October 30, 2014 / 4:53 PM / in 3 years

Exclusive: Canada spy agency must improve information sharing - watchdog

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s spy agency must have national standards to improve how its regional surveillance teams share information, the chairwoman of the agency’s civilian watchdog said in the wake of the killings of two Canadian soldiers last week.

The day's first posting of the sentries, framed by flowers and wreaths left in tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, arrive at the National War Memorial in Ottawa October 30, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

The comments by Deborah Grey, chairwoman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), come after a report from her committee last week said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) regional teams “operate in total isolation from one another and communicate only sporadically with their HQ counterparts.”

“We need to make sure that each region knows exactly what the other regions are doing, under the umbrella of the headquarters, of course,” Grey told Reuters on Thursday.

“You need national standards right across the country because (criminals) are pretty mobile.”

The performance of Canadian police and security services is under scrutiny after a gunman last week killed a soldier in Ottawa, then stormed the country’s Parliament building. Two days earlier another man, described by police as having been radicalized, rammed two soldiers in Quebec with his car, killing one.

Both assailants were subsequently shot dead by security officers.

The Canadian government introduced legislation on Monday that would give CSIS more powers to investigate potential threats.

Grey, a former federal Conservative politician, said that her committee, SIRC, was still examining the new legislation.

She said SIRC felt the intelligence agency was doing a good job of protecting Canadians in general, but that it must improve in a number of areas, including keeping the government informed of its secret operations.

SIRC’s report last week warned that the federal minister for CSIS had not been informed systematically by the agency about sensitive operations that could be considered controversial.

“Whatever the reason for it was - of not letting a minister know - we don’t want to see it again,” she said.

SIRC’s report also criticized CSIS for misleading it during an investigation into a complaint from a federal employee who had his or her security clearance revoked following a review by the spy agency.

“Are they doing a perfect job? No, we’ve highlighted some pretty serious concerns,” Grey said. “This isn’t just a rubber-stamping (committee) that we sit on. We have very serious concerns and we want to make sure that next year, they just keep getting better and better.”

SIRC said the revocation of the security clearance was ultimately justified, based on all the evidence, but it also found that CSIS had used false information in the case.

“A witness had to be recalled by SIRC to speak to the matter and SIRC found CSIS’s lack of candor most disturbing,” the report said.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has said he has confidence in CSIS and expects the agency to address the issues raised by the watchdog.

Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; and Peter Galloway

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