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CASIS 2004 STUDENT REPORTS
Thursday 14 October
The New Security Environment in Canada: Are We Getting It Right?
Keynote Speaker: Robert Wright, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and Associate Secretary to the Cabinet
Rapporteur: Ciaran Aiken, UBC
Mr. Wright commenced his lecture with an overview of Canada's National Security Policy, outlining its focus on greater protection and mitigation of threats to the Canadian state and its citizens, including terrorism, epidemics (e.g. SARS) and critical infrastructure breakdown. The National Security Policy, he added, is part of a continuing commitment by the Canadian government since 9/11 to beef up security and protection against threats to the nation. He emphasized its importance at restructuring Canada's security makeup, in order to deepen integration, communication and information sharing at the provincial, territorial and federal levels, as well as between Canada's allies internationally. Reducing the 'silo' effect, Mr. Wright stated, was key in the effort to increase the overall effectiveness of Canada's security apparatus.
Canada is not exempt from the threat of terrorism. Mr. Wright stressed that it was 'absurd' to discount the possibility of a terrorist attack from groups such as Al-Qaeda in the near future. He pointed to the fact that Osama Bin Laden had publicly identified Canada as one of seven countries targeted for a terrorist strike, and that Canada remained the only country out of this list as of yet to be attacked. He emphasized that the Air-India tragedy as well as the Ressam case were important indicators that Canada cannot continue to assume immunity from terrorist attacks in the future. In addition, the recent SARS epidemic, as well as the electrical blackouts of August 2003 were indicative of the potential security implications and consequences that such threats posed to an under-prepared security community, highlighting the need for a more robust emergency management system in times of national crisis.
Mr. Wright stated that, as a result of the National Security Policy, we are 'getting it right' in terms of protecting Canadians from macro level security threats. While acknowledging that the National Security Policy is new and restructuring takes time, he stressed that it provides a crucial foundation to build upon, and that the key objective now will be effective engagement and implementation of its strategies, to 'get it off the ground', as well as an ongoing commitment by the security community to continually evaluate and improve integration over the long run. This will not only help us better deal with unforeseen challenges in the future, but bolster the general security of the country on a day-to-day basis.
Panel 1: Canada and Domestic Security Policy: Are We Getting it Right?
Chair: Bill Elliott, PCO
Presenters: Martin Rudner, Carleton University; Kent Roach, University of Toronto Law School; Jacques Shore, Gowlings; Wesley Wark, University of Toronto
Rapporteur: Kevin Ma, Carleton University
This panel discussed Canada's domestic security policy, and how it had changed in the post 9/11 environment. Bill Elliot of the Privy Council Office chaired it.
Kent Roach (University of Toronto's Law School) said Canada's approach to national security had evolved since 9/11. Canada first focused on catching terrorists through criminal and immigration law, an approach the U.S. 9/11 Commission compared to "trying to catch fish by draining the ocean." Today, federal officials use an "earthquake model" of terrorism, which focuses on how to prepare for and react to disasters, "It is my view that we may very well be heading in the right direction," he said.
Jacques Shore (a lawyer for Gowlings, Lafleur and Henderson LLP) discussed issues of accountability. He criticised a proposed national parliamentary review committee for Canada's intelligence services. He was concerned that it would create a paralysing "system overload" of bureaucracy. He felt that the government should upgrade the current Security Intelligence Review Committee instead. This could provide procedural oversight of intelligence agencies, freeing up Parliament to provide budgetary oversight of intelligence spending.
Martin Rudner (director of Carleton University's Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies) spoke on three areas of Canadian security that needed examination. He said the area that needed the most improvement was Canada's protection of its trade and energy infrastructure. He emphasized that almost all of Canada's U.S. exports depend on just six bridges, two tunnels, and less than five pipelines and electrical corridors. "We know (this network) is vulnerable," he said, "because terrorist tell us it is vulnerable." He said it was essential that the federal government alert private and provincial authorities to the threat terrorism poses to these transport routes.
Wesley Wark of the University of Toronto rounded out the panel and discussed the importance of lessons learned in national security. Canada has the potential to be extremely adaptive, as it can learn from its UK-US allies, and tends to be more cautious and reflective in most matters. However, he raised concerns that this lesson learning ability was going to waste. Canada has not yet done a full scale review of its intelligence community. Wark raised the question as to why this review was not done. Was it because Canada was happy with it's intelligence community or because it hadn't thought to do one? A review is necessary. "Governments," Wark said, " cannot be left to their own devices to learn lessons."
Questions from the audience followed the presentations. Peter Marwitz criticised Canada for moving too slowly in reforming its intelligence services, and called the National Security Policy a "feel good document." Elliot disagreed, noting that the policy specified worrisome threats to and gaps in Canadian security. Rudner added that, globally, security reform was proceeding quite well. "Something must be happening right," he said, "if the U.S. and Canada had now gone three years without a terrorist attack.
Philip Davies of Brunel University asked if Canada's federalist system had caused any security problems, citing a lack of coordination between national and local authorities in Britain as an example. Roach agreed that federal provincial cooperation was crucial to Canadian security, especially in terms of policing, and said Canada would have to look to the U.S. for advice on this matter. On that same subject, Wark commented on what he called "intelligence led policeing," criticizing how many police agencies had established intelligence wings, leading to needless duplication. Rudner saw intelligence led policing as an issue of intelligence sharing versus privacy.
Gary Loeppk of the RCMP disagreed with Wark's assertion that intelligence led policing was a problem, and noted how effective policing needed effective intelligence. Addressing concerns of coordination between federal and provincial police forces, he noted that the RCMP was legally mandated to take the lead in national security matters.
Panel 2: Canada and Major Domestic Security Issues: Are We Getting Them Right?
Chair: Paul Kennedy, PSEPC
Presenters: Claudette Deschênes, Canada Border Services Agency; Joel Sokolsky, RMC; Reg Whitaker, University of Victoria
The first paper was presented by Claudette Deschênes. It focused on three areas: 1) the evolution of Canada's border services, 2) the impact of 9/11 on cross-border security and management, and 3) current/future challenges for the CBSA. Although the CBSA was created in 2003 (as part of the portfolio of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), border security strategies are not a new phenomena to Canada. Their early beginnings started in the 1980's with the placement of immigration officers at key embarkation sites oversees in response to emerging threats and irregular migration patterns. The CBSA, a Canadian innovation (currently being copied by countries such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom), "brings together all the major players involved in facilitating legitimate cross-border traffic and supporting economic development while stopping people and goods that pose a potential risk to Canada." To combat current threats such as terrorism and the smuggling of both contraband and people, the CBSA combines functions spread among three organizations: the "Customs program from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Intelligence, Interdiction and Enforcement program from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and the Import Inspection at Ports of Entry program from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency."
The second panel member, Joel Sokolsky, discussed both Canadian and American maritime security in relation to the American approach to Homeland Security (HS). For Sokolsky, maritime security was more inclusive than just "water" encompassing the surveillance of both commerce and people as well as the identification and interdiction of possible threats. In the US, the responsibility of maritime security falls on the Coast Guard. However, with the bulk of security spending in the US going to US Armed Forces not HS, the Coast Guard remains overstretched in the both personnel and ships. In relation to Canada, Sokolsky believes that the US does not aim to militarize the border but looks to Canada to help secure it. Which translates into securing the oceans passage ways as well as taking measures to enhance security and screening at Canadian ports. Sokolsky reminded the audience that an expanded role for the Canadian Navy (similar to the role of the US Coast Guard) would require an additional allocation of resources to the Canadian Navy.
The third panel member was Reg Whitaker. His discussion centered on both the realties and myths of Canadian security in a post 9/11 environment. Whitaker believes that the myth of the "Canadian connection" to international terrorism has been fostered by both opportunistic politicians as well as reckless media coverage. The reality is that Canada is doing all that it can to secure its border and to cooperate with its allies in the global campaign against terrorism. Whitaker stated that it is important to realize that many of the shortcomings in Canadian security have also occurred in the US and as a result Canada should not be quick to respond to exaggerated American anxieties. Further, Whitaker cited the lack of economic retaliation promised by the US which followed Canada's refusal to support the US-led invasion of Iraq as a prime example of the ability of Canada to exercise political autonomy in light of Canada's already high integration with the US economy. Whitaker emphatically stated that Canada did not cave after 9/11, that the CBSA is working providing national security to the US and ensuring both economic and national security to Canada.
Panel 3: War as Spectacle: The Semiotics of 9/11, the Invasion of Iraq and Abu Ghraib.
Chair: Phil Gibson, Beaumont House Consulting
Presenter: Paul Rutherford, University of Toronto
Commentators: Joanne John, Communications Security Establishment and Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail
Dr. Paul Rutherford (University of Toronto) began by explaining that his presentation would consist of an examination of the signs and meanings behind war. He would use three case studies: 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, and the incidents of Abu Ghraib prison. To do this, he focused mainly on the use of editorial cartoons from around the world because they often provide a concise, concrete visual expression of an opinion or emotion. The presentation also focused on how images and symbols fit into pre-existing narratives and the phenomenon called "symbol transfer" in which current images are linked to past events. The clearest example would be comparing the 9/11 attacks with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In the case of 9/11, the audience saw cartoons depicting three stages of American emotion immediately following the attacks: sadness, resilience and revenge. According to Rutherford, despite the fact that the events happened live in the media spotlight, the images were "sanitized" for a western audience. We saw the smoking towers over and over again, but saw very few shots of bodies and people jumping out of windows.
Rutherford maintained that the public was pre-sold on the war on terrorism because they were historically predisposed to it. Pre-exposed to the idea of constant war during the Cold War, communism has now been replaced by terrorism. Strikingly, he noted that 9/11 was an example of the narrative of war in the Old West. The conflict begins with an ambush by the enemy, then action or revenge is demanded at whatever cost with promises of slaughter. Then, the pain of ambush is washed away by the thrill of victory. This narrative also employs the role of the macho hero (hence the common characterization of Bush as the "cowboy").
The second case was the "perfect spectacle" of the invasion of Iraq. It was designed to reaffirm the power and pride of the Americans. Because of the long run-up to the invasion, the media was able to almost pre-script their coverage, through the use of innovative graphics and special segments. The cartoons depicted the sense of significance and patriotism the media had for itself, as well as the image of the "hapless viewer", subjected to hours of coverage with little new information. The invasion then, was an example of the narrative of "the Liberator," a kind of manifest destiny; a war to make the world safer. The U.S. was both the police and the reformer of the world.
In contrast to the liberation narrative was the scandal of Abu Ghraib prison abuse. The events were not live or sponsored by any organization such as the Pentagon. The meanings of the images were not immediately clear. The Pentagon quickly characterized the abuse as the rogue behaviour of a few soldiers, rather than total moral bankruptcy. Likewise, other groups blamed pop culture, which celebrates violence, as a justification for the soldiers' behaviour, releasing them from moral responsibility. The Abu Ghraib incident coincides with a third narrative: the narrative of defeat and betrayal, which undermines the liberation narrative completely.
Rutherford concluded that the spectacle (or "war of persuasion") undermined and overwhelmed critical discussion and debate. The "public sphere became the public stage" he said, quoting Jurgen Habermas. These spectacles create "democracy lite" where the public is merely an object to be spun, rather than a force to be reckoned with.
Distinguished Lecture - Lessons from 9/11 and Iraq
Thomas Powers, Author, Commentator, and Pulitzer Prize Winner for National Reporting
Rapporteur: Nicholas Dauphinee, Dalhousie University
Thomas Powers was introduced by Wesley Wark and then went on to discuss what he thought important lessons, especially related to intelligence could be learned from the current conflict in Iraq. Powers outlined how he thought the CIA had become a political tool of the White House and the problems associated with political leaders having such close control over what should technically be arms-length analysis and collection agencies. Intelligence operations should ultimately be to safeguard societal security through timely analysis of threats, and not as a part of an administration's spin team, its prime function to get out a message, as is the case now.
The current situation regarding American intelligence is by no means a new phenomenon, as presidents have been using the CIA for these purposes since its inception. Iran Contra and Watergate are only two prominent examples. The Iraq war and the CIA's famed Oct. 2002 NIE used by the President in his State of the Union citing Iraqi efforts to acquire nuclear weapons are only recent examples of this pattern.
How could a President misuse the American intelligence establishment so unashamedly to produce the justification for war? More importantly, Powers argues, how could the CIA and its director allow themselves to be used for such obvious political purposes? It has come to light recently that there was no basis for many, if not most, of the claims made by Director Tenet and the President in the run-up to war. The CIA produced an estimate that did not rely on current evidence, in fact the report contradicted most available evidence at the time. Powers argues that the CIA had convinced itself so completely that WMD had to be in Iraq and that that belief would certainly be substantiated once American troops were on the ground. However this turned out to be too much of a jump which was taken solely in order to please the president. They allowed themselves to become a part of the political machine, which in the end has only undermined their position, especially in the eyes of the international community. The CIA got so much right about 911 but was not heard by the administration and got so much wrong about Iraq when prodded by that same administration to come up with the justification for invasion.
Ultimately, this problem has at its base the question of trust. How can the American public, and at the same time the rest of the world trust the American Government after having been basically lied to. More importantly, how can the United States expect to rebuild this trust and for that matter prevent active opposition to its future policies? What will the world say when Iran comes up next on the list? The American government has already begun to repeat much of what it had said about Iraq about Iran (except in this case, much of what it is claiming is actually true).
The "sea change" in the role of the CIA from one of collection and analysis to one of partisan political team player is most certainly not a good thing and only serves to undermine the important mission of the CIA. Powers then concluded by asking if the CIA (and by extension the Bush Administration) can be trusted any longer, especially if new missions develop in, for instance, Iran. What will happen when the United States comes knocking on the doors of its international partners, and no one is home?