Nova Scotia

CSIS didn't press navy spy for information: lawyer

Canadian intelligence officials made no attempt to get more information from a navy spy who confessed to selling military secrets to Russia for years, said his lawyer on the eve of sentencing for Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle.

Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle to be sentenced Feb. 8

Jeffrey Paul Delisle is first person to be sentenced under Security of Information Act (The Canadian Press)

Canadian intelligence officials made no attempt to get more information from a navy spy who confessed to selling military secrets to Russia for years, said his lawyer on the eve of sentencing for Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle.

Mike Taylor said he was taken aback that no one from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other agencies expressed any interest in talking to Delisle, who pleaded guilty to funneling classified data to Russian agents.

"I do find it surprising," Taylor said Thursday, adding that he expected they may want to know exactly what he leaked.

"It just seems like a common sense perspective."

Delisle, 41, pleaded guilty last October to one count of breach of trust and two charges of passing information to a foreign entity that could harm Canada's interests.

Taylor said Delisle was interviewed only once by the RCMP in January 2012, when the Halifax navy officer confessed and described how he routinely smuggled sensitive information out of the secure military facilities where he worked and passed it on to the Russians through a shared email account.

After that, he says there were no overtures from CSIS, the Communications Security Establishment or National Defence to interview Delisle as he awaited trial.

Officials at National Defence refused to address the issue, only saying in an email Thursday, "We cannot comment on the substance of the investigation until the case has been concluded."

A search conducted under the Access to Information Act has turned up no military police or military counter-intelligence interview notes or investigator reports related to the Delisle case.

A "good sense" of access

Intelligence experts suggest that Delisle's lawyer wasn't approached because government insiders already know much of what he released to the Russians after walking into the country's embassy in Ottawa in July 2007 to offer his services.

Ray Boisvert, former assistant director of intelligence for CSIS, said there were likely probes going on behind the scenes that revealed more of what he leaked but didn't involve direct talks with Delisle.

"Just because none of that's public or we don't know any details, it might give the appearance that nothing's happened," he said from Ottawa.

"They may know a lot already, put it that way. They may know tons and are not sure what else he can provide."


Christian Leuprecht, a defence expert at the Royal Military College and Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said officials probably had a good sense of what databases he had access to and what kind of information he could share as he moved through different offices in Halifax, Ottawa and Kingston.

"I suspect that they probably had a pretty good picture of where he was, what he pulled off the networks, what he accessed and what sort of files he downloaded," he said.

"That would be my conjecture as to why they're not talking to him -- they already know ... and they don't want to come out and say what they know."

Sentencing is Friday

The issue of how much damage Delisle did is expected to be a key question for provincial court Judge Patrick Curran in his sentence, which is the first one to be handed down under the Security of Information Act.

The law was introduced in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the States.

Crown attorney Lyne Decarie argued over a two-day sentencing hearing that Delisle did irrevocable and severe damage to Canada's position in the international intelligence-sharing network.

She asked for a sentence of at least 20 years for communicating information to a foreign entity, and five years for the breach of trust charge. They would be served concurrently.

The defence is seeking a sentence of about nine to 10 years for all of the offences. Both agreed to a fine of $111,817, which was based on the amount of money Delisle collected from his Russian bosses over the years.

Three witnesses, including senior officials with CSIS, National Defence and the CSE, testified that Delisle's treachery could expose intelligence sources and cut Canada off from vital information if allies lost confidence in its ability to protect intelligence.

But Taylor argued that the Crown had little idea about what he sold since the RCMP intercepted only a couple of messages Delisle attempted to share with his Russian agent just before he was caught.

"The damage assessments talk about grave and irrevocable damage being done to the national interests," he said. "But there's no hard, concrete proof and perhaps it's impossible to ever get that kind of concrete proof."

One analyst said U.S. intelligence officials are looking for a stiff sentence to show that Canada is taking the matter seriously.

"That is the expectation down here in Washington that a good stiff prison sentence for Jeffrey Delisle is necessary to send a message to deter others and to make sure that this sort of thing doesn't happen here," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and former Russian linguist in the U.S. Air Force.

"Our sentences are harsher and for many American officials, they believe Delisle deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison."