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A judge has ordered Transport Canada to revisit two Access to Information requests for details of the list’s scope, saying the department did not spell out clearly why the figures should be confidential.
Under the no-fly program established in 2007, airlines relied on a list of individuals considered “an immediate threat to civil aviation” should they board an aircraft. The program, known as Passenger Protect, still exists but the criteria for inclusion on the list has been broadened to address the phenomenon of “terrorist travellers” heading overseas.
In addition, the federal government is reviewing the program due to complaints from several families about airport delays after their children’s names appeared to mysteriously match ones on a security list.
In withholding the numbers from Cameron, Transport Canada invoked a section of the access law that shields information that if released could interfere with the conduct of international affairs, as well as the detection or prevention of hostile activities.
Noel said Transport Canada did not:
— adequately consider the public interest in knowing the figures;
Legault’s office had no comment Monday on the decision.
In a May 2013 letter to Transport Canada, filed with the court, Legault said she was not satisfied the exemption shielding the data from release had been properly applied.
Disclosing an aggregate number of people on the no-fly list “would not allow an individual to determine whether he or she is on the list,” she wrote.
The roster is only one of a number of lists used by airlines to ensure aviation security, Legault added. Therefore, even if someone could conclude they were on the list, “this fact would not transform Canadian or Canadian-bound aircraft into ‘soft targets,’ as claimed by (Transport Canada).”
Christopher Free, a senior Transport Canada intelligence official, was consulted by the agency’s Access to Information division in March 2010 on whether the figures could be disclosed. Free concluded the number of names “was valuable information for terrorist operational planning” and that its release would harm national security, he said in an affidavit filed with the court.
Still, Free said disclosure of the Canadian numbers could “adversely affect our relations with key allies and especially the U.S.”