By COLIN FREEZE
As Canadian security agencies scrambled to arrest an alleged Russian spy
this month, President Vladimir Putin landed by helicopter atop the new
$400-million headquarters for one of his country's intelligence
Inspecting the palatial building northwest of Moscow, he reportedly
paused to fire a few pistols in the built-in firing range, before
proudly pronouncing it "the best-equipped complex that any intelligence
agency in any country has."
Halfway around the world in Montreal's Trudeau Airport, authorities were
keeping a lookout for an ostensible Canadian citizen by the name of Paul
William Hampel. He had been flagged as an "illegal" and a serious threat
to national security.
His arrest, based on information gathered by the Canadian Security
Intelligence Service, amounts to a clear message from Ottawa to Russia
and other spying nations: We're watching you and we know what you're
Similar scenes have played out in many cities of late. In Prague this
September, authorities kicked out an alleged Russian spy for trying to
steal NATO and European Union secrets. A year earlier, in Japan, another
alleged Russian spy -- posing as an Italian consultant -- was arrested
for trying to steal semi-conductors that could be used in military
guidance systems. Not long before that, an Irish businessman was
arrested at Los Angeles airport, the FBI accusing him of touring Silicon
Valley to buy electronic eavesdropping equipment for Russia.
Details of the new Canadian case will be divulged in Federal Court in
Montreal next week, though much will likely stay secret to prevent
prying eyes from learning Canada's counterintelligence techniques.
Experts say they expect the evidence will align with Moscow's modus
The fading power, now led by former KGB agents like Mr. Putin, is
increasingly sending its eyes and ears abroad to try to close its
20-year technology gap in Western technologies and military systems.
The spies also want to learn more about Western corporations and other
organizations it views as encroaching upon Russia and its traditional
spheres of influence.
With the West's current preoccupation with fighting terrorism -- a
struggle in which Russia has aligned itself as an ally --relatively
little is being said about continuing counterintelligence efforts.
The Cold War may be long gone, but elements live on. It has been
estimated there could be as many as 100 Russian spies in the United
States, another 40 in Britain.
In Canada, CSIS will say only that it is trying to keep its eyes on 150
foreign spies in total. It's not known how many take orders from Moscow.
"There are, at any given time, a number of foreign governments who try
to conduct espionage operations in Canada," CSIS director Jim Judd told
a Senate committee this year.
". . . We take exception to those kinds of things and we try to actively
monitor those activities and, where necessary, intervene to stop them."
Michael Donner, a former FBI Russian section chief and chief of
counterintelligence, said in an interview that Canada and U.S. agencies
work closely together to keep tabs on potential spies.
"We work well with your security services on many different fronts,"
said Mr. Donner, who retired from the FBI this year.
He added that "the Russians want to know where technology and our
research is going and they want to know where money is spent on military
technology . . . their mission is to find out where the money and
dollars is being spent."
Because military technology is now based on elaborate computer systems,
targets have grown beyond the traditional U.S. defence contractors.
Canada has highly developed telecommunications and aerospace sectors
that could be of interest to foreign entities.
Government departments that deal in innovation and energy -- such as the
National Research Council or Natural Resources Canada -- could also make
More ambitious spies seeking political knowledge might even try to
target agencies like the Privy Council Office, a repository of
Canadian citizenship and passports have also been highly valued over
time by foreign spies and terrorists.
In a plot reminiscent of the Nikolai Gogol's novel Dead Souls, a husband
and wife Russian spying team used the names of dead Canadian children to
assume fake identities. They had obtained false Canadian passports
before they were deported in 1996.
Foreign spies "use Canada as way of getting across the border into the
United States," Bill Gertz, the Washington-based author of Enemies: How
America's Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets , said in an interview.
An investigative reporter for The Washington Times, he added that "the
FBI is saying that Russian spying is at Cold War levels. The presence
and aggressiveness has reached what it was."
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