Friday, June 25, 2010


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Richard Fadden is Canada’s top spy. The Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) gave a lengthy interview with CBC’s “The National” this week, and it turned out to be a blockbuster. To be fair, Fadden handled himself very well during the course of his 26-minute sit-down with Peter Mansbridge (kudos to him and chief correspondent Brian Stewart, who did the accompanying CSIS documentary reports), skillfully fielding questions about sensitive security matters and using them as opportunities to articulate some clear CSIS messages about the threats today’s world presents and the job the agency is doing to protect Canada. But it was his contention that some elected representatives are under the direct sway of potentially hostile foreign governments that sent shockwaves across the country. "There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government," Fadden said. He didn’t specify which countries or which politicians, but he pointed clearly to China and elsewhere referenced the Middle East. Fadden went on to say that CSIS was in discussions with “the centre” – which he clarified as meaning “the Privy Council Office – the Prime Minister’s department” about what to do about it. That was met with denials from Ottawa (in addition to one from B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell) of any knowledge of CSIS’ concerns on this front. Fadden was clear in the Mansbridge interview as to why he would say what he said: “am making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people be totally oblivious to this kind of issue." The next day, Fadden issued a statement reversing that, saying “(CSIS) has been investigating and reporting on such threats for many years. Foreign interference is a common occurrence in many countries around the world and has been for decades. I have not apprised the Privy Council Office of the cases I mentioned in the interview on CBC. At this point, CSIS has not deemed the cases to be of sufficient concern to bring them to the attention of provincial authorities.” The contradiction is stunning, and its impact has many calling for Fadden to further clarify or to resign. If he was deliberately – and strategically – using the CBC interview to sound an alarm that had been ignored in the halls of power, I would have given Fadden a Touchdown for skillfully using a media interview to have his message heard far and wide. But this has played out so sloppily – and his real goal is so unclear – that I’m afraid it’s a Fumble.

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