A senior official at Canada’s spy agency told a Halifax court she believes SLt. Delisle sold the Russian government information that could expose the identity of people who furnish Ottawa with intelligence data.
Michelle Tessier, director general of internal security at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also said the naval officer’s 4 ½-years of spying have put Ottawa at serious risk of being cut off from intelligence shared by close allies.
SLt. Delisle, who told his interrogators he offered his services to Russia out of mad grief over his wife’s infidelity, will be the first person sentenced under the Security of Information Act passed in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Canadian government does not know precisely what SLt. Delisle gave to Russia between 2007 and 2011 although it managed to intercept the last batch of documents he tried to turn over to Moscow in early 2012.
Ms. Tessier said CSIS considers the damage caused by the naval officer’s treachery as “high,” meaning “exceptionally grave damage” that could include exposing the identity of a human source, leading to potential loss of life and harm to relations with allies.
Ms. Tessier said the final transmission attempt by SLt. Delisle contained two CSIS reports, one of which was raw intelligence that was not even supposed to be shared with Canada’s allies. One report was classified Secret and one was rated as Secret: Canadian Eyes Only.
She said CSIS considers the reports representative of the type of material SLt. Delisle had access to over the period 2007-2012.
“They contained information that would allow a knowledgeable reader to potentially identify a human source,” she told the court.
This would allow the Russians to target people for espionage or recruitment.
“They are tactical pieces of intelligence … somebody receiving that type of information over a period of time would certainly be well placed to start identifying potential human sources.”
The reports also included the name, title and phone number of CSIS employees. There’s even a paragraph in CSIS reports that describe the access possessed by CSIS’s human sources, the spy agency official said.
While the reports in question were intercepted and not received by the Russians, Ms. Tessier argued they are representative of the damage done to CSIS.
“CSIS is a human intelligence agency. We recruit human sources for information.”
Canada, being a small country with only one intelligence service is highly dependent on its foreign partners such as the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand for confidential information.
“We remain a net importer of intelligence,” Ms. Tessier said.
“It’s all about trust. It’s about confidence. An intelligence service cannot operate without that cooperation.
She said allies could be scared off sharing with Canada as a result.
Ms. Tessier said the Five Eyes network of intelligence sharing between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has recently introduced stricter rules for safeguarding the information they circulate among themselves.
“There are deadlines to meet in that regard and [if they are not met] there is a risk we could be cut off from certain intelligence.”
Mike Taylor, SLt. Delisle’s lawyer, challenged Ms. Tessier’s characterization of what his client gave to the Russians. “You cannot say that any human sources were identified. You don’t fully know what he provided … this is your best guess.”
Nova Scotia’s Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, Patrick Curran, is expected to consider sentencing arguments for a couple of weeks before rendering a decision SLt. Delisle, who’s been held in custody for the last year, retains his rank and pay at least until he’s sentenced.
SLt. Delisle’s lawyer has previously argued the information his client leaked “in no way at any point jeopardized the lives or safety of any of the men or women operating with the Canadian Armed Forces.”
The prosecutor at bail hearings in the spring of 2012 cited intelligence sources who feared SLt.’s espionage could push Canada’s relations with allied intelligence “back to the Stone Age.”
The sailor, whose last post was the ultra-secure Trinity naval intelligence gathering centre in Halifax, had access to top military secrets – databases with protected information from Canada and the country’s allies through intelligence-sharing systems such as the “Five Eyes” network linking Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the United States.
SLt. Delisle, the court was told last year, searched military databases for the term “Russia,” smuggled the details out of his office using a USB memory stick – and handed the fruits of his labours over to agents for Moscow every 30 days.
The information was mostly military but also contained reports on organized crime, political players and senior defence officials. It included e-mails, phone numbers and a contact list for members of the intelligence community.