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Colin Freeze

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail


Richard Fadden basically alleged that the Chinese government is infiltrating Canadian political bodies subtlely and that this influence extends to municipal and political bureaucrats and politicians and even a couple of unnamed cabinet ministers. It was a very alarming allegation for a spymaster to make publicly. In Canada, we don't have a tradition of CSIS going public with theses sorts of concerns about specific individuals, and certainly [not]individual politicians.

... Fadden is a career-long bureaucrat. He was in various agencies, security and non-security agencies, in the bureaucracy, over the last couple of decades. He was appointed to run CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, last year. He has a bit of an attention-grabbing [manner]that some of his predecessors did not have, cultivate or even want. Fadden gave a speech six months ago where he basically said 'Look, we spy on people. The court and the media and the public [have]got to understand that. We're not going to apologize for it.' Which raised quite a bit of eyebrows at the time. This CBC interview, which was in the works for months, is also shown, similarly, [the]ability by Dick Fadden to get some attention about what CSIS is doing and it does definitely break from conventions about how CSIS articulates its concerns.

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I think CBC and CSIS timed this thing for maximum impact. It seems to me more of a broadcast decision than a political decision. But then, CSIS and Dick Fadden went into this with eyes wide open. They knew that if you make allegations about a G20 nation spying on another G20 nation on the eve of a billion-dollar summit, well, that's going to raise some eyebrows. So this was, I think, timed by both parties for maximum effect.

[Fadden]does sort of shoot from the lip a little bit, but he's not reckless. The PMO would not have not known this was coming. In fact, what Fadden said last night was that he's articulated these concerns broadly about Chinese infiltration of politics to the PMO, to the 'centre' he called it. He's given a bit of autonomy and a bit of slack as head of the spy service and some independence. He doesn't necessarily have to march in lockstep with the PMO. All that said, we're going to have to watch whether this position causes problems for Harper and how he reacts to those problems. He'll certainly be reacting to what he said.

I should say also that before they became the government, the Conservatives would articulate lots of concerns about Chinese espionage while they were in opposition. It was a bit of a hobby horse for them in opposition. And they became the government and we haven't heard much [from]them on that subject since. What Fadden said may broadly conform to some long-standing political fears that are no longer articulated as much as they used to be.

Read more about Mr. Fadden's interview and allegations

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