importance of the jihadi narrative, which they argued moves often isolated individuals from radical opinion to radical action.
    Two things are important here. The first is a four-part jihadi narrative. First, Islam is under attack; second, jihadis are defending Islam; third, their actions, which we call terrorism, constitute religiously justified warfare; and fourth, the duty of Muslims is to support their actions. Second, about five percent of British Muslims, where this study was conducted, agree entirely with this narrative. Eighty percent agree with the first element that Islam is under attack, and the authors think that this is a low estimate.
Here's the thing: This would all be irrelevant if not for the constant violent meddling of the USA in the Middle East, and for the decades-long (more decades than I've been alive) campaign to demonize Arab animosity towards Zionist imperialism. And, forgive me if I'm wrong, but it reads to me as if Cooper is being somewhat of a sleaze-bag by stating the finding that 80% of British Muslims believe their religion is under attack (which it is) as being the first part of the "jihadi narrative." I don't suppose the number of Christians who think that they're "under attack" would be counted as potential foot-soldiers in the terrorist armies? 
    I mention this at the outset because the liberties of Canadians are threatened a lot more by Islamic states than by CSIS or the RCMP. 
Well, I think Barry Cooper just removed himself from the "People To Be Taken Seriously" list. When you consider the number of Canadians killed by the RCMP, or beaten by the RCMP, or attacked by the RCMP or spied on by CSIS or rendered to torture chambers by the RCMP, ... when you consider the spying and harassment of First Nations peoples, environmentalists, poor people's groups, immigrants, ... and compare that to the death toll from Islamic terrorism, and when you consider how much Islamic terrorism is created by our domestic and foreign policies, ... well, it's no contest that CSIS and the RCMP endanger more Canadians (both pre and post C-51) than do the terrorists. This isn't a question for debate anymore and anyone who wants to pretend it is, is either a liar or a fool or both.
Bill C-51 contemplates changing CSIS into something more than a security intelligence service but less than a foreign intelligence service. Forcese and Roach, from whom you'll be hearing later, are both critics of Bill C-51 and call this a kinetic service, and that seems accurate enough.
    For what it's worth, I support a dedicated foreign intelligence service with real spies dedicated to stealing secrets from other countries.
Well, isn't that crazy and stupid. Why, in this day and age, after two World Wars and a Cold War and all the shitty wars before and after those conflicts, do we feel there is a need to "steal" from other countries? Certainly there is a need to have a service that defends us from the attempts of other countries to steal our secrets, but it is not being dangerously naive to say that Canada has no need to steal from other countries and potentially cause international conflict.(You know, for some reason, even though Cooper hails from the University of Calgary, I'd thought I connected good work with his name. But if this testimony is any indication, it must be a false memory and Cooper is yet another example of the sort of right-wing ideologue/hacks that the U of C is infamous for.
This new CSIS may be a step down this road, but if so, it needs to eventually deal with the fundamental problem of catching spies or neutralizing threats that require an entirely different skill set than espionage and associated extra-legal or illegal operations.
    Historically, the separation of spying and spy-catching has been the rule among democratic regimes because the operational focus and organizational culture of such operations are so different. What a newly kinetic CSIS will be like is not at all clear, which introduces the second problem that seems to me equally intractable. It's not possible—it's not possible—to harmonize the purpose of the police with that of security intelligence, though it may be possible to manage their incompatibilities.
    Part 1 of Bill C-51 on information or intelligence sharing seems to address this tension between CSIS and the RCMP. Let me say that intelligence sharing is useful and even necessary, and part 1 is a good start.
I'm not fundamentally opposed to information sharing to defend from terrorism. I even admitted that some of what Public Safety Minister Blaney said in his words on the topic sounded plausible. But as we have seen with the cases of Maher Arar and Abdullah Almalki, information sharing can have disastrous consequences. To say that C-51 is a "good start" on this is like saying that missing the first step at the top of a high staircase is "a good first step."
   That said, the underlying tension has not disappeared for the simple reason that intelligence and police organizations have distinct and sometimes conflicting purposes. Police want to arrest suspects and gain convictions in court. Intelligence organizations want to play suspects for additional intelligence. Police need to be scrupulous in following legally correct procedures of gathering evidence, for example, to ensure convictions. Intelligence operatives, who are not primarily interested in convictions, do not.
Don't forget the whole topic of human rights Dr. Cooper!
    This tension cannot really be dissolved since it goes to the heart of these different kinds of organizations. How CSIS and the RCMP will ensure that disruptive or kinetic activities of the former do not also disrupt the criminal investigations of the latter is a problem. Personally, I would hope that CSIS intelligence gathering, except in emergencies, trumps their kinetic activity, which in turn trumps the RCMP. This is more or less what Bill C-44 proposes, I believe. If so, I'd say that it reflects the appropriate priorities of the two organizations. 
Okay ...
    One other thing I would mention deals with oversight and review. As with the distinct purposes of police and security services, there is a distinction to be made here as well. Where CSIS’s contemplated activities would violate the law, a Federal Court judge must pre-approve these with a warrant. This adds something to oversight by taking it outside the executive chain of command. I would reserve judgment as to whether we need additional oversight beyond search and surveillance warrants until we see how the proposed structure works. But how will we know how it works? 

Dr. Cooper must have been living under a rock for the past decade or so. We've learned that in the USA, courts established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have acted as basically rubber stamps since their inception. Canadian Internet Service Providers have cheerfully handed over customers' personal information to the police without warrants being required.And now Barry Coooper wants us to wait and see what CSIS does with its new powers to "disrupt" activity, before talking about proposing oversight??? Da fuck???

    This is a matter not of oversight but of review, of after-action audits similar to what SIRC, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, is currently supposed to do with CSIS. I say “supposed to do” because, as I am sure you know, this review agency is underfunded and understaffed. Worse, if there is to be a whole-of-government approach to security and intelligence sharing, as contemplated by Bill C-51, and which, as I said, is a laudable objective, then there needs to be a whole-of-government approach to reviewing what the government agencies do.
    Currently, for example, Canada Border Services Agency, which conducts both police and intelligence work, is not reviewed by anybody. This is bad bureaucratic practice, to say the least. I would suggest, therefore, an expansion of the SIRC model but, as is the case in the U.K. and Australia, I would add to the specialists and the technical officers, and people like Mr. Atkey, sitting MPs from both sides to the House. This seems to work fairly well in Australia, so far as I know. Obviously the MPs, like other SIRC members, would have to be sworn to secrecy.
    I would point out two further things:
     First, secrecy in the review of intelligence operations is as inevitable as it is in spying and conducting security intelligence. No country can conduct intelligence operations, whether defensive or offensive, in public.

No country should be conducting offensive intelligence operations at all! But I hope you noticed how even Barry Cooper described SIRC as "underfunded and understaffed." Blaney, MacKay and their stooges on this committee are absolutely shameless.

Second, Increasing oversight it not as important as increasing after-action reviews. The reason is that more oversight amounts to more interference with the executive in matters where intelligence activities are often time-sensitive. Furthermore, after-action reports will influence future expectations, which is a kind of internal oversight, by providing appraisals of how the various security services behave.
    Bill C-51, in short, is a good first step but it can be improved.
    Finally, thank you for your attention. I'd be happy to answer a few questions later if I can. I hope I've not said too much.

This is all drivel and nonsense. There is no need for any country to conduct offensive spying operations. There is very little oversight for CSIS and the RCMP. When they are found guilty of particularly heinous abuses, they get to have secret inquiries that are an insult to their victims. The GBWT is a self-inflicted wound caused by Israeli and oil imperialism and the military-industrial-security complex. They're all sitting there talking bullshit about problems of their own making. Assholes.

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