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You may not be a journalist, or a radical, or a former radical or a student. You may not think that any of this applies to you. You should read the stories below and also check out our information page before coming to such a firm conclusion.

What is so galling about all of this is that while the RCMP is spending thousands on expensive playtoys to spy on us, they don't have the decency to recognize citizens who also provide them with useful information. This story about a hacker who found criminal predators on the Internet is a case in point. It is by Gary Dimmock who has several stories featured on this site.

RCMP and CSIS spy on thousands of activists and unionists

Undercover tactics go too far, critics say

Jim Bronskill's (Canadian Press) Access to Information Page

RCMP Crest

Protester Jonathan Oppenheim, a physics student, said massive RCMP Constable Mitch Rasche stood out in the crowd of anti-APEC marchers, even under a Star Trek mask. The happy-go-lucky band of protesters wore masks and colourful costumes as they paraded about the University of British Columbia campus on a memorable autumn night in 1997.

After all, it was Halloween. And dressing up lent a festive air to the anti-APEC march just weeks before leaders of Asia-Pacific countries would assemble on the university campus.

But one member of the group had another reason to wear a disguise: he was an RCMP officer. Const. Mitch Rasche, his face hidden by a Star Trek alien mask, accompanied about 30 protesters as they toured the grounds, stopping to place hexes on corporate-sponsored summit sites and even casting a spell on a Coca-Cola machine.

Such spy tactics worry demonstrators and experts on the RCMP, who argue civil rights are being trampled when Canada's national police use undercover techniques to compile information on the anti-globalization movement.

The roving clutch of Halloween demonstrators included several members of APEC Alert, a group concerned about the effects of the Asia-Pacific alliance's policies on human rights and the environment.

APEC Alert embraced non-violent protest but sometimes advocated civil disobedience.

At the new campus atrium, where world leaders would soon gather, the marchers used washable markers to write "Boo to APEC" and "APEC is scary" on the windows.

Standing six-foot-four and weighing a hefty 240 pounds, Const. Rasche, a 17-year RCMP veteran, had trouble blending into the crowd of mostly young, underfed students.

"That's what made him stick out," recalls Jonathan Oppenheim, a physics student who took part in the march. "He was just kind of standing there slightly off to the side, and not really talking to anyone."

Suspicions were further aroused when Const. Rasche's cellphone rang. "I think we have a spy amongst us," said one of the protesters.

Months later, as an inquiry into RCMP actions at the APEC meetings unfolded, the amazed activists would read Const. Rasche's police report on the march and hear his testimony about the escapade, confirming their suspicions.

Indeed, the Halloween episode was part of a much broader surveillance effort. Police documents and inquiry hearings would reveal the RCMP infiltrated anti-APEC groups to gather intelligence about the November 1997 summit, and planned to arrest and charge high-profile members of APEC Alert to remove them before the international event.

The trick-or-treat surveillance of APEC Alert was one of the more striking -- albeit comical -- intelligence-gathering tactics employed by the Mounties in connection with the summit. The RCMP, sometimes in conjunction with Vancouver police, also sat in on protest meetings, interviewed activists about their intentions, photographed participants at events and assigned undercover officers to blend in with protesters, learn their plans and report the findings to central command posts.

Many Canadians are under the mistaken impression the Mounties hung up their spy gear in 1984 when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service assumed most of the duties of the RCMP Security Service, disbanded in the wake of widespread criticism for infringing on civil liberties.

Agent triple zero

However, the RCMP's National Security Investigations Section (NSIS) probes ideologically motivated criminal activity related to national security such as white supremacy, aboriginal militancy and animal rights extremism.

NSIS, which conducts investigations under the Security Offences Act, is intended to complement CSIS, whose agents also examine and assess security threats, but have no authority to conduct criminal probes or make arrests. NSIS also carries out threat assessments -- analyses of the potential for violence at public events -- in support of the force's protective policing program.

But during the APEC summit, it appears NSIS strayed beyond the confines of preserving national security. An operational plan tabled at the APEC inquiry says the duties of NSIS's B.C. branch included conducting follow-up investigations on information that indicated a potential threat of not just harm, but "embarrassment" to visiting leaders.

Other documents filed with the inquiry show police closely monitored the plans, meetings and events of protesters in the weeks leading up to the summit.

One typical entry noted a rally to be held in Vancouver the evening of Nov. 4, 1997.

"NSIS members plan to provide surveillance coverage at this event to gauge the level of support for the anti-APEC cause at this late stage, and to identify some of the key people attending," wrote an NSIS constable. "Attempts will be made to photograph participants."

The RCMP has adopted the dubious tactic of gathering intelligence on non-violent public interest groups that have nothing to hide, says Wesley Pue, a UBC law professor and editor of the book, Pepper in Our Eyes: The APEC Affair.

"It seems to me the police are routinely crossing the line and forgetting the distinction between legitimate democratic dissent and criminal activity."

Police surveillance of individuals in an academic milieu is particularly troubling because campuses are intended to be places where unpopular ideas are debated, says historian Steve Hewitt, author of the forthcoming book, Spying 101: The Mounties' Secret Activities at Canadian Universities, 1917-1997.

The involvement of NSIS in such activities raises special concerns in that the RCMP spies are subject to less oversight and scrutiny than CSIS agents, he adds.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee, which reports to Parliament, examines CSIS operations to determine whether the spy service has adhered to the law. CSIS also submits a detailed annual report to the solicitor general, and prepares a public version for presentation in Parliament.

There are no such checks on the NSIS.

A classified police report tabled at the APEC inquiry describes the behind-the-scenes tactics police employed during the summit and provides a rare look at the inner workings of a Canadian intelligence operation.

"State-of-the art covert/overt intelligence gathering methods were used which provide very accurate intel on anti-APEC gatherings, protesters both pre and during APEC," says the debriefing report.

Lawyer denied information government compiled on him

Clayton Ruby

Ordinary Canadians have no chance of getting access to files government spy agencies may have compiled on them, prominent human rights lawyer Clayton Ruby said yesterday.

Mr. Ruby, battling to get files RCMP spy-catchers began compiling on him 30 years ago, lost a round in Federal Court when judges essentially ruled that his constitutional rights were being violated but for justifiable reasons. In other words, the court upheld the government's right to refuse all Canadians access to personal files that federal agencies don't want them to see.

Mr. Ruby has no idea what those justifiable reasons are because they were submitted to the court by Canadian Security Intelligence Service ( CSIS ) lawyers under a cloak of secrecy.

"We were challenging constitutionally the right of the government to have a secret meeting with a judge in a back room," Mr. Ruby said yesterday. "I said, ' you can't do that in secret, you have to tell me at least something of what went on so I can make submission, argument or call evidence to contradict.' The judge says I can't do any of that, it's all utterly secret.

"Only my evidence is public", added Mr. Ruby, "and the rest is secret. I have no idea what that evidence is, so I get no chance to challenge any of it. This really is a Star Chamber proceeding. It's like Alice in Wonderland. It's not surprising I lost because I didn't have the faintest idea what was going on."

CSIS spokesmen, who have routinely refused comment on the case, were not available yesterday.

Mr. Ruby says RCMP security services began spying on him when he was a young lawyer and an anti-Vietnam War activist in Toronto 30 years ago. He helped American draft dodgers and campaigned against civil rights abuses and said he later heard the RCMP had tapped his phones and paid "moles" to work in his office.

The lawyer first asked to see his files in 1988 and although some documents were released to him, they were heavily censored.

He began his court fight in 1990, applying under the federal Privacy Act for a look at his file.

Mr. Ruby, who will appeal the latest Federal Court ruling, said it would be impossible for the average Canadian -innocent or otherwise- to get access to their files.

"It took me 10 years to get this far, "said Mr. Ruby, "and I'm a lawyer. The Federal Court is impossibly slow and the federal government is impossibly dilatory. And they know that in the end they are going to be able to convince the judges in secret of whatever they like."

"The average Canadian is never going to go through this," he said. "It would be impossible because the procedure takes forever and is technical beyond belief, and the rules are such that you cannot win. Not only that, you can't even find out what the case is about."

CSIS, which took over the RCMP's security files when it was formed in 1984, refuses to say what information it has on Mr. Ruby.

The lawyer says he expects CSIS to continue fighting him because it doesn't want to risk a legal precedent that would give Canadians easy access to their own personal files.

Mr. Ruby, who was awarded $8,000 in legal costs by the Federal Court, says he is fighting the case on a point of principle and says he doesn't much care whether he gets to see the files.

"The system, as it is currently designed, is set up for the complete refusal of information." he added. This isn't the way for a democracy to function."

Canadian RCMP cast wider net in software spy probe: Cast of characters deepens intrigue in PROMIS case

'It's the first time that there has been the possibility of a credible criminal investigation of this.' - Inslaw Inc. co-founder Bill Hamilton

OTTAWA - RCMP officers have travelled across North America to interview former Israeli spies, a convicted drug dealer, financiers and conspiracy theorists, probing claims that foreign agents used rigged software to hack into secret Canadian computer files.

The Mounties are tight-lipped about their mysterious investigation, code-named "Project Abbreviation," and will confirm only that they're looking into an alleged breach of national security.

But information obtained by The Star indicates that RCMP officers have waded into the mire of a tangled conspiracy theory.

"They have opened a Pandora's box," said one player in the intelligence community familiar with the investigation.

The Star first revealed on Aug. 25 that the RCMP's national security section is probing claims the computer software program known as PROMIS was sold to the RCMP and CSIS in the early 1980s, and then used by U.S. and Israeli agents to eavesdrop on Canada.

The RCMP reluctantly confirmed the existence of the investigation, but have refused to comment further.

The allegations were at the centre of a political scandal that first made headlines in the U.S. in the early 1990s and has never been resolved. It is impossible to ascertain with certainty what prompted the RCMP to launch an investigation years later.

But details of the probe so far show that RCMP officers have already gone to considerable lengths visiting the stations of the cross of one of the longest-running conspiracy theories in American history.

Bill Hamilton, co-founder of Washington-based Inslaw Inc., alleges the U.S. government stole PROMIS from him, and then - along with the Israelis - sold pirated versions to intelligence agencies around the world. He also believes those stolen versions were equipped with a hidden "trap door" that allowed spies to peek into top-secret databases and download any information they wanted. Their intent was allegedly to line their own pockets and finance such covert operations as the arming of Nicaragua's Contras.

In 1987, an American bankruptcy court ruled there was evidence the U.S. justice department used "trickery, fraud and deceit" to steal PROMIS from Inslaw.

The ruling was later overturned on procedural grounds.

A three-year investigation by the U.S. House judiciary committee said some justice department officials had acted to "misappropriate" the software and called for an independent counsel to look at the case.

A later report by a retired judge hired to probe the matter said there was no credible evidence the software had been stolen by the U.S. justice department.

Before The Star revealed last month that the RCMP was conducting an investigation, the PROMIS software story hadn't made headlines for nearly a decade.

Two weeks ago, RCMP investigator Sean McDade cautioned The Star to be wary of the web of intrigue surrounding the affair and the wild-eyed stories told by some of those involved.

"I'll guarantee you that a lot of information that's being circulated out there, there are people who should just shut up because they don't know what they're talking about," McDade said.

But that doesn't explain the wide-ranging list of informants that have been interviewed in recent months by McDade and partner Randy Buffam:

  • Michael Riconoscuito, now imprisoned in Allenwood, Pa., on drug charges, was interviewed by an RCMP investigator who told Riconoscuito's lawyer he was probing a possible breach of Canada's national security. Riconoscuito, a computer wizard with connections to the intelligence community, said in a 1991 affidavit that he helped modify PROMIS software for use by the RCMP and CSIS. (Riconoscuito also seems to be the tenuous link between the RCMP's software probe and the investigation of a three-year-old double homicide in California.)
  • Cheri Seymour, a researcher and writer who lives in California, confirmed that an RCMP investigator has interviewed her twice, the first time in February and most recently in early August. Seymour has written a manuscript entitled The Last Circle, which detail her findings on alleged drug smuggling, money laundering and covert operations linked to the PROMIS software sales. Seymour said RCMP investigator McDade spent three days in February at her home poring over documents she says she obtained from file boxes belonging to Riconoscuito. The RCMP, said Seymour, "walked into something that was way beyond what they originally anticipated."
  • Juval Aviv, a former Israeli intelligence agent who is now a New York-based investigator, said several RCMP officers have questioned him in recent months about the PROMIS affair. Aviv said RCMP investigators asked him to keep quiet about the details of their probe. But he said it does involve allegations that British media tycoon Robert Maxwell - who died in 1991 - arranged for the PROMIS software to be sold to Canada.
  • John Belton, a former Ontario stockbroker who has been obsessively gathering information on the PROMIS affair for years, said the RCMP have interviewed him numerous times over the last 18 months at his home outside Ottawa. Belton said other executives at the brokerage firm where he once worked got involved in shady financial dealings that were linked to the PROMIS software sale in Canada.
  • U.S. journalist Michael C. Ruppert, a former Los Angeles police officer who ran a Web site that seeks to expose CIA covert operations, said he met with RCMP investigator McDade on Aug. 3 in L.A. Ruppert said the RCMP officer was anxious to see documents he received three years ago from a shadowy Green Beret named Bill Tyree detailing the sale of rigged PROMIS software to Canada.

Inslaw founder Hamilton told The Star the Mounties first called him earlier this year. He has spoken with McDade "probably dozens" of times since then. Hamilton, who refused to talk about exactly what the Mounties want to know from him, has a lot at stake in the probe and doesn't want to jeopardize it. "It's the first time that there has been the possibility of a credible criminal investigation of this," Hamilton said.

Police, with help from CSIS, compiled a computerized database on hundreds of people and groups. Officials worked around the clock to produce threat assessments and each morning a secret bulletin was distributed by hand to co-ordinators, site commanders and a special team assigned to infiltrate crowds.

The infiltration team was designed as "an intelligence gathering unit and as such provided timely, accurate and pertinent information about the crowds protesting various aspects of APEC," the report reveals.

"Members were able to assess the crowds, identify the ring leaders and determine the goals of the crowd."

On one occasion, unit members passed on intelligence about the intentions of 75 demonstrators who blocked the road leading out of the UBC campus.

The crowd infiltration team was sufficiently large that members could be rotated from one area of the campus to another, "in an effort to avoid familiarity" and reduce the chance of their cover being blown.

Scrutiny of the anti-globalization movement by the intelligence community has almost certainly intensified following violent acts, committed by a relatively small number of protesters, at international meetings during the last four years.

However, Wesley Wark, a University of Toronto history professor, suspects Canada's intelligence agencies are placing too much emphasis on broad-brush investigation of the movement and not enough on determining which groups and individuals pose actual threats.

Unless the balance shifts, adds Mr. Wark, security services are never "going to have the capacity to distinguish genuine threats from peaceful dissent."

This is the fifth and final instalment in the Citizen series on "the criminalization of dissent."

Mounties believe CSIS dulled Chinese spy threat

The RCMP believes Canada's spymasters blocked alarms about threats to national security posed by Chinese spies and criminal gangs, newly released documents show. According to the RCMP, high-ranking officials at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service shelved a joint RCMP and CSIS probe, code-named Project Sidewinder, in 1997 because the spy service was uneasy with its principal message: that Beijing's spies were working in cahoots with Chinese criminal gangs in Canada. The report was redrafted, and a softer version was produced in 1999. As a result, the Mounties accused senior CSIS officials of having "compromised the integrity" of reports to Ottawa about existing and emerging security threats and charged that CSIS analysts were forced to bury their alarming conclusions.

"The decision taken by senior CSIS officials in June 1997 to terminate Project Sidewinder and then, following discussions with RCMP officers, to continue but with a new analytical team . . . jeopardized the objectivity of the report about to be produced," an analyst with the RCMP's criminal intelligence branch wrote in November, 1999.

"Indeed, the decision suggested that CSIS analysts were not at liberty to bring forward controversial strategic questions and defend novel findings."

CSIS officials have refused to respond to the RCMP's rebuke.

The three-page memo, marked secret, was prepared in response to a series of questions to the Mounties from CSIS's watchdog, the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, as part of a review it launched in late 1999 into the intelligence service's handling of the Sidewinder report.

Other RCMP documents, also marked secret and top-secret, and obtained for The Globe and Mail by researcher Ken Rubin under the federal Access to Information Act, reveal that the Mounties believed senior CSIS officials:

• "Did not have a full understanding of what is strategic intelligence analysis";

• Destroyed "official" documents related to the study, not "transitory" documents as alleged by senior CSIS officers;

• May have withheld from SIRC details about their actions regarding Sidewinder.

"This is the smoking <gun>. It confirms that senior managers at CSIS prevented us from completing our job, not because the report was wrong but because they didn't like what we were finding out," said Michel Juneau, a veteran CSIS intelligence officer, who co-wrote the Sidewinder report. (Mr. Juneau left last year to launch a security firm.)

Indeed, the internal RCMP documents flatly contradict assurances by the review committee and the intelligence service that CSIS acted properly when it shelved Project Sidewinder and destroyed documents related to the probe.

In its 1999-2000 annual report on CSIS, the review committee agreed with the intelligence service's assessment of the Sidewinder report as being a poorly written, rumour-laced conspiracy theory.

However, in handwritten notes attached to a March 31, 2000, draft copy of SIRC's report provided to the RCMP for its review, an unidentified RCMP analyst said that conclusion was "simply not true."

"CSIS's actions, during and after Sidewinder, compromised the integrity of the intelligence process and the objectivity of the report," the RCMP official added. In fact, the RCMP circulated the Sidewinder report to several of its senior criminal and intelligence analysts for evaluation. They all praised it, documents show, calling it excellent and well done.

In a Dec. 19, 1999 letter to Maurice Klein, a senior SIRC official, Superintendent Richard Proulx, then the director-general of the RCMP's criminal intelligence branch, wrote that the Mounties had no problems at all with the quality of the Sidewinder report or its supporting documentation.

RCMP analysts also wrote that explanations CSIS officials offered to government agencies about why they destroyed their Sidewinder documents were also untrue.

CSIS officials, the draft SIRC report noted, told government officials that the documents were "transitory ones used in the preparation of an analytical report, and thus could be destroyed." SIRC accepted this explanation with minor reservations.

However, the RCMP noted in the draft report's margins that the documents CSIS destroyed were, in fact, official in nature.

Unlike CSIS, the RCMP kept copies of all Sidewinder-related documents and told SIRC that "the alleged destruction of Project Sidewinder documents by CSIS employees surprised us."

SIRC also concluded that while Project Sidewinder exposed tensions between CSIS and the RCMP, it did not harm their relationship.

But documents show that the RCMP told the watchdog that the actions of CSIS so damaged relations between the two federal agencies that they no longer co-operate on intelligence reports.

Susan Pollack, SIRC's executive director, said she couldn't comment because she hadn't seen the RCMP documents.

Ms. Pollack added that the Mounties were entitled to their opinions. "We reached different conclusions," she said.