John Major's Air India Flight 182 inquiry's key findings before the bomb exploded in 1985, killing 329 people

Retired Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major headed the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182.

The commission released these "key findings" in the pre-bombing stage:

Ӣ Government agencies were in possession of significant pieces of information that, taken together, would have led a competent analyst to conclude that Flight 182 was at high risk of being bombed by known Sikh terrorists in June 1985.

”¢ James Bartleman’s evidence that, shortly before the bombing, he saw a specific threat to Air India Flight 182, is credible. The Commission accepts the possibility that such a document would have been ignored and then subsequently have gone missing.

Ӣ Additional, highly classified, threat information was in the possession of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). This information, which was received by the Commission after the close of the hearings, was consistent with other information about the threat of sabotage and hijacking by Sikh extremists in June 1985, and indicated that Indian airports were undertaking security audits in response to the threat.

Ӣ Even without the evidence of James Bartleman and the CSE information, the Commission finds that the amount of information collectively held by the Government made the failure to implement appropriate anti-sabotage measures inexcusable.

”¢ The view of Canadian officials prior to the bombing that government-owned Air India was “crying wolf” in order to obtain additional security for free was misguided.

Ӣ The institutional arrangements and practices of information-gathering agencies were wholly deficient in terms of internal and external sharing of information, as well as analysis.

Ӣ Government agencies failed to appreciate the nature and the seriousness of the threat of Sikh extremism.

”¢ The five-month delay in CSIS’ application to intercept Parmar’s communications, which was a result of a warrant conversion process that prioritized existing warrants over new applications, was entirely disproportionate to the level of the threat.

Ӣ CSIS surveillance was ineffective. Surveillants were unable to distinguish one traditionally attired Sikh from another. When a CSIS surveillance team observed experiments involving a test explosion conducted by Sikh extremists in the woods in Duncan B.C. in June 1985 (the Duncan Blast), the loud sound heard was misinterpreted as a gunshot. No photograph was taken of the unknown third person present (Mr. X.) because surveillants had not brought a camera.

Ӣ CSIS failed to include important information, such as the Duncan Blast, in the threat assessments it provided to the RCMP and Transport Canada.

”¢ The RCMP wasted resources creating a threat assessment structure parallel to CSIS’. The RCMP structure was itself ineffective-it failed to identify, report, and share threat information.

Ӣ The RCMP failed to transmit the June 1st Telex, warning about the possibility of bombing with time-delayed devices in June 1985, to either CSIS or to Transport Canada.

Ӣ Excessive secrecy in information sharing prevented any one agency from obtaining all necessary information to assess the threat. Excessive secrecy also prevented those on the frontlines from obtaining information necessary to put in place security measures responsive to the threat.

Ӣ Effective protective measures were not implemented in response to the threat to Air India Flight 182.

”¢ The concept of “specific threat” was misunderstood and misapplied. When a call-in bomb threat was deemed to be “specific,” it would trigger an elaborate airport emergency protocol which, had it been employed on June 22, 1985, would likely have identified the bomb. This protocol had no application outside of the call-in threat situation. When intelligence was received through other channels, a lack of extreme specificity was at times wrongly used to deny additional protective resources.

Ӣ Today, the concept of specific threat has become an excuse to explain why more was not done to prevent the bombing on June 22, 1985.

Ӣ Security measures in response to possible threats to aviation were poorly thought out and mechanically applied. They were not tailored to meet the particular nature of the threat.

Ӣ Despite the knowledge of the threat of sabotage, Transport Canada and RCMP Protective Policing displayed a lack of flexibility by continuing to rely on anti-hijacking security measures, which did not address the threat of bombing.

Ӣ There was a lack of cooperation and communication within the RCMP and between RCMP, Transport Canada and airlines in relation to airport security.

Ӣ Although Air India was operating under an elevated threat level, CP Air (the airline upon which the bomb was loaded in Vancouver) was not informed of this fact and was operating under normal security protocols.

Ӣ In retrospect, the behaviour of those who booked and paid for the tickets and checked-in the bags should have raised red flags, but a customer service mentality governed at the time, and airline staff were not instructed to watch for indicia of harmful intentions.

Ӣ In allowing the unaccompanied bag to be loaded on to its Toronto-destined flight, CP Air failed to follow its own baggage security procedures.

Ӣ Transport Canada failed to pass then existing draft regulations, which would have enhanced the security of Canadian airports, and failed until after the bombing to implement known antisabotage measures.

Ӣ One anti-sabotage measure known at the time was passenger-baggage reconciliation (a process of matching passengers with their baggage in order to prevent unauthorized bags from being placed on board aircraft, treating the passenger and their baggage as a single entity). Had passenger-baggage reconciliation been used, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 would have been prevented.

Ӣ Canadian airports were plagued by a lax security culture. Restricted areas were not adequately protected, and private security guards and janitorial staff were not required to undergo criminal record checks. Persons with known associations to Sikh extremist groups had access to highly sensitive areas at Vancouver International Airport.

Ӣ Privatization and cutbacks had a negative impact on airport security. Air India was left to implement security measures with little to no supervision by Government. Personnel in charge of screening the luggage, who were employees of a private security company, were underpaid and inadequately trained.

Ӣ At Pearson airport, RCMP and Transport employees were aware of ongoing problems with the X-ray machine and had demonstrated the PD4 sniffer to be ineffective. On the day of the bombing, the remaining bags were scanned only with the PD4 sniffer when the X-ray machine failed. The security employees contracted by Air India had no prior experience or formal training in the operation of the PD4. No one informed the supervisors that the device may have reacted to some of the bags it scanned.

Ӣ Air India ought to have known that the security measures it was using were inadequate to prevent a bomb being placed on its aircraft.

Ӣ On June 22, 1985, the security level in force at Pearson and Mirabel airports called for the use of an RCMP explosives detection dog (EDD). That weekend, however, all RCMP EDD teams were in Vancouver for training, leaving the Toronto airport without any coverage.

Ӣ On the day of the bombing, Mr. Brian Simpson, an Air Canada summer employee at the time, was able to board the Air India aircraft stationed outside the international departures area of Pearson, walk around for 10 minutes or so, and leave, without challenge.

Ӣ In Montreal, after three suspicious bags were identified and left unattended, the flight was cleared for departure by Air India before the arrival of the explosives detection dog. Security employee Daniel Lalonde overheard the Air India security officer mention cost-related reasons for this decision.