Inadequate intelligence oversight
Though the mandates of organizations such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment have expanded greatly since 2001, there has not been a corresponding increase in civilian oversight.
That worries Paul Robinson, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.
In a brief for the Centre for International Policy Studies, the former military intelligence officer argues that review bodies such as the Security Intelligence Review Committee lack an oversight mandate necessary to prevent abuses. “Post-facto reviews are only able to address failings that have already occurred. They cannot prevent failings from occurring in the first place (except by means of deterrence – the knowledge that an action may be reviewed may deter people from carrying it out).”
What’s needed? Robinson has doubts about the U.S. and U.K. models. Although the U.S. has an oversight structure, recent revelations suggest “in practice it is not working well.” And various inquiries in the U.K. have exposed the inadequacies of the British system.
Robinson recommends: “Accountability must be improved at all levels. The office of the CSIS Inspector General requires strengthening; some system of parliamentary involvement should be considered, and if this is not possible, some independent body with the power of oversight as well as post-facto review should be created; and greater transparency and less secrecy can be introduced to ensure that the public can satisfy itself that state agencies are behaving efficiently or appropriately.”
For the full policy brief, see www.cepi-cips.uOttawa.ca.
First Mexico City, then we take Washington
As the Harper government prepares for its first official meeting with the new American administration, Robert Pastor has some advice – make a trip to Mexico first.
Pastor, co-director of the Center for North American Studies and a professor of international relations at American University, says Canada has more in common with Mexico than we realize; we may also need Mexican help more than we acknowledge.
“The shortest distance between two points is rarely a straight line. The path to Washington…should go through Mexico City first,” he told a conference exploring how to improve Canada-U.S. relations hosted by the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute. “Your chances of advancing Canadian interests…will be significantly enhanced.”
Though Canada-U.S. relations are strong, there has been little consultation on the issues that matter to Ottawa, he said. As a result, “you have rarely achieved your goals, and where you have, it has taken you so long that it has left you…quietly enraged.”
As the global superpower, the U.S. is pressed to address all issues, and usually responds to emergencies or those that make the most noise. “That leaves no time for routine issues or Canadians who think it is improper to make noise,” Pastor noted.
To get its lengthy agenda before Congress, Ottawa can compete with Mexico City “to see who gets in the door first,” receive the usual warm reception and then see minimal progress, or it can partner with Mexico to greater effect.
“You’ll find much to your surprise that everyone of those items [on your agenda], in a generic way, is on the Mexican agenda,” he said.
And with 2500 elected Hispanic leaders now in U.S. federal, state and local governments, “Mexico is in the mind of America.”
For Robert Pastor’s entire presentation, see www.cpac.ca.
More security for greater market access
Almost 80 percent of Canadians believe it would be better for the future of the country if we took an active role in world affairs; just over 40 percent, however, believe our ability to make a difference is growing weaker.
Those were among the findings of a recent survey conducted for the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute by the Innovative Research Group in mid October.
Though we continue to express our usual misgivings about our relationship with the United States – we’re too close, ineffective in Washington, etc – a majority believe we should work more cooperatively with the Americans, be it on the financial crisis, environmental protection, narcotics interdiction, border issues or even fighting terrorism.
Though the sample of almost 1500 Canadians was taken prior to the U.S. election, not surprisingly a majority had high hopes for an Obama presidency, though 40 percent raised concern about re-opening free trade negotiations.
Canadians clearly appreciate that trade is the key card in our relations: 55 percent believe the U.S. has gone too far on border restrictions, but 62 percent were amenable to strengthening border security if it would mean easier access to American markets.
Perhaps the most surprising finding lies in the Arctic. Almost 70 percent said they would trust the Russians more than the Americans to recognize our Arctic claims; 44 percent backed the idea of taking unilateral action to assert our sovereignty while 35 percent supported a negotiated arrangement with the U.S. similar to the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In the Sept/Oct issue of Vanguard, we shared with readers the plight of Gen Martin Luther Agwai of Nigeria, one year into his command of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
LGen Vicente Díaz de Villegas y Herrería of Spain apparently was not prepared to wait that long before making his concerns known. Just seven weeks after officially being appointed to lead the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he resigned for what the UN said were personal reasons.
According to media reports, however, his resignation was emotional, and included criticism of UN strategy, the lack of a mandate and the lack of resource. His appointment as force commander had come after much lobbying by the UN for the African Union to accept outsiders. Gen Díaz had been in the country for only three weeks.