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Lawyers ask if CSIS is listening in

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Date: December 20, 2008

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Lawyers ask if CSIS is listening in
Revelation of wiretaps by spy agency upsets Toronto 18 defenders 
Dec 20, 2008 04:30 AM
Isabel Teotonio
Defence counsel in the high-profile terror case of the Toronto 18 are concerned conversations with their clients are being monitored after it was revealed this week that Canada's spy agency had been intercepting the calls between another terror suspect and his lawyers.
"How can we trust that the system is working appropriately?" asked Dennis Edney, who represents the ringleader of an alleged homegrown terror cell that was arrested in the summer of 2006.
"Every lawyer in this country who's involved in issues of national security has no way of knowing whether (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) is monitoring their calls," he said yesterday.
Edney's comments came after he wrote to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada asking it to determine if CSIS has monitored conversations between the 10 terror suspects and their lawyers.
Prosecutors will address the issue on Jan. 5, when they return to the Brampton court where pre-trial proceedings have been underway since the men were arrested for allegedly plotting to storm Parliament Hill and detonate bombs.
Of the 14 men and four youths arrested, seven have since had their charges stayed and one youth has been convicted. The accused are all behind bars awaiting their trial, which is still many months away.
Anser Farooq, the lawyer for a man who has since had his charges stayed, said he suspects their conversations are still monitored and routinely warns his client to be cautious over the phone.
"Our calls are listened to and despite being innocent, his calls will be monitored for the rest of his life and so will his wife, and I suspect his boys too," said Farooq.
Concerns surfaced after it was revealed in a federal court Thursday that CSIS had been listening to calls between Egyptian refugee Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub and his lawyers since his release on bail in the spring of 2007. His case is one of five governed under the controversial immigration law known as national security certificates.
Stringent bail conditions included having all communication intercepted by CSIS, which was acting on behalf of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Mahjoub's lawyers said they considered it implicit that calls to lawyers were off limits and were stunned to learn otherwise, saying it breached the fundamental right of solicitor-client privilege.
A CSIS lawyer later said the agency would stop monitoring conversations between Mahjoub and his lawyers and would delete any that were inadvertently recorded. Last night CSIS issued a statement saying it was thankful the court had clarified the order but could not comment on the matter further.
Defence lawyer Frank Addario, also the president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, has worked on numerous wiretap cases where the order specifically stated that calls to lawyers were excluded. Yet even though the initial order in Mahjoub's case did not expressly state this, he said that open-ended language should never be read to include solicitor-client material.
"There isn't any legal proceeding in Canada, which I'm aware, to which solicitor-client privilege does not apply," said Addario, a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "It's one of the bedrock principles of Canadian law."