CSIS selects facts to match its theories, Harkat hearing told

Original author: CBC News Staff
Source: CBC News online
URL: http://ottawa.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=ott-harkat-041207
Date: December 7, 2004

OTTAWA - The federal court case against Mohamed Harkat heard from a surprise witness Monday who accused the Canadian spy agency of routinely ignoring intelligence information.

Jean Luc Marchessault, a former counterterrorism agent, said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) only accepts information that supports a preconceived argument.

He was testifying at the hearing that will determine whether Harkat, an Algerian refugee claimant arrested under a security certificate two years ago, will be deported.

Harkat is accused of being a member of al Qaeda, but the evidence against him has never been made public.

Marchessault claimed CSIS intelligence reports often leave out information because it doesn't fit the agency's agenda.

"There could be 100 pieces of evidence that contradicts one piece of evidence, but they will go with that one piece if it supports their argument," he said.

Marchessault worked for CSIS for most of the 1990s. Government lawyers argued his testimony should be disregarded because he was fired for cause.

He said he was let go because of his involvement with a CSIS employees' association.

Earlier this year, Marchessault cancelled his appearance at Harkat's hearing after CSIS sent him a letter warning him of his legal obligation to keep agency business secret.

Harkat's lawyer Paul Copeland said his main strategy in defending his client is to attack the overall credibility of CSIS. This is necessary because the evidence against Harkat was presented in secret, he says.

Copeland also will argue that security certificates are unconstitutional.

"The constitutional argument is an argument that this process is unfair and does not meet fundamental justice; the secretiveness of the process, the fact that nobody gets to challenge the national security aspects of the case," he said.

Harkat's hearing is expected to end this week.

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