PHOTOS from the morning of October 10th, outside Supreme Court Building

posted on October 14, 2013 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

Here are some photos from our friend Murray Lumley taken on the morning of the public Supreme Court hearings.

Secrecy Kills Democracy

10 Years of Injustice

See more photos from the visual presentation of October 10th.

OPINION: The Supreme Court's secret hearing

posted on October 13, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

By Kent Roach
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: October 8, 2013

The Supreme Court’s decision to hold a closed hearing this week as part of Mohamed Harkat’s security certificate hearing is disquieting.

Nevertheless, it is part and parcel of the problematic practice of using secret intelligence as evidence.

The closed Supreme Court hearing will involve an adversarial challenge between government lawyers and security-cleared special advocates. Neither Harkat, an Algerian refugee who was arrested in Ottawa in 2002 on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent, nor his lawyers will be present. This will strike many as unfair, but it replicates what happens in security certificates.

As also happens under security certificates, the special advocates who are supposed to represent Harkat’s interests in the closed hearing were only allowed to meet with Harkat’s lawyers in limited and judicially controlled circumstances.

In February of 2013, the Supreme Court allowed the special advocates to meet with Harkat’s lawyers, but only to discuss matters of “legal strategy.” The special advocates were warned that “no classified information will be directly or indirectly disclosed during such communications.”

And there is the rub. What if one’s “legal strategy” depends on what the “classified information” says?

The Supreme Court in its public order about the secret hearing used the telling and American term “classified information.” As found by both the Arar and Air India commission, the government over-classifies information. The security certificate regime encourages this practice by not allowing judges to balance the competing interests in secrecy and disclosure.

The special advocates are supposed to ensure that the detainees are treated fairly and that judges are fully informed about the relevant law and facts. But can the special advocates do their job properly if they are not allowed to consult with the detainee about the secret evidence that is being used against him? That is a central question the court must decide in this important appeal.

The secret evidence used in security certificate proceedings is intelligence that does not have to satisfy evidentiary standards. It may have been obtained from foreign agencies that use torture. It may be obtained, as is a concern in the Harkat case, from unreliable human sources.

The reliability of the secret evidence is often difficult to judge because the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — effectively the police force in these cases — destroyed original notes and intercepts after it made summaries until the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that such a policy was illegal. Another issue in the appeal is whether it is fair to use CSIS’s summaries when they cannot be verified against the original information. The Court of Appeal concluded the summaries were the problem, not the solution.

The governments that are defending security certificates will have a strong argument that the system is fairer than a previous one struck down by the Supreme Court in 2007 that provided for no adversarial challenge of the secret evidence. In addition, Parliament attempted to charter-proof the new regime by allowing judges to allow special advocates to do what is necessary to ensure the fairness of the proceedings.

But the idea of judicial approval is problematic. It is based on a fear that the security-cleared advocates may inadvertently spill secrets even though they could go to jail for doing so. It requires the special advocates and the detainee to share their litigation strategies with the judge and perhaps even the government. Government lawyers have access to the same and likely more secrets, but they are not subject to the same restrictions if they decide to consult colleagues or experts about the case.

The governments have undermined their arguments that the new system is better than the old and consistent with the charter by making the aggressive argument that the identity of CSIS sources should be protected by a near absolute privilege that could mean that even special advocates will not be able to know who the sources are.

The governments argue that the identity of CSIS sources should be secret, just like the identity of police sources. The critical difference, however, is that if the evidence of a police informer is used in a prosecution, the informer’s identity will be revealed when they take the stand and are cross-examined. The identity of CSIS sources remain secret. They are never cross-examined even though their evidence can be used to indefinitely detain and deport non-citizens, possibly to torture.

The special advocates in the Harkat case asked the judge to allow them to cross-examine at least one of the human sources, but the judge said no. Presumably part of the closed hearing will examine this important question. It will test the traditional view that cross-examination is the best way to determine truth.

The Supreme Court will have to decide not only if the new system is constitutional but also whether secret intelligence can fairly be used as evidence. The court’s novel use of closed hearings means that the court will gain first-hand experience with this problematic practice.

It remains to be seen whether the court will conclude that the practice is fair.

Kent Roach is the Prichard Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto and the author of The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

[AUDIO] CBC's Michael Enright talks with Prof. Mike Larsen About Security Certificates

posted on October 07, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

CBC's The Sunday Edition: Security Certificates (October 6, 2013)

Download the interview with Mike Larsen:

download MP3

New photos added

posted on October 07, 2013 | in Category Website-Related | PermaLink

On October 3rd The Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee staged a Visual Presentation to protest government secrecy and to inform the public about Mohamed Harkat's upcoming Supreme Court hearings (October 10, 9:00am) in which he will challenge the security certificate regime that he has lived under for more than a decade.

visual presentation in Ottawa, Oct. 3

The presentation was held at the Human Rights monument on Elgin Street in Ottawa.

Click on the above to see more photos from that day. All photos courtesy of Philippe Parent.

[OTTAWA, OCT 10] A staged adaptation of Kafka's The Trial

posted on September 24, 2013 | in Category Security Certificates | PermaLink

The Trial

Mohamed Harkat se libère de son bracelet électronique

posted on July 22, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

par Marc Godbout
Source: Radio-Canada
URL: [link]
Date: 18 juillet 2013

[ LINK: Un video reportage de Marc Godbout ]

Mohamed Harkat, un homme d'Ottawa soupçonné d'être un collaborateur d'Al-Qaïda, s'est fait retirer son bracelet GPS après l'avoir porté pendant sept ans, à la suite d'un jugement de la Cour fédérale rendu mercredi.

Le juge Simon Noël considère que M. Harkat, qui a toujours nié tout lien avec le terrorisme, représente un faible danger, sans compter que les autorités fédérales n'ont pas réévalué son dossier depuis 2009.

De plus, le résident d'Ottawa n'a brisé aucune de ses conditions depuis sa libération. Celles-ci sont disproportionnées par rapport au danger qu'il représente, selon le magistrat.

Le bracelet électronique que Mohamed Harkat portait à la cheville permettait aux autorités de le retracer en tout temps. M. Harkat avait demandé en juin le retrait de son GPS, arguant notamment que le dispositif nuisait à son travail et l'empêchait de dormir, l'affectant physiquement et psychologiquement.

M. Harkat, un réfugié algérien arrêté en décembre 2002 en vertu d'un certificat de sécurité, était assigné à résidence, à Ottawa, avec des conditions très strictes depuis sept ans. L'ancien livreur de pizza et préposé dans une station-service habite avec sa femme Sophie.

Le gouvernement du Canada avait assoupli récemment ses conditions de libération, lui permettant notamment d'utiliser son téléphone cellulaire.

Le couple soulagé

L'Ottavien a enlevé son bracelet mercredi soir dans les bureaux de l'Agence des services frontaliers, explique sa femme Sophie Harkat. Elle se dit « surprise », mais heureuse de cette décision. Selon elle, il serait « le détenu qui a porté le [bracelet électronique] le plus longtemps dans l'histoire du Canada ».

« On est vraiment, vraiment contents aujourd'hui. On est à une étape plus proche de la liberté, de la justice. Je pense que c'est un pas dans la bonne direction. » — Sophie Harkat

« Mon mari est extrêmement heureux. C'est la première fois depuis longtemps que je voyais vraiment les yeux de mon mari illuminés », constate Mme Harkat.

Mohamed Harkat pourra posséder son propre téléphone cellulaire, sans accès à Internet toutefois. Il aura également un ordinateur portable avec accès à Internet, mais les services frontaliers pourront le vérifier une fois par mois.

[PHOTO: Mohamed Harkat s'est fait enlever son bracelet, mercredi soir, dans les bureaux de l'Agence des services frontaliers du Canada. Photo: Sophie Harkat]

Par ailleurs, le couple aura le droit de voyager au Canada sans approbation, mais en donnant un avis de cinq jours aux autorités canadiennes.

Ils étaient jusqu'ici limités à l'Ontario et au Québec et devaient obtenir l'approbation des services frontaliers avant de sortir d'Ottawa.

Toutefois, Mohamed Harkat n'est pas en libération totale, il doit par exemple continuer de rendre des comptes aux autorités, explique sa femme.

La cause de M. Harkat doit encore être entendue en Cour suprême, en octobre. « On a vraiment hâte de se présenter devant la Cour suprême pour débattre la constitutionnalité des certificats de sécurité », dit Sophie Harkat.

Tous droits réservés © Société Radio-Canada 2013.

Mohamed Harkat no longer bound by GPS bracelet, other restrictions

posted on July 22, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Ian Macleod
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: July 18, 2013

PHOTO: Mohamed Harket said it was a relief to be free after having his ankle bracelet removed, July 18, 2013. Photograph by: PAT McGRATH , THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

OTTAWA — Mohamed Harkat, the accused al-Qaida operative under the unwavering eye of Canada’s security services since 1995, has won more freedom.

Shortly after 8 o’clock Wednesday night in a government office near St. Laurent Boulevard, the 44-year-old Algerian had a GPS tracking bracelet unstrapped from his right ankle by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer.

For the first time in seven years, Harkat can now walk, sleep and bathe without the bulky electronic surveillance device locked around his limb.

The Federal Court of Canada, in a decision made public Thursday, also gave him permission to own a basic cellphone with a capacity for incoming and outgoing calls and text messaging, an Internet-enabled desktop computer and permission to travel within Canada.

“Yesterday, I saw a sparkle in Mo’s eyes I hadn’t seen in a really, really long time, his face was just glowing,” Harkat’s wife, Sophie, said Thursday.

“He got up this morning feeling refreshed because he actually slept with his two ankles on top of each other rather than crossed. He’s been sleeping with crossed legs for the past seven years.”

The CBSA offered a restrained response Thursday. The federal government maintains Harkat poses a threat to national security and wants him deported.

“The CBSA respects the decision of the Federal Court and remains diligent in monitoring all persons, such as Mr. Harkat, who are under terms and conditions of release,” it said in an emailed statement.

Harkat has not viewed the Internet since at least 2002 when he was first jailed on what remains largely secret evidence under federal security certificate as a suspected al-Qaida terrorist.

After being released on a court order in 2006 and placed under virtual house arrest, he remained off-line as a condition of his bail release.

“He’s never been able to communicate with family (overseas) through email, he has no clue how big the Internet is. For him, it’s (going to be) so new,” said his wife.

The years of constraints have taken a toll: Harkat is under psychiatric care for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia.

“He starts two hours every day plugged into the wall recharging the (GPS) unit,” said Matt Webber, Harkat’s lawyer.

Harkat’s compliance with all of the bail restrictions, combined with the passage of time and the diminishing risk, left the court with little choice but to ease the restrictions, he said.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 10, the Supreme Court of Canada is to hear a challenge of the security certificate system brought by Harkat, who has maintained his innocence from the beginning. His lawyers are to challenge the extreme secrecy of the process and the inability of accused people to see evidence being used against them.

Harkat came to Canada as a refugee in 1995, He had been in Pakistan, where the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) alleges he once operated a guest house in the city of Peshawar for Islamic extremists travelling to Chechnya. CSIS monitored his activities upon his arrival and, for at least two years beginning in the fall of 1996, intercepted his telephone conversations.

He was arrested in December 2002 on the strength of a security certificate, which accused him of being a sleeper agent for al-Qaida. Harkat remained in detention until June 2006, when he was released on strict conditions, including that he be in the company of a surety at all times, even inside his house.

A 2009 CSIS assessment concluded Harkat’s alleged role in the international Islamic extremist movement prior to his arrival in Canada “appears to have been largely logistics and facilitation.” A CBSA threat assessment around the same time concluded the threat posed by Harkat has “diminished over time.”

During a federal court hearing in June at which Harkat sought to have some of the restrictions eased, the CBSA also acknowledge Harkat had complied with the previous terms and conditions of his release.

Federal Court Justice Simon Noël, in his reasons for order released Thursday, decided it is time to take the next step.

“At the time that the first (security) certificate was filed, the danger assessed was high. The present danger is at the low end of the spectrum. This favours a further relaxation of the terms and conditions of release,” he wrote.

“There was a time for house arrest, outings with strict supervision and then alone with a GPS and no computer access. The circumstances have changed. The initial danger has diminished considerably. Mr. Harkat has complied through time with the strict conditions. Conditions of release therefore have to be adapted to this new favourable reality for Mr. Harkat.

“It is my assessment that the time for a GPS has passed. Since his marriage, Mr. Harkat has adapted to his new environment. He is a well-known person who has developed a stable relationship and new friends. He owes a lot to his family and friends, and he is not in a position to disappoint them by breaching any of the remaining conditions of release. The consequences for him are too important.”

With that, Justice Noël also eased Harkat’s travel conditions, allowing him to travel anywhere in Canada provided he gives five working days’ notice and his itinerary to the CBSA.

Once a month, Harkat will be required to take his new desktop computer to the CBSA to allow officials to review his online browsing history. He also will continue to make a weekly check-in visit to the CBSA.

Sophie Harkat, too, for the first time in years will be allow to use a cellphone and computer in the couple’s east-side home, provided it’s for her exclusive use.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Accused terrorist Mohamed Harkat freed of tracking device

posted on July 22, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Megan Gillis
Source: The Ottawa Sun
URL: [link]
Date: July 18, 2013

PHOTO: Terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has been freed from the GPS tracking anklet that he has had on for seven years. The device was removed on a federal judge’s order Thursday. Harkat cools off at a water park near his home in Ottawa, On. Thursday, July 18, 2013. This was the first time in seven years that Harkat wore shorts. Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency

Terror suspect Mohamed Harkat has been freed from the GPS tracking anklet that kept him “an animal on a leash” for seven years.

He slept in Thursday, the morning after the device was removed on a federal judge’s order, instead of waking at dawn to spend two hours charging it. He can wear shorts in the heat.

The weight he dragged with every step is gone.

“It’s relief, like breathing pure oxygen,” he said Thursday.

“It’s one step to clear my name. It gives me hope for the future, the victory just around the corner. It’s just a matter of time to get there.”

Harkat, 44, can also have a basic cell phone and use a desktop computer connected to the Internet, although it will be subject to monthly inspections.

“It goes without saying” that he can’t access jihad sites or contact anyone linked to terrorism, Judge Simon Noel wrote.

The next step is the Supreme Court in his fight against Canada’s system of security certificates, which allow non-citizens judged security threats to be detained and deported without seeing all the evidence against them.

It’s been more than a decade since the former pizza deliveryman was arrested outside his Vanier home.

The Algerian refugee denies allegations he was an al-Qaida sleeper agent who once ran a safe house in Pakistan for Islamic extremists.

He spent 3 1/2 years behind bars before being released on strict conditions. He’s since been served with a notice of deportation.

Federal Court Judge Noel cited the passage of time and its reduction of the risk Harkat poses to national security in concluding the “demanding, intrusive” conditions were “disproportionate.”

“The initial danger has diminished considerably,” Noel wrote in a decision released Thursday. “Mr. Harkat has complied through time with the strict conditions. Conditions of release therefore have to be adapted to this new favourable reality for Mr. Harkat.”

He’s now a “well-known person” who owes a lot to his friends and family and won’t disappoint them with a breach.

“The consequences for him are too important,” Noel wrote.

Matthew Webber, one of the lawyers who will take Harkat’s fight to the top court in October, called the changes to his conditions “sweeping.” It’s a “significant legal observation” that a judge found any risk to Canada has dropped over time.

“We still have the Supreme Court on the horizon,” Webber said, adding “the case isn’t over yet.”

megan.gillis AT

Twitter: @ottawsun_megan

Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved.

The secret court: Judges to go into hiding for Harkat hearing

posted on July 21, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Colin Freeze
Source: The Globe & Mail
URL: [link]
Date: July 19, 2013

When the Supreme Court of Canada returns from its summer hiatus, it will go underground – convening for an unprecedented bunker-style session.

During a unique, closed hearing on Oct. 11, the nine top court judges will meet with sworn-to-secrecy lawyers inside a secure room – and not necessarily at the Supreme Court itself. Together, they will review top-secret files relating to how informants passed intelligence to the government on terrorism suspect Mohamed Harkat.

How sensitive is this information? Canada’s top court won’t even reveal where the hearing will take place. “The court cannot disclose the location of the in camera portion of the hearing for reasons of national security,” executive legal officer Owen Rees wrote in an e-mailed response to Globe and Mail questions.

Such secrecy is unheard of for the Supreme Court, an institution that televises its hearings, while writing rulings upholding open courts (and sometimes alleging that closed court hearings can give rise to “mischief that flows from a presumption of secrecy”).

“This is a court and a Chief Justice that have always moved in the direction of more openness to the public,” said Adam Dodek, a University of Ottawa law professor. Given this history, he said “there’d have to be incredibly compelling evidence of a security risk” for any sort of secret hearing.

The matters at hand are legal tangents relating to the decade-old Harkat case being mulled by the Federal Court of Canada, a level of court that so frequently deals with state secrets that it has built ultra-secure courtrooms impenetrable to outsiders or even sophisticated spying equipment. Now the Supreme Court is being pulled into this subterranean legal world as the nine justices ponder a pivotal question: How much secrecy should judges afford to Canadian Security Intelligence Service sources?

Government lawyers argue that CSIS informants need to be invested with a “class privilege” – a legal distinction that would make the anonymity surrounding the CSIS-informant relationship legally inviolable. Anything less, the government argues in a public filing, would cause CSIS informants to “close up like a clam.”

The legal issues arise in the Harkat case, which has twice landed on the Supreme Court’s doorstep and is poised to do so again this fall. Accused of being an Algerian al-Qaeda sleeper agent under Canada’s controversial “security-certificate” law, Mr. Harkat has seen his liberties restricted in Canada since 2002, when a CSIS dossier first persuaded a Federal Court judge to brand him as too dangerous to remain at large in Canada.

Eleven years later, Mr. Harkat is still here, denying ties to al-Qaeda, and fighting forms of house arrest and a looming deportation. On Thursday, the Federal Court allowed Mr. Harkat to stop wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet that had been on his ankle for years.

Demanding that he be allowed to confront his accusers and specific allegations, he is challenging the law.

The CSIS sources who first informed on Mr. Harkat are unknown. On Oct. 10, the Supreme Court will have a public hearing into the constitutionality of the so-called “security-certificate” regime that’s being used to neutralize Mr. Harkat. The next day, the judges will disappear to the secret hearing so as to better peruse the CSIS files.

Never drawn as deeply into a security-certificate case before, the Supreme Court must abide by laws requiring judges to do all they can “to ensure the confidentiality of information” in such cases. Their counterparts at Federal Court have done this, sources say, by being very cautious indeed – for example, by installing secure data networks in the secret courtrooms, and periodically sweeping these facilities for listening devices.

The quandary now is that, while the Supreme Court is not known to have sufficiently secure courtrooms built into its home base, the Federal Court’s facilities are said to be too small to accommodate nine judges. So the best location for the Harkat hearing is not clear.

What is clear is that secure intelligence courtrooms appear to have been in Canada for at least 30 years. In 1984, Parliament passed the CSIS Act, which created the standalone spy service from the remains of the discredited RCMP Security Service. This, in turn, led the Federal Court to build an ultrasecure courtroom, with a separate, top-secret-cleared staff.

For years, this primary secure Federal Court facility was known to insiders only as “the bunker,” for its cheerless ambience – a grotty, windowless, cinder block room in the basement of an Ottawa federal building. The bunker eventually expanded as a secondary court was cobbled out of an adjacent storage room. More recently, the two courts moved together to some more cheery surroundings – somewhere.

Roula Eatrides, a spokeswoman for the Federal Court, explained in an e-mailed reply to Globe questions that even Federal Court staffers only learn about these facilities on a “need to know” basis. She stressed that “these proceedings involve highly classified and sensitive information” and added that those who attend are “permanently bound to secrecy.”

Today’s facilities are “two secure courtrooms located in the same secure facilities,” said Ms. Eatrides, before adding that “the exact location is not widely disclosed for security reasons.”

© Copyright 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Les autorités retirent le bracelet GPS du présumé terroriste Mohamed Harkat

posted on July 18, 2013 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

par La Presse canadienne
Source: Le Devoir
URL: [link]
Date: 18 juillet 2013

Ottawa — La femme d'un résidant d'Ottawa accusé d'avoir des liens avec des groupes terroristes a annoncé jeudi que les autorités avaient retiré le bracelet de surveillance électronique de la cheville de son mari.

Sophie Harkat a affirmé que l'Agence des services frontaliers du Canada (ASFC) avait enlevé l'appareil mercredi soir dans la foulée d'un ordre de la cour visant à adoucir les conditions de mise en liberté de Mohamed Harkat.

Le jugement de la Cour fédérale, qui fait suite à une audience ayant eu lieu en juin, n'a pas encore été rendu public.

Mme Harkat a toutefois confié à La Presse canadienne que son époux et elle étaient revenus à leur résidence mercredi et découvert que l'ASFC leur avait laissé un message téléphonique leur demandant de se présenter à l'un de ses bureaux pour que le bracelet GPS puisse être retiré.

M. Harkat, un réfugié algérien, a été arrêté il y a plus de 10 ans en vertu d'un certificat de sécurité parce qu'il était soupçonné d'être un agent double d'al-Qaïda, une accusation qu'il a démentie.

Depuis sept ans, il est assigné à son domicile et soumis à des conditions très strictes.

© Le Devoir 2002-2013

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