A Canadian spymaster's business card was recovered last year in a trove of intelligence documents in Libya, providing a physical link between Canadian security agencies and Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's spy services.
William "Jack" Hooper, a globetrotting deputy director for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was apparently among the Western intelligence officials who had cultivated ties with Libya, raising new questions about possible Canadian involvement in the arrests and interrogations of Arab-Canadians in their homelands following the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.
The relationship building would have occurred around the time that the hawkish Mr. Hooper, the No. 2 CSIS official before he retired in 2007, was on the hot seat in Canada, being called to publicly testify about CSIS's dealings in Middle East countries – specifically on Maher Arar and related cases. Mr. Hooper died two years ago of a heart attack.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, more than a half-dozen Canadian Arabs spent months or years imprisoned in their countries of birth, eventually emerging to claim they were fingered as terrorists by Canadian authorities. Government inquiries into some of these cases found CSIS and RCMP officials had circulated inflammatory and sometimes misleading information that could have led to the foreign detentions – and also that federal security agents had blocked overtures by Ottawa to help the Canadian citizens once they were detained abroad.
Judicial inquiries into Canadian complicity in torture abroad looked at events in Syria and Egypt, but never pulled back the curtain on the links to Libya. There, a Libyan-Canadian named Mustafa Krer was jailed upon arrival in 2002, having previously been put under surveillance in Canada. Canadian court documents have since surfaced to accuse Mr. Krer of being "a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."
Last fall, Mr. Krer went public with his story of having been detained for eight years in Libya, where he says the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and CSIS intelligence officers had put questions to him.
"The CIA and CSIS and other agencies were trying to make out that this Libyan Islamic group was like al-Qaeda. It is not," Mr. Krer told The Globe and Mail. He did not deny ties to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group jihadists, but said he was never a terrorist. He did not identify the specific CIA and CSIS operatives involved in his interrogations.
CSIS would not respond directly to a query about past dealings with Gadhafi's Libya. Some government documents indicate the Libyan intelligence relationship built in the early 2000s later helped the spy service investigate the terrorist abductions of two diplomats from Canada in West Africa.
When anti-Gadhafi rebels stormed Tripoli a year ago, the regime's intelligence headquarters was left abandoned. A Western advocacy group, Human Rights Watch, mined the complex for documents. The trove has already spawned revelations including ingratiating exchanges between U.S. and British spies and their Libyan counterparts, particularly correspondence about a 2004 conspiracy to snatch a Libyan Islamic Fighting Group militant in Kuala Lumpur and bring him to Tripoli for interrogation.
Human Rights Watch encouraged Mr. Krer to go public with his story after recovering a list of 89 questions – penned by an English-speaking Western intelligence agency – that were to be put to the Canadian prisoner. None of the questions, newly reviewed by The Globe, allege that Mr. Krer did anything violent. Rather, he was to be pressed about alleged associates who had set up in Seattle, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and unspecified parts of Canada. He was to be asked whether these men had trained in Afghanistan and what he knew about their financial dealings.
Recovered amid these intelligence documents were binders full of business cards left by foreign soldiers, spies and diplomats who had come calling to Libyan intelligence. Mr. Hooper's CSIS card appears in one of the binders.
Following his retirement in 2007, the CSIS No. 2 told the Toronto Star that Canada's spy service has no choice but to team up with some unsavoury foreign counterparts to protect Canada from terrorism. "Here's the deal. Everybody would like to believe that we have an array of choices that are good choices and bad choices," he said. "But we're going to a dance where every girl is ugly, okay – they're all ugly. And all we can do is get the least ugly girl to dance with."