Mind the espionage - Macleans.ca

Mind the espionage


While analysts and observers debate the significance of Bob Dechert’s flirty emails, J. Michael Cole raises various concerns.

It is too soon to tell whether Dechert was indeed the target of a “honey trap” by Shi, and we’ll leave it to Canada’s intelligence officials to go to the bottom of this. But one thing is certain: Baird’s reference to the whole affair as “ridiculous,” and his refusal to fire Dechert over the matter, is both premature and ultimately naïve.

Stephen Harper’s government can choose to put its head in the sand and pretend that its new-found friend in Asia does not represent a security risk, but this won’t change the fact that China was, and remains, a threat. And with opportunities for contact increasing as Ottawa further opens up to China, so will the potential for recruitment by Chinese spies. Beijing’s denials notwithstanding, there is little doubt that it possesses both the means and intent to do so.


Mind the espionage

  1. Well, judging from the e-mails, this was definitely more than a flirtatious relationship.  Without getting into the morals of it, simply from a security stand point I don’t think the Harper government should dismiss this so easily.  Hopefully that’s just the public response and they’re looking into this more behind the scenes!


  2. Our govt made such a fuss about ‘foreign spies’ it hit the headlines several times.

    Perhaps not even they believed in it….because now it’s dismissed as ‘ridiculous’.  LOL

  3. Too soon to tell whether Baird is witless and protecting colleague or maybe Dechert doesn’t know anything that ChiComs don’t already know so State is not worried. I often wonder if Canadian Government has any proper secrets foreign spies really want or is foreign espionage focused mainly on private sector in Canada. 

    I also would like to know if the background check that was supposedly done a few months ago found out about Dechert’s ‘flirting’ or is this new information. 

    PBS Frontline Interview ~ Dan Stober:

    When we think of nuclear espionage, of course we think of the Soviet Union, we think of Soviet spies, we think of all that. How was the Chinese method different in your experience and understanding than, let’s say, the Soviet method?

    The Soviets used blackmail. The Soviets used people who had an ideological bent towards communism, and the Soviets and the United States would find weaknesses in people and exploit that. There’s an FBI agent, an American obviously, who used to run prostitutes at Russian delegates to the United Nations of New York to catch them in compromising situations. The Russians did the same thing.

    The Chinese, on the other hand, had a much different approach. They would send their scientists to America, and of course, lots and lots of students come to the United States. Many of them stay here. The approach is often described as a thousand grains of sand, which some people have objected to. But it’s a pretty good description actually, and everybody gathers a little bit of information. 

    I don’t mean every Chinese person in America — but everybody that’s working for them — and they assemble it. When Chinese scientists come to the United States, they make contacts. It’s alarming to FBI agents and members of Congress who have no idea that there are Chinese scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, at Lawrence Livermore. The first time they hear this, that, “My God, in Los Alamos, you’re telling me there’s Chinese nuclear weapon scientists? This can’t be true.” 

    Sun Tzu ~ Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

    • Do mean does the govt. have any secrets at all, or any secrets left that China doesn’t already have from thier previous hacking and espionage against us?

      • Both/either.

        I think Canada small, insignificant country when it comes to foreign spies. I figure, in Canada at least, all the spy action is occurring in private sector. 

        I also doubt Dechter knew much of anything useful to tell Ms Shi, I would be surprised if Dechter knows much more than what can be read in newspapers. 

        • I think you’re probably wrong about the value of Canadian government secrets, our military role in Libya and Afghanistan are but two  areas where we have valuable secrets.

          Also, much of the private sector info that would be valuable is in government hands through submissions private sector has to make for regulatory purposes – chain, weakest link, etc.

          Third point, most successful espionage is not the result of infiltrating big ticket sources for big ticket information. Most successful espionage is the result of scooping up mass amounts of little bits of information and successfully aggregating them. This is why wiki leaks is such a massive threat. Who knows maybe an offhand comment from Dechter gave someone the final piece of their puzzle?

  4. I don’t believe the government is dismissing this in order to protect Dechert.  They’re dismissing it in order not to be seen by the Chinese as indirectly accusing them of spying through their News agency. 

    • That’s a good point I hadn’t considered.  As long as Dechert is moved from the parl. assistant job into something less secrecy-damaging in the next couple of weeks, you probably have the right of it.

      • He’s on the panel to replace supreme court judges.

  5. We’ve got it all backwards. It’s obviously Bob Dechert who was laying the honey trap, that silver twittered devil!

    What agent could withstand such charms as “I love it when your cheeks puff out like that?” I betcha he even has a late model Aston Martin requisitioned from Public Works to get the job done. Shall we motor down to Gananoque for dinner and baccarat, Ms. Shi? Hmmm?

    • The Silver Fox Trap?  This would make a great Cialis commerical, wouldn’t it?