Should we send our spies overseas?
CSIS has too much money
JOHN GEDDES | Apr 9, 2007 |
It's odd to hear a bureaucrat pleading with politicians to stop sending money. But Margaret Bloodworth, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's national security adviser, said this week that federal anti-terrorism agencies have all the cash they know how to use. "We have had a huge influx of resources in the last five years," Bloodworth told the Senate national security committee. "We probably have as much as we are able to absorb in the short-term."
She said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, like the RCMP, needs to digest a gush of post-9/11 funding. CSIS's budget ballooned from below $200 million in 2000 to about $350 million this year, and is set to swell to over $400 million next year, thanks to yet another big injection in the recent federal budget. Recruiting and training to make use of that money are the big challenges.
Bloodworth's plea for time to adjust raises doubts about CSIS's capacity to serve as a platform for ambitious Tory plans. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has promised to either broaden CSIS's mandate to include espionage abroad, or, less likely, spin off a new foreign spy service. CSIS now runs only domestic security operations, relying on "liaison officers" to collect foreign intelligence from friendly governments. It doesn't spy overseas like the U.S.'s CIA or Britain's MI6, which prompted a former British intelligence chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, to chide Canada last year as an intelligence "freeloader."
But Bloodworth dismissed the notion that Ottawa is under pressure to get into what she called the "sophisticated gossip system" of foreign intelligence gathering, saying she has not heard any such complaint from allies. And along with repeatedly stressing that more spending is not needed, she was muted when senators asked about the dangers Canada faces. On the threat posed by global terrorists, she said, "I do not think we are the prime target." And on the theory that fighting in Afghanistan has heightened the likelihood of a terror plot against Canada: "I'm not saying it is impossible, I am saying I have not seen evidence of it myself yet."
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