GUANTANAMO BAY - Canada's spy service should have considered Omar Khadr's age and the widespread allegations of abuse before interrogating him in 2003, concludes an investigation by an Ottawa watchdog agency.
The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) report also revealed for the first time details from a Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) post-interrogation report that said Khadr viewed Al Qaeda "through the eyes of a child" who didn't know about his father's terrorist-linked activities because "he was out playing or simply not interested."
Released as Khadr appeared before a military commission here, the report is the latest indictment of Canada's treatment of the Toronto-born captive.
Khadr was 15 in 2002 when he was shot and captured in Afghanistan after a firefight with U.S. Special Forces. He is charged by the U.S. with five war crimes, including murder in the death of U.S. soldier Christopher Speer.
The SIRC report said while CSIS had "operational interests" in interviewing Khadr, the service failed by not having special guidelines for dealing with youths, or taking into consideration reports of abuse.
"In Canadian society, there is long-standing recognition that young people should be treated differently than adults because they have not attained certain decision-making skills and therefore require special protection and guidance," the report concluded.
In a statement, SIRC chair Gary Filmon said: "The time may have come for CSIS to undertake a fundamental reassessment of how it carries out its work, and to shift its operational culture to keep pace with recent political and legal developments."
Filmon added it is "vital for CSIS to demonstrate that it has the professionalism, experience and know-how required to make the difficult decisions that arise when conducting operations abroad - particularly if confronted with situations similar to that of Mr. Khadr."
CSIS agents interviewed Khadr twice in 2003, before a federal court injunction prevented further interrogations.
The Supreme Court of Canada forced the government to release a video of CSIS agents questioning Khadr in February 2003, which created a stir around the world and prompted the SIRC investigation into the spy service's conduct.
The UN listed Khadr's father as a terrorist financier and one of the reasons CSIS was eager to talk to Omar Khadr was to gather intelligence on his father's whereabouts. Ahmed Said Khadr was killed by Pakistani forces in October 2003.
"It should be noted that (Khadr) was 15 years of age when captured, and most of the critical years in his father's association with Al Qaeda figures took place when he was merely a child," wrote the CSIS agent.
CSIS spokesperson Manon Bérubé said yesterday the service has had to "adapt to the more recent phenomenon of youth radicalization and will consider SIRC's findings as it continues to assess how it deals with this threat."
CSIS said it didn't know Khadr was abused by U.S. interrogators as part of a program to "soften up" detainees before questioning.
When Khadr was first detained at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, he was subjected to more than 40 days of interrogation in sessions as long as eight hours a day. The interrogations continued at Guantanamo, where he was transferred in October 2002.
He claims he was physically abused.
Bérubé wrote in an email that while CSIS was aware of "media allegations of mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees," it "had no reliable proof that Omar Khadr had been mistreated prior to interviews with him."
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the government is "reviewing the SIRC report with interest."
A Canadian federal court has ordered the government to seek Khadr's repatriation, but the government has appealed the decision.
The SIRC report is unlikely to affect Khadr's trial.