Canada spending millions of dollars in watching Qaeda suspects' movements

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Ottawa, Nov 17 : Canadian government is learnt to be spending between five and ten lakhs in keeping a vigil on suspected al-Qaeda members, who belong to other countries but have been released into Canadian communities.

They were not deported back to their home countries, because judges found that they would be at risk of torture in their homelands, and also that it would be inhumane to detain them indefinitely in Canada, said a report in the Globe and Mail.

In one case, federal department officials budgeted for six full-time agents to watch one released prisoner, at an annual cost of 868,700 dollars.

The case in point is Mohamed Harkat. The federal government considers the Algerian a possible al-Qaeda sleeper agent, and kept him detained from 2002 to 2006. Mike Larsen, a York University PhD sociology student, said he is a friend of Harkat and his outspoken activist wife, Sophie. He says the cost of surveillance is running very high in both human and budgetary terms.

Larsen has unearthed many of the controversial "security-certificate" program's specific costs by digging up the price the government pays for round-the-clock monitoring, including staffing costs, electronic bracelets, cars, gas and overtime.

Harkat is permitted out of his Ottawa house for up to 12 hours a week of pre-approved excursions, where he is closely followed. The CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) requested six full-time jobs, costing a total of 868,700 dollars, from 2006-2007, including overtime, to watch Harkat on car, foot and by electronic means, and keep records of all this, according to Access to Information documents obtained by Larsen.

However, a CBSA spokeswoman said the actual cost for watching Harkat was lower than anticipated in that budget year. "The total monitoring cost for Harkat in 2006-2007 is 576,886 dollars. We will not cut corners on security measures to the detriment of national security," Tracie LeBlanc said in an email.

Records show the CBSA also bought a new car for the job of watching Harkat at a cost of 31,000 dollars. The government paid about 5000 dollars in annual gas costs and 400 dollars in maintenance for the car. The cost of Harkat's electronically monitored ankle bracelet was initially pegged at around 4500 dollars a month.

What remains unclear are the specific costs paid by the government to tap Harkat's phone, the bill for any translation services federal agencies may hire, and the price paid for the installation of closed-circuit cameras installed around his home, said the report.

ANI

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