Canada's spy watchdog says CSIS ignored human-rights concerns in deciding to interview a teenaged Omar Khadr in an American military prison.
In a report released Wednesday, the Security Intelligence Review Committee says there's no evidence CSIS took Mr. Khadr's young age into account either.
The Toronto-born 22-year-old, is being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for allegedly throwing a grenade in Afghanistan when he was just 15, killing a U.S. soldier.
There was widespread media reporting on allegations of mistreatment and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Guantanamo and Afghanistan when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed Mr. Khadr in February of 2003, the review committee report says.
"SIRC did not find any evidence that CSIS took this information into account in deciding to interview Khadr."
The committee also raised serious concerns about Mr. Khadr's tender age in the special report to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, the cabinet member responsible for CSIS.
"It is well recognized in Canadian and international law that youth are entitled to certain fundamental rights because of their status as a minor," the report says.
"SIRC found no evidence that CSIS took Khadr's age into consideration before deciding to interview him at Guantanamo Bay."
Documents have surfaced showing that Mr. Khadr's U.S. captors threatened him with rape, kept him isolated and would not let him sleep.
It has also long been known that CSIS officers questioned Mr. Khadr at Guantanamo in 2003 and that they shared the results of their interrogations with the Americans.
Public release of an interrogation video in which a teenaged Mr. Khadr cries for his mother sparked an international uproar last year.
The report says SIRC hopes the changes CSIS has made in recent years concerning co-operation and information-sharing with foreign partners will help the spy service take human-rights issues into consideration in future probes.
It also recommends CSIS consider establishing a policy framework to guide its dealings with young people.
"As part of this, the service should ensure that such interactions are guided by the same principles that are entrenched in Canadian and international law."
In a broader vein, the review committee says it may be time for CSIS "to undertake a fundamental reassessment of how it conducts business" and urges it to introduce measures to keep pace with "growing and evolving expectations" of how an intelligence agency should operate in a democracy.
"To that end, it would be helpful if CSIS received guidance and advice from the minister on how to accomplish this task."
A spokesman for Mr. Van Loan had no immediate comment on the recommendation.
But he said the minister was reviewing the report and noted the government had already issued new direction to CSIS on dealing with individuals under age 18.
CSIS said Wednesday it welcomes a policy discussion about the role, mandate and expectations of an intelligence agency when operating abroad "as this function is vital to the security of Canadians."
However, the spy agency was quick to add that while it was aware of media allegations of mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees, it had no reliable proof that Mr. Khadr had been mistreated before interviewing him.
Mr. Khadr has spent more than six years at Guantanamo, the lone remaining westerner at the U.S. holding facility for prisoners in the war on terror.
A U.S. military commission is considering the charges against him. Hearings have been suspended pending a review of his case.
Mr. Khadr's lawyers have maintained that the interrogation of Mr. Khadr made Canadian officials complicit in rights violations.
Successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have refrained from intervening in the case. The Tories have rejected a growing chorus of calls to repatriate Mr. Khadr and deal with him on Canadian soil.
The Federal Court of Canada ruled in April the government must ask the United States "as soon as practical" to return Mr. Khadr home. The government is appealing that decision.
Critics object to the notion Canada should defer to U.S. proceedings against Mr. Khadr.
The Khadr family has gained notoriety for apparent long-standing ties to al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden.
Omar's father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a purported extremist and financier for the terror network. He was killed by Pakistani forces six years ago. A brother, Karim, was left a paraplegic from wounds suffered in the shootout.
Another brother, Abdullah, is wanted by the Americans for allegedly supplying weapons to al-Qaeda.