CSIS and CSEC: Secret missions and foreign spies

In previous times, a simple petition to the government would be enough to make Islanders’ voices heard.  Currently, much more action is required. There are many people on the Island who have formed groups and even hired lawyers to bring awareness to community issues.

While most of the people that join these groups are well-meaning folks, some of them are not. It is a good idea to be aware that some people join a group to incite others to do something rash or even illegal. Others will do something to sabotage or discredit the cause.

Agent provocateurs and saboteurs have been used by the intelligence community for a long time.

In 1985, French nuclear scientists planned to test an atom bomb on a coral reef called Mururoa Atoll, in the South Pacific Ocean. Many people were concerned that this would damage the atoll. The nuclear scientists at the time insisted that it was harmless and the test must go ahead.

No amount of persuasion worked so Greenpeace decided to try to stop the nuclear tests by sailing their ship the Rainbow Warrior into the testing zone in an effort to halt these nuclear experiments.

In April 1985, French spy Christine Cabon, working under the alias Frederique Bonlieu, went to volunteer for Greenpeace at their office in Auckland, New Zealand. While there Cabon obtained all the information about Rainbow Warrior’s planned voyage to the Mururoa Atoll nuclear test zone.

On the night of July 10, 1985, three people launched a rubber dinghy on the north side of Auckland Harbour. The dinghy came alongside the Rainbow Warrior which was tied up at the docks.  Two men in diving gear slipped into the water and fixed a bomb near the ship’s propeller and another near the engine room. The dinghy went east and the divers swam west.

Three hours later the bombs exploded. They tore two holes in the Rainbow Warrior’s hull and the ship sank in its berth. At the time there were 12 people on board,  and 11 managed to escape the sinking ship. Photographer Fernando Pereira was trapped inside the ship and drowned.

fernando and daughter marelle
Photographer Fernando Pereira and daughter Marelle

The New Zealand police found the dinghy left on shore and later discovered the van used to unload the dinghy. The van was rented by two French secret service agents, Major Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, who had sailed to New Zealand in a rented yacht with three others.

The French government later admitted it ordered its agents to sink the Rainbow Warrior so that it could not interfere with their atomic tests.

Great Glass Wall of CSEC
Great Glass Wall of CSEC

Here in Canada we have the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which follows people around physically and the Communications Security Establishment Canada, (CSEC) which does electronic surveillance. CSEC monitors computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic.

CSEC is a member of the “five eyes”, which includes spy agencies from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. CSEC shares information with those spy agencies – but does not tell Canadians what information it shares, or whether this includes information it has collected about Canadians.

Do we have enough checks and balances in place in Canada to oversee these agencies?

Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) is currently chaired by self-described Christian ‘biker’ Deb Gray in Qualicum Beach.  On January  24, 2014 this year, Chuck Strahl stepped down as chair of SIRC and Grey replaced him because he had a conflict of interest being registered to lobby on behalf of Northern Gateway Pipelines.

Strahl became the second consecutive review committee head to leave in a flurry of controversy. The review committee’s previous chairman, medical doctor Arthur Porter, resigned in November 2011 amid questions about his private business dealings.

Meanwhile, the federal government is spending almost $1.2 billion on a new building for CSEC in Ottawa to be opened later this year. The developer has also been contracted to maintain the building and provide other services for another $3 billion over the next 30 years. The total cost for this building is approximately $4.2 billion.

New CSEC Headquarters in Ottawa $1.2 Billion building
New CSEC Headquarters in Ottawa $1.2 Billion building

That’s enough money to build 60 new schools across Canada or 30 new rural hospitals.

CSEC will receive $829 million in 2014-15 to staff their operation, up from just under $444 million last year. CSEC itself employs over 2,000 people.