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August 22, 2011

Jason Kenney and the political ‘leak’ against Charkaoui and Abdelrazik

Adil Charkaoui and Abousfian Abdelrazik have each spent years battling to clear their names. Both have essentially fought their own government to restore their rights and have found freedom after long journeys through the Canadian justice system. But someone is not giving up the fight.

Last week, a leaked CSIS document given to Montreal’s La Presse purports to outline a conversation between the two men in which they discussed blowing up a plane 11 years ago.

The reaction of the Conservative government, particularly Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, is still reverberating. Instead of condemning the leak, vowing to probe its origin, or referring the matter to the RCMP, Kenney adroitly kept the suspicions about the two men very much alive, while stressing he could not comment on intelligence information.

A government which hides behind the skirts of “privacy” whenever it suits its purpose, was only too content to let this document have its day and help it along with a little oxygen.

Supporters of both men are suggesting the leak was political and, to be sure, a government proud of its “no leaks” discipline has no qualms about leaking when it suits its needs. Those supporters this week also called for an independent inquiry into the source of the leaked document.

They should get that inquiry.

The timing of the leak, for one thing, should set off alarm bells.

Abdelrazik has been cleared of terrorist links in Canada, but remains the only Canadian on a United Nations terror blacklist, a decision under appeal. A ruling on his appeal is expected within weeks.

Both men are suing the government, alleging abuse of their rights.

Under these circumstances, someone has clearly decided to keep up the battle against the two Montreal men.

And Kenney has been accused of “grandstanding” by Paul Champ, Abdelrazik’s lawyer.

“His comments were unconscionable and unbecoming a minister of the Crown,’’ Champ said.

When asked about the leak, Kenney defended the security certificate, the legal tool which allows Ottawa to detain or deport non-citizens based on secret evidence branding them a terror threat.

“I can’t comment on any protected intelligence information,” Kenney said. “What I can say is that when the government takes the position that someone should be under a security certificate or that a Canadian overseas is on the UN no-fly list because of suspected membership in al-Qaeda . . . it’s not based on a hunch.

“It’s not based on innuendo. It’s not based on speculation. It’s based on very robust intelligence.’’

He also suggested that those backing the men had turned them into folk heroes.

In a later conversation with Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star, Kenney went further. He said there is some type of presumption in the land that there is this “terrible, authoritarian government” and those placed under a security certificate “are pure as the driven snow.’’

As someone who has read the top-secret dossiers on suspected terrorists, Kenney said, he can report that they are “very, very disturbing.’’

Charkaoui was arrested under a national security certificate and lived under that cloud for six years — including 21 months in jail — before allegations that he was an al-Qaida sleeper agent were quashed.

Abdelrazik was forced to fight his own government to allow him to return from Sudan, where he had sought refuge in the Canadian embassy for more than a year.

Both have battled Ottawa and essentially won.

Charkaoui is a Montreal school teacher.

Abdelrazik is also living in Montreal, raising his children and apparently unnerved by the reader comments on newspaper websites which Champ says include threats.

Charkaoui has been the victim of earlier selective leaks — and there is nothing new in this tactic.

More recently and infamously, there were security intelligence leaks meant to smear Maher Arar, the Ottawa man who was suspected of terror links and was ultimately compensated by his own government for his ordeal.

To say that Charkaoui and Abdelrazik have the right to know whether their government is leaking damaging information about them does not make them folk heroes.

But they shouldn’t have to fight shadows.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer for Record news services.

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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