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Canadian Security Intelligence Service officials intercepted Ernst Zundel's mail and used commercial flights to send packages they were worried could have contained bombs to Ottawa for analysis, a former CSIS agent testified yesterday.

In compelled testimony at a deportation hearing for the Holocaust denier, ex-agent John Farrell said he warned his superiors several times that using commercial flights to send the packages was highly risky.

"You were personally aware of this?" asked Mr. Justice Pierre Blais of the Federal Court of Canada.

"Yes," said Mr. Farrell, 37.

"CSIS ignored you, putting the lives of Canadians at risk?" asked defence lawyer Peter Lindsay.

"Yes," Mr. Farrell said. "To the best of my knowledge."

Mr. Zundel did receive a package containing a pipe bomb during the period in which CSIS was monitoring his mail. He took it to police.

Mr. Lindsay grilled Mr. Farrell throughout the day about illegal mail opening and possible law breaking by CSIS. Mr. Farrell confirmed statements he made in a recent book - Covert Entry - that Mr. Zundel's mail was intercepted for several years.

However, Mr. Farrell distanced himself from some statements in the book that author Andrew Mitrovica attributed to him, including an opinion Mr. Farrell allegedly expressed that CSIS intentionally violated the law in its campaign against white supremacists.

"I didn't write that. And I didn't say that," Mr. Farrell testified.

However, Mr. Farrell conceded that in his view, CSIS's motto ought to be: "Lie, deny, and then act surprised."

Asked why he felt that way, Mr. Farrell said: "Because that was typical of what was going on in the service."

Mr. Lindsay hopes to expose CSIS as a rogue agency that will stop at nothing to attain its goals, which would taint the evidence it has assembled to justify deporting Mr. Zundel under a rarely used security certificate.

Under the security-certificate procedures, the evidence was presented in strict secrecy to Judge Blais. The defence must guess at what CSIS is alleging in its attempt to portray Mr. Zundel as dangerous to national security.

After 18 months of legal jousting, the hearing has increasingly taken on a surreal quality, its participants noticeably punchy. Yesterday, Mr. Farrell issued a sharp warning to Mr. Lindsay at one point not to be high-handed with him. Shortly afterward, Mr. Lindsay rebuked Judge Blais for ignoring Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. Meanwhile, Judge Blais, a one-time solicitor-general of Canada with responsibility for CSIS, took turns upbraiding just about everyone.

Early in the day, he demanded that Mr. Farrell's lawyer, John Norris, move to a distant seat where he would be less inclined to make legal objections. He also chastised CSIS lawyer Murray Rodych for making baseless objections.

Mr. Lindsay, meanwhile, went after Mr. Rodych himself. "I see my friend, Mr. Rodych, is laughing again; snorting like a rat," Mr. Lindsay observed angrily.

Judge Blais also launched a tirade at Mr. Mitrovica, who was sitting in the back of the courtroom and apparently signalling his reaction to testimony. "You have a concern, Mr. Mitrovica, expressed with your body language?" the judge said sharply.

As Mr. Mitrovica began to defend himself, Judge Blais grew angrier. "You seem to laugh, to smile," he said. "I do care about managing the courtroom. It's not a show."

Prosecutors spent much of the day jumping up and down to object to questions, often on the grounds that responding to a question might jeopardize national security. Mr. Farrell was sent into the hallway so many times that Judge Blais apologized for the mileage he was putting on his shoes.

Mr. Zundel shook his head silently several times and stared at the courtroom clock.