RCMP use anti-terrorist legislation to intimidate
journalist's in search for leaked Arar material.
SUE BAILEY AND JIM BRONSKILL
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Ottawa Citizen lawyer Wendy Montgomery holds up a search warrant as Citizen
reporter Juliet O'Neill (right) looks on in front of O'Neill's house. (CP /Simon
OTTAWA (CP) - The search of a journalist's home by RCMP officers seeking
evidence in the Maher Arar case "smacks of a police-state mentality," said an
outraged executive of CanWest Global Communication Corp.
Gordon Fisher, the company's president of news and information, said the rare
move by the Mounties was an act "one might equate with the former Soviet Union
rather than a Canadian democracy." Ten RCMP officers with a search warrant
arrived at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the home of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet
O'Neill. The Citizen is owned by CanWest. The warrants were authorized by a
judge and allowed the Mounties to scour O'Neill's home for notebooks, documents,
computer files, agendas and virtually any other information considered relevant.
Police searched for more than five hours as reporters gathered outside. The
officers ignored questions as they left with a box of evidence.
Police were seeking the source of an alleged information leak stemming from a
Nov. 8 story O'Neill wrote on Arar, an Ottawa telecommunications engineer who
became entangled in the war against terrorism.
Arar, a Canadian citizen who hails from Syria, was deported to the country of
his birth by U.S. authorities after being stopped in New York in 2002. O'Neill's
article cited "a security source" and a leaked document offering minute details
of what Arar allegedly told Syrian military intelligence officials during his
Following his release last fall, Arar said he was
tortured for months by Syrian authorities who pressed him about any links to the
O'Neill reported that Arar told the Syrians he attended
an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan in 1993.
Arar later insisted he only made a bogus confession under torture, and denied
any involvement in terrorism. He has also called for a full public
inquiry into what role Canadian police and intelligence officials might have
played in his deportation. The federal government has so far rejected those
calls. Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan said earlier this month the Mounties
would try to determine the names of sources who leaked information about the
Arar case to the media. A spokeswoman for her office declined to comment
Prime Minister Paul Martin said last month that he has seen no evidence of
official wrongdoing in the Arar case, but has pledged to get to the bottom of
A spokeswoman for Martin flatly denied any suggestion
that the Prime Minister's Office encouraged the RCMP search. "This is really an
operations matter for the RCMP," said Melanie Gruer. "We had no prior knowledge
of this at all." It is believed the RCMP initiated the probe of supposed leaks
about Arar. In recent years the Mounties have conducted several investigations
into how classified documents - including government records about proposed
changes to youth justice laws and an environmental initiative - ended up in the
hands of media.
The search and the prospect that veteran journalist O'Neill may be charged under
the federal Security of Information Act are disturbing signs of police
intimidation, her bosses said.
"It is clear to us that the actions of today are meant
to divert us from our attempts to inform the public of any role played by the
RCMP, CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) or the federal government in this
matter," said Fisher of CanWest. "We will not be deterred." O'Neill,
looking drained, emerged from her house with criminal defence lawyer Wendy
Montgomery, who held up a copy of the search warrant for a crowd of
photographers and reporters. Another warrant was executed at O'Neill's office in
the newspaper's city hall bureau.
The search warrants, approved by a judge, "allowed" police to seize any evidence
Police were conducting a probe into a possible breach
of the Security of Information Act in relation to "alleged leaks of information
Arar," said Sgt. Gilles Deziel, an RCMP spokesman.
Ottawa Citizen editor-in-chief Scott Anderson said the RCMP searches were
conducted in relation to Section 4 of the security act. It contains broad
prohibitions against distribution or unauthorized possession of sensitive
government materials. The newspaper has asked the Crown to have anything taken
from O'Neill's house sealed at the Ontario court "so that we can pursue action
against this search warrant if necessary," Anderson said.
A conviction under the security law carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in
prison. The law, based largely on the former Official Secrets Act, was
following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Barry Wright, a law professor at Carleton University,
says the Security of Information Act goes too far. "This is a chilling effect on
freedom of the
press and the public's right to know." Federal watchdog bodies that keep an eye
on the RCMP and CSIS are conducting separate inquiries into any role the
respective agencies may have played in the Arar case. PEN Canada, which
campaigns for freedom of the press and expression worldwide, also condemned the
"The ability of a reporter to protect his or her sources is at the core of a
free and democratic society," said PEN spokesman Chris Waddell. The
organization demanded that all of the seized material be immediately returned
and that the authorities apologize to O'Neill. The Canadian
Association of Journalists said the raids are threatening all journalists' right
to obtain information from confidential sources. "The Security of
Information Act and its broad prohibitions against possession of sensitive
government materials threatens journalists' right, and duty, to thoroughly and
truthfully investigate stories related to national security," said the CAJ.
Judge raps RCMP knuckles Law used to
mount raid on Ottawa reporter’s home struck down
By DON BUTLER
Can West News Service
OTTAWA — An Ontario Superior Court judge has struck down a law used to
obtain search warrants that authorized controversial RCMP raids on Ottawa
Citizen journalist Juliet O’Neill’s home and office in January 2004.
Lynn Ratushny ruled yesterday that parts of Section 4 of the Security of
Information Act are unconstitutional because they violate the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
She also found the RCMP abused proper process by using the warrants to
threaten O’Neill with criminal prosecution unless she revealed the source of
leaked information in a Nov. 8, 2003, story about Maher Arar, a Syrian-born
Canadian citizen whom American authorities arrested and deported to Syria in
O’Neill has never been charged, but the Crown had held out the possibility
charges could be laid. That evaporated, however, with yesterday’s ruling.
In her judgment, Ratushny quashed the two search warrants authorizing the
raid and ordered the return of material seized from O’Neill.
In a highly unusual move in a criminal case, she also ordered the government
to pay the newspaper’s legal costs, expected to run into hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
The ruling was applauded as a vigorous affirmation of the importance of
“It was a black day when they raided Julie’s home and office;’ said lawyer
Richard Dearden who, along with University of Ottawa law professor David
Paciocco, argued the case for the Citizen. “Now the sun is shining again on
the importance of free press in this country.
“The judge has said point-blank that the RCMP can’t threaten a reporter with
criminal charges to try to uncover a confidential source. The judge has said
point-blank that you can’t treat the media as an investigative arm of the
O’Neill, who called the ruling “a powerful statement against the
criminalization of communication”, was delighted, but not yet ready to
“I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for two-and-a-half years and I can
finally exhale;’ she said. “But I won’t until I hear the minister of justice
say the Crown will not appeal this ruling?
Justice Minister Vic Toews, who had criticized the sections of the secrecy
law the judge struck down as too “broad” when he was an opposition MP, was
noncommittal on the government’s appeal intentions. The Crown has 30 days to
decide whether to appeal.
The Security of Information Act was enacted as part of the omnibus
Anti-Terrorism Act three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the
The law is largely identical to the old official secrets act, which had long
been seen as badly drafted and vulnerable to constitutional challenge. But
this is the first time its provisions had been challenged in court since the
passage of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
The sections of the act at issue dealt with communicating, receiving and
failing to return official information.
Ratushny said all three provisions were unconstitutionally vague and overly
broad, violating the principle of fundamental justice enshrined in the
charter. The judge also ruled the sections contravened the constitutional
guarantee of a free press.
In addition, Ratushny found the RCMP used the search warrants and the threat
of charges to gain access to O’Neill “for the purpose of intimidating her
into compromising her constitutional right of freedom of the press, namely,
to reveal her confidential source or sources.
By using the threat of criminal charges to extract information it wanted,
the RCMP used the Security of Information Act in an abusive fashion, she
NEW YORK Goldman Sachs issued a pessimistic report on
newspapers' revenue trends this afternoon in the
wake of The New York Times February numbers announced earlier today.
It reads in full: "We believe the February revenue
report from The New York Times Co. illustrates the continued difficulty in the
operating environment for newspaper publishers. Consistent with our
expectations, ad revenue growth remains anemic, particularly in the New
England Media Group (where ad revenue dropped 12% in February), and cost
pressure continues to hurt profitability, evidenced by an EPS guidance range
that implies margin contraction.
"Bottom line: The industry continues to face a
very challenging ad revenue backdrop and cost pressures, leading to a downward
bias in estimate revisions. We are trimming our NYT estimates. We continue to
recommend an underweight position in the newspaper group."