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RCMP use anti-terrorist legislation to intimidate journalist's in search for leaked Arar material.

 

SUE BAILEY AND JIM BRONSKILL
Canadian Press


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 Hayter)

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 incarceration.

Following his release last fall, Arar said he was tortured for months by Syrian authorities who pressed him about any links to the al-Qaida terrorist
network.

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 Wednesday.

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 the matter.

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 considered relevant.

Police were conducting a probe into a possible breach of the Security of Information Act in relation to "alleged leaks of information regarding Mr.
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 passed 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 raid.

"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.

The Canadian Press
http://www.canada.com/victoria/story.asp?id=B6124CBF-E7D4-4410-AAA3-D72165040B57

___________________________

Ontario Supreme Court Judge rules RCMP broke the law - used intimidation.

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.

Judge 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 October 2002.

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 press freedom.

“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 police.”

O’Neill, who called the ruling “a powerful statement against the criminalization of communication”, was delighted, but not yet ready to celebrate.

“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 United States.

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 said.

 

See Also:

 CSIS Terrorists threaten to cut off limbs of Canadians expressing our unalienable right of freedom of speech

RCMP protected pedophile Judge - now two of their officers under investigation!

 

 

Negative Report on Newspapers' Revenue Trends From Goldman Sachs

Editor And Publisher | March 23 2006

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."

 

 

 

Jailed Blogger Could Spend a Year in Detention

Dana Hughes
The Blotter
Saturday, November 18, 2006

A federal appeals court has refused to hear the case blogger and freelance journalist,

Josh Wolf, who now could end up spending almost a year in prison for his refusal to

turn over unedited video of a San Francisco protest he filmed over a year ago.

 

 

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