Print this page

CSIS rapped over envoy fracas

Spy agency rebuked for denying post to consul-general, citing national security

OTTAWA -- Canada's spy agency received a rebuke yesterday from its civilian watchdog, which concluded that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was wrong to block a diplomatic appointment to India over national security concerns.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee confirmed yesterday that it had issued its report into the matter after a closed-door investigation that heard from the CSIS agents involved in the decision and former cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal, who had lobbied for his friend Bhupinder Liddar to get the newly created position of consul-general to Chandigarh, India, in the fall of 2003.

Mr. Dhaliwal, who has seen the report, said SIRC has delivered a "devastating" critique of the spy agency that should raise serious concerns about how Canadians can wrongly be listed as security threats without their knowledge.

"This report is devastating to CSIS," he said. "It's extremely critical of the way they've conducted themselves, the way they did the evaluation, the conclusions they came to.


Click Heread1

"If I was in government now, I would have some very serious questions for CSIS and the way they operate. I think that it's really unbelievable if people knew the whole story about the conduct of CSIS."

A CSIS spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the report.

A spokeswoman for SIRC confirmed that the report sides with Mr. Liddar and calls for him to receive the appropriate security clearance for the job, which CSIS had denied. However, the report is not being released, allowing the mystery to continue about why the government scrapped the appointment five months after it was made.

The spokeswoman said the committee never releases reports dealing with individuals.

Lawyers for Mr. Liddar and the Foreign Affairs Department will now negotiate the next steps. Mr. Liddar said yesterday that he cannot comment on the matter until the discussions are complete.

His lawyer, Janice Payne, is on vacation this week, but issued a written statement saying that SIRC judge Paule Gauthier "reviewed exhaustively the evidence brought before her and was categorical in her findings that there was no basis for the conclusion that CSIS drew that Mr. Liddar should be denied the necessary security clearance. Mme. Gauthier's report has completely removed any possible concern that there could have been concerning Mr. Liddar and his appointment."

One official at Mr. Liddar's law firm said that they are not making the report public because it is under review.

Mr. Liddar was a well-known socialite in Ottawa, regularly attending -- and often organizing -- the numerous cocktail parties in and around Parliament Hill.

He started working on the Hill in the late 1970s as an assistant to Progressive Conservative MPs and eventually focused his attention on Ottawa's diplomatic community as editor of Diplomat and International magazine, which he sold after his appointment.

Although he never worked in the Indian consulate, he has continued to receive a consul-general salary throughout the appeal, which is estimated to be around $120,000 a year.

An official with Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Mr. Liddar will continue to be paid as negotiations continue with the department.

Mr. Liddar was not allowed to attend the meetings at which CSIS agents outlined their case, and the affable would-be diplomat said earlier this year that he continued to have no idea why he would be considered a security risk.

Earlier media reports, combined with the type of questions put to him during the SIRC review, led him to speculate previously that CSIS may have been concerned that foreign embassies representing Middle Eastern countries sometimes paid him for communications advice or help organizing parties.

He also once worked for an MP who led a controversial outreach program with the former Soviet Union that may have caught the attention of CSIS.