DND may abandon $1B move to former Nortel site because of surveillance bugs
The Department of National Defence may not move into its new headquarters at a former Nortel Networks complex because the building is riddled with eavesdropping devices.
DND told CTV News it may abandon the move, and sources said it’s unlikely any other department would take over the former Nortel site because of the security risks.
Former Nortel employees allege the company was the target of Chinese espionage for nearly a decade.
Keith Murphy, CEO of the information security company Defence Intelligence, said it’s not a suitable home for DND.
“It seems an odd choice to choose to move an organization of that nature into a site that you know was compromised and a victim of espionage,” he told CTV News.
DND won’t discuss the security risk at the former Nortel campus, but said it takes the threat seriously.
The Conservative government has already set aside approximately $1 billion for its plan to move DND to the new headquarters.
“Spending $1 billion on a new headquarters, even if it’s state-of-the-art -- and of course, it isn’t -- is a really bad idea,” said retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie.
Documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen show that then-Defence Minister Peter MacKay was warned about the security threat last year.
MacKay was informed in a briefing note that the costs to relocate could be substantially more than the $1 billion earmarked by Ottawa.
“This not only raises the level of difficulty of verifying appropriate security safeguards in the future, it will probably dramatically increase security costs and cause delays to reach full operational capability,” MacKay was told last year.
The briefing note was obtained by the Ottawa Citizen through an Access to Information request.
“I don’t think we should go forward without certainty that there will be a secure facility for the operations of the Canadian Forces,” said NDP defence critic Jack Harris.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife