VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada’s highest court on Thursday scolded the country’s spy agency for destroying evidence about a man fighting deportation over alleged terror links, in the government’s second loss in a high-profile security case this week.
But the Supreme Court refused to completely stop the case against Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan national living as a legal immigrant in Montreal. Authorities allege he trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had a duty to give immigration officials all of information it had on Charkaoui when they were deciding whether to consider him a threat to national security.
Charkaoui denies he has any links to al Qaeda.
Charkaoui argued CSIS violated his rights by destroying notes and recordings made during interviews with him, making them unavailable to a judge deciding if the government was right to issue a security certificate against him.
“As things stand, the destruction by CSIS officers of their operational notes compromises the very function of judicial review,” the court ruled.
CSIS argued Canada’s intelligence-gathering laws only allowed its officers to keep their operational notes in limited circumstances, and the information was kept in summary reports.
The justices said the agency was misinterpreting its own mandate on what information had to be kept.
The court rejected Charkaoui’s request to stay the proceedings against him, saying that was premature because a judge should first take a look at what new evidence is available because of the ruling on the notes.
The case stemming from Charkaoui’s arrest in 2003 echoed a controversy over CSIS’s actions during the 1980s in the investigation of the 1985 Air India bombing.
CSIS destroyed recordings of the bombing suspects making them unavailable to prosecutors during the criminal trial, which ended with the two men charged with the crime found not guilty.
Thursday’s ruling also marked the second time this week Canada’s intelligence gathering activities have been criticized by the courts.
A federal judge said officials may have been complicit in torture by interrogating a Canadian man, Omar Khadr, knowing he had likely been abused by U.S. military investigators before the in-custody interview at Guantanamo Bay.
Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Frank McGurty