By CHRIS LAMBIE
October 20, 2006
Defence scientists plan to spend up to $4 million keeping secrets from
The proposed three-year project, dubbed Secure Access Management for
Secret Operational Networks, is aimed at changing existing military
computer networks shared with the United States so some information can
only be accessed by Canadians.
"Contemporary and future Canadian Forces operations are conducted, and
will likely continue to be conducted, within a coalition," say
government documents released Tuesday.
"However, the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence
currently do not have a capability to handle national information
effectively on their operational networks. This hampers their ability to
plan Canadian participation in coalitions, and their ability to
participate in those coalitions when decisions involving national
sovereignty must be made. The worlds major military powers view the
ability to protect national information as an important strategic
capability. Canada has chosen to collaborate with the U.S. on its
overall information protection needs but still requires the capability
to protect Canadian-eyes-only information."
The proposed changes could prove useful for Canada in disputes over
Arctic sovereignty, said Denis Stairs, a political scientist at
Dalhousie University in Halifax who specializes in Canada-U.S.
Last November, the USS Charlottes voyage through the Arctic sparked a
political firestorm in Ottawa. Opposition parties, including the
Conservatives, criticized the government for allowing the
nuclear-powered U.S. navy attack submarine to make a two-week trip under
the polar ice that included a surfacing at the North Pole.
This year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper clashed with U.S. Ambassador
David Wilkins after an American challenge to Canadian sovereignty over
the Northwest Passage, the routes through the Arctic Archipelago.
"Now that its beginning to open up, our sovereignty claim there becomes
a more sensitive issue in a Canada-U.S. context," Mr. Stairs said.
"One can imagine a situation in which the Americans were testing us
again on this issue. They have never agreed that is an inland waterway
and were resisting them."
That could require sending Canadian warships or planes to the Arctic, he
"Nobody wants to get into fisticuffs, and I dont think it will come to
that," Mr. Stairs said. "But I can certainly imagine a situation in
which wed want to be able to communicate without their knowing what were
saying to one another."
The link would allow Canadians to electronically discuss the merits and
details of proposed international missions among themselves, said Eric
Lerhe, a retired commodore.
That means Canada could negotiate an internal position on how many
troops could be sent, without letting on that the military is stretched
by other missions, said Mr. Lerhe, a research fellow at Dals Centre for
Foreign Policy Studies.
"We dont wish to advertise that around the world or even to our close
allies," he said. "We dont want our minimum position to be known to
The proposed network changes would also be useful if the military was
called in to do something like quell a riot, Mr. Lerhe said.
"The U.S. has absolutely no need to be apprised of how were managing an
internal aid to the civil power situation," he said. Reginald Stuart, a
history professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax who
specializes in Canada-U.S. relations, doubts changing a computer network
so it can shut out the Americans on some issues would cause any friction
between the two countries.
"I dont think that would create any policy problems between our two
governments or any lack of trust on the level of the military," Mr.
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