Canada's ties to spies
Last Updated July 9, 2010
The 14-person spy swap between Russia and the United States in July 2010 is the largest such exchange since the Cold War. Moscow freed four confessed moles from prison and deported them, while Washington got guilty pleas from 10 agents rounded up in late June before flying them to Austria for the swap. Most stunning from a Canadian perspective is that three of the 10, who all allocuted to operating as unregistered foreign agents for Russia, posed as Canadians (see below) while they insinuated themselves in the U.S.
The events have the hallmarks of the golden era of 20th-century espionage, which came of age as the Cold War launched following the Second World War, when military and state secrets were under siege as communist and U.S.-allied countries eyed each other with suspicion.
Much hasn't changed. In recent times, spying remains in the public imagination — witness the continuing James Bond franchise. It's very much in practice, or so it is alleged, in the corporate boardrooms and the political backrooms, like in 2004 when a British cabinet minister made a claim that her country must have been spying on United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was all denials from 10 Downing Street.
Intelligence gathering and espionage, often called the world's second-oldest profession, are not foreign to Canadian soil, either.
For example, an American soldier in 1840 wrote a spy report about Toronto and Fort York, detailing the geography of the city and the placement of defensive fortifications.
"The entrance to the city of Toronto from the rear appears to be entirely open," he wrote to his superiors.
Here are key figures and events tracking Canadian aspects of espionage.
William "Intrepid" Stephenson
Stephenson was Canada's most decorated spy, landing in the No. 54 spot on the CBC's Greatest Canadian short list. Stephenson headed Britain's intelligence operations in North America during the Second World War. In New York, he helped shape opinion in favour of Britain and had so much power and sway that he was privy to information even before the Canadian and American governments got their hands on it.
In 1941, Stephenson set up the now-infamous Camp X, which was based in Whitby, Ont., and was the training ground until 1944 for hundreds of intelligence agents, including people who went on to serve at the FBI, RCMP, CIA and even James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
He was appointed a companion of the Order of Canada in 1979.
Igor Gouzenko and the Russian spy ring
Igor Gouzenko took an assumed name after defecting. (Associated Press)
To Canadians, he was known on TV and in pictures as the man in the hood after he defected in 1945. To the world, his message helped usher in the Cold War era.
Gouzenko, a clerk with the Soviet embassy in Ottawa, exposed a spy ring in Canada and revealed how Russia was seeking to get nuclear secrets back to Moscow.
Using documents that he had with him when he defected, Canadian officials ended up making 39 arrests, including some notable and prominent people.
Fred Rose, an MP from the Communist Party, was convicted of spying and spent 4 ½ years in prison. Also convicted was Sam Carr, who worked for the Communist Party of Canada. The Labour-Progressive Party was also charged with handing over secrets about the atomic bomb.
Gouzenko and his family took on new names. He wrote books and occasionally appeared on television, always concealing his face. He died in 1982.
Gerda Munsinger and the sex and spy scandal
Gerda Munsinger, shown in a studio picture taken while she was in Canada, was at the centre of a spy sex scandal in the 1960s. (Canadian Press)
Munsinger was at the centre of a spy sex scandal that rocked Ottawa in the 1960s. The East German-born Soviet spy came to Montreal in the 1950s and ended up being involved with government officials in the John Diefenbaker government, including the associate minister of national defence, Pierre Sévigny.
She was deported in 1961 and the matter was quietly dealt with internally. But in 1966, a Liberal minister brought it up in the House of Commons. A media frenzy ensued and Munsinger was tracked down in Munich and confirmed the story.
CSIS and modern intelligence-gathering in Canada
Since the 1920s, the RCMP oversaw the country's intelligence services, but after the Cold War began, police work and intelligence work seemed to clash with each other.
Two commissions, the latter in 1977, recommended that intelligence be split from the RCMP. In July 1984, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was born. The agency often makes the headlines, but its operations don't usually get much public attention.
In the early 1990s, one CSIS employee did make it into the public consciousness. Grant Bristow, a high-ranking member of the white supremacist group Heritage Front, was uncovered as a mole for CSIS soon after he quit the group.
Over the years, the agency has honed its mandate to encompass intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. In fact, it often does work overseas to combat terrorism but Canada to this day lacks a foreign spy unit.
So are there spies in Canada? In June 2005, two Chinese defectors in Australia claimed that China had more than 1,000 spies and informants in Canada. One former CSIS agent gave the claim some credibility, saying billions are being lost in the theft of scientific and commercial data. And in 2002, Ottawa expelled two Russian military attachťs on suspicion of espionage.
The alleged Russian spy
A Canadian passport bearing the name Paul William Hampel found in the possession of a man CSIS alleges is a Russian spy.
Officials arrested a man in November 2006 and accusing him of being a Russian spy. They picked him up using a security certificate signed by two cabinet ministers.
The unidentified man, who went by the name of Paul William Hampel, was arrested on Nov. 14 by border security officers at Montreal's Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport. He was carrying $7,800 in five currencies, several cellphones and a shortwave radio.
CSIS asked the court to deport the man, alleging he poses a danger to national security and used a fraudulent Ontario birth certificate to get three Canadian passports.
The Canadian spy agency alleges the man is a foreign national who is an agent with Russia's Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, or SVR, the successor spy agency to the KGB of the former Soviet Union.
According to documents filed with the court by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service on Monday, the man has lived in Canada for more than a decade under a false identity.
The Russian ring
Patricia Mills (real name Natalia Pereverzeva, left), seen in an artist's rendering in U.S. Federal Court in Virginia, posed as a Canadian while spying for Russia. (Associated Press)
FBI agents arrested 10 people in and around New York City, Boston and Washington on June 27, 2010, in what the federal bureau painted as the breakup of a Russian spy ring. The 10, nine of them Russians, included four couples living seemingly banal suburban lives under assumed names and with jobs in real estate, finance and journalism.
Three of the agents were posing as Canadians. Consultant Donald Howard Heathfield (real name Andrey Bezrukov), 48, received a master's degree from Harvard University in 2000, where he told classmates he was from Montreal and they assumed he was French-Canadian. He appeared to have assumed the identity of a Montreal-born infant who died decades ago, and also claimed to have a BA from York University in Toronto. The woman posing as his wife, real estate agent Tracey Lee Ann Foley (real name Elena Vavilova), 47, said she was from Montreal and had worked as a human-resources rep in Toronto. The couple lived in suburban Boston.
Another agent, homemaker Patricia Mills (Natalia Pereverzeva), lived in Seattle before moving to a Washington, D.C., suburb last year with her husband, accountant Michael Zottoli (Mikhail Kutsik). She posed as a Canadian, but acquaintances said her accent sounded like she was from Yugoslavia.
A fourth spy, alleged ringmaster Christpher Metsos, was arrested in Cyprus, where he was travelling on a Canadian passport. He fled after making bail.
All the agents were tasked by Russia's SVB, or Foreign Intelligence Service, to establish links with U.S. policymakers and think-tanks. While several of them had some success in accessing the Beltway power scene — Heathfield was an avid networker among his well-connected Harvard classmates, while travel agent Mikhail Semenko, 28, attended events at Washington think-tanks with deep ties to the White House — the FBI said they never acquired sensitive information.
None of the agents with Canadian cover stories appeared to have leveraged their fake Canuck identities to gain insider access to U.S. government. The Foreign Affairs Department in Ottawa refused comment on the case, calling it an internal American matter, and wouldn't officially say whether the three spies found with Canadian travel documents had forgeries or government-issued versions.
In a Cold War-style manoeuvre, the U.S. swapped the 10 with Moscow on July 9, 2010, receiving in return four people convicted in Russia of spying for Washington.
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