CSIS and the paradox of transparency - Macleans.ca

CSIS and the paradox of transparency


In light of the furore over Fadden’s remarks, it is worth reading Brian Stewart’s behind-the-scenes look at how CSIS struggles to be a spy agency in a society that demands more accountability and transparency. Part of Brian’s goal with his documentaries was not to break explosive news, but simply to open CSIS up to the Canadians, give us a sense of how the organization works and what it does. As Brian writes, the fear is that the Fadden brouhaha will only drive CSIS back into its shell.

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CSIS and the paradox of transparency

  1. My problem with Fadden's sortie was the sloppy, gossipy way in which it came out. It was almost worthy of E-Talk Daily, "Which Canadian politicans are under the influence of a foreign government? We have the exclusive after the break!"

    Perhaps Mr. Stewart or the CBC is to blame for that. I don't know.

    What I especially didn't like was that if Mr. Fadden has this explosive information, he needed to put it out there. He should have been transparent in this case. Not necessarily naming names but giving some fairly detailed information on what was known,. how it was verified, what country(ies) is(are) involved, what steps have been taken to deal with it, what the politicians have been told and what the next steps were to be.

    Instead it was all inuendo and oblique hints.

    Another aspect of the transparency/spy agency dichotomy came to bear in the Ari India investgation. CSIS is to undertake intelligence invetigations but cannot build up dossiers so the tapes were made of conversations but then destroyed. Good intentions but tragic results.

    • "Not necessarily naming names but giving some fairly detailed information on what was known,."

      I disagree CAPS. Anything short of naming people in this instance would produce the same result. I frankly don't see why CSIS needed to broadcast this information on The National but if it was going to do it, it should have been as specific as possible. If you are going to make public accusations of treason against people, name them or you risk the reputation of everyone else.

  2. "A horde of critics rushed in to proclaim Fadden had no right being so public about such a potential threat. Such secrets, they insisted, should remain strictly hush-hush between CSIS and the appropriate people in the prime minister's office."

    That's not what I've heard and read. The "horde of critics" were upset with Fadden's blanket accusations that cast suspicion on public servants of foreign descent.

    If Fadden was aiming for transparency and was willing to point fingers, he should have named people. What he did was issue a red alert against all foreign-born public office holders. Such a charge was bound to cause some hysteria and give way to a witch hunt.

    No more than 48 hours later, specific politicians were being named by media outlets as potential suspects.

    Surely Stewart and Fadden can understand how this can be dangerous.

    • My inner conspiracy freak wonders if that wasn't exactly the intent. Was Fadden merely executing marching orders from his higher ups?

      • And why would his higher ups want to time the release of this information with Hu Jintao's state visit? the G8/20?

        I have to say… I don't know Fadden but I've seen this before. Flattered by the media attention, from Brian Stewarts no less, I think that Fadden sought to impress and said too much. There was probably lots of hours spent on this interview and Fadden must have said tons of very relevant things.

        He probably didn't think that the interview would be distilled down to this.

  3. If this is the kind of thing CSIS is doing, they should be disbanded, so the unexpected transparency was a good thing.

  4. Without concrete information to prove otherwise, I doubt the entire premise that we need secret agencies taking secret action to preserve us from secret enemies.

    I personally have concerns about the growing influence of authoritarian China but my concern doesn't seem to be shared by any federal government we've had since 1968. What point is there to following them around if we sell the farm anyway?

    And what do we do with the warnings, anyway? Do CSIS + RCMP ever arrest anyone for espionage? Do we ever catch a real terrorist or just fit up the odd Arar or Abdelrazik? Seriously, how do we know CSIS is capable of doing anything to defend us if we don't ever see a result other than veiled warnings?

    • Excellent idea. We can make all of CSIS' collection methods and TTPs public, hell print them on the front page of the Red Star. Then we can do as the useful idiot above you suggests and disband the whole thing, since the foreign offensive intelligence agencies (and you can bet you scrawny arses that the Red Chinese and Pakistan, at minimum, have their agents already moving around so easily that they can't help but laugh at how weak we are as both a society and government) will be able to reverse engineer any networks and collection methods CSIS is currently using, and burn them to the ground. Way to go, you've just suggested the ideal method to destroy defensive intelligence gathering in this country. You wouldn't happen to be on the payroll for the SVR or ISI with a suggestion like that, would you?

      The point with clandestine services is that you don't hear about the threats they stop, same as JTF-2; the general public SHOULDN'T know how successful they are, because then the forces intent on harming us as a nation then don't even have to try to guess at deconstructing why our clandestine services serve us so well.

      • Did you just call me a spy? Quit frothing and read my post again. I'm not without concerns, I just don't believe we're doing anything effective about those concerns, and I'm saying with no prosecutions and no retrospective disclosure I have no reason to believe we're doing anything effective.

        But you aparently just believe on faith that we are protected because CSIS expresses the occasional public warning and quietly siphons off a couple of hundred million to do whatever it does each year.

        Do you just believe all the other government departments when they tell you what a great job they are doing too?

  5. Fadden vs. Toronto's Chief Blair. Both apparently doing what they thought was right for the security of the country. Which is the bigger rights abuser? Which has fostered more public anger and cynicism about the organization they lead? Which has done more long term damage to public respect for the country's security apparatus? Which should be summarily fired and which congratulated?

    • Which one should just blow sunshine out his arse to please the fifth columnists and the rest of the mindless, but useful (to the Marxists and Maoists) idiots? Which one stopped beating his wife first? Which one should be the first one to just give over the keys to public safety and security to the ' "anarchists" ' and the foreign intelligence service agents?

  6. I like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, and not assume he's a complete idiot. He probably knows more than he's letting on, and I think the little Russian spy-scandal discovered in the USA should give one pause before condemning Fadden.

  7. "My problem with Fadden's sortie was the sloppy, gossipy way in which it came out."

    My suspicion is that Fadden knows something very sensitive, and wanted to let the cat peek out of the bag before any report was quashed. (Google "Sidewinder Report"+"Jean Chretien"+"Power Corp" for a surprise.) Now, everyone's GOT to know, and Fadden may have to reveal all under oath, NOT in camera–which he probably wants.

    Municipal politicians have a great deal of clout, controlling things like business licenses, zoning and expropriation of land. Since Chinese, Indian, Iranian, Gulf State and other 'Immigrant Investors and Entrepreneurs" are often proxies for their governments and ethnic gangs, this is a serious problem. I know of one Chinese gangster who has bought a series of houses in my neighborhood, which he's petitioning the city to allow him to rezone for redevelopment. I suspect the problem in places like Vancouver is much more extensive.

    It's time to scrap the Immigrant Investor/Entrepreneur programs, make immigrants renounce their former citizenships, and impose strict bans on 'gifts' to politicians and officials from foreign governments. People engaging in such practices should be deported, or jailed. This is something that's a serious problem, and hiding behind cries of 'McCarthyism!' and 'racism!' is essentially condoning treason.