The Canadian Security Intelligence Service does not have a standard procedure when it responds to kidnappings, even as the number of foreign kidnappings rises, CBC News has learned.
In a May 3, 2012, document marked Top Secret, which CBC News obtained through the Access to Information Act, the Security Intelligence Review Committee looked at CSIS's role in the handling of kidnappings and illegal migration. The report says Canada has been involved in "about a dozen" politically motivated foreign kidnappings since 2005.
The 17-page report, which had large sections removed, questions CSIS's decision to respond to each kidnapping on a case-by-case basis.
"SIRC was told that the service's approach to dealing with kidnappings continues to be on a risk management basis, so as to allow greater flexibility from a resource and operational standpoint.…There is little evidence that the service has taken broader steps to develop standard operating procedures and strategies on its responses to such crises. SIRC believes that the service's approach to kidnapping cases should be the focus of broader strategic planning."
Former CSIS agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya told CBC News that the trend of Canadians being targeted is clear, part of an increase in kidnappings worldwide. For example, The Associated Press reports that hostage-taking of foreign workers for cash payments is on the rise across much of West Africa, particularly Nigeria with its oil industry dominated by Western companies and foreign managers.
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"For CSIS, this is a totally new ball game now," said Juneau-Katsuya, president of Ottawa-based security company NorthGate Group. "A new learning curve that they will have to tackle in order to be capable to operate a little bit more abroad and in foreign lands."
The report says CSIS has expanded its operational activities into kidnapping and illegal migration cases in recent years. CSIS contributes by collecting information about the kidnappers involved, and "perhaps more importantly" taps into information obtained by foreign allies.
Criminals aware Canadians will bring in money
An Associated Press report from May said that an al-Qaeda letter found in Mali indicates the group was paid $1.1 million to release Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in 2009. The Canadian government denied any money changed hands, with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird saying, "Our government does not pay ransoms and does not negotiate with terrorists." But Juneau-Katsuya said the report means organized crime and terrorist groups know Canadians will bring in money.
Juneau-Katsuya said kidnappings could cause a problem if they continue to increase, as CSIS already has a "loaded" agenda.
SIRC "remains concerned about the impact of expanded foreign operational activities, which can be a burden on CSIS's financial and human resources," the report says.
Juneau-Katsuya believes Ottawa needs to do two things to stem overseas kidnappings: better inform travellers about the risks; and provide more funding and foreign agents.
With files from The Associated Press