Canada security services struggle with extremist threat, resources gap

Fri Oct 31, 2014 1:17pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's spy agency and national police force are so constrained by a lack of resources that they can’t keep close track of all the Islamic extremists who may be a potential threat at home and they have also had to abandon some counter-espionage work and criminal investigations, according to current and former intelligence and police officials.

    Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of intelligence at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said the spy agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would need extra operatives if they were to be able to monitor more of the people they see as a possible threat.

    Police say they have investigations into 90 high-risk suspects who have either returned from helping foreign militant groups or who are planning to go abroad.

    Canada was stunned by two deadly attacks last week that police said were the work of homegrown radicals, and the government has promised to increase the powers of the nation’s security services. A gunman killed a soldier at Ottawa’s national war memorial before launching an attack on the Canadian Parliament on Oct. 22, and two days earlier a man ran down two soldiers in Quebec, killing one.

    Boisvert, who left CSIS in 2012 and is now a security consultant to private firms, said the agency and the RCMP have already had to switch resources away from a number of key areas to counter the threat. He estimates that by the time he departed, 85 percent of the agency's work was focused on counter-terrorism.

    It can take dozens of people to properly track one suspect, he told Reuters in an interview.

    "So if there are 80 or 90 possible suspects out there ... there is no way we are going to surveil all of them," Boisvert said. "Even if we doubled the resources at the RCMP and CSIS, we’re never going to surveil them all."

    Neither CSIS or the RCMP responded to requests for comment sent on Thursday.   Continued...

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police vehicle passes the Fairmont Chateau Laurier as it leaves a secure area downtown following shootings in Ottawa October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Blair Gable