Court hears Canadian navy officer shared secrets with Russia
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012 9:06AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:35PM EDT
A Canadian navy officer who pleaded guilty to three espionage-related charges Wednesday was paid $3,000 a month to share classified information with Russia’s intelligence community, court heard.
Between 2007 and 2011, Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle provided Russia with secrets available to him via his position at a naval intelligence centre in Halifax, according to the Crown.
This information revealed in court hearings was initially protected under a publication ban, intended to protect Delisle in a juried trial. However, Delisle gave up his right to a trial on Wednesday.
Delisle pleaded guilty to three espionage-related charges Wednesday, making him the first person in Canada to enter a plea under the Security of Information Act.
The 41-year-old was facing a breach of trust charge under the Criminal Code and two counts of passing classified information to a foreign entity.
Court heard that Delisle began sharing secrets in August 2007 after he approached officials at the Russian embassy in Ottawa about becoming a spy. After a discussion with Russian intelligence officials, it was decided that Delisle would be an asset to the country.
Delisle began supplying Russia with information he obtained while working out of CFB Stadacona’s Trinity section.
Trinity, a naval intelligence centre in Halifax, looks after communications with vessels belonging to Canada and its allies -- including the United States.
Court heard that Delisle had high-level security access at Trinity. It was learned that Delisle would have to clear a screening process before entering a room containing the high-level classified information.
Delisle tapped into a sophisticated computer network, downloading data from the so-called “Five Eyes” – an intelligence alliance between Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
The network included information about submarine and ship locations, among other crucial details.
Delisle used a flash drive to download information he deemed to be of interest to Russia, including contact information for members of the intelligence community.Court heard that Delisle was paid $3,000 a month to upload the secrets to a website that now appears to be defunct.
The situation escalated when Delisle was invited to Brazil to meet with a fellow spy, court learned. The person he met with offered him about $40,000 dollars to create a spy network.
Canadian customs officials took notice of Delisle when he returned from his trip.
Sources tell CTV News that the damage from Delisle’s leaks is “very, very high.”
One source said Delisle’s spying matched in volume the information U.S. Private Bradley Manning gave to Wikileaks, which set off an international firestorm.
It’s still not clear whether Delisle’s spying compromised Western intelligence agents in the field.
On Wednesday, Delisle’s lawyer Mike Taylor told a provincial court in Halifax that his client is “comfortable” with his choice to plead guilty.
Queens University military expert Christian Leuprecht noted that while the case raises questions about the security of Canadian intelligence, such a breach can happen to any country.
“It could have happened to anyone among the allies, it happens that it was Canada,” he told CTV’s Power Play. “And I think that the upside to this is that we had counterespionage and counterintelligence measures in place that not only were able to detect that individual but were ultimately able to bring this individual to justice.”
He said the case also shows that in the 21st century, human intelligence is still important despite advances in technology. As well, it proves that Canada is vulnerable due to its position “at the crossroads of the intelligence world.
“We’re so close to the United States, so if you want to try to get at American secrets, Canada is one way to do that. We find ourselves between our allies in Europe and our allies in the Pacific. And so politically, economically, military defence, security, there’s a lot to be gleaned from Canada by breaching Canadian networks.”
Delisle’s plea came the same day a preliminary hearing for his trial was expected to begin.
Two of Delisle’s charges -- leaking secrets to a foreign entity -- fall under the Security of Information Act. He is the first person that’s ever been charged under the act, which was passed by the House of Commons after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Delisle was denied bail last March. He’s been in custody at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Halifax since his January arrest.
Delisle joined the navy in 1996 as a reservist, before becoming a member of the regular forces five years later. He eventually rose through the ranks, attaining the title of officer in 2008.
Sentencing is expected to take place over a two-day period, beginning Jan. 10, 2013.
With reports from CTV’s Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis and Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife