The Richard Fadden story got a bit more of a twist today (Monday) when he testified before the Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The whole affair started when Mr. Fadden was invited to make a few comments in a speech before the Royal Canadian Military Institute way back on March 24th, 2010. He was well aware that the CBC was present recording the speech for posterity. During a question and answer session after the speech, he "provided a degree of granularity or detail to an audience of police, intelligence and military experts (his words)" that he would not ordinarily have provided to the general public. Today, he noted that he was unaware that the Q&A part of the event was being recorded because he "lost the sense that he was being filmed" until he was approached months later by the CBC for further clarification. He stated for the Committee that he now regrets the candidness of his comments and agreed that "this was not the optimal way to have this matter raised in public.". He also told the Committee that his comments did not threaten national security (which is a good thing, because any documents related would be seriously redacted and we’d never know what was going on) and that he wouldn’t do it again.
I particularly liked the exchange today between Mr. Fadden and BQ MP Maria Mourani. She kept hounding him on the issue of whether he thought that treason had been committed and who he thought the "traitors" were and he admitted that, in fact, there was only some indication of "foreign influence" and that laws had not even been broken. Ms. Mourani repeatedly asked for Mr. Fadden’s to step down and finally requested that the Committee call for Mr. Fadden’s resignation. The Chair of the Committee, Don Davies, ruled Ms. Mourani’s motion out of order (only because it requires 48 hours notice) but stated that the resignation would be decided the next time the Committee met.
Let’s get this story straight. Mr. Fadden is Canada’s "chief spy" and yet he makes candid comments about an ongoing investigation to a group that consists of members of the general public, albeit law enforcement members, and members of the media and forgets that he’s standing in front of a camera that may or may not be recording. He also could not have been certain of the security clearance status of each member of his audience. It would be interesting to see how he’d do if he was subjected to the old spy movie standby "truth serum".
This whole story is very puzzling. As I mentioned, Mr. Fadden admitted that no laws had been broken by the politicians that were allegedly under influence and that certainly, treason had not been committed (although I’m certain that’s the first place many Canadians’ minds went). He told the Committee that he had not reported the investigation to his boss, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the Privy Council Office or the Prime Minister because the investigation was still ongoing which is contrary to what he said on the CBC when he told Peter Mansbridge that he had, in fact, informed the "centre" (the Privy Council Office) of the issue which he later retracted. He also stated today that he didn’t notify provincial authorities about the alleged interference because the cases were not of "sufficient concern". The whole issue of who he told and when he told them is really quite muddy.
Oh yes, and Mr. Fadden still refused to release the names of the provincial cabinet ministers, B.C. municipal politicians and federal public servants that are being investigated. I guess now it’s a matter of guilty until proven innocent. Mr. Fadden also testified that he sees no reason why he should step down as director of CSIS.
This whole thing has got me wondering if there is a story behind the story. Certainly Mr. Fadden could have refused to appear on the CBC back in June which made the story even more confusing to the public. I do wonder though if the reason Mr. Fadden went public was because there is more to the story than what we are privy to. Are some highly placed politicical "agents of influence" under the control of of foreign powers and was Mr. Fadden concerned that CSIS would not be taken seriously by the various levels of government involved? Is it possible that the whole affair is being publicly floated as a means of giving warning to certain politicians that they are being watched? Or is it just that Mr. Fadden is trying to justify his job by raising the spectre of foreign intelligence "bogeymen"? Who knows?
One last question. If laws have not been broken, why is CSIS even wasting its time and energy on this file? I don’t believe that’s the case but in Ottawa, apparently one can never be certain. Things are very rarely what they appear to be.
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