9 Canadian stories WikiLeaks helped bring to light

Now that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to face extradition to the United States on charges that he conspired to access a classified U.S. government computer, here is a look back at some of the Canadian journalism inspired by the controversial website. 

From a bomb plot in Montreal to Canada's role in Iraq, Julian Assange's website exposed Canadian operations

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shown here after was arrested by British police outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday. Assange's website WikiLeaks served as an international platform for the release of state secrets. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Now that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to face extradition to the United States on charges that he conspired to access a classified U.S. government computer, here is a look back at some of what we learned about Canadian operations through information leaked by the whistleblower site. 

1. Canada offers to aid Iraq invasion

The same day former prime minister Jean Chrétien publicly refused to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a high-ranking Canadian official secretly promised the U.S. clandestine military support for the operation, according to a classified U.S. diplomatic memo obtained by CBC News from WikiLeaks.

The classified U.S. document showed that senior Canadian officials met the same day with high-ranking American and British diplomats at Foreign Affairs headquarters in Ottawa.

According to the account, Canadian Foreign Affairs official James Wright "emphasized" that contrary to public statements by the prime minister, Canadian naval and air forces could be "discreetly" put to use during the pending U.S.-led assault on Iraq and its aftermath.

"Following the meeting, political director Jim Wright emphasized that, despite public statements that the Canadian assets in the Straits of Hormuz will remain in the region exclusively to support Enduring Freedom," the document states. 

"They will also be available to provide escort services in the Straits and will otherwise be discreetly useful to the military effort. The two ships in the Straits now are being augmented by two more en route, and there are patrol and supply aircraft in the U.A.E. [United Arab Emirates] which are also prepared to 'be useful.'"

The U.S. diplomat wrote in his briefing note to State Department bosses in Washington that "this message tracks with others we have heard."

"While for domestic political reasons … the GOC [Government of Canada] has decided not to join in a U.S. coalition of the willing … they are also prepared to be as helpful as possible in the military margins."

2. Mentally ill Canadian man held at Bagram 

U.S. diplomatic cables exposed a troubling case of a mentally ill Canadian-Egyptian man held in a U.S.-run Afghanistan prison for more than 18 months. Khaled Samy Abdallah Ismail, an Egyptian-born engineer, was captured in April 2006 and held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility.

The U.S. military held Ismail until at least October 2007, often relegating him to segregation despite "largely circumstantial" evidence against him, while they debated whether to send him to Egypt or Canada. 

While former prime minister Jean Chrétien publicly refused to involve Canada in the invasion of Iraq, a U.S. diplomatic memo obtained by WikiLeaks said Canadian forces would be 'discreetly useful to the military effort.' (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The Americans confiscated Ismail's Canadian passport and expired Egyptian passport, assigned him internment serial number US9EG002770DP, and medically assessed him as mentally sound but "narcissistic and arrogant," according to U.S. diplomatic cables.

After a psychotic break in 2007, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was segregated and given intravenous anti-schizophrenia medication.

Ismail is the only known Canadian to have been held at the Bagram detention facility other than Omar Khadr, who spent approximately four months there before being transferred to the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Government officials have refused to say if he was eventually transferred back to Canada. 

3. Montreal Metro bomb plot

An anonymous letter sent to the RCMP in late 2004 warned of bomb threats to the Montreal Metro system and the U.S. Embassy in Canada by a man affiliated with Osama bin Laden, a secret U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks to CBC News revealed.

The letter, dated Nov. 29, 2004, spurred American government facilities across Canada to heighten security. Though the RCMP noted such letters are frequently received and the threat was doubted to be "credible," U.S. Embassy officials said in the document that few such threats specifically mention the U.S. Embassy.

The anonymous letter writer claimed to have overheard a man detailing a possible plot to bomb the Montreal Metro system on Dec. 15, 2004, and the U.S. Embassy on Jan. 10, 2005.

The brief letter in French, addressed to the RCMP's Montreal headquarters, included the suspected bomb plotter's name and cellphone number.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested after U.S. extradition request, charged with hacking government computer

4 years ago
Duration 2:43
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British police on Thursday in the Ecuadorian Embassy where he'd been holed up since 2012 after the United States requested his extradition, London police say.

4. Curbing the oilsands

Former environment minister Jim Prentice told U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson that he was prepared to step in and impose tougher regulations on the oilsands if the industry damaged Canada's green reputation, according to another cable released by WikiLeaks.

"[Prentice] noted that if industry did not take voluntary measures and if the provincial government did not set more stringent regulations, he would step in and press federal environmental legislation," according to the cable, apparently written by Jacobson.

5. Libya threatens to nationalize Petro-Canada operations

Libya threatened to nationalize Petro-Canada's operations in the North African country over a spat with the Canadian government according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

Moammar Gadhafi — the Libyan dictator killed during the 2011 civil war that ended his four decade-long rule — cancelled a late September 2009 stopover in Newfoundland after Canada promised a tongue-lashing for the hero's welcome Libya extended to a man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing.

The U.S. cable, obtained from WikiLeaks by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, said Libya's state oil company called in a senior Petro-Canada official with a threat to nationalize the firm's operations in Libya if Canada did not apologize.

WikiLeaks also uncovered the case of a Canadian detainee held in a U.S.-run prison in Afghanistan for more than a year and a half. (Jonathon Burch/Reuters)

6. Canada wanted to copy U.S. hostage policy

Canada sought U.S. help in crafting a national hostage policy, hoping to follow the secretive American policy as "closely as possible," a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks revealed.

In early January 2009 — after five kidnappings in as many months — Canada asked for a briefing on U.S. policy in hostage situations as it planned to create a formal national policy of its own.

"Canada seeks to co-ordinate its policy as closely as possible with that of the U.S.," the leaked U.S. State Department diplomatic cable states.

7. Harper's empty Arctic sovereignty bluster: U.S. cable

A WikiLeaks cable suggested the U.S. government viewed former prime minister Stephen Harper's talk about Canadian Arctic sovereignty as little more than empty chest-thumping designed to win votes.

In a diplomatic cable posted by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa said the Conservatives have made successful political use of promises to beef up Canada's presence in the Arctic.

Now-deceased Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi threatened to nationalize Petro-Canada assets in northern Libya, according to a U.S. cable obtained by WikiLeaks. (Reuters)

But it also said the Harper government had done only scant implementation on pledges such as increasing surveillance over the Northwest Passage.

"Conservatives make concern for 'The North' part of their political brand … and it works," says the note, titled Canada's Conservative Government and its Arctic Focus.

8. U.S. viewed John Baird as rising star

U.S. diplomats saw a bright future for Conservative MP John Baird, describing him as "a young, ambitious and dynamic minister who should be one of the Conservatives' top leadership prospects in the future," according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable.

Americans devoted an entire nine-page diplomatic cable to analyzing Baird after he was appointed to the tricky file of environment minister in January 2007.

"Baird clearly enjoys and is comfortable with the rough-and-tumble of parliamentary debate in contrast to his predecessor Rona Ambrose," says a section of the cable marked "embassy comment."

"It is clear that Baird hopes a strong performance handling the politically sensitive environmental file will eventually be rewarded by his appointment to an even higher-profile ministry."

9. U.S. contrasted 'forceful' Rae with 'meek' Ignatieff 

After a meeting with David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, on Oct. 23, 2009, American diplomats found Bob Rae to be forceful, eloquent and dominant in comparison to then-Liberal leader and former rival Michael Ignatieff, according to leaked diplomatic cables.

Their relations "remain clearly tense, with Rae arriving late and then immediately dominating the conversation, while Ignatieff sat back almost meekly," says a cable marked "confidential."

"Rae was by far the more forceful and eloquent of the two and showed little deference to his party chief, without at any time displaying any rudeness or personal animosity.

"He came across as better read and more substantive than Ignatieff, who stuck mostly to pleasantries and generalities."

Former prime minister Stephen Harper, shown here firing a .303 Lee Enfield rifle while participating in a Canadian Ranger demonstration in Nunavut in 2013, pushed for Arctic sovereignty. But his efforts were viewed by the United States as merely a bid for votes, according to a WikiLeaks cable. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)