CSIS ex-chief slams courts, Canadians: WikiLeaks

A U.S. official reported that former CSIS director Jim Judd said Canadians and their courts had an "Alice in Wonderland" worldview, according to a memo released by WikiLeaks.
Jim Judd, then the director of CSIS, waits to testify before the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security in Ottawa in October 2006. ((Chris Wattie/Reuters))

A U.S. official reported that former CSIS director Jim Judd said Canadians and their courts had an "Alice in Wonderland" worldview, according to a 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

Judd and the U.S. official were discussing threats posed by violent Islamist groups in Canada, as well as recent developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the cable, which was sent by the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa to the U.S. government, the official states that Judd said Canadian judges have "CSIS 'in knots,' making it ever more difficult to detect and prevent terror attacks in Canada and abroad."

Judd said the situation "left government security agencies on the defensive and losing public support for their effort to protect Canada and its allies," the cable states.

The cable is one of hundreds of thousands of cables released by the website WikiLeaks.

What's a cable?

U.S. diplomatic cables — like the ones made available by WikiLeaks — are encrypted reports that are sent daily from the more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world to senior policy-makers in Washington, D.C.

In the 19th century, a country's overseas diplomatic staff would send sensitive messages home by telegraph, through cables buried under the sea. These types of messages were known as cablegrams, or cables. During times of conflict, countries would try to sabotage each other's underwater cables to prevent the flow of messages. The first commercial underwater cable was laid across the English Channel in August 1850.

Canadian diplomatic officials have also used the word "telex" to refer to these documents, according to an embassy source.

Today, undersea cables are far more sophisticated: While they can easily handle the few telegrams that are still sent out, the fibre-optic technology also transmits telephone traffic, the internet and private data traffic.

The dispatch goes on to state that Judd "derided" recent Canadian court judgments that threaten foreign governments' intelligence-sharing with Canada.

"These judgments posit that Canadian authorities cannot use information that 'may have been' derived from torture, and that any Canadian public official who conveys such information may be subject to criminal prosecution," the cable says.

Judd credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government for " 'taking it on the chin and pressing ahead' with common sense measures despite court challenges and political knocks from the opposition and interest groups," according to the document.

The cable said that Judd stated CSIS had responded to recent, non-specific intelligence on possible terror operations by "vigorously harassing" known Hezbollah members in Canada.

But Judd said he viewed Mohammad Momin Khawaja — convicted in Ottawa in October 2008 of five charges of financing and facilitating terrorism and two offences related to building a remote-control device that could trigger bombs — as not typical of the Pakistani community in Canada.

Judd said that Canada's ethnic Pakistani community "is largely made up of traders, lawyers, doctors, engineers and others who see promise for themselves and their children in North America, so its members are unlikely to engage in domestic terror plots," the cable said.

Judd also said that sections of a court-ordered release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr "would likely show three … adults interrogating a kid who breaks down in tears."

Judd stated that the video "would no doubt trigger knee-jerk anti-Americanism" and "paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty," the cable said.

In discussing the situation in Afghanistan, Judd complained about "[President Hamid] Karzai's weak leadership, widespread corruption, the lack of will to press ahead on counter-narcotics, limited Afghan security force capability" and the Sarpoza prison break, the cable said.

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The Taliban attacked the prison in June 2008 and freed an estimated 1,100 inmates. CSIS had seen that the prison attack was coming, but didn't know when, Judd said.

Judd was the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service from 2004 to 2009.