Not very intelligent

We all know that politicians are generally not well regarded.  Recent surveys in the US have shown trust in Congress at around 14%.  Not good.

I suppose the reasons for this historic lack of confidence vary from person to person.  Most news stories seem focus on illegal spending, or outrageous perks or how little time Parliament is sitting.  Whatever the reason, the decline in how we view our elected members is worrying.

And of course on occasion a politician will say something really stupid (I will NOT devote the rest of this blog to Dan Quayle!).  Case in point: Tory MP Wai Young.

She recently compared her party to Jesus and said that the comprehensive anti-terrorism bill C-51 was akin to the way Jesus acted.  Huh?  I must have missed that Bible study where God’s son said: “Blessed are the Tories…”.  I will leave this, um…belief, aside.

But it is actually what else she said that really bothers me.  She said that if C-51 had been in place in 1985, the Air India terrorist act would not have happened and that CSIS knew about the plot in advance but did not tell the RCMP because the law did not allow the sharing of intelligence (see article here).  All of which is fiction of the highest order.

Now intelligence is a department in which the honourable member for Vancouver South seems to woefully inadequate.  But it is the politicisation of intelligence that is very disturbing.

We in Canada have been remarkably successful at not allowing our intelligence to be tainted by political whims.  Our agencies collect, analyse and advise government in a non-partisan way and they do not produce assessments that jive with whatever the party in power may want to hear.

Other countries are not so lucky.  Take our neighbour to the south.  I have a lot of close friends who work in the US intelligence community and do not want to tar every intelligence official with the same brush.  But it is beyond dispute that at times the intelligence was “cooked” to meet higher demands (the 2003 decision to invade Iraq is probably the best example).

(Side note.  I was part of a team that examined available intelligence on Iraqi intentions and capabilities back in 2003 and our independent assessment was quite different than that of our closest ally.  In the end the Chretien government elected not to join the coalition for a variety of reasons.  In hindsight – which is of course 20/20 – a pretty good decision)

It is vitally important that the Canadian agencies responsible for intelligence and security operate at arm’s length from the government of the day.  They must be allowed to say what they know and advise on what it means.  Without higher interference.  Anything short of this is unacceptable.

After all, WWJD?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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