Parliamentarians will be able to act as vigorous public guardians today when CSIS Director Richard Fadden appears before a House of Commons committee. And Mr. Fadden has plenty of explaining to do.
Of primary interest are Mr. Fadden's reckless remarks in a CBC interview that politicians - cabinet minister in two provinces, and some municipal leaders - "have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries."
Was the revelation a tactical choice? (If so, it surely made the phone lines go silent.) Or a slip of the tongue in front of journalists with whom Mr. Fadden was getting too comfortable? (If so, he should have known that the cameras are always rolling.)
What is the nature of the "attachment?" Officials are loathe to disclose "raw intelligence," or the observations and intercepted communications that form the basis of intelligence findings - there is often too much noise, and not enough signal. But Mr. Fadden's suspicions, if he still holds them, must now be accompanied by greater disclosure.
The allegations cast aspersions on many politicians, especially those with connections to immigrant communities (in particular, Chinese-Canadians). Mr. Fadden's suggestion, that some are acting in the interests of another country merited further investigation, not a public announcement. And if it does not hold up, Mr. Fadden has done the public a tremendous disservice.
Mr. Fadden contradicted himself soon after the interview on whether the Privy Council Office and Prime Minister's Office were informed of his suspicions. A clear, unambiguous answer on this question, and on whether his disclosure to the CBC was made with the PCO/PMO's knowledge (or under its direction) is needed. More generally, there should be clarity on how these lines of reporting work in practice.
MPs may also wish to ask how much CSIS and Mr. Fadden knew about the Black Bloc, whose adherents raged in Toronto during the G20, or about alleged members of a Russian spy ring, four of whom carried Canadian passports. For - and this should be obvious for an intelligence agency - CSIS has an obligation to collect information, not just to disseminate it.