Cables from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa reveal that CSIS was watching over a much larger web of terrorism suspects than the public has been told — people believed to be tied to the high-profile cases of the Toronto 18 and an alleged Ottawa terror cell.
Cables released by WikiLeaks:
The cables, released by WikiLeaks, are written by U.S. Embassy officials who passed on intelligence from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to be added to various watch lists held at the U.S. National Counter Terrorism Centre.
One cable written in 2009 names all criminal suspects in the Toronto 18 who were arrested in June 2006. But the cable also names nine additional people, individuals never publicly identified and who were never charged with criminal offences.
"The Canadian authorities have not arrested nine other individuals involved in the Toronto 18 conspiracy," the cable says.
Eighteen people, who came to be known in the media as the Toronto 18, were arrested in 2006 and charged with terrorism offences. Seven had their charges dropped or stayed, seven pleaded guilty and four were convicted.
Another U.S. diplomatic cable mentions Hiva Alizadeh, one of three men who was later charged in connection with an alleged Ottawa bomb plot. The cable was dated February 2010, months before the three men were arrested by the RCMP in August.
U.S. Embassy officials identify Alizadeh as being "strongly suspected of posing an imminent terrorist threat."
The cable also names an additional 13 individuals — people who were never charged criminally and are only listed in the diplomatic cable as having been "known associates" of Alizadeh.
The cables do not indicate what additional intelligence CSIS may have passed on, or what resulted from these names being given to American authorities.
Alizadeh and two other men are accused of conspiring to facilitate terrorism with others in Canada, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Dubai over the past two years.
Alizadeh is also charged with possessing an explosive substance with intent to harm and providing property or financial services for the benefit of a terrorist group.
CSIS declined to be interviewed by CBC News about how it decides what intelligence should be shared with the United States in its battle against domestic terrorism.
But in a written statement, CSIS spokesperson Isabelle Scott said the agency is governed by strict standards and is subject to oversight by the Security Intelligence Review Committee which routinely reviews CSIS intelligence sharing.
"These were people who didn't meet the threshold to have charges laid against them," said Lorne Waldman, a lawyer who represented Maher Arar and is a special advocate selected to argue secret cases around National Security Certificates.
"Those of us who watched the trial of the Toronto 18 thought they cast the net pretty wide already," Waldman said, adding thatseveral of them had the charges dropped.
"If these nine [additional] people didn't even meet that very low threshold for charging that means [CSIS] had even less evidence against them. So one wonders what threshold is it they are using when they share information with the Americans."