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CSIS spy school curriculum too secret to talk about
Service mum on identity of foreign students
James Gordon
CanWest News Service

There are probably few schools in the world with a curriculum like it.

Counter-terrorism 101. Security screening basics. The role of an intelligence service in a democracy.

Every summer for the past seven years, espionage specialists from around the world have gathered in Ottawa for spy school. The teacher is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The pupils are a state secret.

Course materials obtained by CanWest News Service, however, give an inside look at what Canuck spies are telling their counterparts.

Most of the material still visible after vast censorship is surprisingly innocuous. Although there is a broad overview of the terrorist threat to this country, the documents also contain amusing intel on our favourite pastime (hockey, of course) and our preferred junk food.

"Favourite desserts include ice cream and fruit pies - especially apple, blueberry, peach and rhubarb pies," CSIS divulges, quoting from the World Book Encyclopedia. "Hot soup is common with lunch and dinner," it adds. "Coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, beer and wine are popular beverages."

Large sections of presentations and notes are blacked out when the two-week course moves on to more serious matters.

On terrorism, CSIS tells the foreign visitors: "Many of the problems we face today are inherited." It says Canada welcomes upward of 250,000 new immigrants annually, of which about 30,000 are refugee claimants.

There is no mention of how many spies took part in the July 2005 course or which countries they come from, though references in the documents suggest they are not traditional allies.

CSIS spokesperson Giovanni Cotroneo said the service won't comment on who the spies are, how many attended last summer or where they come from.

He said the course is designed to show "various foreign partners what the role of an intelligence service is in a democratic country. Among other things, it's an opportunity to establish new relationships or build on existing ones."

Cotroneo insisted the service isn't doling out sensitive national security information.

Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior CSIS spy turned security and intelligence contractor in Ottawa, agreed.

He explained sensitive information about Canadians isn't passed on via these types of courses, but though memoranda of understanding between different countries. CSIS has more than 100.

"The people that will be sent (to the course) ... they are not at the right level to get that kind of information," he said. "They're grunts. They're the guy in the trenches. It's a reach-out program, basically."

He added the the rationale behind creating the CSIS Intelligence Development Course was to "inject the Canadian way" into a field that's very easy to abuse in developing countries.

Although the course has large sections on ethics, it isn't referred to as an ethics course.

CSIS "doesn't necessarily want to be seen as lecturing or patronizing anybody - we declare it under the perspective of being an intelligence course," he said. "Come and learn to be a better intelligence officer, but with a Canadian flavour" i.e. a Canadian ethic.

Unlike the average worker in other departments, however, intelligence officers are subjected on a regular basis to polygraph testing to ensure there are no leaks. These are done at a minimum of every five years, according to the course materials, only to ensure "loyalty to Canada." All consultants and contractors requiring top-secret clearance must also agree to take part. A lie detector is also required when agents return from foreign operations.

While conducting security screening for both itself and other departments, CSIS attempts to uncover not only national security issues, but "character or personal habits which may cause a person to act in a disloyal manner."

These factors, according to CSIS, include stress, drug use and "personal lifestyle - heavy gambler, involvement in extramarital affairs, sexual behaviour that the subject wishes to keep secret."

Ottawa Citizen

© National Post 2006

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