TORONTO — RCMP should be forced to open their file from their four-year-old criminal investigation into the leak of secret intelligence documents to the media, a man once accused of terrorism ties argues in court filings.
In a motion to Federal Court to be heard this month, lawyers for Abousfian Abdelrazik argue the full file is crucial to his civil lawsuit over the leak, which Canada’s spy service says damaged national security.
“The RCMP’s investigation file is the only source of information directly relevant to issues at the heart of the present action, including who was responsible for the leak, what responsibilities and duties their position(s) entailed, and what safeguards were in place to prevent such a leak,” Abdelrazik’s motion states.
“It is in the interest of justice that an order for production be granted and the RCMP’s file be disclosed.”
The Mounties, however, have balked. They argue disclosure of their “Project Statue” file could jeopardize their probe into who gave the secret documents to at least two newspapers in 2011.
“Investigations of this nature are usually long and tedious. They often take numerous years to complete. Due to the complexity of this case, it is impossible to estimate when this investigation will be concluded,” RCMP Insp. Randal Walsh says in an affidavit.
Abdelrazik, 53, a Sudanese-born Canadian, became widely known when Ottawa refused for six years to help him get back to Canada from Sudan, where he was imprisoned and, he says, tortured. Federal Court ruled in 2009 that Canadian anti-terrorism agents had played a role in his detention, and criticized how Ottawa had handled the situation.
In early August 2011, Montreal’s La Presse ran a front-page story based on a pair of sensitive documents the Canadian Intelligence Service had prepared for Transport Canada in 2004. They disclosed Abdelrazik had apparently been in on a conversation about hijacking and blowing up an Air France plane from Montreal to Paris.
The documents surfaced as the UN was considering whether to take Abdelrazik off its terrorist list. The Montreal Gazette received the same materials in a brown envelope but didn’t print them, records show.
Within days of the La Presse report, CSIS began an internal probe into whether its agents had leaked the documents, causing “actual injury to the national interest,” according to the records obtained by The Canadian Press. The agency tentatively concluded blame fell on someone in the Privy Council Office, the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet.
At CSIS’s request, RCMP began investigating in mid-August 2011.
New court filings show RCMP had earlier investigated a 2007 leak of documents related to Adil Charkaoui, another man Ottawa had branded a terrorist and who had allegedly talked to Abdelrazik about attacking the Air France jet.
Top-secret RCMP reports show their forensic examinations included testing documents for fingerprints and DNA, and that investigators wanted to shadow a La Presse reporter in hopes of identifying his source. Ultimately, the Mounties concluded the document came from Citizenship and Immigration Canada but were unable to pinpoint a culprit.
Abdelrazik’s suit claims the federal government deliberately leaked prejudicial and unsubstantiated allegations to try to convince the public that he was indeed a terrorist. His unproven suit also asserts the attempt to discredit him formed part of a pattern of behaviour aimed at smearing terrorism suspects.
Ottawa denies the allegations. Among other things, it maintains any damaging information about him was already public.
Abdelrazik’s lawyer Paul Champ said in an interview from Ottawa on Tuesday the leak appears to have been planned, possibly at the highest levels of government, which is why the RCMP file is important to the lawsuit.
“Mr. Abdelrazik was the victim of crime and this investigation really isn’t helping him,” Champ said in an interview. “They’re actually using this investigation as an excuse to block his civil suit.”
In an affidavit filed in September, the former “Project Statue” lead investigator states that such “labour-intensive investigations” can take “several years.”
Federal Court is slated to hear Abdelrazik’s disclosure motion Nov. 19.