Exit of the spy master

HILARY MACKENZIE September 21 1987

Exit of the spy master

HILARY MACKENZIE September 21 1987

Exit of the spy master

Ever since the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was created in 1984, critics have claimed that the counterespionage agency—carved out of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—had failed to make the transition from police enforcer to intelligence gatherer. Those doubts intensified as months of investigative work by CSIS yielded no criminal charges in the June,

1985, bombing of an Air-India jet flying from Toronto to New Delhi. Then, late last week, Solicitor General James Kelleher seemed to confirm the worst fears about CSIS, accepting the resignation of its director, Thomas D’Arcy (Ted) Finn.

Only hours earlier, a CSIS lawyer had admitted in court that the agency had used information from an unreliable informer to obtain a wiretap warrant in a case involving the shooting of an Indian cabinet minister in British Columbia. Declared Kelleher: “There were human errors, procedures were not followed, and not all the procedures that should have been in place were in place.” Indeed, Kelleher said that the matter involved other officials at all levels of the agency—and that some of them may be disciplined. That action will be undertaken by Finn’s replacement, Reid Morden, assistant secretary to the cabinet on foreign affairs and defence. Morden, 46, is a career civil servant who is widely regarded as a superb manager. He learned of his new appointment just the day before it was announced. Morden told Maclean’s, “I was stunned.”

To underline how seriously the government viewed the affair, Kelleher ordered an immediate review of all existing warrants issued by CSIS officials—and promised that the procedures by which warrants are issued will be tightened up. A second investigation is being carried out by an independent committee headed by Gordon Osbaldeston, former clerk of the Privy Council. It was appointed after criti-

cism from the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the agency’s civilian watchdog.

Kelleher refused to say whether the errors that CSIS officials made in obtaining the wiretap warrant might jeopardize the trial of the nine men accused of conspiring to assassinate Indian minister Malikat Singh Sidhu in May, 1986. He also refused to speculate on whether the ongoing investigation into the AirIndia bombing would be affected. Said Kelleher: “The investigation is very, very active.”

While not blaming the director specifically, Kelleher said that Finn was responsible for the overall management of CSIS. Finn’s dismissal, and his appointment as special adviser to Kelleher, was announced by the Prime Minister’s Office as part of a shuffle of five senior mandarins. One key change involved Gordon Fairweather, head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, who is to become chairman of the proposed new federal Immigration and Refugee Board. Maxwell Yalden, Canadian ambassador to Belgium, will replace Fairweather.

Finn’s departure was announced only hours P after John Sims, a CSIS £ lawyer, told a Federal Court hearing in Ottawa that “extensive and serious errors” were made in an application for a 1985 warrant to tap the telephone of Harjit Singh Atwal of Surrey, B.C. Atwal and eight others are charged with conspiring to assassinate Singh Sidhu while the Indian minister was visiting Vancouver Island. That admission could undermine the Crown’s case against Atwal. In a similar case in Hamilton, Ont., earlier this year, five Sikhs were acquitted of planning terrorist acts after prosecutors admitted that they could not substantiate a crucial wiretap warrant. Whatever the outcome of the Atwal affair, Morden’s first priority will clearly be to restore the agency’s credibility.

HILARY MACKENZIE