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Ex-spy takes on CSIS review body Add to ...

Straddling his high-powered motorcycle and clad in leather pants and jacket, Michel Juneau looks more like a pinup boy than a veteran spy.

But for 16 years, the articulate and highly educated French Canadian worked inside the shadowy world of intelligence, first with the RCMP's Security Service and then its successor agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"I loved and was devoted to the work," said the bilingual 41-year-old former intelligence officer and policeman.

Now, Mr. Juneau, who left the espionage agency earlier this year to set up his own security firm, has reluctantly emerged from the shadows not to spill secrets but to forcefully fire back at CSIS's watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, for a contentious report that it issued last week.

"Unfortunately, SIRC's report does a profound disservice to the men and women at the RCMP and CSIS who have dedicated their working lives to the protection of Canada and Canadians," Mr. Juneau said in an interview.

At issue is a sensitive probe of Chinese espionage activity in Canada, code-named Project Sidewinder, that was the product of years of joint analysis by CSIS and the RCMP.

Mr. Juneau, who worked in CSIS's research and analysis branch, co-authored a draft of the Sidewinder report with an RCMP intelligence analyst in May of 1997. It concluded that China posed the single largest threat to Canada's national security.

Ample evidence exists that senior RCMP officers found that the original report went a long way toward proving its overarching thesis and wanted to vigorously pursue its findings. But CSIS unilaterally shelved the report because it believed the study was based on inneundo.

SIRC has acknowledged that a tense schism percolated for years between the RCMP and senior CSIS managers over the fate of the original report. Despite that, in its annual report, SIRC dismissed the original Sidewinder report as "deeply flawed in almost all respects" and "rich with the language of scare-mongering and conspiracy theory."

Mr. Juneau, who was the chief analyst on the original Sidewinder team, which included three other intelligence analysts from CSIS and the RCMP, insisted that it is SIRC's report that is wrong, shrill and "silly."

"My colleagues at CSIS and the RCMP devoted a great deal of time and energy to the report, and I know that our findings, although disturbing and unsettling, were based on concrete evidence," Mr. Juneau said.

"We were not in the business of promoting or conjuring up conspiracy theories and any suggestion that we were is silly, wrong and betrays a profound misunderstanding of how we went about our work."

Rather, Mr. Juneau said, the Sidewinder analysts worked hard to identify an intricate web of connections between Chinese intelligence services and criminal gangs, which they were convinced posed a threat to Canada's national security.

"The original report was thorough and backed up by substantive and tangible evidence," he said. "Their [SIRC's]attack was, regrettably, insulting and deflected attention from the real issue. The report concluded that China posed a multifaceted threat to Canada, and the RCMP analysts agreed."

Indeed, Mr. Juneau said that the original Sidewinder team (it was only the second time the two agencies had collaborated on a major analysis) culled some of its information from a Chinese intelligence officer who defected in 1997.

The man, who was a member of the United Front Work Department, one of China's five espionage arms, went public with allegations that he had been ordered to go to Hong Kong to engineer a pact between Beijing and criminal gangs known as triads.

Mr. Juneau also pointed out that at the RCMP's request, the original Sidewinder team produced a binder, brimming with what is known in the intelligence business as facting. It provided documented evidence, culled from secret CSIS reports, other government departments and agencies and foreign intelligence agencies, that supported every single line in the original report, he said.

Mr. Juneau noted that other Western intelligence organizations and a bipartisan U.S. congressional committee have since produced reports that echoed many of Sidewinder's conclusions. "We were ahead of our time and that's what probably killed our report."

He also flatly rejected a suggestion in the SIRC report that his departure from the Sidewinder team was voluntary and simply the result of a internal reorganization.

"The implication is that I left the Sidewinder team willingly and voluntarily; that is simply untrue," Mr. Juneau said. "I wanted to see the project through to its end."

To his chagrin, CSIS brought in another intelligence officer to complete the report, renamed Project Echo. CSIS told its watchdog that the RCMP agreed with the report's tone-downed findings. But the RCMP informed SIRC that it was "not fully satisfied with the final report" because unlike the first draft it "fails to raise key strategic questions."

A SIRC spokesman refused to respond to Mr. Juneau's allegations.

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