A week or two ago, shortly before CSIS chief Richard Fadden was due to testify before a House of Commons committee to explain his stupid remarks in a CBC interview – you know it’s serious when MPs trek to Ottawa during the summer break – I received an invite to join a “Supporters of Richard Fadden” Facebook group. Since I believe Mr. Fadden’s foot in mouth disease was entirely self-inflicted, after I stopped laughing I clicked no.
After his testimony, as I read some of the pro-Fadden commentary from the Fadden apologists, various activists, and even Senators who should know better, what struck me is how they all, deliberately or otherwise, were completely missing the point.
The problem, or at least my problem, with Fadden’s comments is not the suggestion that foreign powers are seeking to gain influence with Canadian politicians so as to influence policy, gain access to inside information and trade secrets, and so on. I think that this is indeed happening should be obvious. And it’s not a new phenomenon. Countries have used their foreign intelligence service for this kind of thing for as long as there have been intelligence services. Well, except for CSIS, they’re only allowed to spy inside Canada. For the others though, this is standard operating procedure. That’s why we have counter-intelligence services, such as CSIS. If these threats didn’t exist, Fadden wouldn’t have a job.
So I don’t think anyone seriously doubts the premise that foreign intelligence services are trying to gain influence with Canadian politicians. It was a statement of the obvious by Fadden, like the RCMP commissioner saying “some people are committing crimes in this country.” Of course they are, that’s why they have police.
No, what was objectionable about Fadden’s comments was that he said CSIS has information that specific politicians were in fact under the influence of foreign governments. For those that have forgotten, here’s what started all this:
Canada's spy agency suspects that cabinet ministers in two provinces are under the control of foreign governments, CBC News has learned.
Several members of B.C. municipal governments are also under suspicion, Richard Fadden, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told CBC News in an exclusive interview.
"We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there's some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries," Fadden said.
"The individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality. All of a sudden, decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations."
He said the politicians and public servants see it as a long-standing relationship and have no idea they are being used.
"There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government."
Fadden said the agency is in the process of discussing with the Privy Council Office the best way to inform those provinces there may be a problem.
"We'll do the same with the public servants. I'm making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people be totally oblivious to this kind of issue."
This wasn’t just a case of saying “there’s this broad challenge we should be aware of and guard against.” No, this was Fadden saying he knows the names of municipal politicians and cabinet ministers that have been compromised. And by refusing to name names, to provide evidence, to make his case in the light of day, with his accusations he tarred hundreds of politicians across the country unfairly, putting them under a cloud of suspicion.
If Fadden does indeed have information about specific individuals, he should take action. If laws have been broken, file charges. If you’re still developing a case, why compromise your investigation in this way? And if all you have is rumour and innuendo that won’t pass legal muster, then don’t go running your mouth off and tarring the reputations of hundreds of innocent public servants.
Fadden made specific allegations that put hundreds of people under unfair suspicion, with a reckless regard for the consequences. THAT is the issue we’re dealing with here, THAT is the problem that I and indeed most critics have with his problem. Perhaps instead of constructing strawmen, the “Fadden Supporters” could address that. Or maybe they’re trying to divert the issue for the simple reason that they can’t defend it.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers