DATELINE: The Star.com 2012-01-18
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government isn’t known for its openness at the best of times. So, inevitably, it has dropped a leaden veil of secrecy around allegations that a Canadian naval intelligence officer has been passing sensitive information to foreigners for years.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay was predictably tight-lipped on Tuesday. He would not say how much data was allegedly leaked, what it involved, whether it seriously compromised Canadian security or to whom it was handed. He merely insisted that our allies have “full confidence” in us. Really? Says who?
Apart from wanting to know just what Canada may have leaked, and to whom, our American and other allies must be wondering who’s standing on guard over the people who handle sensitive files. Granted, such cases are rare. But how could someone have allegedly been passing information for four and a half years from some of our most secret military facilities before being caught? These aren’t issues MacKay can shrug off, or sweep under the carpet. American policy-makers, among others, will want answers.
Royal Canadian Navy Sub.-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle has been charged with communicating safeguarded information to “a foreign entity,” attempting to do so and breach of trust. MacKay would not confirm or deny a report that he was passing information to the Russians. Delisle worked at Canadian Forces Base Halifax, in the HMCS Trinity naval communications and intelligence centre. It handles secret data shared among North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies on things like fleet deployments, tracking vessels, weapons, operational plans and communications codes.
The Canadian navy, while small, has a long reach. Our warships patrol our three coasts, of course. But Canada also defends its interests and projects influence by working closely with allies. Our ships are active in American and NATO joint operations that range from policing Libya’s coast to conducting Mediterranean anti-terror patrols, chasing down Caribbean drug runners and thwarting piracy off the Horn of Africa. As a result the data that pours through Trinity is a treasure trove not only of Canadian military secrets, but also those of allies who trust us to keep it secure.
The Harper government should know better than to issue breezy reassurances that our allies are unfazed. This is a blow to our credibility. There’s no point in denying it.
Like I said