Intelligence / Agencies / Canada

Cleroux, Richard. Official Secrets: The Story Behind the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Montreal: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1990. 321 pages.

When most non-Canadians think of law enforcement in Canada, the image of Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police comes to mind. By 1956 the Cold War changed the landscape, and RCMP's Special Branch was as busy as their neighbors in going after Reds. That was small stuff. In the 1970s the big scandals came with the exposure of RCMP's war of dirty tricks against the Quebec separatist movement. Two inquiries later, in 1984, the Commons spun off RCMP's security and intelligence function into a new agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. At first CSIS was basically a new name for the same game, as Mountie spooks sat at their old desks and sent out the same memos under a new letterhead. But slowly, CSIS took on its own identity.

Award-winning journalist Richard Cleroux has written Canada's first book about CSIS. This well-balanced account covers the history of RCMP, the bureaucratic turf wars that resulted from the creation of CSIS, and the concerns over CSIS's mandate as seen by Canada's civil libertarians. CSIS is basically a domestic agency; unlike America, Canada doesn't feel the need to send spies all over the world. However, CSIS continues the tradition of a cozy relationship with the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency. According to Cleroux (p.283), when the Americans say "Jump!" CSIS says, "How high?"


Frost, Mike and Gratton, Michel. Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1994. 280 pages.

This book exposes the Communications Security Establishment for the first time. Mike Frost, a 19-year veteran of CSE, wrote it with the assistance of Toronto Sun columnist Michel Gratton. CSE is Canada's equivalent of the National Security Agency, and is responsible for Canada's communications-intercept operations. Much of the equipment Frost used came from the NSA (the U.S. National Security Agency), and Frost visited NSA's facilities several times for training and other official business.

Apart from the descriptions of intercept technology and Moscow's communications satellites, the most significant contribution of this book is that it reveals the extensive cooperation among Canada's CSE, Britain's GCHQ, and the American NSA. The three are almost a single entity, and are able to function outside the laws of their own countries through the simple expedient of secretly shifting assignments among them whenever the legal situation might prove embarrassing. So when Margaret Thatcher asked GCHQ to spy on two of her ministers in 1983, GCHQ felt it was too hot to handle and invited CSE to visit London and bring their intercept equipment. Now the "take" is considered "information from a friendly agency," no warrants are needed, and everyone is laughing all the way to their computers. Except for a couple of cabinet ministers, that is.


Granatstein, J.L. and Stafford, David. Spy Wars: Espionage and Canada from Gouzenko to Glasnost. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1990. 276 pages.

Canada has been a minor player on the international intelligence scene, and this only to the extent that major players such as the U.S. and Britain allowed them a role at all. They have no military secrets in Canada, no active foreign-intelligence capability, and until recently their counter- intelligence was handled by Mounties who were trained on horses.

Still, there are stories to tell and this book concentrates on several of them: World War II hero Sir William Stephenson (debunked by the authors), defector Igor Gouzenko, Soviet spy Hugh Hambleton, deep-cover illegal Rudolph Herrmann, and victims of Canadian cold-war paranoia such as Leslie Bennett. Other chapters deal with the separatist movement (which was supported by Charles de Gaulle and private interests in France), "techno-espionage" (Soviet attempts to acquire technology), and the terrorist threat.

Although written in a highly-readable style, the authors are academics. J.L. Granatstein is a professor of history at York University in Toronto, and David Stafford is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto, chair of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, and executive director of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs.


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