Canadian media glorify terror suspects: spy chief

Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:10pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's new spy chief accused journalists and human rights advocates on Thursday of often glorifying terror suspects as "quasi folk heroes" and downplaying the risks posed to society by terrorism.

Richard Fadden, making his first speech as head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said Canada had a "serious blind spot" when it came to battling terrorism.

"Many of our opinion leaders have come to see the fight against terrorism not as defending democracy and our values, but as attacking them," he told a meeting of security experts.

A "loose partnership of single-issues NGOs, advocacy journalists and lawyers" had to a certain extent succeeded "in forging a positive public image for anyone accused of terrorist links or charges", he added.

Fadden, 58, is a senior bureaucrat who served as a security and intelligence adviser to the government from 2000 to 2002.

CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been involved in a string of high-profile anti-terror cases in recent years, in some instances coming under strong criticism.

In the most infamous case, an inquiry found the RCMP falsely told their U.S. counterparts that software engineer Maher Arar had extremist links. The United States deported him to Syria in 2002, where he says he was tortured.

Ottawa apologized formally to Arar in 2007 and gave him a C$10.5 million ($9.8 million) settlement.   Continued...

<p>Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Richard Fadden delivers a speech at the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies annual conference in Ottawa October 29, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>