|News Media Update||CANADA||Confidentiality/Privilege|
Canadian Mounties seize reporter’s files in raid
- Police raided the home and office of a reporter in a terrorism investigation in an effort to discover her sources of information.
Jan. 22, 2004 — The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided the home and office of a reporter for The Ottawa Citizen on Wednesday during a search for the identity of a source who leaked secret documents concerning a Syrian-born Canadian citizen suspected of terrorist ties, according to accounts in the Citizen and other news services.
The police raided the Ottawa home of reporter Juliet O’Neill, seizing her notebooks, computer files and address books and rolodex; they confiscated other records from her office at The Ottawa Citizen.
The raids were triggered by O’Neill’s Nov. 8 front-page story detailing a Canadian intelligence dossier on Maher Arar, an Ottawa telecommunications engineer who was arrested in New York in 2002 by U.S. authorities. Arar was then deported to Syria, where he said he was tortured by Syrian military intelligence in an effort to link him to Al Qaeda. He was released and allowed to return to Canada last fall. He has not been charged with any crime.
O’Neill’s article cited to an unnamed “security source” and a leaked document detailing Arar’s statements to Syrian military intelligence officials. She reported that Arar confessed that he attended an Al Qaeda training camp in 1993. Arar says that the confession was extracted from him under torture. The police are seeking the identity of O’Neill’s confidential source.
In addition, O’Neill may face criminal charges under Canada’s Official Secrets Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The law prohibits the distribution or unauthorized possession of sensitive government materials and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Scott Anderson, the editor-in-chief of the Citizen, criticized the raids, which were authorized by judicial warrants. “It is a black, black day for freedom in this country. I am outraged. The Canadian government has a lot to answer for and it’s using intimidation to prevent the search for truth. Canadians should be appalled at the Star Chamber mentality that’s creeping into our justice system,” Anderson told the CanWest News Service.
Officials in both Canada and the U.S. have said that Arar was seized based on information supplied by Canadian intelligence, according to a Jan. 22 New York Times article. Arar has called for a public inquiry into whether Canadian intelligence was involved in his deportation and he plans to file suit against the U.S. government for wrongfully expelling him to Syria.
© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press