Spy chief warns of Canadian passport abuse by undercover agents as spy drama unfolds

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As a Russian spy saga unfolds, Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Dick Fadden says there's reason to worry foreigners are posing as Canadians to engage in espionage - partly because the maple leaf passport is so useful.

"I think it's something that we should be concerned about," Fadden told a Commons committee Monday.

"It's happened over the years, and the Canadian federal government and Canadian provinces have made it more and more difficult for such individuals to acquire Canadian identities, but it is still possible."

CSIS director Richard Fadden waits to testify at the Commons public safety committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday. Photo by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA -

As a Russian spy saga unfolds, Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Dick Fadden says there's reason to worry foreigners are posing as Canadians to engage in espionage - partly because the maple leaf passport is so useful.

"I think it's something that we should be concerned about," Fadden told a Commons committee Monday.

"It's happened over the years, and the Canadian federal government and Canadian provinces have made it more and more difficult for such individuals to acquire Canadian identities, but it is still possible."

Several people - including three claiming to be Canadian - have been charged by American authorities with being deep-cover Russian spies in the United States.

A fourth suspect allegedly from Canada, Christopher Metsos, disappeared last week after a judge granted him bail in Cyprus. He was reportedly carrying a Canadian passport.

The arrests were the culmination of a long-term probe of a network of purported agents of the SVR, the foreign intelligence arm of the Russian Federation. The agents' job, according to FBI papers filed in court, was "to search and develop ties in policy-making circles" in the United States.

The Canadian government has said little about the case, but Passport Canada is investigating possible abuse of travel documents.

Fadden said it's no accident the Canadian passport is prized among spies.

"I think one of the reasons that Canada's so attractive is that we're so well-viewed around the world, and our passports are accepted virtually anywhere, so there is a level of concern."

In 2006, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service revealed an alleged Russian spy using the alias Paul William Hampel relied on a phoney Ontario birth certificate to successfully obtain passports on three occasions.

Fadden said Monday that the U.S. likely gets "more attention than we do" from foreign spies.

"But we take a lot of decisions and we have a lot of information that we share with the Americans and a vast number of other countries. So Canada is of considerable interest."

Fadden was on the hot seat over his recent candid remarks about foreign operatives trying to influence Canadian politicians. He said the case emerging in the U.S. echoed his concerns about foreign interference in Canada.

"In this particular case it appears that the agents of Russia were insinuating themselves into the U.S. economy and U.S. society with the long-term view ... of being able to either acquire information or exercise influence."

Wesley Wark, an intelligence expert with the University of Toronto, rejected Fadden's attempt to link the sensational U.S. case with allegations of foreign influence in Canada.

"These weren't agents of influence in the United States. These were classic agents that the SVR was trying to develop to collect intelligence on various kinds of specific topics in the United States," Wark said Monday.

"We muddy the affair by making any kind of comparison between the two."

Organizations: Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Commons committee, Russian Federation FBI Passport Canada U.S. society University of Toronto

Geographic location: United States, Canada, OTTAWA Cyprus Ontario Russia

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  • don
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    CSIS Director Richard Fadden should be commended for his courage to speak out about infiltration of foreign governments and corporations into Canadian politics. Mr. Fadden should be congratulated for informing Canadians about the influence being exerted by foreign powers on Canadian Politicians and governments. Instead, the media, the politicians and many in the public are trying to shoot the messenger. Unbelievable! How stupid! The only criticism I have is that Mr. Fadden should have withheld any public comment until CSIS had enough evidence to take down any politicians and bureaucrats who had sold out to foreign powers. Canadians appear to be clueless about the level of espionage and corporate spying that is going on right under their noses. Apparently, Canadians don't like to hear bad news and they get upset when someone like Mr. Fadden tells them what is really happening in Canada. Do Canadians think that we are immune from spying because we live in Canada? What utter nonsense! The influence of the German interests helped get Brian Mulroney elected and look at the mess that arrangement caused. The forces of evil will show no mercy for innocence, exhibit no gallantry for inexperience and will capitalize completely on Canadian stupidity. More public servants like Mr. Fadden should have the courage to speak truth to power. If there are Canadian politicians and bureaucrats who have sold out to foreign powers, they should be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Jack
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    These revelations of foreign influence on Canadian lawmakers cannot be taken lightly. It might help explain why dangerous open immigration policies remain in place year after year against the wishes and interests of the Canadian people. How many politicians, government officials, journalists, union leaders and others could be on the take from foreign regimes (e.g. China, Saudi Arabia) or foreign non-state actors (e.g. al-Qaeda) who have an interest in keeping immigration as wide open as possible. Immigration has not been of any economic benefit since to Canadians since the early 1990s, is leading to massive urban sprawl, is exposing us to terrorism and providing all kinds of would-be conquerors with useful potential 5th columns. Its time that Canadians started demanding answers as to who is paying to stifle honest debate on immigration and who is financing propaganda in favour of immigration and its equally destructive twin, multiculturalism.

  • Keith
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    The value of Canadian passports for all kinds of illicit activity is well known, to the point that it is a staple in espionage novels and other fiction. This should be no surprise to anyone - or, at any rate, to any politicians and law enforcement personnel.