The Canadian government under the Stephen Harper led Conservative Party is shirking its responsibilities on matters related to our national security. While that statement alone could be summarily dismissed as political conjecture it was made by Michel Juneau-Katsuya. That should prompt even diehard Tory supporters to seriously consider it.
Juneau-Katsuya is a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agent and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. Over a distinguished 33-year law enforcement career, he’s been the senior CSIS officer on the Soviet desk during the Cold War and he’s a former Chief of Asia-Pacific operations. He is a nationally renowned intelligence expert and co-author of “Nest of Spies: The Startling Truth About Foreign Agents at Work Within Canada’s Borders” (2009).
During a two-hour discussion on Sept. 28 at Ryerson University in Toronto dubbed, “Security & Terrorism Since 9/11: A Decade in Review”, he also told a half-full student auditorium that former U.S. President George W. Bush Jr. did more to further the cause of global, militant Islamist terrorist network al-Qaeda than Osama bin Laden.
“Probably the worst president that could be in power, was in power (on 9/11),” he said. “At the time, America was extremely emotional and rightly so. He capitalized on that. And I dare say I’m quite sure Junior did more for the al-Qaeda cause than bin Laden himself.
“You’re hearing that from a guy who’s spent the last 33 years chasing spies and terrorists.”
But what was happening before September 11, 2001? The western world was pretty much self-centred, he said. By abandoning the Afghan warlords democratic governments supported during that country’s conflict with the Soviet Union, a civil war ensued and from that chaos, al-Qaeda stepped in.
Recalling the February 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing and the attack on the USS Cole naval destroyer in October 2000 as it was harboured in the Yemeni port of Aden, Juneau-Katsuya said France’s intelligence agency was aware something big was afoot and warned the U.S. but the Americans were dismissive of the French.
“The English and French have been hitting each other on the head since we crawled out of caves,” he said. “So they didn’t pay attention to that information. And then came 9/11. It surprised the Americans, but it shouldn’t have.”
After all, a female FBI agent had also arrested one of the 20 terrorists that were stateside and preparing to launch the 9/11 WTC attacks. She requested several times for permission to seize and search the suspect’s computer but was repeatedly denied. “You see this agent had two things working against her: She was female and she was right. That doesn’t work well in the macho world of security.”
As for Canada, the greatest threat to our nation now and in the future comes down to numbers, he suggested. The one aspect of the war on terrorism that’s been consistently overlooked is economics.
“In 1995, we estimated Canada was losing an average of $10 billion to $12 billion per year. The U.S. during the same period of time was losing an average of $24 billion a year. That’s twice as much but they’re 10 times bigger than us,” he remarked. “Canada is a knowledge-based society. We have a lot of good research centres and there’s much to be gained by stealing research than in developing it.”
Fast-forward to modern day and the U.S. estimates it’s losing 10 times the amount it was 15 years ago or about $250 billion annually to industrial espionage. Following the same logic, he said Canada is likely being bilked to the tune of $110 billion to $120 billion annually.
He cited the 1998 Mitel Networks incident as an example of how costly industrial espionage can be. As reported by the Toronto Sun in 2006, the Ottawa-based telecommunications company suffered a massive data breach when a 16-year employee stole corporate secrets and sold them to the Vietnamese government.
“Mitel estimated that it lost 10 years of research, $45 million worth of R&D (research and development), and a market share between $200 million and $1 billion,” he recounted. “Terrorism is a real threat. It’s a tangible threat and we have to act to protect ourselves to a certain extent. But by far, the economic war that is going on is much more costly to this country than anything else.”
He also criticized the Conservative government for failing to fire Bob Dechert, Canada’s parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs. Dechert was caught having an improper relationship with a Chinese reporter/secret agent Shi Rong. Heck, even right-wing pundit Ezra Levant at the time called for his ouster.
“Mr. Harper says (of Dechert) ‘I don’t see anything related to politics here, this is a personal matter’. First, we saw (Conservative MP Maxime) Bernier leave a bunch of classified NATO documents at his biker-girlfriend’s house . . . and now this junior minister that was thinking too much with his little head,” he quipped. “We have a problem here. We have a lot of people that don’t have a vision for this country and what it could accomplish.”
He added Canada’s “soft power” status on the international stage has been eroded since the late 1980s.
“Lester B. Pearson used to call us ‘the biggest of the smallest and the smallest of the biggest’. We were the country that could influence everyone everywhere,” he said. “We now have such a short-sighted foreign policy. We’ve got to wake up.”
He also commented on the uproar surrounding CSIS director Richard Fadden’s CBC interview whereby Fadden attempted to warn the public of Canadian politicians being influenced by foreign interference. In light of the Dechert affair, Fadden’s allegations appear justified. Juneau-Katsuya said Canadians need to know what CSIS is doing and why but don’t count on it happening again in our lifetimes.
“This organization (CSIS) that is taxpayer-funded should warn us (of potential threats) and explain to us their job because we don’t know,” he said. “When someone (Fadden) finally has the courage to come forward and talk about these things, you saw the reaction he got. CSIS should answer to us.”
When asked by a student in the audience what he thinks the federal government needs in order to protect Canada better, Juneau-Katsuya, who also told the gathering “I’m not a Liberal bleeding heart”, called for a change in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Two things: A new leader and definitely new advisors. The advisors we have around this current government really don’t get it,” he responded.