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FBI expert testifies at sailor's bail hearing

Jeffrey Delisle arrives at Provincial Court in Halifax on Wednesday.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

An FBI expert in Russian intelligence and counter-intelligence has testified at a hearing for a Canadian man accused of passing state secrets to a foreign country.

U.S. special agent James Dougherty was called during Wednesday's bail proceedings for Canadian Forces Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax-based naval intelligence officer and the first Canadian charged under the Security of Information Act.

Mr. Dougherty was among a slate of witnesses that included the accused's brother, mother and aunt. All of the testimony is covered under the terms of a publication ban, which was granted at the request of the defence.

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SLt. Delisle will find out later this week whether he will be released from the provincial jail where he is being held in custody, after Nova Scotia Provincial Court Justice Barbara Beach reserved her decision until noon Friday.

SLt. Delisle worked at HMCS Trinity, a secure naval communications and intelligence centre at CFB Halifax, which is privy to intelligence from Canada's allies, including the United States, Britain and Australia.

This was the first time that he has been seen publicly in a courtroom since the charges were laid nearly 11 weeks ago, on Jan. 16. Dressed in a navy-blue hooded jacket and jeans, the 40-year-old sailor was emotional at times during the bail hearing.

SLt. Delisle's brother, Denis Delisle, his mother, Dorothy, and his aunt, Deborah Brannen, all testified.

Outside of the courtroom, defence lawyer Mike Taylor said his client would not pose a threat if he were released.

"The Crown presented what they felt was their strongest argument to have Mr. Delisle held in custody," Mr. Taylor said. "We presented evidence to show he is a fair risk to be released from custody and there is a good release plan and the judge has to make a decision accordingly."

Because his client is the first to be charged under the act, Mr. Taylor said, he was "not surprised" that Judge Beach reserved her decision, especially given "the volume of information that she just received today."

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"It's a difficult decision to make, simply because there is no precedent to go by; there's nothing to look at that has taken place previously to decide what considerations are the most important," he said.

A report in The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, suggested that the amount of information in the alleged leak was on a par with what the U.S. suffered through WikiLeaks – about 250,000 State Department cables that a U.S. Army private is alleged to have leaked after first copying the data onto CDs.

Mr. Taylor said he hadn't read the article, but added that the WikiLeaks reference is "overstated."

Federal Crown prosecutor Lyne Décarie declined to comment after the court proceedings.

SLt. Delisle's lawyer said much of the Crown's disclosures have been redacted so far, specifically in the case of "the information they are alleging was passed."

However, he said the disclosure of information from the Crown is an "ongoing process" and he expects to see more information in the days ahead.

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The Globe and Mail has reported that SLt. Delisle, who had Top Secret access, is accused of selling secrets on his own initiative for modest sums of money.

The Canadian Forces sailor is accused of espionage dating back to 2007, according to sources, until he was arrested in an apparent police sting in mid-January.



With a report from Colin Freeze

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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