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article imageHead of Canadian spy agency says he won't resign

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 5, 2010 in Politics
Ottawa - Richard Fadden, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, faced a parliamentary committee Monday to explain why he had publicly revealed that Canadian politicians were under the sway of foreign influences.
Just before the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada, Fadden had made an appearance on CBC's news program, The National, and said foreign nations were exerting influence over some provincial and municipal politicians in Canada. He didn't spell out which countries, provinces and municipalities, or politicians were under suspicion; although he implicated British Columbia as one province. He also cited an example of how China recruits Canadian spies. Fadden's comments caused an uproar across the country, particularly because Fadden admitted he was talking about cases that he had not reported to the government.
Fadden testified in front of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security Monday. During his testimony, Fadden steadfastly defended himself, saying he regretted he had communicated the information publicly, admitting it was not a "desirable outcome." Fadden said he would not resign. Throughout the hearing, which went on for several hours, Fadden consistently admitted said he had said too much to the CBC -- but claimed it wasn't such a big deal.
During the hearing, Fadden said "Canadians should be more informed about the threats Canada faces ... It is good public policy for Canadians to be more attuned to the threats that the country faces.
Fadden explained how his comments ended up becoming public. He was being recorded when he spoke to the Royal Canadian Military Institute on Police Appreciation Night on March 24th this year. Fadden said "I thought the filming was limited to my speech so in answering a question I provided a degree of granularity or detail to an audience of police intelligence and military experts that I would not have provided to the public. Confronted by the broadcaster in late June with the substance of the remarks recorded three months earlier, I felt I had little choice but to address them in a forthright manner. I agree that this was not the optimum way to have this matter raised in public and wish that it had turned out differently." The Institute posted a recording of Fadden's comments on its website.
Fadden stressed that foreign interference had been a problem since 1984, and CSIS has a clear mandate to investigate potential cases. He defined foreign interference as "... an attempt by agents of a foreign state to influence the opinions, views and decisions of Canadians with the aim to obtaining political, policy or economic advantage." Fadden said CSIS further defines foreign influence as a detrimental clandestine activity that catches up Canadian citizens "unwittingly." He added that there is not always a breach of the law.
Speaking about his comments broadcast by CBC News, Fadden said "There was and is no immediate threat to the national security, so we are taking the time to complete our analysis before reporting to government ..." During the hearing, Fadden maintained that foreign influence is a "real danger," although he also said all along he couldn't discuss the specifics of the cases he'd mentioned on the CBC.
Fadden was taken to task by committee chair, Don Davies of Vancouver Kingsway, BC. Under the barage of questions about whether Fadden had breached the trust of Canadians, Fadden remained politely obstinate, saying he had made only general statements during his interview with CBC. When Davies pushed Fadden to name the provinces and municipalities and the people operating under the influence of foreign interests, Fadden said he couldn't answer the questions, but that he would name the ministers under suspicion to the government in the near future.
Fadden said he'd informed the Privy Office of the cases early in 2010, but later testified that he'd only given a "heads up" and had not actually discussed the cases or provided specific information to the Prime Minister's office.
Fadden declined to apologize to the Chinese Canadian community for his comments made during the CBC interview, saying "I think... they are victims. I don't think that they are the problem, I think the foreign power is the problem. The main reason we are operating in this area is to protect Canadians from the foreign power. So I do not think an apology is necessary."
Later Fadden said that his release of information was not as extraordinary as it was being made out to be. He had only made a general statement and had not provided specific information, meaning he did not violate any laws nor make a disclosure.
Fadden disagreed with the suggestion that he'd smeared politicians with his comments, something British Columbia politicians have been expressing.
The next time the committee meets, it will consider a proposal from member Maria Mourani to ask Fadden to step down from his job.
More about Richard fadden, CSIS, Foreign influence, National security, Canada spy agency
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