Canadian leaks have not damaged intelligence sharing relationship, senior U.S. official says

John Kirby, a high-ranking U.S. national security official, said Sunday that leaks from Canadian intelligence sources concerning foreign interference did not represent a breach of trust in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance.

John Kirby expressed firm support for response from Trudeau government

A person gestures while speaking at a lectern.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Feb. 13 in Washington. Kirby said Sunday that Canadian leaks to the media have not damaged the Five Eyes intelligence sharing relationship. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

A senior American national security official says Canadian leaks of information around allegations of foreign election interference from China have not affected key international intelligence sharing relationships.

"There's no breach of trust with Canada or the Five Eyes relationship whatsoever," said John Kirby, co-ordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, in an interview Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live. The Five Eyes alliance is made up of Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Kirby, a retired U.S. admiral who previously served as press secretary for the Pentagon under the administrations of presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that the U.S. was supportive of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's efforts on this question.

"We share Prime Minister Trudeau's deep concerns over this. He has launched an investigation. We understand the Parliament is also looking into this. We think that's the right thing to do. In the United States, he'll have a a friend and a partner should he need any and in that work," Kirby said.

WATCH | John Kirby discusses presidential trip to Ottawa:

'No breach of trust' between U.S. and Canada following Canadian intelligence leaks: Kirby

2 months ago
Duration 9:03
Rosemary Barton Live has a Canadian exclusive with John Kirby, co-ordinator for strategic communications at the U.S. National Security Council, on the state of Washington and Ottawa's relationship.

Concerns that China may have influenced the results of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections have been sparked by media reports from Global News and the Globe and Mail, some of which relied on information provided by intelligence sources.

Trudeau has responded by launching several probes into the issue, including by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and David Johnston's role as special rapporteur. But Trudeau has so far resisted repeated calls by the opposition Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois to launch a public inquiry.

The issue of interference from Beijing hung over the visit, coming just days after Liberal MP Han Dong resigned from caucus following a media report that he had advised Chinese officials to delay the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Hong denies those allegations.

The two men, who were detained in China for over 1,000 days in what were widely considered to be acts of retaliation in response to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada, were lauded by parliamentarians during Biden's visit.

On Sunday, Kirby promised American support for Canada's efforts to keep its elections secure.

WATCH | What happened during Biden's trip to Ottawa: 

Highlights from President Biden’s visit to Canada

2 months ago
Duration 7:55
Kirsten Hillman, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., gives her thoughts on President Biden's visit to Canada, while CBC’s Rosemary Barton and Alex Panetta break down the big pledges that came out of it and what could change for both countries as a result.

"We've seen it here in the United States, that foreign actors will attempt to try to interfere with democratic institutions, with democratic elections. We're not immune to that either," he said.

Kirby's enthusiastic support Sunday echoed comments made by U.S. assistant secretary of state Brian Nichols, who in an interview on CBC's The House said the U.S. would "do everything in our power to defend our democracy and that of our allies."

Biden himself did not weigh in on the topic of interference when the two world leaders spoke to reporters Friday.

U.S. shifts toward Canadian position on Haiti

Kirby also spoke Saturday about the American stance on the situation in Haiti, which continues to deteriorate as armed gangs control much of the country.

The U.S. had reportedly pushed for Canada to take a leadership role in an armed force to intervene in the country. But Canada pushed back on the idea, noting a lack of consensus among Haitians regarding the proposed solution and the fact that it would strain Canadian military capacity.

During the visit, Biden expressed satisfaction with the measures that were announced: $100 million in aid to Haiti's police force and additional sanctions.

"We do share Prime Minister Trudeau's concerns over the capabilities of the Haitian national police, and we'll certainly look to work with Canada and others to see what can be done to to bolster their capabilities, to provide a little bit more security on the ground using organic police forces," Kirby said Sunday.

The Miami Herald reported Friday that the Biden administration was now shifting its focus to a UN-backed peacekeeping force for the country, and Kirby did leave the door open for some sort of intervention.

"As President Biden said when we were in Ottawa, we still find value in the potential use of some sort of security force in Haiti. But whatever comes out of that is going to have to be done in full consultation with the Haitian government as well as the UN.

"And we just aren't at that point right now." 


Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

With files from Rosemary Barton and Philip Ling