Canada's spy agency to be given more powers to disrupt terror attacks

TORONTO (REUTERS) - Canada's main spy agency will get new powers aimed at disrupting potential terror attacks under security legislation to be unveiled on Friday, Canadian media said on Thursday.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which currently only gathers information and then hands it over to police for action, will be given powers to take actions to prevent potential attacks, Canadian media said.

Under the new law, which will be presented in Parliament, CSIS will be able to block financial transactions, stop people from travelling abroad to join extremist groups and intercept material that can be used in an attack. It would need to obtain a judicial warrant first.

"The goal is for CSIS to move from an intelligence-gathering service to an agency that will have the power to disrupt or diminish potential terrorist threats under appropriate judicial oversight," CBC News quoted an unnamed source as saying.

The agency will not be allowed to detain or arrest people.

The new law will also let police detain potential terror suspects for longer periods without charge, the reports said, and make it easier to track and monitor suspects.

Security officials have been on alert since a gunman attacked Canada's Parliament in October, fatally shooting a soldier at a nearby war memorial.

The attack by a so-called "lone wolf" Canadian citizen came two days after another Canadian convert ran down two soldiers in Quebec, killing one.

After the Parliament attack, the Canadian government introduced a bill to enhance CSIS. It said at the time it would bring other legislation designed to pre-empt threats and crack down on hate speech.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose ruling Conservatives are trailing in polls heading into a federal election this year, said this week that the new law would not infringe on constitutionally protected rights to free speech, association and religion.

Experts, including constitutional lawyers, have noted that law enforcement agencies already have wide-ranging powers at their disposal and could use rarely tapped provisions under Canada's 2013 Anti-Terrorism Act.

Lawyers have said the fact that these options have been rarely tapped by authorities is a sign that more regular techniques and procedures are sufficient for now.