Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada From the Fenians to Fortress America

Josaphat Brunet
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This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. View Metrics. Email alerts New issue alert. Advance article alerts. Article activity alert. Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic. This is a particularly useful category for police forces and intelligence agencies, since it allows them to overcome one of the main detriments of technological surveillance: vast quantities of information that cannot be processed in a precise or timely fashion.

Informants and undercover state agents represent a precise type of surveillance that in some ways is more difficult, although not impossible, to counteract, as it can come in the form of a friend, colleague, or even family member. Some targets did and do attempt to employ methods to counter informants. Moving to smaller cells with each having little knowledge of the activities of the others is one such method.

Reg Whitaker

Questioning members about their backgrounds and political convictions is another. Still, it is a style of information collecting that is active instead of passive, as technological surveillance can be, and brings a precision often missing when technology is deployed. There are ways that surveillance by CHIS can interact with spying via technology, thus increasing both ease and effectiveness.

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CHIS can use technology to spy on targeted groups or individuals through hidden microphones and cameras, computer spyware, GPS trackers, and other devices. CHIS can also be deployed to investigate online criminal, hacktivist protest, and terrorism cases. Professional technological surveillance, in whatever form it takes, is expensive and resource-intensive.

But it also relates to the active role that CHIS can take as an agent provocateur, who, far from passively observing events, participates or even takes a lead role in the activities that he or she is spying on.

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This is the most controversial aspect of all when it comes to this type of spying, as it can lead to allegations of entrapment through manipulation of events by CHIS. The chapter will historicize the emphasis in the domestic security and intelligence field, as opposed to ordinary crime fighting, and explore its use in contemporary Canada, ranging from counterterrorism operations to efforts against political protest.

It will also situate the Canadian use within a wider American and British current context that has generated considerable controversy in both countries. Ultimately, the chapter will argue that the same controversy, although frequently muted because those targeted for this type of surveillance are frequently marginalized and thus lack a media platform or political clout to generate wider attention to their cause, will also emerge in Canada unless more effort is made to regulate and provide external scrutiny of the activities of CHIS.

Inevitably, secret activity in which transparency and oversight is lacking or weakened because of the absence of direct supervision, combined with the impact on personal relationships, will lead to abuses and controversy. The catch is that this type of surveillance is frequently effective and deemed necessary, particularly in a counterterrorism context, and thus its use will continue, making the emergence of scandal and controversy a given. In a real sense, then, the concerns raised by the Church Committee in the United States of the s remain relevant to the Snowden era and Canada in the twenty-first century.

The intelligence informant technique is not a precise instrument. By its very nature, it risks governmental monitoring of Constitutionally-protected activity and the private lives of Americans. Unlike electronic surveillance and wiretaps, there are few standards and no outside review system for the use of intelligence informants.

Consequently, the risk of chilling the exercise of First Amendment rights and infringing citizen privacy is increased.

In addition, existing guidelines for informant conduct, particularly with respect to their role in violent organizations and FBI use of intelligence informants to obtain the private documents of groups and individuals, need to be clarified and strengthened. The main target in the s was Irish nationalists, specifically Fenians, who launched five main cross-border attacks, which today would be labelled as terrorism, into both British North America and its successor, the fledgling country of Canada.

By , there were fifty CHIS carrying out undercover work, including several who had infiltrated Irish groups. The immediate response on the part of the main security force in the western half of Canada, the Royal North-West Mounted Police RNWMP , was to recruit informants who had the language and ethnic background that would allow them to move easily among those now under surveillance.

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As a CHIS in the s operating under the pseudonym of Jack Esselwein, he infiltrated the fledgling Communist Party of Canada and later became the most famous Mountie in Canada in the interwar period when his real identity was exposed and he testified against his former Communist comrades in an open courtroom.

Its first commissioner, A. This landscape began to change in the s with the emergence of the New Left, Quebec nationalism, Red Power, Black Power, and other movements. In , a student at Laval University was approached by a member of the RCMP and asked to inform on two of her fellow students who were involved in the campus anti-nuclear movement.

Gregory S. Kealey fonds

Instead, she told them about the approach and they went to the media; condemnation of the RCMP effort erupted. The post—Cold War security emphasis on counterterrorism has emphasized their significance.

Everything you wanted to know about Canadian spying but were afraid to ask

Whitaker et al. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Often the official documents or reports by officials with access to or responsibility for intelligence are themselves used to illuminate the key issues. Track My Order. Not only has it often relied on the British and Americans for institutional support, but it has defined what is, or what is not, a security risk with more than made-in-Canada prejudices and political realities in mind; global as well as local factors have always played a critical role in this respect. Alternative identifier s. In that sense, given to my vantage point, the nuance and balance is welcomed.

While technological surveillance remains important, it is not omnipotent. E-mail can be encrypted and used in different ways, with coded messages hidden within a digitized picture or messages saved in the draft section of an email account and accessed from there instead of being sent out through cyberspace.

What is Kobo Super Points? Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada From the Fenians to Fortress America (): Reg Whitaker, Gregory S. Kealey, Andrew. Editorial Reviews. Review. 'An excellent history Deeply scholarly yet refreshing unacademic Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada From the Fenians to Fortress America - Kindle edition by Reg Whitaker, Gregory S. Kealey, Andrew Parnaby. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or.

Rooms can be swept for bugs and terrorists can and do stop using telephones that are tapped or satellite telephones that reveal their location. Or, if they have to use a telephone, they speak in code with the knowledge that someone somewhere is listening in on the conversation. They [technological surveillance methods] do not, however, provide sufficient access to targets such as terrorists or drug dealers who undertake their activities in secret or to the plans and intentions of foreign governments that are deliberately concealed from the outside world.

Recruiting human sources — as difficult, imperfect, and risky as it is — often provides the only means of such access. By its core nature, terrorism is an activity of the feeble against the powerful. Weakness often equates with some form of marginalization, be it in terms of language, ethnicity, or religion, or a combination of all of these factors.

As a result, as with other intelligence operations in the past, those countering terrorism are not usually drawn from those they are directing attention toward. Intelligence agencies and police services lack the expertise about Muslim communities in general, let alone about small terrorist cells within these groupings. Not surprisingly, then, to gain intelligence police and security agencies frequently have to recruit those on the inside or infiltrate others with a cultural and linguistic familiarity into targeted groups.

Canada's Secret War

From to , of defendants in US terrorism cases, 48 per cent were targeted with informants, 31 per cent were arrested as part of a sting, and 10 per cent were involved in cases where the informant played a lead role in the alleged plot. In the case of the former, where the CHIS emphasis is on informants, charges of entrapment through agent provocateur activities abound, although they have yet to find any traction with judges or juries in trials. The chief criticism has been that the role of the agent provocateur led to terrorist activities that otherwise would not have occurred.

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Take the example of Shahed Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant to the United States who arrived in the early s. He eventually became an FBI informant to avoid a jail sentence and in , at the behest of the Bureau, set up a sting in which he offered to sell a missile to two American Muslims for use in an attack on a Pakistani diplomat. Both men were later convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

He then re-emerged in as an informant in a plot involving four men arrested for trying to blow up a New York City synagogue and shoot down a US military jet. Be a man — do something! Unfortunately the authors do not expand on this observation to include recent scholarship on intelligence theory. However, they also argue that this does not mean secret services have not been just as important to the construction of liberal democracies as to totalitarian states. While a deeper engagement with intelligence theory would have given this work an added dimension, it does not diminish the overall achievement.

This is a must read for anyone interested in intelligence in Canada and will no doubt set the pace of scholarly inquiry into the history of intelligence in Canada for some time. Skip to content Search for:.