‘Baby steps’: The operation of US military and security agents in Canada

FOLLOWING the September 11, 2001 attacks, successive Canadian governments have been systematically placing Canadian forces and security agencies under U.S. command in various ways.

070819-CalgarySPPprotest-03-crop2Although these are presented as “joint” operations, more and more aspects of Canada’s military and civilian emergency responders and services such as the Coast Guard are being placed under NORAD/U.S. command. Under the Harper government, this trend has reached a climax, with new permanent arrangements that put U.S. security forces on Canadian soil and place all of Canadian land, sea and waterways shared with the U.S., such as the Great Lakes, and aerospace under U.S. military command.

A recent article published in iPolitics by author Michael Harris indicates how the U.S. imperialists are pushing to have an even greater role for their security forces within Canada by making deals with local and regional police forces. This includes permitting the operation of U.S. security forces in Canada without the knowledge of various sections of Canada’s national security apparatus, which are supposed to be protecting Canadians from internal and external threats.

The presence and operation of these forces is of concern to all Canadians as a matter of principle. At this time what is called the U.S. security apparatus is part and parcel of forces creating anarchy and violence in various countries in order to keep the people, especially the workers, disorganized and divided. In the Harper government’s own consultations on their security perimeter agreement signed with the U.S. in 2011, the majority of respondents said they opposed any further integration with U.S. security forces.

Harris writes that in the past, U.S. security agencies and the RCMP incorporated one another into investigations as observers. “For the most part, the arrangement has been satisfactory. When in Canada, any joint operations were governed by the Canadian justice system; when in the United States, it was American law. The Americans wanted the right to carry guns in Canada, but that was a ‘non-starter’ for the RCMP, “ he says.

“But the U.S. kept pushing the envelope. They began ‘picking off Canadians’ in the United States, and then entering into deals with suspects to return to Canada to entice members of their criminal organization into the U.S. Once state-side, they became targets in a reverse sting.”

Harris quotes a long-time senior RCMP officer stating: “Many times we would only hear about the investigation after it was well under way, or when things did not go as planned and they needed some form of action taken inside Canada. We would raise a stink about it, claiming that there were sovereignty issues when there were government officials from a foreign country directing a Canadian citizen to commit criminal acts inside Canada. If we did that, the U.S. would be calling that an act of treason. They do not practise what they preach.”

He goes on to reveal the operation of U.S. agents in Canada apparently only known to the RCMP. “In one case unknown beyond RCMP circles, the Force actually caught U.S. customs officials running a safe house for informants in Mississauga, Ontario, a unilateral operation which Canadian officers who knew about it described as ‘way off-side.’

“There was also the issue in these earlier ‘joint investigations’ of where the charges would be laid. More often than not, the Americans wanted to prosecute in the U.S. where it was much easier to get plea bargains because sentencing is so much harsher.”

According to RCMP sources quoted by Harris, another factor was that the Americans “hated our disclosure laws,” which require the RCMP to reveal the starting point of their investigations and the origin of all the information used to build its case. No doubt they would not want the hand of U.S. security agencies to be disclosed to Canadians. He writes:

“Since many U.S. criminal investigations proceeded from listening in on phone-calls without court orders, as in the infamous [Foreign Intelligence Service Act] scandal, American law enforcement wanted the cases tried in the jurisdiction with lax disclosure laws; their jurisdiction. In those circumstances, Canadian authorities would be reduced to the proxy investigators of their American partners.

“After 9/11 and the charge that some terrorists had entered the United States through Canada, the Americans torqued up the pressure for greater ‘joint’ security – at first along the border. Co-operative agreements sprouted like weeds – namely Shiprider, and BEST, Border Enforcement Security Teams.” These agreements place U.S. security agents on Canadian soil operating on what are called “joint teams” enforcing Canadian law in Canada. Although the agreement is said to be reciprocal, Canadian customs agents are not, for example, placed in U.S. airports to pre-screen passengers as U.S. agents are in Canada.

“The RCMP is involved in both BEST and Shiprider, though to varying degrees. In Shiprider, the Mounties have a Title 19 to carry weapons in the United States, as the Americans do in Canada. But the focus of Shiprider was tightly restricted to the border.

“When the border enforcement security teams came along, the RCMP backed away from the program because it included the right to carry weapons in each other’s country beyond the border area. The RCMP had a liaison role in BEST, but no members worked or carried guns in the U.S. ‘We could live with it along the border,’ RCMP sources told iPolitics, ‘but we did not like the idea of going inland.’

“The Americans pressed ahead with their demands for more powers in Canada. They signed agreements with local police forces like Peel Regional and the Ontario Provincial police — an idea some RCMP officials believed set the wrong precedent.

“What this did was give them proxy to have law enforcement agencies in Canada conduct inquiries with the U.S. at their side without going through the Country Attache system that we used when dealing with the [Drug Enforcement Agency], FBI, [Immigration Control and Enforcement] and the Secret Service. It would appear that NxtGen is building on the security teams and Shiprider.”

According to Harris, the main stumbling block to getting two pilot projects approved for NxtGen is the issue of the use of deadly force. “What will happen when a foreign police officer wounds or kills someone in the partner country?” he asks.

“In Ontario, for example, all law enforcement agencies except the RCMP are subject to investigation by the Special Investigations Unit or SIU, the civilian law enforcement agency called in when someone is killed or wounded by a policeman. The RCMP has its own review system.

“So if a U.S. law officer working with the OPP shoots someone, will that officer be investigated by the SIU, or merely beat a hasty retreat across the border to the U.S.? Similarly, how will it work south of the border if a Canadian police officer uses deadly force in the U.S.? Where will the accountability be in that?

“For now, NxtGen is officially on hold pending agreement on ‘an enhanced officer protection regime.’“

Public Safety Canada recently told Maclean’s Magazine that it would be “inappropriate to report” on the state of the negotiations, but it is almost certain the use of deadly force is a problem. According to Harris, no versions of NxtGen are running anywhere in Canada at this time.

“Canada is its own country and though we are heavily influenced by the U.S., we need to ensure that we do not become the little brother of a U.S. agenda. Once you give the U.S. a platform to carry weapons and perform investigative duties inside our country, how far will they push the next envelope?” Harris quotes an RCMP veteran as stating.

TML Weekly Information  Project, September 28, 2013

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