Canada and its allies are revamping security procedures in the wake of the Delisle spy case where the self-confessed Canadian agent for the Russians smuggled secrets out of protected military facilities using a USB memory stick.
“Together with our allies we are reviewing the procedures that were in place to protect the security of that information,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters Thursday during a press conference in Calgary.
Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle, who most recently served as an intelligence officer for the Royal Canadian Navy, pleaded guilty October 10 to passing military secrets to the Russian government over a period of nearly five years between 2007 and 2012.
Evidence unveiled during his bail hearing this past spring – that was under a publication ban until Wednesday – showed he copied confidential military data onto a USB memory stick as a means of getting it out of the secure military facilities where he worked in Ottawa and Halifax.
Mr. Toews declined to comment on SLt. Delisle’s plea.
But he took pains to point out that Canada isn’t the only country that’s suffered a serious leak of confidential information. He pointed to the United States where American soldier Bradley Manning is accused of leaked a massive trove of confidential documents concerning the U.S. and its allies to WikiLeaks.
“This not a situation unique to Canada. We had a very similar experience like that in the United States,” Mr. Toews said.
“It’s happened with our allies. We’ve worked with our allies when that in fact has occurred and we will continue to do so in the future to make our systems more impregnable.”
SLt. Delisle is being held at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Halifax. He has been there since he was arrested in January and will not be sentenced until early 2013. There is a two-day sentencing hearing scheduled for January.
Mr. Toews, speaking during an unrelated border security press conference in Calgary, rejected the notion that the Delisle case would hurt Canada’s relations with its allies and erode their willingness to share information with Ottawa.
That was the very accusation raised by a Crown prosecutor at SLt. Delisle’s bail hearings this spring.
“We have a strong and robust relations with our allies. I continue to work very close with Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General,” Mr. Toews said.
“They have never expressed anything other than a commitment to working with us in the future. This has certainly not in any way hampered our very robust exchange of information.”
SLt. Delisle’s treachery amounted to a “severe and irreparable damage to Canadian interests,” a Halifax court heard this spring. According to the Crown, the sailor’s superiors at Trinity, the top-secret naval intelligence facility in Halifax where he worked, opined that the espionage could push Canada’s relations with allied intelligence organizations “back to the Stone Age.”
“We continue to work with our allies to ensure we have a robust exchange of information,” Mr. Toews said Thursday.
SLt. Delisle would have had access to intelligence-sharing systems such as the “Five Eyes” network linking Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Given the extensive sharing of information that occurs between the Five Eyes community…our agencies are always concerned when there is any compromise of security and we work very closely together,” the public safety minister said.