Canada's official spy souvenir shop is off limits to ordinary citizens


OTTAWA - Canada's official spy souvenir shop is the perfect complement to the country's official spy museum. They're both top-secret facilities that are strictly off limits to ordinary Canadians and tourists.

Word of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's museum, featuring espionage cameras, micro-transmitters and other paraphernalia from the Cold War, leaked to the media years ago.

But a newly released document indicates CSIS also runs a non-profit "souvenir shop" available only to those with proper security clearance.

"For individuals wishing to purchase items from the Souvenir Shop, they can do so by stating what they want and putting the money in an envelope," say the minutes of a meeting of energy experts at CSIS headquarters in Ottawa.

The document was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The museum's still-classified exhibits are locked in showcases inside a security vault, some of them not to be viewed even by loyal members of the spy service. But in a nod to the modern world, the agency has since posted a virtual tour on its website, highlighting items such as a toy truck that conceals a microdot reader and codebook (

Ordinary Canadians, however, are denied even a virtual peep into the souvenir shop, a small store at headquarters open only to CSIS employees.

An agency spokeswoman says the wares for sale don't include junior spymaster trinkets such as shoe-phones, decoder rings or snow-globes with hidden microphones.

"There's a variety of office-related items that can be purchased," Manon Berube said in an interview. "CSIS memorabilia such as mugs, pens, T-shirts, things like that with the CSIS crest," including golf balls.

The distinctive blue-and-gold crest is a stylized palisade guarding a red maple leaf, all surmounted by the Royal Crown.

"It's open only to CSIS employees," Berube said. "It's definitely not open to the public."

She added that prices are reasonable, and some employees buy souvenirs for family members or important visitors.

No CSIS gear currently appears on the eBay shopping website.

CSIS was created in 1984, succeeding the RCMP's Security Service which conducted counter- espionage operations for Canada throughout most of the Cold War. The new agency inherited the files, the technology and many Mounties from the old Security Service.

The former Soviet spy service, the KGB, and the American CIA, have each run so-called "museums without doors," top-secret facilities open only to employees.

Some Canadian spy paraphernalia has been on exhibit at various times at the RCMP museum in Regina, the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, and the Canadian War Museum, also in Ottawa.

? The Canadian Press, 2008

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