This is a transcript, prepared the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, of an interview that CBC reporter Brian Stewart conducted in April, 2010, with Richard Fadden, Director of CSIS.
Portions of the interview were broadcast as part of a CBC documentary, along with a separate follow-up interview. In the transcript below, Mr. Fadden talks generally about how he communicates with the Prime Minister's Office and makes the suggestion that foreign entities may be influencing Canadian politicians.
BRIAN STEWART: Director, first of all, thanks very much for giving us the time on a busy day. You don't often have film crews in here.
Secrecy has been so much a part of CSIS from the beginning, I wonder if you could talk a little about how you see the job, how you see the role of CSIS, and really some of the misconceptions that are out there?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think the main thing to remember is that CSIS is an organization that gathers information. I mean, we do this through a variety of means, mostly through talking to people. So we try and gather information to inform governments so that they can take better policy decisions. We also use some covert ways of doing it.
But essentially we, both in Canada and abroad, we seek to find out what's going on in respect of threats to the security of Canada. And these days, the main threat I think is counterterrorism.
When the Service was created 25 years ago, it was mostly counterespionage. We also worry about things like weapons of mass destruction, foreign interference, which is increasing, and a variety of more specific files.
But mostly we're out there to try and find out what's going on.
BRIAN STEWART: Give us a sense though of your day as the Director. You have to inform the Government of Canada of threats on a daily basis, presumably. I mean, how does that happen? Can you give us a little bit of a sense of the atmosphere? Do you talk to the Prime Minister? How does it run, that part of your job of informing people?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, I think it's done in a variety of ways, and I guess I'd create two modules. One is the longer-term strategic stuff. You know, we have a lot of people here. There are a lot of other people in the Government of Canada. We get together. We talk about things. And that's like in any other business: you develop procedures and you do things.
And in that respect, most of the consultation and most of the information is conveyed on paper. You know, we have a series of papers that we pass on to government.
If there's a particular incident, you know, or a crisis or emergency, we usually set up some sort of ad-hoc arrangement, depending upon who's involved. It may be only us or five or six departments. We create little taskforces and we try and draw in on information throughout the system and from our allies around the world.
If it's very, very urgent, you know, we might call the National Security Advisor. I might talk to my Minister. But because of the sensitivity of a lot of this stuff, we try and put it on paper. I mean, it's important to get things right. So to a considerable degree, our lives are meetings and reading.
BRIAN STEWART: But what about, say, at the very top in Canada, you're concerned about an issue. For instance, you think it should be taken not just to the Minister but, say, to the Prime Minister. How does that relation work in terms of briefing the Prime Minister of Canada?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, we do it in two ways in Canada. One, the Minister can talk to the Prime Minister and depending upon the Minister and depending upon the issue, that sometimes happens.
By and large, though, I think most of our information is conveyed through the National Security Advisor. You'll probably know that one of the big issues in this community is coordination. So the government has created the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister whose main role is to act as a funnel from the community to the Prime Minister.
So I'd say in most circumstances, we would pass information on to her and she would convey it to the Prime Minister.
BRIAN STEWART: Is this the norm now in western intelligence agencies? Or I'm almost asking, is it a good idea that it gives final run, direct... Director to the Prime Minister approach?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it depends a lot on the country. I mean, if you take the United States as an example, they're in a unique situation. I mean, I think the Director of the CIA or one of his agents talks to the President quite regularly. But they have a range of interests and preoccupations that I think no other country has.
I think in the U.K., it's probably somewhere between here and the United States.
Fundamentally I think the bottom line is we've got to do something that works for a particular prime minister. Our current Prime Minister, I think, prefers finding out about things on paper. And then if he's interested, he asks for meetings.
BRIAN STEWART: We will be seeing you today at a couple of meetings. I mean, you've mentioned earlier that your day is meetings and a lot reading. Can you describe the kind of meetings you would have on an ordinary day here? What would you be looking for? What would you be doing?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, I think there are two or three kinds of meetings. I mean, this place is like any other. It's even like the CBC. We've got financial issues, we've got HR issues, so we talk about management issues. We talk about longer-range issues. You know, we're planning, are we going to do an intelligence assessment, for example, on what's happening in Yemen, which is a part of the world that we're really concerned about?
So it would be a question of bringing together people on the operational side who might know about what's going on. We'll plan new operations to try and find out information.
Again, on the third module would be something that's of interdepartmental interest. So we would get together, usually under the chairmanship of the NSA, representatives from the community, and we'll either work through policy issues or we'll go through and talk about assessment issues - an evaluation of Somalia or something of that nature.
BRIAN STEWART: How about when you have big, big events on the horizon, the Olympics, the G20, G's this, G's that? You know, governments are coming here to Canada. I mean, how big a load does that put on you? And how closely do the meetings have to follow that?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think pretty closely. I mean, these things have really become a whole-of-government issue. No one department handles this anymore. On the security side, it's the Mounties who have the bear the brunt of it.
But we, for example, on the Olympics, started working on our kind of work a year, a year and a half before. It's a matter of going out and trying to find out is anybody interested in doing anything bad in respect of the Olympics?
I think one of the things that's often forgotten about our Service, we can't sort of wake up one morning and say we're interested in subject X. Tell me about it. We have to develop sources. We have to use electronic means of acquiring information, and all of this takes time.
So in the context of the Olympics, we would have tried to develop sources. We would have talked to our allies around the world. We'd share this information with the Canada Border Services Agency, with the RCMP, and this would involve meetings at all levels. And in fact, in respect of the Olympics, the Prime Minister had appointed a national coordinator for security and we would do most of our work through him.
BRIAN STEWART: CSIS has such a huge responsibility. You've mentioned you have to be careful; things can go very wrong. I mean, I want to ask in a way, as a director, what worries you? What is the kind of thing that has you coming in here every day, really wondering what you're going to find in the file and worried about how you're handling it?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Again, two answers to that. There are specific files. You know, we have I think an increasing worry in this country about domestic radicalization. You know, young people who all of a sudden, for a variety of reasons, want to do Jihad, who want to develop the capacity to do harm to others, either here or abroad. So we worry a lot about those.
I guess that's really a subset of a broader problem. I worry about what I don't know. I mean, our job is to acquire information. So if we have a grip on a particular person or a file, there may be issues with it. But what I really worry about is, is there a terrorist cell somewhere in Canada that we don't know about? Do the Mounties know about this cell or not?
So really, we spend a lot time trying to select the right areas, the right topics, the right people to develop an interest in. And you know, we try and do this within the context of our statute which requires us to have a reasonable suspicion that something wrong is about to happen. So fundamentally, it's what do we not know?
BRIAN STEWART: What about cases even where you are following? The surveillance is there. How much of an ongoing tension is the whole concept? When do we act? Are we waiting too long? Are we taking more risks than we should on this?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: That's an excellent question and I think each case is dealt with separately. But if you take, for example, the Toronto 18, some of whom have pleaded guilty and a number of whom are being dealt with by the criminal courts, I mean, we followed them for quite a while. We then passed the file over to the RCMP. The RCMP followed them with us in a parallel series of investigations or inquiries. And then at some point, it really is their call. We're going to bring in the Crown and we're going to prosecute.
The areas where it's really most difficult is we're in the course of an inquiry and all of a sudden people go from just talking about doing something to it appears they may have acquired some explosives. And a lot of it is talk. I mean, and that's one of the real problems we have. Our job is not to interfere with people's lives when they're just a bunch of guys over a cup of coffee or beer talking big, but to try and really determine when something might go wrong.
And when that happens and we think something is going to go wrong, I mean, we bring in as many people as we can, we talk about it. It's not an easy decision. And if we think something is going to go wrong in the very short term, we'll call in first responders and they'll intervene.
BRIAN STEWART: You also have the added complexity of dealing with other governments who may have a different take of how severe the threat is. I mean, how much is that a kind of concern here, that well, we're being asked to look at this group pretty carefully by such and such government, as the British say. You know, we don't want it blowing up in our faces. We don't want it blowing up in the British face. There's a lot of pressure there.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm. That's true. I think, you know, an even better example, if I can put it that way, is our relationship with the United States. I mean, we share a continent. We worry, honestly, about what is going on in their country and they worry about what's going on here. We both like to think that we have an effective grip on threats to security in each of our countries. But you know, if something's going on in Toronto with a bomb or something, it's not very far from the United States. So we make a conscious effort to make sure that they're informed and we believe that when they have issues in their country that might affect us, they do the same.
And you know, I think the United States has cause to be more worried than we have about a number of these threats, so they tend to worry a little bit more about it.
So in cases dealing with individuals who might have an impact on U.S. security, we try very hard to make sure that: a) they're informed; and b) that we don't let them go off on a tangent where we might lose control.
BRIAN STEWART: It's very, very important for Canada to keep the American comfort level up when it comes to that border because again here, one doesn't know the stakes involved and say an incident happening in Canada may not just directly affect Canada but indeed cause bad repercussions in the States.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think that's absolutely right, and you know, I can't help but go back to 9/11. There's still a lot of Americans who think that those who perpetrated the attacks on 9/11 came from Canada, which is absolutely and totally incorrect.
So not only do we have to deal with the realities of the kind of thing you're talking about, we have to deal with the perception of the reality.
So we think we have a very good relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, as does the RCMP. But it is a daily and a weekly grind to make sure that we share the information, that we understand... they understand what we're up to and we understand what they're up to.
BRIAN STEWART: Let's break it down into your biggest concerns that you have to deal with all the time, and I think every Canadian would say surely it's counterterrorism. Tell us about how that's changed, for instance, over the last decade and what it means to you know?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, I think fundamentally the biggest change is 10 or 15 years ago, it wasn't a big problem. I mean, before 9/11, absolutely, there were concerns about terrorism; but the world fundamentally changed.
When the Service was first created 25 odd years ago, we worried about espionage. We barely had any concerns about terrorism. We spend something of the order of 40 to 45 per cent of our budget on counterterrorism. That's a massive, massive effort.
It's becoming more complicated as well because up until quite recently, most of the terrorist threats truly originated abroad. You know, to be honest, a lot of them came out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. People over there, you know, generated plots and they directed them towards the west.
The real change over the course of the last couple of years has been the growth of domestic radicalization. We have a lot of people whose families have been here second or third generation. They still have attachments back to home. For some reason or other, they don't quite connect as entirely with Canadian society as we would all hope.
I think one of our biggest worries and the biggest change is the use of the Internet. I mean, most of the cases that we deal with respecting domestic radicalization is because somebody's got on the Internet and they've become attached, attracted to Jihad sites originating from the Middle East. Some of these are appallingly violent but they attract a certain kind of person and we have to spend a great deal of time, money and effort trying to figure out, again, as I was saying, not just those who are disenchanted or unhappy but somebody who's really likely to do something; the Toronto 18 being a case in point.
So the real difference now is there are people in Canada that we worry about from a terrorism perspective and the really bad news is, is that the Brits, the Americans and the Australians are going through the same thing.
So it's not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. It's one that we're sharing with our close allies.
BRIAN STEWART: I remember a few years back, in fact it was somewhat taken as a bit of a brag by Canada that we didn't share the same problems with the British and the French. We didn't have home-grown terrorism. That all changed.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Absolutely.
BRIAN STEWART: How do you explain the psychology of it? Is there a clear idea inside CSIS of how this happens?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: No. And you know, to be quite honest, if I had that answer, I'd be a very rich consultant. A lot of people are spending a lot of time, money and effort here, in the U.K., in the U.S.
You know, we can disengage individual cases. There seems to be... You know, there's an age group, young men, 18 to 25, who for one reason or other don't seem to integrate socially. They meet a bunch of other people. They connect on the Internet. And sometimes that's all that happens. It's like you or I might have gotten together and had a beer when we were young. They get together and have a cup of coffee and talk about things. But in a few limited cases there's something, there's a disconnect that drives them towards violence.
And we have real cases of people who have left Canada and have gone to Somalia, Yemen or the Af-Pak area to train to do Jihad. It's also worrisome because initially they went over there and the intent was they would fight there. But we, along with our allies, are now discovering a few cases where they're being directed to plan to come back to Canada to do violence.
That's the biggest change, I think, over the last couple of years.
BRIAN STEWART: One of the things that is striking if you compare 30, 40 years ago to today, and that is there seemed to be so many more targets, potential targets today that could really cripple or hurt a modern society. How much of a worry is that?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it's true. I think the biggest concern is the entire world is run by computers. You know, you can't get up in the morning without some computer doing something for you.
You know, we've always had to worry about the electrical grid and nuclear facilities and they remain a concern; but cyber-terrorism, you know, which is a word that you hear more and more, I think is a reality. There are a couple of countries that really try and attack our systems on a daily basis. The United States considers that it's now potentially a form or warfare. I mean, if you can close down a society's computers, you've basically won. You can't fly. The food system goes to pieces and a whole bunch of other things occur.
So I think the real worry for us is really cyber-terrorism, while maintaining a concern about all the others that I talked about.
BRIAN STEWART: You mean cyber-terrorism could be at a stage now where it's actually more worrisome than say an explosion in part of the grid of our infrastructure?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I don't know if I'd say that because with an explosion, you actually... people are actually harmed and I think you always have to worry when there's really harm to human beings.
But, and this is hypothetical, but if you develop a capacity somewhere else to control, say, a third of the North America's electrical grid, the amount of harm that you can do, not just economically, but more generally, is not inconsiderable.
Leaving aside the capacity when it can be developed to access our computers and to ex-filtrate information, I mean that used to be the job of the old-fashioned spies. But today you can do it by computers.
BRIAN STEWART: To many Canadians - and we've dealt a bit with terrorism now - to many Canadians, the days of espionage are over and people wonder whether you even worry about it that much anymore. You have a somewhat sobering take on that.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Yes. It was one of the surprises that I got when I came to CSIS about a year ago. I thought, I think like most Canadians, that, you know, sure there was some espionage but I thought, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and, you know, and whatnot, it had gone away.
In fact, in Canada today, the level of espionage is roughly the same as it was during the Cold War. And in a couple of cases it's worse than it was. And I've talked to my colleagues in the U.K. and they've noticed the same thing. There was a real drop after the fall of the Soviet Union, but now we're back to where we were again.
I think the other thing that's important, I find interesting, Canadians tend to think, well, why would anybody want to spy on us? But I think we forget that technologically and scientifically, we're one of the most advanced nations in the world. And countries can save billions by avoiding the R&D, the research and development.
We're also a member of a large number of military and political alliances. So there's a lot to be had here. And in fact, I'm beginning to worry that we may not be spending quite enough effort on counterespionage.
The difficulty that I have, as does everybody, is you have to balance where you allocate resources, but it most definitely is a serious problem; and if I had to guess, I'd say it's going to get worse.
BRIAN STEWART: I've heard of staggering sums almost on the amount of money that Canada could lose in a given year just because of theft.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: I mean, espionage theft of our best secrets.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think that's right. I mean, it's very easy to, you know, pick the optics industry, large chunks of the electronic industry, the informatics industry. If you can leap ahead, you know, a generation or two of development without having to do the research and development yourself, you can save a fortune. And then if you can actually start marketing this stuff, you can make a mint again. So it's not hard to imagine why people do this.
BRIAN STEWART: It's not hard to imagine the cost to Canada if it keeps losing out.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Absolutely.
BRIAN STEWART: Because somebody's beating(?) us through nefarious means.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Absolutely.
BRIAN STEWART: Countries that are most active? I'm sure you're going to name them.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, it's sort of hard for me to do that, and I don't think it takes a great deal of imagination. But, you know, if you look at some of the media stories over the course of the last of couple of weeks, you'll have a pretty clear indication there.
I mean, we have a number of, I'll call them old friends who are still in the business. And then there are a few others.
I mean, one area that's of particular concern is the research for material used in weapons of mass destruction. You know, the North Koreas of the world are trying very hard to acquire the material they need to acquire nuclear weapons, as is the case with Iran.
So just those two, for the purposes that they want to acquire technology, I think is very worrisome. And then you have the more general stuff that we talked about a minute ago.
BRIAN STEWART: There used to be more talk in the old days of something called counter-subversion or infiltration. How much of a problem, or a concern here is the fact that foreign countries might be trying to infiltrate our basic system of government, which is kind of hard for Canadians to get their head around?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Hum. Yes, we now call it foreign interference. I don't quite know when the terminology changed, but it's called foreign interference. This is another area where I knew it existed but I was a bit surprised about the extent to which it is occurring. A number of countries take the view that if they can develop influence with people relatively early in their careers, they'll follow them through. And all of a sudden, they're a politician or they're a public servant who exercises some influence and they can really have an impact.
There are also a couple of countries that use the universities. There are social clubs, you know, related to particular countries and before you know it, a country is providing them with money, there's some sort of covert guidance. We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there's some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries. I think it's the kind of thing that if you're a country that has a lot of patience, this can really pay off. And there are a few who are like that.
BRIAN STEWART: It's like the old espionage world putting sleepers in. But this could concern all levels of government.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: No, absolutely. And, you know, I mean, I don't think it's difficult to imagine. You know, you get somebody of the same sort of ethnic background as you are. There's an affinity to begin with. You're usually not a longstanding Canadian. Usually, it's somebody who's second, third generation becoming involved in public life, or actually private sector sometimes. So there's the old country connection. So you start developing a relationship. You offer a trip back to the homeland and before you know it, you're being asked to think about things in a slightly different way.
That's not in and of itself terribly worrisome, but if the individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality, all of a sudden decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations. So we do worry about that.
BRIAN STEWART: He's then an agent of influence in a way.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: In a manner of speaking, yes, um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: You can't name the countries.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I would rather not.
BRIAN STEWART: Yeah, right. There is the other element, foreign countries interfering with elements of a Diaspora in Canada...
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: ... that in effect, you have to protect. Could you explain that problem where they really can make life hell for Canadians who are living here?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: No, I think that's true. There are a couple of groups that... where the governments of their home country take the view that wherever they are in the world, they are still of concern to them. And either by sending people here or by using their embassies, they try and exercise some measure of control over those communities. In some cases, they ask for donations for political groups or whatnot. A couple of the countries don't like people to misbehave abroad, so they actually monitor their behaviour. And I don't think it's hard to imagine, there are some countries, for example, in the Middle East, where behaviour is quite rigidly controlled. People come here, they're expected to behave in the same manner.
So representatives of those countries, you know, will sometimes just grab people by the scruff of the neck and send them back home so they can't continue their studies.
We think that's a real interference with our sovereignty, so we try and monitor this and stop it when we can.
BRIAN STEWART: I want to jump, because we are talking about external factors and influence in Canada and then risks from abroad to go right to that debate that's been going on almost since the beginning of CSIS, and that is CSIS does some work outside of Canada, and it's empowered to. But some Canadians say that is not enough, that the country really does need an aggressive foreign intelligence service, perhaps CSIS based. And I think this is an important debate in Canada and I just wonder what your take on it is.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, I think to begin with it's, as the Americans say, it's above my pay grade. I mean, it's not a decision that I'm going to make, but fundamentally I think we do a lot of what a foreign intelligence agency would do. If there's any connection at all with national security, we can deal with it abroad.
So what's left? It's the intentions and the capabilities of other countries insofar as they do not relate to national security. So the question I would ask is, okay, we set up a foreign intelligence service. Against whom are we going to direct them to spy? I think that's important because we're not going to spy against our close allies. There are a large number of countries that we're not interested in, period.
So we're left with a relatively small group where we want general information as opposed to security. So my inclination, and I really want to stress I'm talking personally, is that the cost of operating a foreign intelligence service is much more than operating a domestic service: the immense cost, the training, the development of relationships. The government may someday decide to do it. But to my mind, there isn't a really, really compelling case today.
BRIAN STEWART: But countries like Australia and Holland have decided to focus, they can focus on specific areas of the world...
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: ... of key concern to them. And it wouldn't be hard to construct significant parts of focus for Canada in South East Asia, South Asia, rather, Africa, areas where we feel our national interests are at stake. An operation like that surely could be run.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: No, I think it could be. I don't mean to suggest it could not be. I'm just suggesting that it's an expensive proposition. I mean, operating an agent, one of my officers in Canada, you know, on a yearly basis is, you know, maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars. An agent operating virtually anywhere abroad is a million dollars a year. You can take the figures from Foreign Affairs. That's roughly what it cost them, if you average everything else.
So you start from the premise that it's a very expensive proposition. If the government decides it wants to do it, it can be done. It would take I think some number of years before an agency like that could be up and running.
It could absolutely be done. We could absolutely find countries against whom we would want to spy. All I'm arguing is it's the sort of decision, well, you implied, we've been thinking about it for 20 years. This is the sort of thing you have to think hard about before you create the agency.
BRIAN STEWART: What about Afghanistan? CSIS has been active in Afghanistan. Can you give us some details of...
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: ... the effort CSIS has done there, played there?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Our role there has varied over time. In 2002, we were initially embedded with the military and our sole preoccupation was to try and provide force protection, to acquire information that the military might be able to use to avoid being attacked.
As Canada's presence there grew, we developed our own station and sub-station and we continued to be preoccupied with force protection. I mean, we really tried to the extent that we can assist the Canadian Forces. And there are some examples where we were instrumental in avoiding some pretty bad attacks on the military. But we have also moved into an area of general threats to national security.
As you know, increasingly, there are Canadians who leave Canada and go abroad to try and get trained and participate in Jihad. One of the things we try and do to the extent we can is to get a grip on Canadians who are abroad. There are a number in Afghanistan. So we do that.
The other thing that we do is we try and acquire as much information as we can generally on, you know, national stability and whatnot to support the ambassador and the embassy.
BRIAN STEWART: Because that's one controversy we talked about, but I want to jump to one that perhaps is more relevant today. This organization has changed enormously in the 25 years since it started.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: And it's gone from Canadians saying don't keep any records on us to something quite different. What is it that really worries you about some of the changes now going on in your mandate and in the way you're expected to fulfil your function?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think there are two main ones, maybe three. The first one is the one that we've alluded to, and that's the increased preoccupation with what's going on abroad. There are very, very few threats to national security here that don't have a connection abroad. I think when CSIS was created, it was acknowledged that was the case. But we really didn't start doing this in a material way since around 9/11.
So operating abroad, it requires a different mindset, it requires different relationships, it requires different training. So that's one. It's quite significant operations abroad, which if the world continues to evolve the way it has been, we're probably going to have to do more of.
The other is the change in the legal environment. I mean, you're quite right. When CSIS was created, the objective was to figure out what was going on, keep what was relevant and destroy everything else in order to protect the privacy of Canadians. Today, the courts have told us that if we have any information at all that could potentially be used in any judicial or quasi-judicial system, we have to keep the information.
It appears simple at one level. You simply develop the capacity, you develop a computer and you put the information in it. But for our officers who are out there in the field, everything they do now has to be documented. It has to be put into an informatics system and it has to be retrievable. All of these are not insignificant information management problems; and if you multiply that over a couple thousand people, people who are working in the Service, it makes for a great deal of difference.
BRIAN STEWART: Well, it's hard to see how it's going to evolve. I mean, if you have to keep appearing in courts and that.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: Do you think this should be discussed at a certain level in Canada so Canadians are at least clear how this change is taking place and what the ramifications are?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Yes, I absolutely do and I think we have to find a way of doing it when we're not responding to a crisis. I mean, one of the areas that I find difficult to deal with in security intelligence is that we move forward, or we have discussions in response to something that's gone wrong. I mean, there have been three or four royal commissions or commissions of inquiry over the course of the last little while and they clearly moved the marker. You know, we're doing things differently. Other organizations are and I think we're better for it.
But you think about things differently when you're dealing with a crisis and I think what's missing for us is an opportunity, a locale, a means of talking about what we do and why we do it in the absence of a crisis.
You know, there are a whole bunch of things that we could usefully talk about.
Having said that, I think the CSIS Act has stood the test of time relatively well.
BRIAN STEWART: It's a secretive organization still. You do still... I mean, you're the only face of CSIS we can actually photograph.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: But I'd like you first of all to sort of, you know, justify the secrecy, but also deal with what it means to be a secret organization in a democratic country where secrecy itself must bring up a degree of paranoia in some people and doubts in others.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think there's some truth in what you say. I mean, in Canada we're very, very keen on transparency in government and accountability. And I think it's fair to say that the way CSIS was created, there's a fair bit of accountability. But a lot of it takes place on a trust basis. Parliament created the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which has access to everything we do. But the work isn't made public.
I think there's a distinction to be made, what we do and in particular, why we do things, I think we could probably talk about rather more than we do. How we do things is an entirely different issue.
I mean, the last thing I want is for people to know about our tradecraft, you know, about how we acquire sources and to know about our relationships and how we get intelligence from abroad. But it seems to me that in a democracy, it makes a lot of sense that people should understand why we have these worries and what we're trying to do about them.
But it's hard to do this when the only time we talk about security - not the only time - most of the time that we talk about security and intelligence is because something is going wrong.
So again, this is above my pay grade. I'm a public servant. I can't participate in much of this dialogue, but I think it would be good for the country if we found some way of talking about it when people could be calm about what we do as opposed to there's an issue where we need to have a commission of inquiry.
BRIAN STEWART: Secrecy though also has a certain mystique about it that maybe intelligence service is also required, with information that you said goes power. Well, some government organization with secrecy goes power. I mean, that would possibly be something CSIS wouldn't want to give up too much.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think if you're going to be a security agency, you have to have an element of what you do in secret. I mean, the people that we're trying to find out about spend a great deal of time, money and effort maintaining secrecy around their activities. Spies and terrorists do not want people to know what they're doing.
And if anybody in this country thinks that we're exempt from that rule because we're Canadian, they're wrong. So we need to be able to operate in secret, we need to be able to ensure our sources, for example, that we're going to maintain the promises that we've made to them, that they won't be revealed.
In practical terms, this is a real problem because in many cases, they're engaged in unlawful activities. And one - not the only - one of the objectives of what we do is to try and transfer files to the RCMP for prosecution.
So we have intelligence and we want to convert it into evidence. It can be done. I think in many cases it can be done even in a public trial. But in many instances, we're using tradecraft sources or information from abroad that we absolutely have to protect.
It's an issue where I think we're going to have to do some more work. It is working though. The Toronto 18 prosecutions are an example.
BRIAN STEWART: Well, you see, it's almost heresy for my generation who covered MacDonald Commission of Inquiry, saw it set up. I was led to believe that most people want of an intelligence service, don't keep records, we don't want you keeping thousands of records on Canadians. Get rid of them.
And then you're not a prosecuting agency. You're not supposed to be out there making sure people are arrested. You're supposed to be out there making sure things don't happen.
This gives you a kind of split personality in a way now, doesn't it?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Hum...
BRIAN STEWART: You're working against your original concept of what this intelligence agency should be doing.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I agree with you. On the other hand, the environment is changing, the threat is changing, and quite clearly the legal environment is changing. So we are adapting.
I think that for the foreseeable future, we're going to have to come to grips with the fact that in many cases, not all cases, some of our intelligence is going to have to be used in criminal prosecutions.
I think we have had more successes than we've had failures, but there have been a couple of instances where we've recommended, and ministers have agreed, that we've withdrawn intelligence from a trial because releasing the intelligence would cause greater harm to national security than a successful prosecution would yield.
But I think bit by bit, we're trying to resolve this issue.
BRIAN STEWART: I don't have much more time, so I'm just going to throw out a few more questions.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: Canadians who say how do we know there's any oversight? I mean, CSIS seems to be off in a world of its own. Politicians don't know much about it. They never ask good questions anyways. How do we know that CSIS is actually under some kind of adult supervision?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: That's a good question and it's a fair question, but I'd remind us that the CSIS Act, two-thirds of the CSIS Act deals with our accountability and with our oversight.
Parliament has created a committee of Privy councillors. The Security Intelligence Review Committee has access to absolutely everything. It's created an Inspector General that has access to absolutely everything. We're accountable to a parliamentary committee which deals with us.
People tend to forget that having a minister is not an academic exercise as well. Every time I asked for a warrant before the Federal Court to do some of the more intrusive things that we do, I have to convince my Minister that this is a reasonable thing to do.
So, yes, ministers are busy. Yes, they have a lot of things to do. But the way our world is structured, a lot of our highly intrusive work requires the consent of a minister.
So I think we are in fact quite a bit supervised, overseen and that in fact it's impossible for us today to do a great deal without our overseers knowing what we're doing.
BRIAN STEWART: What about the fear of some Canadians that it's a murky, awful world out there in many areas, and CSIS has to play with a lot of rough, tough customers, governments that do torture, governments that have pretty bad records of human rights? Yet, you're out there having to deal with these countries, these agencies. What's your attitude to that?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it's true, we do. I think we have to be careful when we do, and I think we have to do it quite consciously. And if we're dealing with a government, for example, that has a poor human rights record, we have to factor that in.
I mean, I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that if somebody acquires information by torturing someone, the information may well be incorrect. So we're always preoccupied about information being correct. So we caveat our information that we get from those kinds of countries, but I think that this also has to be put into a broader context. You know, Foreign Affairs has relations with appalling countries. We have trade relations with countries that fall in the same category. There are parts of the world where intelligence services have more influence than Foreign ministries. So it seems to me that in the end, as long as we circumscribe what we do and how we do it, it is in the national interest for us to be able to share information with these countries.
BRIAN STEWART: A lot of Canadians might be surprised at outreach, CSIS outreach, just going out in the communities, talking.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Um-hmm.
BRIAN STEWART: Knocking on doors, saying hi, we're from CSIS. This would not have been so common 20 years ago. What's all this stuff going on?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, it's true. I think we did a little bit of it back 25 years ago. We're trying to do a bit more. I think part of it is because, because of the way the world has evolved, our attention gets focused on a number of communities. To be perfectly honest and to state the obvious, a lot of them are Muslim. A lot of problems are originating from that part of the world. And we want to make sure that people understand that we don't have anything against Muslims. We have something against Muslims who want to do violence in Canada and abroad.
So I think it's important for us to try and explain what we do and what we don't do. We're not a police agency. We don't go out trying to arrest people. What we want is information about people who want to do harm.
I'm not sure there's anything inherently bad about this. What we worry about is people develop these sorts of images of, you know, we're going out there and, you know, I think people watch T.V. too much and they get these images of, you know, secret agents in the night grabbing people and taking them away. We don't do that. We're not that kind of agency. What we do is we try and talk to people.
And if they don't understand what we do and how we do it, they won't talk to us.
BRIAN STEWART: When you meet with your equals in other agencies around the world, there's always a bit of one-upmanship. What are you really particularly proud of CSIS for? What does CSIS do really well that you say we're as good as any at this, in this particular game?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it's hard to compare apples and oranges because it's an issue of size as well. I think we've done well in keeping up our work on the counterespionage side. We've done that I think more than some of our colleagues.
The other area where we've been able to make some progress is we're not a) the United States which is in a particular category, but we're also not a former colonial power, so there are parts of the world where we can go in with a little bit less baggage and we've tried very hard to develop the capacity to do that.
And I think equally in Canada, we've developed I think a pretty effective way of dealing with these communities that we were talking about. But mostly I think it's being able to deal in parts of the world where we don't have a lot of baggage and on counterespionage.
BRIAN STEWART: Why are CSIS agents so loyal and stay so long?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it's because the work they do really is quite interesting, and I think most of us would agree that it's pretty important. We try very hard to be a good employer. We're in the list of the top 100 employers in Canada.
On the other hand, some of the work that we do is a bit dangerous. So we try and compensate for that. It's exciting at one level. There's international stuff, there's domestic stuff. There are operational things, there are policy issues, so you can do a bit of everything in your career.
But I think mostly it's because people think it's an important job and in a strange sort of way, it's sexy. You know, you're going out there doing things that not many other people are able to do.
BRIAN STEWART: This kind of building is unusual. How did you bag such a nice government building?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: This was far before my time, but I don't think there's a rule anywhere that says that government buildings have to look like shoeboxes. I think if you plan a building in advance, you can actually construct a building that has character without costing the taxpayer any money. And my understanding is that's what they tried to do here.
BRIAN STEWART: It's an interesting personality, this building -my last question - because it has a kind of open, airy feel to it, which is exactly the reverse of what one would expect coming in to see a CSIS headquarters.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think that's true, and I think it reflects to some degree the schizophrenia that we have. We are really in many ways an organization that looks inward. On the other hand, if we don't inform government, if we don't know what's important by talking to people around us, we won't be able to do our job. So, yes, we have to protect how we do things, but if we don't tell the government the outcomes of our work, if we don't talk about how we do things, or what we do with the public, we're not going to be effective. So we really have to be two things at once.
BRIAN STEWART: Great, thank you very much.
* * *
(Fadden Follow Up audio file)
BRIAN STEWART: Director, this city is not, this country is not used to seeing CSIS directors be quite so open as yourself and take the case of CSIS to other areas of the country. Why are you being so open?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it all began when I arrived here and I found that a lot of my colleagues were in fact a little bit depressed about what was going on. You know, there was a sense that we were losing all of the core cases that we were involved with. There was a sense that some parts of the media didn't like what we were doing.
I in fact had a little study done not long after I got here to look at the court cases in which we were involved. In fact, we're winning far more than we're losing. So there was a sense after a while that if we didn't speak out, there would be a real misconception about what we're doing, how we're doing it and why we're doing it.
So not just for the employees of CSIS, but including the employees of CSIS, I thought it was important to try and get out there and explain what we do.
So I think the more that Canadians understand what we do, the more they're going to help us do what we do.
You know, I'm part of a large corporation, the Government of Canada, and I'm lucky that there's been agreement that I can do this. Previous directors have spoken in public a little bit. I hope to do a little bit more for the reasons I've just set out. I think it's in everybody's interests for us to explain a little bit more what we do.
And, you know, you have these... you have people who are very, very good at putting forward a view of themselves that is quite a bit at variance with what we understand to be the facts when we go before the courts, for example. And we're limited in what we can say.
But I think there are some occasions when it's worthwhile getting out there and explaining to people, you know, we do know what we're doing. There are reasons for concern. And if we don't do it, my sense is nobody is going to do it.
BRIAN STEWART: You have expressed some dissatisfaction at times, certain media coverage of terrorism in particular, certain sympathy, perhaps more on one side than people would expect.
Could you explain what you were getting at there?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, one, I don't think it's generalized, but I do think... You know, let me give you an example of somebody's brought up on a criminal trial for murder or something. You know, at best from the perspective of the alleged murderer, the reporting will be neutral.
If somebody's brought up on a trial that's relating to terrorism, for some reason there's an assumption that it's not conceivable, it's not possible that Canada would have a potential terrorist brought before the criminal trials.
A lot of these people are very effective at putting out parts of their story. It's their right. I don't deny them their right. And the law in this country is that you're presumed innocent until you're guilty. And I don't think it should be anything different.
But there is another side of the story, and just because somebody has a picture in a newspaper where he or she is sitting with grandchildren, you know, looking very avuncular doesn't mean that they're not involved in terrorism and haven't been for 10 years.
So I just think that sometimes - and I really do emphasize "sometimes" - there's this tendency perhaps based on a bit of naiveté that we just can't possibly have terrorists in Canada that leads people to pay a little bit more attention to the positive sides of potential terrorists as opposed to pointing out there is a darker side as well.
And equally, to be honest - and this was one of the criticisms of my criticisms - if we don't talk a little bit about our side of things, we can hardly complain that the media isn't giving both sides of the story.
So, you know, case by case, bit by bit, we'd like to do a bit more of that.
BRIAN STEWART: How knowledgeable are Canadians and how sensitive are they to the threat of terrorism in their own country?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I don't think very, and I think to some degree, it's understandable. I mean, if you compare us with the United States and 9/11, which was also a Canadian tragedy because Canadians were killed, or with the United Kingdom, they've had to deal with terrorism for decades. You know, we've had Air India, which is an appalling tragedy, we've had a few years ago you'll perhaps remember the incidents at the Turkish embassy where people were killed, and we've had a variety of others. So we've been extraordinarily lucky.
So I can understand at one level, well, people will say, you know, it's like the maple leaf on the backpack syndrome. If they know we're Canadians, they'll leave us alone. But I don't think in this world that's true.
We're the only country on Al Qaeda's hit list that has not yet been attacked by Al Qaeda. They have been systematically working their way through those countries. And I profoundly hope we won't be hit, but I think it would be a terrible mistake if we're not as prepared as we can be and that Canadians don't have some sense that there is a risk.
Now I wouldn't want to go away with having you think that everybody should go to the basement and not come out. We're not at that risk, at that level of risk. But clearly, you know, the admissions of guilt and the what I hope will be convictions on a number of cases in Canada prove we do have terrorists who are out to do harm to this country, and I think it's everybody's interest if we acknowledge it.
BRIAN STEWART: Great.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: It made some sense?
BRIAN STEWART: Yes.
(Fadden reverse shot)
BRIAN STEWART: We were talking about foreign espionage and the fact that there's still as much around today as during the Cold War. What do countries get out of espionage these days? I mean, what are they looking for? Not the old defence secrets perhaps, but what's in it for them?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: I think it depends on the country. But fundamentally, I think the bigger interests today, the greater interests today are things like scientific secrets, technological secrets, actually business secrets. I mean, let's call a spade a spade. It doesn't matter where you are; the country runs to some degree on the economy. So if you can acquire secrets from the private sector, as much as from government, so I think one of the big differences is that there's been a shift towards espionage against the private sector.
You acquire some secrets of that nature, you can save yourselves a fortune in R&D and development and whatnot and a lot of countries are now doing that.
Now there's still some of the traditional, you know, military secrets. As I was saying a little bit earlier, I mean, we're a member of a large number of alliances. We share secrets with our close friends. So there's a fair bit of interest in that still; but clearly a shift towards the more scientific, the more technological.
BRIAN STEWART: We're not going to mention any names, but would Canadians be surprised by some of the names of countries?
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Absolutely not. And if they read some your print competitors, I think over the course of the last month or two there have been some pretty good examples.
BRIAN STEWART: Yes. Again, the other thing is the degree of loss. I've heard that many, many billions of dollars that Canada could lose, will lose because of this. I'm surprised countries aren't a little more shame... you know, they can be quite so shameless; but I guess in their psychology, they're looking after their national interests.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: Well, you know, I think to some degree countries are like people. And we have multiple aspects to our personalities. And in fact, in some ways I think countries are worse. I mean, we have diplomatic relations with all of the countries who are spying against us. In some cases, we have military relationships. In many cases, my agency has relationships with them. But it's an expected part of the game, in particular with some countries, that you get the advantages where you can.
BRIAN STEWART: Yes.
RICHARD B. FADDEN: And they spend a great deal of time and money trying to get them.