CSIS concedes nine of 10 immigration applicants not screened
James Gordon, CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, May 30, 2006
OTTAWA – About 90 per cent of immigration applicants from Pakistan and Afghanistan hotbeds for Islamic fundamentalism and central in the fight against terrorism haven't been adequately screened for security concerns over the past five years, Canada's spy agency said Monday.
The No. 2 man at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said his organization simply doesn't have the resources necessary to do all the security checks it would like.
Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the service, told a Senate national security committee about 20,000 immigrants have come from the Afghanistan/Pakistan region to Canada since 2001.
''We're in a position to vet one-tenth of those,'' he said. ''That may be inadequate.''
Hooper suggested CSIS does a good job of containing the threats it knows about, but that it's the ''unknowns'' who present a more serious challenge.
''We stay up at night worrying about the threats we don't know about, and we always used to work on a ratio of 10 to one,'' he explained. ''For every one we knew, there was probably 10 out there that we didn't. I worry that the ratio has increased.''
The agent left the meeting room without taking questions from waiting reporters.
CanWest News Service 2006
Asked if that meant CSIS wasn't completely satisfied about 90 per cent of the immigrants coming into the country from that region, Hooper responded ''that's correct.''
Committee chairman and Liberal Senator Colin Kenny suggested in an interview 10 per cent coverage was unacceptable.
''We have resourcing problems that have to be addressed'' at Canada's spy and police services, Kenny said. ''I hope they will be.'' He pointed out RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told the same committee just two weeks ago his force only has the resources to pursue about one-third of known organized crime in Canada.
''And that's of what we know,'' Zaccardelli said at the time. Currently, CSIS only vets a handful of cases referred to it by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Asked Monday whether warnings about citizens from specific countries, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, could inadvertently stoke fear about legitimate refugees and immigrants, Kenny said they shouldn't.
''What we've been hearing was, (CSIS is) not satisfied that they have done due diligence,'' he said. ''They didn't say that there's a bad guy getting in, they said 'we don't know.' That's not satisfactory from a Canadian point of view.''
One senator asked why Canada was spending money fighting in Afghanistan, where there are approximately 2,300 Canadian Forces personnel, if it can't even close its own borders to outside threats.
Hooper argued regional dynamics a world away have effects here as well. He said following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, foreign intelligence began pouring in about threats to Canada. Each individual identified, he said, had some connection to Afghanistan.
For all the worries regarding external issues, Hooper added the threats from internal, ''homegrown'' extremists are now on equal footing.
He suggested the number of second- and third-generation extremists, born and raised in Canada and able to easily blend into the population, are on the rise.
In addition, an increasing number of non-traditional adherents to Islamist extremism are making the switch.
''We have cases of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants converting to the most radical forms of Islam,'' he said. ''These are people who blend in with us and our neighbours.''
CSIS warnings about the domestic threat are not ne, and have been especially plentiful since the London transit bombings last summer. Those attacks were the work of British-born fanatics.
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