Canadian allies ‘angry with us’ in wake of navy spy scandal

CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, May 27, 2013

In the wake of a spy scandal that saw a Canadian navy officer continue to leak top secret information to Russia for months after an apparent lack of co-operation between Canada’s spy agency and the RCMP, an intelligence expert says our allies are “really angry with us.”

Early last year, Jeffrey Delisle was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to passing top-secret information to Russia in exchange for upwards of $110,000 over a span of more than four years.

The junior intelligence officer based in Halifax had access to information shared by the Five Eyes: Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand. According to a source interviewed by The Canadian Press, much of the siphoned information was extremely sensitive U.S. intelligence.

Canada’s allies are “really angry with us about the security laxness around this case,” explained Wesley Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa’s graduate school of public and international affairs.

He told CTV’s Power Play it’s troubling that a “great number of secrets” were allowed to hemorrhage out — especially in light of the fact the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had known about the case well before Delisle was arrested.

On Sunday, The Canadian Press revealed that CSIS had been following Delisle for months in 2011. They had been made aware of his covert dealings with Moscow after a tip from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

During that time, CSIS amassed a thick dossier on the sub-lieutenant, however the agency did not alert the RCMP of its probe. Classified information continued to be pilfered to Russia and it was not until the RCMP was sent a letter from the FBI that they began their own investigation from scratch in December 2011.

Delisle, 42, was arrested in January 2012 by the RCMP. But despite his capture, the security drama continues.

On Monday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair grilled the Conservatives during question period, asking why the lines of communication between CSIS and the RCMP seemed to be broken.

“This weekend, we learned that for months CSIS, Canada’s top intelligence agency, watched convicted spy Jeffrey Delisle pass classified information to another power without ever informing the RCMP… Why did CSIS fail to inform the RCMP about Jeffrey Delisle?”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews went on the offensive, saying that the “conclusion drawn in (The Canadian Press’) story are totally incorrect.”

“Information is shared between law enforcement agencies in accordance with Canadian law,” he responded.

But not everyone is convinced.

Questions remain on why the supposed “seamless transfer” of information between CSIS and the RCMP seems to have “fallen down,” Wark said, adding that it’s unclear why CSIS stonewalled the RCMP and why the Canadian spy agency did not share its information on Delisle.

Wark explained that the way the system is designed to work is that as soon as CSIS begins investigating a case where there’s a potential for illegal activity, they are supposed to pass the information to the RCMP.

The RCMP is intimately aware of the types of national security evidence required in court, he explained. “That’s why it’s important to have separate investigations.”

CSIS seemed to have been “overly protective of their case with regards to Delisle for reasons unknown.”

The fallout from CSIS’s apparent lapse has been felt on both sides of the 49th parallel.

On Monday, The Canadian Press learned that stricter security procedures had been passed in the U.S. According to multiple defence and intelligence sources, American liaison officers across Canada were asked to ensure that the increased compliance and accountability measures for dealing with shared intelligence were in place.

The Harper government has also said security fixes are underway.

With files from The Canadian Press