Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Have Got a Secret

The secret is that a country that never catches any spies probably has more of a problem than a country that catches a few.  The only countries that never catch spies are those that never look for them and those that are so meaningless that no one would bother.  On the latter score, Canada, as a member of NATO and as a member of the inner circle of very reliable allies (the four or five I's club--US, UK, CA, Australia--I forget the exact number), is likely seen as an important target for spying by Russia, China, and various other potential adversaries of NATO and the Anglo powers. 

Oh, and if Canadians are worried that this one suspected spy, Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, will undermine how the allies see Canada, don't forget that the US has had far more spies caught in pretty high places over the years (Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, etc.).*
*  Props to Spew friend, Phillipe Lagassé of U of Ottawa, for being a source for the NYT.

Indeed, this points out an interesting irony in US-Canadian relations.  There is a smug anti-Americanism that binds many Canadians, that being called "Americanized" is an insult, but Canadians also fear losing American respect and approval.  This case raises the salience of the latter strand within Canadian national identity as folks become concerned about whether Canada is seen as reliable enough.
MacKay told reporters on Tuesday that while the alleged breach is serious, he is confident that Canada retains the confidence of its allies who regularly exchange intelligence. But that bravado may obscure just how serious the American military and intelligence agencies view such matters, said one academic source, who did not want to be named.
“American agencies act unilaterally, so even if the (senior U.S. officials) said, ‘Don’t make a big deal on this,’ you’re going to have agencies saying that it’s a big deal,” the source said. “There’ll be some rough edges for quite some time in the way people share information.” (The Star)
Maybe a bit, but not really.  Again, this ain't wikileaks, and this is not having spies for Russia near the top of the CIA (Ames) or the FBI (Hanssen).  So, if any American intel person raises concerns about Canadian reliability, they should be reminded that the US has a history of being penetrated repeatedly and at the highest levels (and lowest with wikileaks). 

A fun note in this: one of the arguments that Phil and I have had over the years is whether the Canadian mission in Afghanistan bought it any influence.  Here, I think we may not see but probably feel some of that influence, as the Canadians were very reliable in a tough spot for years.  It is not like they spilled secrets to our adversaries during a NATO mission (unlike, say, France and the Serbs).  So, being in the esteem of the US over Afghanistan should mitigate some of the criticism from this case.

So, let's put some perspective sauce on this case, shall we?

1 comment:

Rob Chasen said...

I get most of my information on the state of US-Canadian intelligence coordination from the CBC show "Intelligence." It's not peer reviewed, but it was entertaining.