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Alleged spy on the radar for awhile: Day
Espionage 'growth industry' in Canada
Stewart Bell
National Post

CREDIT: Michael Mclaughlin, AFP, Getty Images
The alleged spy, Paul William Hampel, is being held in Montreal.

TORONTO - Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day hinted yesterday that Canadian intelligence officers were watching a suspected Russian spy long before he was arrested in Montreal two weeks ago.

In his first interview since the arrest, the Minister told the National Post that foreign espionage was a "growth industry" and that as an advanced, open democracy, Canada was "vulnerable."

While he acknowledged spying was "a fact of life in all societies," he accused some countries of using "unacceptable, clandestine techniques" to gather intelligence secrets.

But asked whether he was concerned that an undercover Russian intelligence officer may have operated in Canada for more than a decade, he cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

He would not comment directly on the spy case. However, he noted the accused mobsters arrested last week in Montreal had been under surveillance long before they were rounded up.

"Using that case as an example, it's not an uncommon practice for a police or security service to identify somebody and then watch them before moving in to apprehend them, to learn their techniques, develop their list of contacts.

"So I wouldn't want people to jump to any conclusions when they hear that somebody operated in a certain way for a certain period of time. That may have been something that was permitted."

A man who has been living in Montreal under the false name Paul William Hampel was to appear in Federal Court in Montreal this morning for the start of hearings to decide whether he should be deported for espionage. The foreign national was arrested at Montreal's Trudeau airport on Nov. 14, five days after Mr. Day and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg signed a security certificate declaring him a danger to Canada.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service alleges he's a member of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, and that he was sent to Canada to live as a spy, known as an "illegal."

Officials have not disclosed what he was doing in Canada aside from developing a fake life story, called a "legend." Records show he first applied for a Canadian passport in 1995, using a fake Ontario birth certificate. He received a second passport in 2000 and another in 2002.

He used the passports to travel throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans, apparently posing as a Canadian businessman and travel photographer.

"In a way this is somewhat the stuff of spy movies, but it is based on the reality that some countries and some of their intelligence people will go to great ends to build what looks like a foolproof identity," Mr. Day said.

"And maybe not even to spy in Canada. But if you can build a foolproof Canadian identity, that would give you quite a bit of movement around the world."

According to CSIS, an SVR branch called Directorate S trains, deploys and finances undercover intelligence officers known as "illegals" to spy in Western countries.

"Canada is an attractive country for the SVR," Alexander Kouzminov, who worked at Directorate S until the early 1990s, told the Post in an interview.

"For an illegal who has the citizenship of any country in the British Commonwealth, it is easier to cross borders and passport controls, to move around the world, and operate in many countries."

Mr. Kouzminov was involved in running illegals in the West, but he has since left Russia and authored an insider's account called Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West. Photocopied sections of his book were filed in Federal Court by government lawyers to support their case against Mr. Hampel.

"Some people are referring to the era we live in now as the Cold Peace, as opposed to a Cold War," said Mr. Day. Asked if spying was getting worse, he said, "I think it's fair to say that it's probably a growth industry.

"Canada is a very advanced, high-tech, innovative society and like most Western countries we're a very open and democratic society. Unfortunately, that makes us vulnerable to the activities of foreign countries."

He said he had asked CSIS to conduct an internal review to ensure the intelligence service has adequate resources to deal with both terrorism and espionage.

"Security is a priority of this government," he said. "We're going to keep a close eye on that very question: are we adequately resourcing CSIS? I think we are right now but we have to keep our eyes open in terms of the ongoing demands."

The Minister would not say whether Canada had approached the Russian government about the case, or whether the alleged spy's true identity had been established. But he did praise CSIS for finding the alleged mole, calling his capture "a real coup for them and they should be applauded. Cases like this require great perseverance and patience. Tremendous care and caution have to be taken and it's a tribute to the high standards that CSIS has when cases like this come along."

Mr. Kouzminov said the man arrested in Montreal might be a "supporting illegal," who served as a financial and communications link for other SVR operatives.

"For example, the opening of legitimate bank accounts, legitimate money transactions, possible money-laundering, et cetera. All of these are very important tasks for the purposes of supporting the work with other valuable agents -- citizens of a target country or countries -- and other illegals."

© National Post 2006

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