The agency that investigates police shootings in British Columbia says it’s in no position to meet the demands of the online activist group Anonymous, which has released what appears to be a secret government document and is threatening to release more unless the RCMP officers who fatally shot a Dawson Creek man are arrested.
“On this particular file, I can’t even hazard a guess of how long [the investigation] is going to take,” said Ralph Krenz, a spokesman for the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). “In the life of the file, we’re still in the preliminary phases of it.”
The office is investigating the July 20 shooting of James McIntyre, 48, identified by Anonymous as a member. Mr. McIntyre was shot by police outside an information session for the controversial Site C hydroelectric project.
Mr. McIntyre was said to be wearing a mask associated with Anonymous when police were called to a restaurant over a disturbance. Mr. McIntyre was not the subject of the disturbance call, but he was confronted by the officers and was reportedly brandishing a knife.
In an online statement, Anonymous described Mr. McIntyre as a “fallen friend.”
On Monday, a self-described member of Anonymous released what they purport to be a 2010 Treasury Board document on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. An accompanying video promises that more documents will be released unless the group sees the “immediate arrest” of the Mounties involved in the shooting of Mr. McIntyre.
The federal government has not confirmed whether the Treasury Board document, which outlines a plan to upgrade decades-old computer systems at 25 foreign stations operated by CSIS, is authentic.
The Anonymous video says Canada has been “lax defending its own systems” but otherwise does not explicitly say how the document was obtained.
On Tuesday, Ottawa cautiously responded to the Anonymous threat after CBC reported that the RCMP and the Communications Security Establishment – Canada’s electronic spy agency – were investigating the leak of the document.
The CSE referred a Globe and Mail query to the Department of Public Safety, and a spokesperson for the minister issued a statement: “We do not comment on leaked documents and we continue to monitor this situation closely.”
Leaking the document might be seen as a clear violation of the Security of Information Act.
When an investigation is finished, the IIO does not recommend whether or not charges should be laid. That decision rests with B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch, which would add another layer of review.
Asked whether officers are co-operating in the case, Mr. Krenz said witness officers are required to co-operate, but those subject to investigation are not required to speak with investigators.
He said the IIO will not be distracted by the Anonymous demands.
“We’re aware of it,” he said of the Anonymous threat. “It’s out there in the social space. The organization is taking steps internally to mitigate any potential risk.”
Tom Keenan, a research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute at the University of Calgary, said the federal government needs to take Anonymous seriously. He said it’s unclear what other secret material the group may have been able to secure, but they seem to know how to do certain “rudimentary” attacks.
In addition to its grievances over the shooting of Mr. McIntyre, Anonymous has criticized the Harper government for Bill C-51, its anti-terrorism legislation.
“We repeat our insistence upon the immediate arrest of the RCMP killers of James McIntyre. Unless and until that happens, we will be releasing stunning secrets at irregular intervals. Of course, even if such arrests take place, we will still maintain access to information highly damaging to Stephen Harper and other supporters of Bill (C-51).”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Independent Investigations Office makes recommendations to Crown counsel about whether a charge should be laid against an officer. In fact, the office’s practice is to forward information to the Crown without making such a recommendation.Report Typo/Error