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The RCMP has closed its long-running investigation into damaging leaks about Maher Arar - who was falsely accused of terrorist ties - without laying charges, The Canadian Press has learned.

It marks the end of Operation Soya, a criminal probe initiated by the Mounties almost five years ago that led to a high-profile raid on a journalist's home and a successful constitutional challenge of Canada's secrets law.

"Our investigators did the best they could to locate the source of the leaked information," said Cpl. Greg Cox, an RCMP spokesman. "In the end there was not the necessary evidence to support charges."

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Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, was detained in New York in September of 2002 and soon after deported by U.S. authorities - winding up in a grave-like cell in Damascus.

Under torture, Mr. Arar gave made-up confessions to Syrian military intelligence officers about supposed involvement with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

A federal commission of inquiry led by Justice Dennis O'Connor concluded that faulty information the RCMP passed to the United States very likely led to the Ottawa telecommunication engineer's year-long ordeal.

Judge O'Connor also found Canadian officials leaked inaccurate details about Mr. Arar to news media to damage his reputation and protect themselves.

Before and after Mr. Arar's October, 2003, release from prison, anonymous sources quoted in media reports claimed he was an Islamic extremist.

Cpl. Cox said the Mounties, who quietly shut down their investigation in May, could not pinpoint those responsible.

"There were many agencies that had access to the information that was leaked. The RCMP was just one of them. And the investigation was inconclusive with respect to where the leak originated," he said.

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"The RCMP takes the security of classified information very seriously. In this particular case, the information that was leaked was also very damaging to the reputation of Mr. Arar."

Mr. Arar had no immediate comment on the probe's conclusion, said Richard Swain, a spokesman for Mr. Arar.

Early last year Mr. Arar received $10.5-million in compensation from Ottawa. Washington has not apologized and keeps his name on a security watch list.

Almost two years ago, Mr. Arar called for an independent investigation into the whisper campaign against him.

"These leaks had devastating effects on my psychological, mental and financial well-being," he said in December, 2006.

The RCMP decision to halt its probe is not surprising, said Kerry Pither, author of the newly published book Dark Days, which recounts Mr. Arar's saga and the experiences of three other Arab Canadians who were imprisoned in Syria.

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"It's just one more reason that we cannot have this ongoing situation where you have the RCMP investigating itself, these departments investigating themselves," said Pither, a human rights activist who helped secure Mr. Arar's release and continues to push for answers about the four cases.

"This is a classic example of what's wrong with accountability and oversight in Canada today at these agencies."

The Conservative government has yet to act on Judge O'Connor's recommendations to overhaul monitoring of the RCMP's national security activities.

The RCMP investigation's code name, Operation Soya, is apparently a play on SOIA - acronym for the Security of Information Act, the law under which the Mounties probed the disclosure of classified information about Mr. Arar.

In January, 2004, RCMP officers armed with search warrants raided the Ottawa home and office of journalist Juliet O'Neill in an effort to find the sources of her story about Mr. Arar published the previous November.

An Ontario court later struck down portions of the Security of Information Act used to obtain the warrants and lambasted the Mounties for targeting a journalist. The Conservative government did not appeal the judgment.

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Little seemed to happen with Operation Soya until the January, 2007 publication of an article in The Walrus magazine about the Arar leaks by Andrew Mitrovica, a journalism professor at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.

The article said several reporters became complicit, wittingly or unwittingly, in perpetuating the myth Mr. Arar was a terrorist, making specific reference to a number of journalists and their articles.

An RCMP briefing note prepared the next month says investigators planned to contact some of these reporters "to solicit their co-operation in identifying the source of the leak."

"This is an ongoing criminal investigation," says the briefing note, obtained under the Access to Information Act. "It is reasonable to assume once the investigators contact the media for assistance, this action will become public. We are optimistic that the RCMP's persistence in this investigation will be seen in a positive light."

Cpl. Cox could not say whether these outlets were subsequently contacted, nor could he provide other details about the investigation. He said although the probe is over, "it does not preclude it from being reopened should significant new information come to light."

Mr. Mitrovica said it is "mind-boggling" that his article helped revive the RCMP's seemingly moribund investigation.

"They are an incompetent lot who require other people to do their work for them. And more often than not it's too late," he said in an interview.

Mr. Mitrovica laments that officials who leaked false information about Mr. Arar have not been held to account.

"The really sorry aspect of this thing is that the individuals - whoever they are and wherever they exist in that security intelligence infrastructure - apparently may be still in place, making decisions about the fates and the futures of other Canadians."



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