CSIS had been created less than a year before the terrorist attack. At the time,
it was still primarily focused on Cold War priorities like counter-espionage.
CSIS was poorly trained and under-resourced for counter-terrorism, and what
resources existed were focused primarily on threats other than those emanating
from Sikh extremism.
Although human sources are the lifeblood of intelligence, CSIS had few, if any,
sources in the Sikh community in the pre-bombing period. Its ability to respond
to Sikh terrorism was further impaired by unwieldy policies and procedures for
There seemed little sense of purpose to CSIS intelligence gathering in this
area. The information gathered from the wiretap on Talwinder Singh Parmar,1
obtained after months of delay, was not processed eff ectively or in a timely
manner; it was ignored by CSIS investigators and, to compound the problem,
1 The person who, at the time, was thought to be the leader of a terrorist group.
Chapter I: Introduction 23
the tapes of the wiretap were prematurely and unthinkingly erased, even
after the bombing. Surveillance on Parmar was intermittent and ineff ective.
Even though a surveillance team was present when Parmar and his associates
detonated a device in the woods near Duncan, causing a loud explosive sound,
the sound was misinterpreted and the surveillance report was ignored. Despite
the remarkable and unambiguously alarming behaviour witnessed by the
surveillance team, further surveillance was called off on the very day of the
bombing in order to follow a Cold War target.
Most importantly, however, the CSIS analysis of the threat posed by Sikh
extremism was handicapped because it was not provided with key intelligence
information in the possession of the RCMP and the Communications Security
In the wake of the creation of CSIS, the RCMP attempted to reconstitute its
intelligence capacity on the basis of a misguided emphasis on its mandate to
investigate “security off ences” for criminal purposes. The decentralized RCMP
structure was not easily adaptable to the needs of intelligence gathering and
analysis. Little thought was put into the reporting relationships and requirements
that would allow for eff ective collection and analysis of intelligence information.
The result was that, at best, the RCMP duplicated CSIS intelligence gathering
and, at worst, it failed to report important information that CSIS might have
been able to use in its intelligence analysis.
Despite its aspirations to be an intelligence-gathering agency, the RCMP
showed a surprising lack of understanding of the nature or purpose of
intelligence gathering. The RCMP neglected to consider, let alone report or
pass on to CSIS, important information to which it had access from local forces,
such as the Khurana information about a comment by a Sikh extremist leader
in mid-June 1985, that something would be done in two weeks to address the
absence of attacks on Indian interests. The RCMP focused to such an extent on
gathering information of evidentiary value or admissibility that it prematurely
dismissed information that was useful intelligence. Often, the Force’s subjective
judgement of credibility for evidentiary use was inadequate even for criminal
law purposes, let alone as a justifi cation for failing to report threat information
to other agencies.
The failure to understand the value of intelligence and the importance of
reporting meant that, when information was received by the RCMP, CSIS was
often not given a proper report. This is what happened with the November
Plot information about Sikh extremists who were planning to bomb one, and
possibly two, Air India planes in November 1984. This is also what happened
when, unforgivably, the RCMP did not forward to CSIS the June 1st Telex that set
out Air India’s own intelligence, forecasting a June terrorist attempt to bomb
an Air India fl ight by means of explosives hidden in checked baggage. This
fact, which the RCMP did not reveal to the Honorable Bob Rae in 2005, was
uncovered by the Commission.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
RCMP and CSIS: Who's the Stupidest?
From the Major Report on the Air India terrorist attack--Canada's 9/11, unrelated to Islam.