Communism with Canadian Characteristics: Naval intelligence officer arrested in Halifax, charged with passing secrets to “foreign power,” Ottawa “fed” false information to Moscow after suspicions aroused; Delisle case related to expulsion of four Russian diplomats, including military attache
January 20, 2012Posted by on
This week, the Canadian government expelled four Russian diplomats, including a military attaché and two technical staff, on allegations of passing secrets back to Moscow. Not so coincidentally, last weekend Canadian authorities arrested a naval intelligence officer in Halifax, Sub.-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, on charges of passing secrets to a “foreign power.” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation confirms that some of the Russian embassy expulsions are related to the Delisle arrest.
According to court documents, the 40-year-old Delisle faces two charges under Canada’s Security of Information Act that deal with communicating information that could harm the country’s interests. On Tuesday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay described the case as “a matter of national security” because of the charges involved, but he would not elaborate, including whether the “foreign power” in question was Russia.
“Given the early stages of the proceedings, there is really nothing more that can be said,” MacKay told a news conference in Ottawa. He endeavoured to reassure Canadians and other NATO governments that allegations surrounding Delisle would not affect Canada’s reputation among its allies. “Our allies have full confidence in Canada, full confidence in our information,” MacKay said.
On January 20, Canada’s National Post reported that after Delisle’s superiors suspected that he was passing classified information to Russia, they purposely “fed” false information through the Royal Canadian Navy officer. Journalist Ian MacLeod writes:
Authorities fed an alleged and unwitting Canadian naval spy fabricated information as part of a classic “sour milk” counter-intelligence ploy to taint the credibility of secrets the man is suspected of passing to Russia, Postmedia News has learned.
“This was done by the book — sour the milk so that you confuse the other side,” Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former spy service counter-intelligence officer with sources close to the Halifax case, revealed in an interview Friday.
Once naval officials suspected there was a spy in their midst, deliberately flawed information was baited and designed to eventually be discovered by its foreign recipients, casting doubt the usefulness of any other classified data related to the case.
The same story speculates that the Russians “turned” Delisle in 2007. Delisle started his military career as an intelligence operator reservist in 1996 with the Halifax-based 3 Intelligence Company. If the case goes to trial, it will be Canada’s first spy prosecution since the Cold War. If convicted, the junior naval intelligence officer faces life in prison.
Quoted above, Juneau-Katsuya believes the Russians were after NATO secrets, but the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to “minimize” the case. MacLeod quotes the former Canadian spy: “They hope, by not openly accusing the Russians, the Russians will not do a tit-for-tat and send four (Canadian) diplomats back home. They want to play nice, hoping that the Russians will play nice.”
Not surprisingly, the Canadian Left takes a dim view of the Harper government’s “Russophobic” stance. Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz, director of the Institute of European and Russian Studies at Carleton University, complained: “The Canadian government is stuck in a Cold-War mentality. We now have a Cold War lite.”
Presumably, the Russian attaché expelled from Canada was working for military intelligence (GRU), which proves yet again that the Kremlin is more than competent in penetrating and corrupting the armed forces of NATO member states including, in this case, the Royal Canadian Navy. Last year, Dutch authorities arrested a fighter pilot on charges of passing secrets to Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia.
In a somewhat related story, the British government admitted this week that its secret agents used fake rocks containing radio transmitters ala “James Bond” to eavesdrop on Russian government personnel in Moscow in 2006. At the time, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB/KGB) alleged that London was making covert payments to pro-democracy and human rights groups.