Since the 9/11 tragedy at the New York World Trade Centre and elsewhere, worldwide security has been enhanced dramatically. Billions of dollars have been spent to increase security at airports, borders and the surveillance of citizens, via the monitoring of phone information and Internet use.
Information exposed by Edward Snowden about U.S. and U.K. surveillance makes one wonder to what degree Canada is monitoring its own citizens. Since both the U.S. and U.K. have close security ties with Canada, it is conceivable, as demonstrated in the Maher Arar case, that Canada is locked into a connected security arrangement with these two countries.
Though Mr. Arar received a financial settlement from the Canadian government in 2007, those who leaked false information alleging he was a trained member of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell have never been identified. Nor have RCMP officers involved in his case been reprimanded. In fact several have received promotions. Though Canadians have been heavily inundated with Senate scandal news, concerns about the legality of our Canadian surveillance operations have not been discussed much or shared in the media.
An article by two participants in the post 9/11 evaluation of U.S. security, published in the New York Times on Sept. 10, entitled “Homeland Confusion” expresses concerns about the Department of Homeland Security. It describes that department as being inefficient, points out its convoluted organizational structure and notes its oversight is ambiguous and unclear. The sheer size and the funds given to that department recalls President Eisenhower’s fears expressed in the late 1950s about the military/industrial complex, now a cyberspace monolith.
I have not at any time seen an organizational chart of the connection between Canada’s elected representatives and our country’s security services. A barebones but meaningful description of such a chart would be helpful to citizens. It would give us a sense of what oversight is present in this very secret area of our national security. How many people are in fact currently under surveillance in Canada because of potential threats? Raw numbers, I suggest, would not breach any security concerns.
Has much of this changed in the last two decades? How real is the post 9/11 phenomenon involving security threats? Is it possible finally to get clear, non-politicized answers and assess ultimately how effective Canada’s security apparatus has been?