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Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

Security Camera Captures Heavily Armed RCMP at Wet’suwet’en Cultural Site

RCMP have no reason to carry assault weapons or even be at the newly constructed smokehouse, say spokespersons.

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RCMP officers and Coastal GasLink pipeline workers captured on trail camera despite lack of environmental assessment approvals. Photo submitted.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are challenging RCMP actions on their territory after a security camera captured images of police with assault rifles checking an empty building located deep in the woods.

The building, a smokehouse that will soon be used to process fish, was built this spring at the request of Gidimt’en Clan Hereditary Chief Woos. It is on the Morice River about one kilometre from the Morice West Forest Service Road, not far from the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre where conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and pipeline builders began a decade ago.

The long dispute came to a head in January 2019 when heavily armed RCMP officers enforced an injunction by removing barricades and arresting 14 people opposing the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory. Earlier this year large RCMP operations again removed barricades and arrested dozens at several camps over five days.

A trail camera installed to monitor the Gidimt’en smokehouse captured two RCMP visits this month, including images of three officers, one carrying what appears to be a semi-automatic Colt C8 assault rifle, surrounding the building.

According to Cpl. Madonna Saunderson, the officers are members of a Quick Response Team assigned to the Community-Industry Safety Office, a remote detachment established to police the Morice West Forest Service Road following the arrests in January 2019.

“The photos being circulated online relate to recent patrols and the check of a newly constructed building which is on the pipeline’s right of way and is therefore in breach of the BC Supreme Court injunction order,” the statement said. “We understand that CGL has posted a notice on the building advising of this breach.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

FOI Documents Confirm RCMP Falsely Denied Using Facial Recognition Software

FOI Documents Confirm RCMP Falsely Denied Using Facial Recognition Software

Its contract with Clearview AI started in October, but the force was still denying using the controversial technology three months later.

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RCMP denied using facial recognition to track Canadians. That wasn’t true. Illustration from Pixabay.

The RCMP denied using facial recognition software on Canadians three months after it had entered into a contract with controversial U.S. company Clearview AI, The Tyee has learned.

Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request show an RCMP employee signed a “Requisition for goods, services and construction” form to fund a one-year contract with Clearview AI that began Oct. 29.

The RCMP refused to say whether it used Clearview AI when asked by The Tyee in January 2020.

And the force went further in an emailed statement in response to questions from the CBC, denying in an emailed statement that it used any facial recognition software.

“The RCMP does not currently use facial recognition software,” it said on Jan. 17. “However, we are aware that some municipal police services in Canada are using it.”The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

In fact, the RCMP’s $5,000 contract with Clearview had begun almost three months earlier.

The FOI documents show the RCMP justified the request based on the software’s successful use by U.S. police agencies.

“Clearview is a facial recognition tool that is currently being used by the child exploitation units at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security because of it’s [sic] advanced abilities,” the employee wrote.

If the request was not approved, the form stated, “Children will continue to be abused and exploited online.”

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Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

“There will be no one to rescue them because the tool that could have been deployed to save them was not deemed important enough.”

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Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

Despite Denials, RCMP Used Facial Recognition Program for 18 Years

NDP critic calls on government to explain why RCMP falsely denied using Clearview AI technology.

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On Monday, NDP MP Charlie Angus called on the federal government to explain why the RCMP had denied using Clearview AI’s technology when several departments within the force were using it. Photo by Adrian Wyld, the Canadian Press.

Despite denials, the RCMP has been routinely using facial recognition technology since 2002, The Tyee has learned.

And the software continues to be used in British Columbia, the RCMP confirmed Monday.

Attention has been focused on the RCMP’s use of Clearview AI’scontroversial facial recognition software, which uses a database of billions of images scraped from social media. The technology allows police forces — and individuals and companies — to upload a photo and see any matching images on the web, along with links to where they appeared.

But The Tyee has learned the RCMP has been using facial recognition software for 18 years.

“The Computerized Arrest and Booking System (CABS) has been in use at the RCMP for many years,” spokesperson Catherine Fortin said in a written response to emailed questions. “Currently, it is only being used by the RCMP in B.C.”

The technology is used to store and compare faces of “charged persons” and to create photo lineups, said Fortin.

When the RCMP bought the system, the supplier said it provided “increased efficiency of surveillance and investigation activities” and “the ability to identify an individual within very large databases of images in seconds.”

The RCMP did not respond to a question about how the use of the software could be reconciled with its previous claims it was not using facial recognition technology.

In July 2019, the RCMP told The Tyee it was not using such software.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Accused of Creating ‘Crisis of Press Freedom’ in Wet’suwet’en Raids

RCMP Accused of Creating ‘Crisis of Press Freedom’ in Wet’suwet’en Raids

Limits on reporters’ access, threats of arrest bring criticism from media, journalism groups.

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RCMP officers forced media back into confined area far from people being arrested at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, says The Tyee’s Amanda Follett Hosgood. Photo by Amanda Follett Hosgood.

The RCMP’s handling of the enforcement of an injunction in Wet’suwet’en territory has generated accusations that police unnecessarily interfered with reporters doing their jobs. 

“This is them trying to control the media and block information getting out to the public, and that’s why it’s a misuse of police power,” said Karyn Pugliese, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

“Regardless of whether or not we get it perfect every time, we just can’t have a functioning democracy without media keeping an eye on the state and reporting back to the public on what they’re seeing so the public can make critical decisions about what kind of country they want to live in.”

An RCMP spokesperson says the police did what they needed to do to ensure safety as they enforced the injunction, and B.C. Premier John Horgan says anyone who feels their rights were infringed has recourse through law enforcement and the courts.

But Ethan Cox, an editor for Ricochet Media based in Montreal, said the police actions were an attack on journalists and the public’s right to know.

“This is a situation, a flash point, a very severe crisis of press freedom that’s happening in British Columbia,” he said. “This is a crisis, and we clearly have a police force that is not respecting the rights of the media and that’s a constitutional problem. That’s not some small potatoes issue.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

‘Each Moment Here Is a Victory’: Wet’suwet’en Supporters Aren’t Backing Down

RCMP ‘exclusion zone’ isn’t deterring anti-pipeline activists, land defenders. A report from the scene.

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‘We’re here to make sure that people stay warm and people stay fed and just to be witnesses to whatever may happen.’ Residents of a camp supporting Wet’suwet’en land defenders in northern BC on Jan. 14. Photo by Dan Mesec.

Thirty-nine kilometres down the Morice Forest Service Road in northern British Columbia, people huddle around a fire, close enough to feel some heat but not enough to melt their boots. 

At -34 C, it’s a fine line. 

A handful of people mill around in the camp about 60 kilometres south of Smithers. They are here to support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their opposition to a pipeline slated to cross their traditional territory. The pipeline would carry fracked gas from northeast B.C. to an LNG plant on the coast in Kitimat.

Tensions have been high in the area since a Dec. 31 B.C. Supreme Court decision that granted Coastal GasLink an injunction barring land defenders from blocking access to the pipeline work sites. Some Wet’suwet’en fear the injunction could also lead to the destruction of their camps in the area.

Since the decision, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have evicted the company from their territory and the RCMP have established an “exclusion zone” in the area, limiting access.

Meanwhile, a steady supply of food and warm clothing donations has been making its way to this remote outpost. Land defenders say they will ensure supplies are delivered to additional camps located farther along the forestry road.

But today, what they are most hungry for is information. Since RCMP unexpectedly closed the road Monday, few people have made it past the police checkpoint and communication has been limited.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

RCMP Planned to Use Snipers in Assault on Wet’suwet’en Protest, Guardian Reports

Newspaper cites planning documents that called for ‘lethal overwatch’ to ensure pipeline built.

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Heavily armed RCMP officers sent to Indigenous checkpoint with instructions for ‘sterlizing the site,’ documents reveal. Photo by Michael Toledano.

The RCMP were prepared to use snipers with shoot-to-kill orders when they launched a raid to remove Indigenous protesters slowing pipeline construction in Wet’suwet’en territory, the Guardian reported today.

The exclusive report by Jaskiran Dhillon and Will Parrish reveals RCMP planning notes included arguments that “lethal overwatch is req’d,” a term for deploying snipers.

The Guardian reports RCMP commanders instructed officers to “use as much violence toward the gate as you want” as they planned the Jan. 7 action to remove a gated checkpoint and camp about 120 kilometres southwest of Smithers.

The RCMP sent heavily armed officers in military-style fatigues to break down a gate, arrest 14 people and enforce a “temporary exclusion zone” that barred anyone aside from police from the area. The police were enforcing an injunction obtained by Coastal GasLink, the company building a pipeline to take natural gas to a planned LNG project in Kitimat.

The Guardian reports RCMP documents note arrests would be necessary for “sterilizing the site.” Plans included arresting everyone in the injunction area, including children and elders.

They also show the RCMP conducted surveillance in advance of the raid including heavily armed police patrols, drones, heat-sensing cameras and monitoring of protesters social media postings.

And the report reveals the RCMP and pipeline company officials worked closely together on strategy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Five Reasons to Care about RCMP Monitoring Your Social Media

Five Reasons to Care about RCMP Monitoring Your Social Media

Surveillance is going ahead without oversight or accountability, for one.

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Governments have taken no effective steps to protect citizens from round-the-clock, random surveillance in the internet age. Photo: Shutterstock.

You should care, even be scared, by The Tyee’s reports on the RCMP’s “Operation Wide Awake,” a secretive and unsupervised social media monitoring operation.

We’re already deep into a new era. Police — and businesses and other organizations — have the ability to track citizens in ways unimagined even a decade ago. Social media, the internet, cellphones, algorithms and analytics have given the state extraordinary power to monitor what you think and predict what you might think or do.

And governments have taken no effective steps to protect citizens from round-the-clock, random surveillance in the internet age. They have quietly surrendered our rights.

The Tyee’s Bryan Carney revealed the RCMP’s Operation Wide Awake, its expansion, and the lack of oversight to protect Canadians’ rights.

The RCMP, Carney reported, had launched a sweeping project to monitor Canadians’ internet use, especially social media. At first, the goal was to help investigators solve crimes. Then the police decided to expand the monitoring to try and assess whether people might commit crimes. 

Basic privacy considerations around the expanded program have not been completed.

Why should that scare you?

First, this is a whole new kind of surveillance. Even a decade ago, police had few options for tracking citizens. They could intercept mail or tap a phone line, if the court approved a warrant. Officers could interview neighbours or infiltrate groups they thought might be a threat. 

But between legal safeguards and the practical challenges, mass monitoring was impossible.

Operation Wide Awake shows how much that has changed. The RCMP bought social media monitoring technology from Salesforce via Carahsoft, a big U.S. corporation supplying governments with technology.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP Has Yet to Complete Privacy Assessment on Social Media Surveillance Tech

RCMP Has Yet to Complete Privacy Assessment on Social Media Surveillance Tech

Calling ‘Project Wide Awake’ a test lets police dodge assessments, says BCCLA.

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The RCMP has been monitoring Canadians’ social media use for at least a year, but has yet to file a required report on the impact on personal privacy. Photo from Pixabay.

An RCMP spokesperson said the “Project Wide Awake” program is still in the design stage — which is short of “official” implementation that requires a report on effects to personal privacy.

Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association isn’t surprised. She said a claim that a project is in the design stage is typical of the steps that police use to dodge public accountability checks for new technologies.

Project Wide Awake, first reported by The Tyee, is an RCMP initiative to monitor Canadians’ social media use. The initial claimed use was to respond to existing criminal investigations, but the RCMP expanded the program to use monitoring to prevent potential crimes.

The RCMP has been using social media monitoring software since at least February 2018. But the force has classified the project as in a “design phase” while it is taking steps towards officially implementing it, it stated. 

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner guidelines state that departments “must submit final PIA [privacy impact assessments] before they implement programs or services.” The measure is a safeguard to ensure privacy impacts are assessed before programs are in place. The institution must also prepare a publicly available summary of its findings on the assessments.

The RCMP told The Tyee this month that Project Wide Awake was in the design stage. But it also confirmed the software had been available to the RCMP for criminal investigative and intelligence purposes for more than a year.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

RCMP’s Social Media Surveillance Symptom of Broad Threat to Privacy, Says BCCLA

RCMP’s Social Media Surveillance Symptom of Broad Threat to Privacy, Says BCCLA

Micheal Vonn isn’t surprised by RCMP’s ‘Project Wide Awake’ — but she’s worried.

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‘For most people, to hear that the police may be collecting their social media offerings for analysis — for future crime — is pretty shocking.’ Photo from Pixabay.

It’s not surprising the RCMP is using sophisticated software to monitor the social media activities of Canadians, said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

But it is worrying, she said.

On Monday The Tyee revealed the existence of the RCMP’s “Project Wide Awake,” which monitors the social media activities of Canadians on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. 

The program’s expansion last year with sophisticated monitoring software appears to undermine the RCMP’s 2017 claim to the federal Privacy Commissioner that the project’s surveillance was “reactive” — done to gather information after a crime was committed.

The operation is now monitoring people’s online activities to see if they might commit a crime.

“I’m not surprised, but only because I spend a lot of time in this world,” said Vonn. “For most people, to hear that the police may be collecting their social media offerings for analysis, for future crime, is pretty shocking.”

But we’ve been heading in this direction for decades, Vonn said. Intelligence-based policing — the notion that if we have more information on citizens, we’ll have more effective policing — is in many ways uncontroversial, she noted.

A segment of the population wants police to gather more information about others. “Oh good, watch those guys, we don’t like them,” said Vonn. 

But when people realize how much it could impact their own lives, they quickly become concerned, she said.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When Indigenous Assert Rights, Canada Sends Militarized Police

When Indigenous Assert Rights, Canada Sends Militarized Police

It’s become routine, but ignores latest law on rights and title, say experts.

The use of heavily armed RCMP to enforce a court injunction and tear down an Indigenous blockade against TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline in northwestern British Columbia last week was part of a familiar pattern, say criminologists.

“It seems like Canada uses a show of force and police repression whenever it wants to contain First Nations exercising their aboriginal rights and title,” said Shiri Pasternak, a criminologist at Ryerson University and director of the Yellowhead Institute, a research centre focused on First Nations land and governance issues.

“Canada is creating the problem by refusing to recognize what its own courts are saying about aboriginal rights and title,” added Pasternak.

Over the last decade rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and lower courts have established that Canadian governments have a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous people before resources are extracted from their land, and that in many cases their land and title rights have not been extinguished.

Unlike many elected First Nations governments along the pipeline route, which signed economic benefit agreements with TransCanada, the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have remained opposed to intrusions on their traditional lands.

Jeffrey Monaghan, a criminology professor at Carleton University who co-authored Policing Indigenous Movements: Dissent and the Security State with Andrew Crosby said the dismantling of the Wet’suwet’en blockade was intended to send a national message.

“It was very carefully choreographed to communicate to the national audience that any protests against oil and gas pipelines are going to be cracked down upon. I think it was highly symbolic. Police action doesn’t stop with the Wet’suwet’en,” said Monaghan.

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The Tears of Justin Trudeau

The Tears of Justin Trudeau

On January 7th the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept into a non-violent checkpoint set up by the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Fourteen people were violently arrested in the ambush by the militarized colonial forces. The camp was set up by hereditary leaders to defend the ancestral lands of the Unist’ot’en and other clans from the unwanted incursions of TransCanada and its Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Following the incident Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had the temerity to extol the neoliberal scheme behind the incident as something that is good for the earth. In a speech to supporters he said: “We moved forward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest private sector investment in Canada’s history, $40-billion, which is going to produce Canadian LNG that will supplant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the environment.” After being pressed in a radio interview about the brutal raid Trudeau said of the arrests that it is “not an ideal situation, but at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.” Apparently he does not consider Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be law. It states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories.” It may be difficult for ordinary people to choke out hypocritical, ahistorical fallacies without missing a beat, but the Prime Minister has a gift for spouting empty platitudes that fly in the face of reality and he isn’t alone.

There is something familiar about Trudeau’s lamentation on this situation as well as his appeal for the rule of law. This is because neoliberal leaders around the world have used similar justifications for the violence of the corporate state.

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Is Coastal GasLink an Illegal Pipeline?

Is Coastal GasLink an Illegal Pipeline?

Challenge to energy project’s approval brings threats to Smithers activist.

The $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline may face a bigger threat than the opposition of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and protests across Canada.

Smithers resident Michael Sawyer says the project lacks the required federal approvals. He has filed a formal application to require a full National Energy Board (NEB) review.

Last fall the board agreed to consider Sawyer’s challenge.

In April it will hear final arguments on the question of whether the pipeline falls under provincial jurisdiction, or if it is subject to NEB rules and assessments.

That would bring delays and “put real, tangible benefits to people in B.C., including First Nations, at risk,” said pipeline owner TransCanada Corp., rebranded this week as TC Energy.

The B.C. government’s Environmental Assessment Office approved the contentious 670-kilometre pipeline in 2014.

The project would move fracked methane from northeastern B.C. and northwestern Alberta to the $40-billion LNG Canada export terminal in Kitimat.

Sawyer, a 61-year-old environmental consultant, said the prospect of a NEB regulatory review should have been considered by the B.C. Supreme Court before it issued an injunction that led to RCMP action against two Indigenous checkpoints this week.

“I wonder if TransCanada disclosed information to the judge about this jurisdictional challenge before it asked him to grant the injunction against the blockade,” he said. “The fact is that the RCMP enforced the injunction in an over-the-top manner for a pipeline that may be deemed illegal and whose permits could be quashed.”

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Judy Wilson’s Message for Canadians: ‘The Land Defenders Are Doing This for Everybody’

Judy Wilson’s Message for Canadians: ‘The Land Defenders Are Doing This for Everybody’

RCMP raids in Wet’suwet’en territory can’t bring justice, reconciliation or a better future, Neskonlith chief says.

The Tyee reached out to Wilson to talk about RCMP action against pipeline protesters in the Wet’suwet’en nation in northwest B.C. because of her extensive involvement with government and industries and her long history of environmental advocacy. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What are your thoughts on how governments are responding to the RCMP action in the Wet’suwet’en territory?

I was just reading Premier [John] Horgan’s response to the Unist’ot’en, and I think he was trying to stay on the middle ground. He mentioned the bands who signed these agreements [to allow the pipeline], but to me, the issue is clearly about the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs. They are the proper titleholders to their unceded territory, and they already made a decision. They said no pipelines in their territory.

As for Trudeau, I don’t think he’s really responded. It’s concerning that on one hand he talks about truth and reconciliation, he talks about implementing UNDRIP [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People] and has supported Bill C-262, which is about implementation — and then he’s using forceful, militarized RCMP to remove people and arrest them at Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’en territory. He’s speaking contradictorily, and he’s actually in violation of some of the conventions that he signed at the United Nations.

You called for Canadians to ‘stand with land defenders.’ How can they do that?

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First Nations Pipeline Protest: 14 Land Protectors Arrested as Canadian Police Raid Indigenous Camp

First Nations Pipeline Protest: 14 Land Protectors Arrested as Canadian Police Raid Indigenous Camp

In Canada, armed forces raided native Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia Monday, with at least 14 arrests being reported. Land defenders faced off with Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the police breached two checkpoints set up to keep pipeline workers out of protected territory. Indigenous leaders are reportedly being blocked from their territory. TransCanada Corporation has been seeking entry into indigenous territory, where they are planning to build the massive $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. Land protectors from First Nations clans set up two encampments where they had been physically blocking entry to TransCanada workers.

We speak with Karla Tait, a member of the Unist’ot’en House Group of the Gilseyhu Clan. She’s the mental wellness manager for the Northern Region with the First Nations Health Authority, serving the 54 First Nations in Northern British Columbia. Dr. Tait is also the director of clinical programming for the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In Canada, armed forces raided native Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia Monday, with at least 14 arrests being reported. Land defenders faced off with Royal Canadian Mounted Police as the officers breached two checkpoints set up to keep pipeline workers out of protected territory. Indigenous leaders are reportedly being blocked from their territory.

WET’SUWET’EN LAND DEFENDER: The Wet’suwet’en have won rights and title to their lands. We did not hurt anyone. The hereditary chiefs say, “No, you cannot go through our lands.” And under your law, the authority is them.

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Cops, spies and journalists: Top Mountie Bob Paulson speaks out

Cops, spies and journalists: Top Mountie Bob Paulson speaks out

Spying by officers was not approved, RCMP commissioner says – so officers kept asking

In a broad and candid statement to CBC News, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson explains why

In a broad and candid statement to CBC News, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson explains why (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Terry Milewski has worked in fifty countries during 38 years with the CBC. He was the CBC’s first Middle East Bureau Chief, spent eight years in Washington during the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations and was based in Vancouver for fourteen years. He now covers politics as Senior Correspondent in Ottawa.

The RCMP commissioner decided to handle this one himself — and with good reason. As Canada’s top cop, Bob Paulson knew it wasn’t going to look good, and that he, personally, had been in the thick of it.

So, instead of punting the question to a communications officer, the head of the RCMP sat down on Tuesday night and tapped out his own version of a tangled story about illicit spying by his officers.

Yes, he said, the Mounties put two journalists under surveillance. And no, they did not have his approval — which was required. Three times, he’d turned them down. But they’d already done it anyway.

Who’s the leaker?

The tale begins with disclosures made in June of 2007 by Joel-Denis Bellavance, a highly-regarded reporter for the Montreal newspaper, La Presse. These indicated that CSIS had intelligence — or claimed to have it — about a bomb plot involving Adil Charkaoui, a suspected Al Qaeda sleeper agent.

Gilles Toupin and Joel-Denis Bellavance

A briefing note prepared late last year reveals that RCMP officers conducted unauthorized physical surveillance of journalists Gilles Toupin, left, and Joel-Denis Bellavance in an attempt to discover the source of a leaked CSIS document. (Twitter photos)

One question bothered CSIS: how did Bellavance get that secret document?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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