, 17 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
Thank you to the authors of this piece for speaking out. It's so important that there is a national debate about the impacts of Canada's ongoing national security focus on Muslim and Arab communities thestar.com/opinion/contri…
The criticisms of this piece have been quick and predictable. One theme is that people do not understand how CSIS & intelligence and national security investigations work.
I think this is highly problematic on at least two levels: First, is the assumption that they "just don't understand". The secrecy around intelligence work means that, yes, there are parts of #natsec work many of us will never intricately understand.
But that isn't all there is to this work. And what people do understand is the impact that the 18+ years of the War on Terror and targetting of Muslim and Arab communities has had.
They know intimately how "threat reports" focusing on Muslim communities; home, school and work visits; phone calls to family members; and more, affect lives, cast them under suspicion, and feed into broader Islamophobia that fuels further threats
So to dismiss complaints as being based on a lack of information or understanding is a dismissal of a whole range of knowledge about national security and intelligence work that isn't confined to CSIS HQ.
The other issue here is that if the government and CSIS really wanted people to understand what they do, they've also had 18+ years to do that too. But they haven't.
And while some have said that CSIS just hasn't done a good job of explaining their work, I'd argue that it's more than that. At a minimum, it's that they didn't see a reason to explain their work, at the max (and I think more likely) it's a wifulness to obscure their work.
It's that they don't want people to understand how they work. And of course there's the argument that they need to operate in secret. But they can't have it both ways. And definitely can't "shoot the messenger" when people speak out about this.
The last thing is the idea that going to the Toronto Star or other public outlets isn't the way to resolve these issues - or at least shouldn't be the first venue of complaint, & instead it should have been the previous CSIS review body, SIRC...
...or the new one established in August 2019, the NSIRA. Yes, these bodies accept complaints. But even the work of SIRC was so opaque, that there was likely little expectation of a satisfactory response.
But even if we gave SIRC the benefit of the doubt, how good a job has the government done in making sure the complaint process is understood and easy to navigate? Often complainants require a lawyer, even though it isn't a court (so no legal aid), among other hurdles
This could be a task for the NSIRA or the new National Security Transparency Advisory Group to take on, but NSIRA was established in early August, and the NSTAG met for the first time in late August.
Things may improve with these groups, but pressure shouldn't be placed on month-old bodies when others didn't take up the task for 20 years.
And I think that limiting the focus to review agencies unduly limits what the authors of this piece and others are saying. This isn't just an operational issue. This is also - maybe even primarily - a policy issue. And that wouldn't get resolved by NSIRA.
It gets resolved through public debate and pressure. Exactly the goal of this kind of op-ed. So really, while the complaints route could also be of use, this is exactly the kind of venue where we need to hear these voices and have these debates
We can hope that CSIS may step up and actually accept the challenge, but I wouldn't hold my breath. /End
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