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A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building in Ottawa on May 14, 2013.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Former national-security adviser and CSIS director Richard Fadden said that during his time in government, there were internal reports of diplomats with Global Affairs’s foreign information-gathering unit overstepping their authority.

The Global Security Reporting Program, which sends diplomats to hot spots to collect security-related information for Ottawa, has come under a spotlight after accusations by Michael Spavor, held prisoner by China for nearly three years.

Mr. Spavor alleges that Beijing arrested and imprisoned him and Michael Kovrig, a diplomat who worked for the GSRP, because he unwittingly provided information to Mr. Kovrig that was shared with Canadian and other Western spy services. Mr. Kovrig has told The Globe and Mail that he followed the “standard of laws, rules and regulations governing diplomats.”

Mr. Fadden said: “I recall that there were a couple of instances where we thought individual GSRP officers sort of exceeded their brief a little bit and started acting like intelligence officers.”

“I remember being told on a couple of occasions that people were just going a little bit too far.”

Mr. Fadden served as the seventh director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service between 2009 and 2013, and went on to serve as deputy defence minister and then as national-security adviser to two prime ministers: Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau between 2015 and 2016.

The Department of Global Affairs says GSRP officers are not spies but merely diplomats who have been relieved of other foreign posting duties to focus on collecting security information for Canada.

Global Affairs says these officers do not operate covertly and do not pay sources for information. But the department acknowledges that their reports can be shared with CSIS and Five Eyes intelligence partners that include the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr. Fadden said he thinks the GSRP program requires more scrutiny. The program does not have legislative controls such as CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment, the ultra-secret agency that handles signals intelligence and advanced cybersecurity.

“I think what this leads me to conclude, though, is that the accountability and the review mechanisms applied to the GSRP and to what Foreign Affairs does generally in intelligence is not adequate,” he said. “And they need to be subject to the same degree of transparency as our other national-security activities.”

The Globe and Mail has also reported that Canadians Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained by Chinese authorities in 2014 after Mr. Garratt met GSRP officer Martin Laflamme. China accused the couple of participation in espionage – an incident, like that of the two Michaels, that is widely seen as hostage diplomacy carried out by Beijing.

Mr. Garratt told The Globe that he would not have spoken to Mr. Laflamme had he known the discussions would be passed on to CSIS and Five Eyes spy services.

Global Affairs spokesman Pierre Cuguen said the department is “not currently aware” of other instances when contacts were arrested by police in a foreign country after talking to GSRP diplomats.

GSRP officers receive specialized “persuasion” training from Frank Byrnes, a former RCMP and CSIS officer who is now president of Human Potential Consultants Inc.

Mr. Byrnes said he does not offer countersurveillance training, which is provided in-house by Global Affairs. He trains GSRP recruits on getting their contacts to talk and build a network of sources.

“It’s people skills. It’s how to develop good relationships with people. It’s the nuts and bolts of establishing rapport, bridging perspectives, persuasion,” he said in an interview. “It’s the kind of skills you need to approach people to interview them, how to ask open questions and follow with authentic curiosity.”

The Globe obtained a list of the 30 countries where GSRP officers are based that include China, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Turkey, South Africa, Ukraine, Iraq, Sudan and Israel, in addition to Ramallah in the West Bank. The budget is $20-million annually.

The Global Affairs document – including a map of the locations – also said there were six planned expansions, beginning last summer, that include Poland, Serbia, Vietnam, Qatar, Brazil and Armenia.

Global Security Reporting

Program coverage

Primary coverage, country of posting

Secondary coverage

Reported on from periphery

Not reported on

Planned positions (summer, 2023)

AMERICAS

Cuba

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Mexico City, Mexico

Belize

Dominican Republic

Honduras

Guatemala

Nicaragua

Venezuela

El Salvador

Panama

Costa Rica

Bogota, Colombia

Ecuador

Peru

Bolivia

Paraguay

Sao Paulo,

Brazil

Chile

Buenos Aires,

Argentina

AFRICA

Tunis, Tunisia

Cairo, Egypt

Morocco

Algeria

Mauritania

Libya

Khartoum,

Sudan

Mali

Niger

Chad

Dakar,

Senegal

Eritrea

Burkina Faso

Djibouti

Addis Ababa

Ivory Coast

Ghana

S. Sudan

Somalia

Uganda

Abuja, Nigeria

Rwanda

Nairobi, Kenya

Cameroon

Burundi

Tanzania

Central African Republic

Mozambique

Zimbabwe

Pretoria, South Africa

EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

Finland

Russia

Estonia

Riga, Latvia

Lithuania

Belarus

Warsaw, Poland

Kyiv, Ukraine

Georgia

Belgrade, Serbia

Croatia

Ankara,

Turkey

Bosnia

and

Herz.

Yerevan, Armenia

Macedonia

Azerbaijan

Cyprus

Syria

Montenegro

Afg.

Baghdad, Iraq

Albania

Tel Aviv,

Israel

Iran

Jordan

Kuwait

Greece

Bahrain

Ryadh,

Saudi

Arabia

Doha, Qatar

Ramallah,

West Bank

Abu Dhabi

Oman

Yemen

ASIA

Turkmenistan

Russia

Uzbekistan

Astana,

Kazakhstan

Beijing,

China

North Korea

Kyrgyzstan

Tajikistan

Islamabad,

Pakistan

China

Nepal

Bhutan

Taipei, Taiwan

Bangladesh

New Delhi,

India

Hanoi, Vietnam

Myanmar

Laos

Manila, Philippines

Bangkok,

Thailand

Cambodia

Sri Lanka

Papua New Guinea

Malaysia

Singapore

Timor-Leste

Jakarta, Indonesia

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA

Global Security Reporting Program coverage

Primary coverage, country of posting

Secondary coverage

Reported on from periphery

Not reported on

Planned positions (summer, 2023)

AMERICAS

Cuba

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Mexico City, Mexico

Belize

Dominican Republic

Honduras

Guatemala

Nicaragua

Venezuela

El Salvador

Panama

Costa Rica

Bogota, Colombia

Ecuador

Peru

Bolivia

Paraguay

Sao Paulo,

Brazil

Chile

Buenos Aires,

Argentina

AFRICA

Tunis, Tunisia

Cairo, Egypt

Morocco

Algeria

Mauritania

Libya

Khartoum,

Sudan

Mali

Niger

Chad

Dakar,

Senegal

Eritrea

Burkina Faso

Djibouti

Addis Ababa

Ivory Coast

Ghana

S. Sudan

Somalia

Uganda

Abuja, Nigeria

Rwanda

Nairobi, Kenya

Cameroon

Burundi

Tanzania

Central African Republic

Mozambique

Zimbabwe

Pretoria, South Africa

EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

Finland

Russia

Estonia

Riga, Latvia

Lithuania

Belarus

Warsaw,

Poland

Kyiv, Ukraine

Georgia

Belgrade, Serbia

Croatia

Ankara,

Turkey

Bosnia

and

Herz.

Yerevan, Armenia

Macedonia

Azerbaijan

Cyprus

Syria

Montenegro

Afg.

Baghdad, Iraq

Albania

Tel Aviv,

Israel

Iran

Jordan

Kuwait

Greece

Bahrain

Ryadh,

Saudi

Arabia

Doha, Qatar

Ramallah,

West Bank

Abu Dhabi

Oman

Yemen

ASIA

Turkmenistan

Russia

Uzbekistan

Astana,

Kazakhstan

Beijing,

China

North Korea

Kyrgyzstan

Tajikistan

Islamabad,

Pakistan

China

Nepal

Bhutan

Taipei, Taiwan

Bangladesh

New Delhi,

India

Hanoi, Vietnam

Myanmar

Laos

Manila, Philippines

Bangkok,

Thailand

Cambodia

Sri Lanka

Papua New Guinea

Malaysia

Singapore

Timor-Leste

Jakarta, Indonesia

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL,

SOURCE: GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA

Global Security Reporting Program coverage

Primary coverage, country of posting

Secondary coverage

Reported on from periphery

Not reported on

Planned positions (summer, 2023)

AMERICAS

Cuba

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Mexico City, Mexico

Belize

Dominican Republic

Honduras

Guatemala

Nicaragua

Venezuela

El Salvador

Panama

Costa Rica

Bogota, Colombia

Ecuador

Peru

Bolivia

Sao Paulo,

Brazil

Paraguay

Chile

Buenos Aires,

Argentina

AFRICA

Tunis, Tunisia

Cairo, Egypt

Morocco

Algeria

Mauritania

Libya

Khartoum,

Sudan

Mali

Niger

Chad

Dakar,

Senegal

Eritrea

Burkina Faso

Djibouti

Addis Ababa

Ivory Coast

Ghana

S. Sudan

Somalia

Uganda

Abuja, Nigeria

Rwanda

Nairobi, Kenya

Cameroon

Burundi

Tanzania

Central African Republic

Mozambique

Zimbabwe

Pretoria, South Africa

EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

Finland

Russia

Estonia

Riga, Latvia

Lithuania

Belarus

Warsaw, Poland

Kyiv, Ukraine

Belgrade, Serbia

Croatia

Ankara,

Turkey

Georgia

Bosnia and

Herzegovina

Yerevan, Armenia

Macedonia

Azerbaijan

Montenegro

Cyprus

Syria

Albania

Afghanistan

Baghdad, Iraq

Greece

Tel Aviv,

Israel

Iran

Jordan

Kuwait

Bahrain

Ryadh,

Saudi

Arabia

Ramallah,

West Bank

Doha, Qatar

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Oman

Yemen

ASIA

Russia

Astana,

Kazakhstan

Uzbekistan

Beijing,

China

North Korea

Kyrgyzstan

Turkmenistan

Tajikistan

China

Islamabad,

Pakistan

Nepal

Bhutan

Taipei, Taiwan

Bangladesh

New Delhi, India

Hanoi, Vietnam

Myanmar

Laos

Manila, Philippines

Bangkok,

Thailand

Cambodia

Sri Lanka

Papua New Guinea

Malaysia

Singapore

Timor-Leste

Jakarta, Indonesia

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: GLOBAL AFFAIRS CANADA

Asked to confirm the six new locations, Mr. Cuguen of Global Affairs said: “Due to security and operational considerations, no further information will be provided regarding specific locations.”

The Globe also obtained the organizational chart for the GSRP program that shows it falls under Global Affairs’s Intelligence Bureau. GSRP officers report directly to Margaret Watts-Poole, the acting director of Intelligence Assessments and Reporting, who answers to Philippe Lafortune, director-general of Intelligence and Chief Intelligence Officer.

Mr. Cuguen said in an e-mail that Global Affairs’s Intelligence Bureau is responsible for national-security policy advice, “all-source written intelligence assessments,” threat assessments at embassies and serves as the “lead interlocutor with security and intelligence review bodies.

However, he maintained that the GSRP unit is only one part of the Intelligence Bureau and that its responsibilities “constitute diplomatic reporting that contains information. They are not intelligence assessments.”

Asked why GSRP reports are initially classified as Secret-Canadian Eyes Only, Mr. Cuguen said “this approach ensures that diplomatic reporting is transmitted in a manner that protects Canada’s foreign-policy interests.”

Peter Jones, a former senior policy analyst in the security and intelligence secretariat of the Privy Council Office, said GSRP is not a clandestine intelligence program.

He said GSRP reports are “very informative” reporting, noting that the specialized officers “are trained to go out and speak more broadly in society.”

But he acknowledged that the concerns raised by Mr. Spavor and Mr. Garratt should require Ottawa to examine whether there needs to be better oversight and rules on how GSRP diplomats engage with contacts and sources.

“The fact that GSRP officers report directly to the intelligence branch is maybe something they should tell people,” said Mr. Jones, now a professor at the University of Ottawa.

“If you ask me on a personal level, I would feel a bit more comfortable if I was talking to one of these guys if they told me a little bit more,” he said, “but I would go into the conversation assuming that the information I am sharing in this discussion is going to the Canadian government broadly.”

Mr. Jones also said there is no reason why a 2020 report on GSRP by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency is still being kept under wraps.

NSIRA delayed the release of its December, 2020, review of Ottawa’s foreign-intelligence-collection unit, saying at the time that there were “high sensitivities” about a public examination of the GSRP program, while the two Michaels were still in Chinese prisons.

The two men were released in September, 2021, and NSIRA said it is still going through the redaction process that began in early 2022.

“I could understand why they might not want to release it when the two Michaels were in prison,” Mr. Jones said. “There really is no reason why it shouldn’t be released given the public awareness of this.”

Mr. Jones said the government should consider establishing a foreign human-intelligence-collecting agency like the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States or MI6 in Britain. Both GSRP and the Department of National Defence’s intelligence unit have arisen to fill a need for information abroad, national-security experts say.

“Canada wants foreign information. But it doesn’t want to set up a foreign human-intelligence agency, mostly for budgetary reasons,” according to Stephanie Carvin, a former national-security analyst and assistant professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

“And at some point, we need to make a decision as to what we want the GSRP to become. It should be subject to a debate.”

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