World

A highly prized document

BARRY CAME October 13 1997
World

A highly prized document

BARRY CAME October 13 1997

A highly prized document

Spies love Canadian passports

Among the cloak-and-dagger crowd, it has long been coveted as the passport of choice. Inoffensive, multi-ethnic and untainted by any past history of imperial sin, the small blue booklet with Canada’s gold coat of arms on its cover has masked a multitude of misdeeds in the shadowy world of international espionage. “Israeli agents are not the only people with a fondness for Canadian passports,” confides a veteran warrior of Canada’s clandestine services. ‘The Germans use it to document their illegals, the Russians use it to document their illegals, the British have done it for the same reason, even the Americans have been known to use it on more than one occasion.”

There is no mystery about the reasons. “Canadians are the good guys,” says Alex Morrison, executive director of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. “We’ve never been a colonial power, never declared war on anybody. We’re noted for inventing peacekeeping, for our foreign aid, for our objectivity.

It’s all helped to make us one of the world’s most attractive nationalities, | welcome just about anywhere.” Just | as importantly, Canada is a nation of I immigrants, populated by people g of virtually every race and creed. “

“Our passport’s color-blind,” says Morrison. “Everybody’s got a cousin somewhere.”

Not least in Israel. The bungled assassination attempt in Jordan is not the first time that Israel’s secret service has been caught manipulating Canadian passports. In 1973, Israeli agents travelling on doctored Canadian passports botched another execution attempt in Lillehammer, Norway. A team from Mossad, the Jewish state’s external security service, killed Ahmed Bouchiki, mistaking the Moroccan-born waiter for the Palestinian who planned the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. One member of that hit squad, arrested by Norwegian police, was found to be using the identity of Canadian Patricia Roxborough, a legal secretary whose passport had been stolen months earlier from the desk of her Montreal office.

The following year, 50 blank passports were stolen from the vault of the Canadian Embassy in Vienna. One of those documents, traced by the registration number, turned up a year later in Nicosia, Cyprus. It was left behind by a member of a Mossad team that had detonated explosives under the hotel bed of a sleeping Palestinian guerrilla leader, killing him instantly.

In addition to outright theft, Israel’s clandestine services have other means to obtain Canadian documents. It is an open secret that new immigrants to the Jewish state, especially from Canada, are sometimes encouraged to donate passports, both valid and expired, to unidentified bureaucrats in the interests of what is euphemistically known as “the security of the state.”

There also appears to be a thriving black market in Canadian passports, both genuine and faked. Canadian officials have no inkling of how large the illicit traffic might be in the 1.3 million passports that are issued annually, but they privately acknowledge that it is happening. As for the forgeries, Mossad defector Victor Ostrovsky, in the 1991 book he co-authored with Canadian journalist Claire Hoy, By Way of Deception, described a secret Israeli factory engaged in the manufacture of forged passports, including a batch of more than 1,000 Canadian documents. Israel’s spies might be embarrassed by the revelation. But, as events in Jordan have clearly demonstrated, not enough to forgo the benefits of posing as the world’s nice guy.

BARRY CAME in Toronto