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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

CSIS warning of foreign infiltration rings true

Telegraph-Journal - Richard Fadden, the head of Canada's spy agency, has publicly stated that CSIS has evidence of foreign infiltration in Canada. He hinted broadly that Canadian politicians, including cabinet ministers, are being influenced to do, in particular, China's bidding. He said what he said "because I think it's a real danger that people are totally oblivious to this kind of issue."

His comments, made public on the eve of the Chinese president's visit for the G20 summit in Toronto, have certainly created controversy, spurring a national conversation on a subject that most citizens in Canada prefer to ignore - unaware of the significant economic and even potential national security costs of doing do.

Most people just don't realize CSIS has been shadowing Chinese agents and corporations for years. They have been tracking the increasing and largely successful theft of intellectual property and industrial secrets - at our universities, in our corporations. The Chinese invest heavily in Canadian banks and businesses, not only for financial gain but also as part of a broader national strategy to access key people of influence, financial information or technical data.

Under the centralized control of China's efficient foreign intelligence service, called the "Guoanbu" (short for Guojia Anquan Bu), agents in Canada and elsewhere are known to work at times with the Chinese criminal Triads. This adds a more sinister and complex layer to their activities; although it must be said, one not so different than that of the Russians, the Israelis or the CIA, for that matter.

The Guoanbu has long tentacles. Just a year ago, CSIS revealed to the Canadian press that more than 1,500 engineers were busy stealing compromising engineering know-how from universities. When Falun Gong wanted to stage an anti-Beijing demonstration last summer in Ottawa, the Chinese Embassy made the subtlest of protests, and the Canadian Government disallowed it.

Back in June of 1997, the RCMP and CSIS drafted a secret report (which is not secret anymore) describing how Chinese Triad crime syndicates and the Guoanbu had infiltrated the Canadian economy. Hong Kong and Beijing tycoons have allegedly invested heavily in financial ventures that are used as a foil for both criminal and intelligence activities, with these same wealthy tycoons using their financial status to gain influence in Canadian politics. The report alleges that more than 200 Canadian companies "have passed into Chinese... ownership since the early 1980s through the triads." Remember, this was written almost 15 years ago. What might it be today!

The companies referred to in the report ranged from banking to high-tech to multinationals to real estate.

The potential consequences of this infiltration are and continue to be significant. As CSIS warned us a decade ago, "being Canadian, these businesses are also eligible to receive government subsidies for research, or classified contracts from federal departments. The risk is that after the research is done, there results can be transferred to China."

While Canadian citizens are generally unaware of the level of industrial and intelligence espionage undertaken in Canada, there is, for the most part, somewhat greater awareness of how much domestic spying goes on in China itself.

The Chinese security establishment is the dread of Chinese citizens.

To ensure stability and control, the Chinese party-state operates the most high-ended surveillance network in the world. Offices and factories in China are equipped with surveillance systems. Karaoke bars, restaurants and stadiums and Internet caf├ęs are wired with hidden cameras and listening devices, micro-circuited to the local police authorities - all courtesy of software from leading American technology companies.

Many Internet sites are blocked. All films are vetted. Most Chinese have special ID residence cards, digitized to include education, work and personal resume information; these also come with facial recognition software (biometric information), courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security.

Phone calls, text messages and emails are screened by the secret police at will. And legal recourse is essentially non-existent for infringement of rights, in a country that some would liken to an Orwellian playground.

No wonder it is taboo for tourists to talk politics with the Chinese when visiting the People's Republic of China. The Chinese are even reluctant to talk about widely known issues, such as the Tiananmen massacre of June 1989.

The level of oversight in Chinese society seems to be accepted, if not widely liked. Educated Chinese still appear to take comfort from their Confucian, even Buddhist, wisdom about the individual need to censure oneself, "to govern oneself," the better to govern others, for the improvement of the collective whole. It may even be seen in some respects to be today's Maoist version of the Great Wall, guarding against the barbarians at the gate.

Whether it be domestic or foreign, espionage and counter-intelligence are pursued by the Chinese with a complex mix of subtlety and strategy that confounds foreign spy agencies such as CSIS - and that may cause the kind of seemingly intemperate comments recently made by its director.

So, a caveat to us all, before we call for the CSIS director's head - consider, as undoubtedly the Chinese Secret Service does, the words of that Chinese sage Sun Tzu, in The Art of War (c. 509 BC):

"Be so subtle that you are invisible.

Be so mysterious that you are intangible.

Then you will control your rival's fate."

Miron Rezun teaches International Relations at UNB and has travelled in China. His latest book, ?Of Gadgets, Mice and Men (Governments and Their Spies)' was published recently by DreamCatcher Publications of Saint John.

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