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CSIS destroys tapes relating to Air India bombing

It was deemed the worst act of terrorism in Canadian history: 331 people were killed in two decisive and deliberate explosions — one in a Japanese airport, another aboard Air India flight 182 in 1985. For the families of the victims, most of them Canadian, this was just the beginning. Charges of investigative bungling would be followed by the more startling accusations that CSIS, Canada's security agency, intentionally initiated a coverup. For over 20 years Canadians have grappled with this unsolved crime for which no one has yet had to pay.

Was it a cover up? Or simply strict adherence to CSIS protocol? Crucial wiretaps of the prime suspects, made before and after the Air India bombing, have been wilfully destroyed by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)agents, reports Brian Stewart in this investigative documentary. This revelation is compounded by the disclosure that the RCMP and CSIS have been at constant odds with each other from the very beginning. The CBC reports on the troubled and stagnant investigation that to all appearances seems to be turning against itself.
• On March 5, 1985, CSIS was granted a one-year wiretap warrant for the surveillance of Talwinder Singh Parmar. The Indian government had deemed Parmar an extremely dangerous militant and had sought and failed to extradite him back to India. On July 15, 1984, Parmar was observed at the Coach Temple, encouraging the congregation to avenge the attack on the Golden Temple.
• CSIS destroyed 150 wiretaps made of the suspects before and after the bombing.

• "The tapes of course are destroyed not as a bureaucratic procedure but as a matter of policy because we have to be very careful in terms of section 12 of our act that we collect information which is strictly necessary to an ongoing investigation." -- Reid Morton, CSIS.

• Section 12 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act states: "The Service shall collect, by investigation or otherwise, to the extent that is strictly necessary, and analyse and retain information and intelligence respecting activities that may on reasonable grounds be suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada and, in relation thereto, shall report to and advise the government of Canada."

• In an internal report in 1996, RCMP Inspector Gary Bass criticized CSIS' lack of co-operation with the Mounties. He explained that numerous "intercepts of high probative value between several of the co-conspirators leading up to the bombing were destroyed. There is a strong likelihood that, had CSIS retained the tapes..., that a successful prosecution against at least some of the principals in both bombings could have been undertaken. Had CSIS co-operated fully from June 23rd onward, this case would have been solved at that time."
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: Dec. 14, 1987
Guest(s): Ted Finn, David Gibbons, Norma Ingster, James Kelleher, Reid Morton, John Nunziata, Talwinder Singh Parmar
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Brian Stewart
Duration: 14:46

Last updated: January 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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