Forget James Bond and how you ever pictured espionage to work. It's all about influence these days, according to the head of Canada's intelligence agency.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, the head of CSIS, Richard Fadden, revealed a number of Canadian politicians are under the influence of other nations. Fadden told CBC News that CSIS suspected several higher-level provincial Canadian politicians have become compromised by foreign influence, saying "We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there's some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries."
The problem with that 'attachment,' Fadden explained, is "The individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality. All of a sudden, decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations." According to Fadden, municipal politicians are also under the sway of foreign influences.
Fadden told CBC News that Canadian politicians and their staff had no idea they were being manipulated by foreigners. Fadden only named British Columbia, but hinted there were other politicians in other provinces across Canada who had become compromised.
Fadden explained why he was breaking silence so publicly, saying "... I'm making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people be totally oblivious to this kind of issue."
Fadden said foreign countries recruited Canadian university students, cultivating them to become 'people of influence,' naming China as the most aggressive of the five nations pursuing this tactic. "Before you know it, a country is providing them with money, there's some sort of covert guidance." Fadden wrapped up his interview by saying Canada's approach of focusing on preventing terrorism left Canada's technology at risk of being poached by foreign nations through espionage.
Fadden failed to explain why foreign nations were interested in manipulating Canadian politicians, nor the manner in how they were manipulated. He also did not say how much money was being funnelled to foreign nations through the influence game, nor if politicians and staffers would be investigated on the basis of his allegations.
CBC News reported in a follow-up Wednesday that security experts are perplexed by Fadden's public disclosure. Just to confuse the matter, Fadden is now backing off his accusation that China was a key player in the espionage and influence game he had revealed Tuesday night. Fadden told CBC News reports of China's economic spying activities in Canada were not entirely true.
Fadden also cultivated more controversy by stating in his interview with CBC News that CSIS had found the G8 and G20 summits did not appear to be the targets of terrorists prompting President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Dave Coles to say "Maybe Mr. Fadden isn't used to coming out of the shadows, but his admission on CBC TV's The National is shocking. And what is even worse is the Harper government's decision to disregard Fadden's assessment and send in the troops."
On Wednesday morning, Toronto police announced the arrest of a man on explosives offenses, saying the arrest was related to the upcoming G20 conference, reported the Associated Press. The Toronto Star reported the man runs a computer security business.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not yet commented on Fadden's revelations, and the Province of British Columbia is also staying mum. It is anticipated that Fadden's comments will trouble Canada's relationships with other countries. His comments have already provoked questions from Canadian experts about why Fadden would reveal such sensitive information just before the G8 and G20 meetings.
Fadden has been the head of CSIS for a year. At the time of his appointment, CTV reported Fadden was known for his "cool-headed thinking."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is facing widespread and growing criticism in Canada for the costs of providing security for the Toronto G20 gathering, which has cost the country over $1 billion so far.