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Testimony given by William Hooper, assistant director of CSIS (afternoon)

The following was taken from the testimony of William John Hooper, Assistant Director of CSIS and Acting Deputy Director of Operations, when questioned by commission counsel.

Hooper’s Background

Hooper is currently the Assistant Director of CSIS and the Acting Deputy Director of Operations. As the assistant director, he is responsible for the collection and analysis programs in relation to terrorism and proliferation, as well as the executive management of the Human Source Program. It is his job to ensure that CSIS is in compliance with the law, ministerial directives and operational policy.

He joined the RCMP in 1974, served as a detachment general duty officer, and became part of CSIS when it was created in 1984. In 1985 he had responsibilities involving the Emergency Preparedness Program, and liaisoned with SIRC and the office of the Inspector General. From 1988 –2000 his career was exclusively in counter-terrorism operations, and he received his current position in 2002.

He said that there are four elements to a security intelligence system: mandate, powers, control and review mechanisms.


CSIS’s mandate authorizes it to collect, analyze and retain information of threats to Canada’s security and report it. Hooper, like Elcock, mentioned, the provision that CSIS can only collect “strictly necessary” information using a threshold of reasonable grounds for suspicion. Hooper said that CSIS has a lower threshold than regular police forces (a reasonable apprehension a crime has or will occur).

He said that CSIS also has a screening mandate to advise about security clearance in relation to public service employment, or to advise the Minister of immigration. He said that CSIS is also concerned with the capabilities and intentions of foreign persons, entities or governments, and collects foreign intelligence in Canada at the request of the Ministers of DFAIT or National Defence.

Hooper agreed that the general rule is for CSIS to not disclose information, except under certain circumstances, such as if law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction where CSIS finds information that may be useful to an investigation or prosecution; and disclosure to the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs (about Canada’s international affairs) and to a Minister of the Crown (if in the public interest).

CSIS and the RCMP

Hooper agreed that CSIS, and all police forces, face a dilemma in disclosure between “burning” a source and jeopardizing an investigation, or ensuring a conviction in a criminal trial. He said the Stinchcombe decision impacted CSIS and RCMP cooperation, which created “onerous” disclosure directions for the crown to the defence.

He said CSIS has found that sharing investigative leads with the RCMP may expose the source of the information. Hooper agreed with Elcock’s testimony that one of the most important considerations in disclosure is the seriousness of the crime.

He said that domestic liaisons are involved in the disclosure and acquisition of information with government departments and various police forces. Memorandums of understanding exist at the federal level and with all provinces except Quebec.

Hooper said that CSIS is required to provide the RCMP with information and advice about crimes resulting out of threats to Canada’s security, and with security assessments related to public service employment. CSIS also assesses for the RCMP anyone with access to strategic sites or protected sites at special events and for VIPs.

Review Mechanisms

CSIS is reviewed by SIRC and the Inspector General (IG). The IG, who is accountable to the Minister, reviews the performance of CSIS and certifies the Director of CSIS’s annual report to the Minister (the certificate is also given to SIRC).

SIRC (which is accountable to parliament) is comprised of Privy Councillors appointed by the Governor in Council from each of the parties in parliament. SIRC can carry out reviews when directed by the minister, investigate complaints, hold inquiries and hear evidence. SIRC can also make the IG carry out a review of CSIS. Both SIRC and the IG are external to CSIS and both monitor CSIS’s compliance with the law, operational policy and ministerial directives.
SIRC recently finished a review of Maher Arar’s case.

Hooper said that these external review bodies are informed about any targeting authorizations, and can review every report submitted about an investigation and the material obtained under warrants. He said that they review affidavits on an annual basis.

Power, Limitations and Controls on CSIS

Hooper indicated that there are three classes of directives that restrict what CSIS can do operationally: law, ministerial directive, and operational policy. There are also memorandums of understanding.

CSIS’ director is accountable to the Minister for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and chairs the Target Authorization and Review Committee and the Warrant Review Committee. Hooper said CSIS can enter into relationships with foreign agencies with the approval and consultation of the Minister, who is obliged to approve foreign (this also requires consultation with the Minister of DFAIT) and domestic arrangements. However, he also said that a director can authorize an agreement with a foreign agency without ministerial approval in extreme circumstances. He said CSIS can do this despite that foreign agency having a bad human rights record.

Hooper said that regional director generals also have the authority to disclose information to local law enforcement, however, headquarters is the only entity that can disclose to a foreign service.

He said that CSIS assesses the political situation of a country, noting any democratic institutions, the human rights record and possible abuses by its security or intelligence agencies. Hooper said that this is part of every memorandum to the Minister asking for a foreign arrangement, and said that arrangements are analyzed every year. Liaison officers also submit annual reports on the quality of liaison.

Hooper said that domestic disclosures can be oral, but CSIS tries to ensure that all disclosures to the RCMP are written. Hooper said that officers must indicate that the information cannot be disseminated further when giving an oral disclosure, and that all oral disclosures must be entered into the operational database

Hooper named several factors that are considered in disclosure: protecting the identity of sources and employees (though these can be disclosed if there is very serious threat) and methods of operations, the benefits and harm of disclosure, the context, the mandate, that only necessary information can be disclosed, seriousness of the threat to national security, importance of the information and political realities (under which they might disclose i.e. a sources’ identity for things like a potential catastrophic attack).


Hooper said that the guidelines and principles used in targeting include a respect of the rule of law, that investigative means are proportional to the gravity and imminence of the threat, that the intrusiveness of investigative techniques be weighed against damage to civil liberties and societal institutions (the more intrusive the technique, the higher the authorization required) and an incremental provision where the intrusiveness may be increased (if a lower level is unsuccessful).

He said that targets can be organizations, special events, critical incidents, issues or (most often) individuals. Hooper explained that to start an investigation, officers must submit a written request to a senior manager or the targeting committee, noting the grounds for suspecting activity threatening national security, what that specific activity is, the “collection program” (i.e. counter-intelligence, counter-proliferation, or counter-terrorism) managing the investigation, the purpose of the investigation and the level of intrusiveness sought.

He said that the committee’s decision is guided by how intrusive an investigation is requested, but the committee is not bound by the request and can apply whichever level it feels is most appropriate. When a higher level is requested, Hooper said the officer should also specify which investigative techniques will actually be used.

The lowest level of intrusive investigation, which Hooper calls “verifying databases,” includes things like checking police records, consulting service indices and foreign services that CSIS has an arrangement with. At the next level, which Hooper refers to as “fairly benign,” one can conduct surveillance for identification purposes, consult human sources and conduct interviews. Hooper explained that the highest level allows officers to obtain warrants for communication intercepts and covert searches, although they don’t necessarily have to use these methods if authorized for level three.

The director of CSIS chairs the targeting committee, and committee members include the Deputy Director of Operations, Assistant Director of Operations, Directors General of three branches (counter-terrorism, proliferation and intelligence), a representative of the Dept. of Justice and a representative of the Deputy Minister.

Hooper said that warrant applications are separate from the targeting process and require authorization for a level three investigation. He said a case brief will be prepared by the investigative desk, pass through CSIS’s legal services, have every fact or belief has to be “facted” against intelligence contained within “information holdings,” be reviewed by independent counsel and a warrant review committee, and if approved, it goes through the Minister’s personal sign-off before going to federal court.

To ensure that an agent doesn’t use unauthorized investigative methods, Hooper said that the information database will not accept information obtained using unauthorized methods.
He said that in the case of a wire tap, the federal court authorizes whose communication can be intercepted and whose can’t (which are labelled incidental communications). In physical surveillance, Hooper said that the contact with another person may be more than incidental, and the name of that person will be put in a report of the investigation of the target.

Threat Environment in Canada and the World

Hooper said that the global security environment is unstable and that al-Qaeda has put western security resources under pressure for heightened security. He said that the intelligence/national security community had indications of a new threat environment before 9/11, such as the first attack of the WTC in 1993, which showed that Islamic terrorists have the capability to carry out extreme violence in the US. He said another indication was when Ahmed Ressam was arrested crossing from Victoria to Washington, in Dec. 1999, state with bomb making materials intended for an L.A. airport.

He said that Canada has not been immune to serious acts of violence, such as the
assassinations of Turkish diplomats in Ottawa in the early 80s, as well as the Air India attack in 1985.

He said that al-Qaeda is the number one security threat to Canada, and that Canada is the only country on al-Qaeda’s list of enemies (marked by Bin Laden for involvement in Afghanistan) that has not yet been attacked. He said that it is only a question of when the attack will occur, and that targets in Canada could include public transportation and petrochemical industries.
Because the Madrid bombing may have changed the leadership in Spain, he said that Al-Qaeda may direct its attacks at political processes and that it’s worrisome for Canada because of the federal election. He said there is no specific threat to Canadian interests yet.

He said that al-Qaeda operatives are difficult to identify, well educated, computer literate and well travelled, and that CSIS now operates on a worst-case scenario.

Studies/Reports Produced by CSIS

CSIS’s Analysis and Production Branch provide reports assessing the threat environment for law enforcement agencies, customs and immigrations officers and for those managing Canada’s infrastructure.

5 reports that CSIS has conducted include a profile of Syria in July 2003, comments on the Canadian Arab Community (Oct. 2002), Bin Laden’s statements issued in Nov. 2002, and two profiles of Al-Qaeda (Sept. 2001 and 2002).

Commission counsel noted that the profile of Syria says that the international community suspects human rights violations, possession or development of WMD and involvement in terrorism. Counsel also noted that the report says Syria has been criticized for human rights violations, but that it has recently improved. Hooper said the source of this report sound like Amnesty’s reports on Syria.

He said the sources of these reports could include open information and CSIS’s own declassified intelligence.

The report about the Canadian Arab Community says things like: Canada’s Arab community is frustrated; an incident at Concordia University became violent; violence seems to be unrepresentative of Canada’s Arab community; official approaches should not provoke this sensitive community; if the community is provoked, the CAF (Canadian Arab Federation) may mobilize the community to demonstrate against the government; that official dealings with this community be done carefully; and that policies and comments which may be interpreted as biased be avoided. It also says that Arab Canadians are peaceful, most protests have been non-violent, and that the community is wary about its image and does not want Canadians to see them as violent. The report also notes that Arab Canadians feel they are being unfairly targeted by CSIS and the RCMP, and that the CAF has given information sessions to “discourage” speaking with officials.

Testimony of William John Hooper, Assistant Director of CSIS and Acting Deputy Director of Operations, when cross-examined by counsel for Maher Arar.

Hooper said he thinks the RCMP has been getting more involved in enforcement issues around security intelligence because the Anti-Terrorism legislation created new offences and gave law enforcement new powers, but that they aren’t getting as involved in the collection of intelligence. However, Hooper did say there is greater potential for law enforcement to branch off into intelligence.

Hooper said a large body of information about al-Qaeda was shared with the RCMP and other police forces. After 9/11, the RCMP established Integrated National Enforcement Teams (INSETs), which are joint task force teams involving police from many jurisdictions.

Hooper confirmed that the Anti-Terrorism legislation made membership in a terrorist organization a criminal offence, and that the RCMP still relies on CSIS for investigative leads around terrorist offences.

Hooper also confirmed that a CSIS officer working in an INSET (referred to as a secondee) does have access to CSIS’ database, and is not there as a liaison officer but merely as someone with a specific expertise. If a secondee accessed CSIS’ database and took information back to the INSET, Hooper said CSIS would be aware of it and stop it.

Hooper indicated that an approval for disclosure to an INSET is required, but that disclosures may happen without approval. Hooper said a secondee is not permitted to print documents at CSIS and then take them back to the INSET, because disclosure still requires permission/authorization. Hooper said a secondee can’t even use CSIS’ information for him/herself regarding INSETs work. He said that a secondee in an INSET becomes like an employee of the RCMP and that the RCMP must go through regular liaison channels if they need information from CSIS.

CSIS officers are assigned to INSETs in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, and also to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU – investigates organized crime), which is subsumed into the INSET in Toronto.

Hooper also said that the RCMP would be better if it had an external review process applied to their activities regarding national security.