CHINA A ‘SIG­NIF­I­CANT AND CLEAR’ THREAT

CANADA’S SPY CHIEF SIN­GLES OUT NA­TION FOR ESPIONAGE ON CANA­DIAN CAM­PUSES

National Post (National Edition) - - Front Page - DOU­GLAS QUAN

In his first pub­lic speech last De­cem­ber, be­fore a crowd of busi­ness lead­ers, the chief of Canada’s spy agency iden­ti­fied for­eign in­ter­fer­ence and state-spon­sored espionage as be­ing the “great­est threat to our pros­per­ity and na­tional in­ter­est” — but stopped short of point­ing the finger at any one coun­try.

Behind closed doors, how­ever, David Vigneault, direc­tor of the Cana­dian Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice, has not shied away from sin­gling out China, ac­cord­ing to copies of other speeches he has de­liv­ered that were ob­tained by the Na­tional Post.

In a pre­sen­ta­tion to Canada’s top univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors in the spring of 2018, Vigneault said China rep­re­sents “the most sig­nif­i­cant and clear” chal­lenge when it comes to espionage tar­get­ing Cana­dian cam­puses.

Vigneault warned in the same speech that cer­tain for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, “es­pe­cially those in China and Rus­sia” were en­gaged in the “mon­i­tor­ing and/or co­er­cion” of stu­dents, fac­ulty and univer­sity of­fi­cials in an ef­fort to fur­ther their po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence.

Later in the fall, Vigneault warned at­ten­dees of an in­ter­na­tional cy­ber se­cu­rity work­shop in Ottawa that China’s build­ing of 5G net­works around the world was giv­ing rise to “new espionage and dis­rup­tion risks.” The text of his speech de­scribed China as “one of the big­gest threats fac­ing our coun­tries” be­cause of the wide range of its cy­ber tar­gets — ex­cept the words “one of” were crossed out.

Asked if Vigneault said in his ac­tual speech that China posed “the” big­gest cy­ber threat, CSIS spokesman John Townsend de­clined to say.

“Cana­dian in­dus­try and aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions are world lead­ers in var­i­ous eco­nomic, tech­no­log­i­cal and re­search sec­tors that are of in­ter­est to mul­ti­ple for­eign states,” he wrote in an email.

“Th­ese states seek to ac­quire Cana­dian tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­tise by uti­liz­ing a range of tra­di­tional and non-tra­di­tional in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion trade­craft.”

In­vited to re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions, the press of­fice of the Chi­nese em­bassy in Ottawa told the Post in a state­ment: “If some Cana­dian in­di­vid­u­als try to ac­cuse China of (con­duct­ing) espionage ac­tiv­i­ties or cy­ber at­tacks against Canada, they should pro­duce tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence, rather than mak­ing ma­li­cious at­tacks out of noth­ing.”

The state­ment con­tin­ued: “5G tech­nol­ogy should not be ex­clu­sively owned by one or sev­eral coun­tries, it should be a prod­uct of ex­changes and co-op­er­a­tion among coun­tries. Any coun­try with in­de­pen­dent judge­ment will not miss the ex­press train of the 5G era at the cost of its own in­ter­ests.”

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is in the midst of de­cid­ing whether to al­low Chi­nese tech gi­ant Huawei to have a role in expanding Canada’s next gen­er­a­tion of wire­less net­works, known as 5G, amid grow­ing na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns and frayed diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries.

A feud erupted in De­cem­ber when Canada ar­rested Huawei ex­ec­u­tive Meng Wanzhou in Van­cou­ver on a war­rant is­sued in the U.S., where she faces fraud charges. Two Cana­di­ans, Michael Spa­vor and Michael Kovrig, were later de­tained in China in what was widely seen as an act of re­tal­i­a­tion. The quar­rel has since es­ca­lated with China sus­pend­ing im­ports of Cana­dian canola and meat prod­ucts.

The CS IS direc­tor’ s speeches and speak­ing notes, ob­tained by the Post through an ac­cess-to-in­for­ma­tion re­quest, were de­liv­ered in 2018. The re­marks make clear that ter­ror­ism re­mains the most im­me­di­ate threat to Canada’s pub­lic safety.

The move­ment and travel of rad­i­cal­ized Cana­di­ans “poses a tremen­dous in­ves­tiga­tive chal­lenge” for the agency, as does the “ef­fec­tive­ness of ex­trem­ist mes­sag­ing and re­cruit­ment,” Vigneault said. The agency, he said, has ob­served “in some in­di­vid­u­als, a very rapid pro­ces­sion from the time they are in­tro­duced to a vi­o­lent ide­ol­ogy to the mo­ment where they re­solve to com­mit vi­o­lence.”

But while ter­ror­ism oc­cu­pies a sig­nif­i­cant part of the agency’s at­ten­tion, it also has to con­tend with “hos­tile state ac­tors” en­gaged in espionage — the clan­des­tine steal­ing of po­lit­i­cal, com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary se­crets by for­eign agents on the ground in Canada or by so­phis­ti­cated hack­ers op­er­at­ing re­motely, the speeches said.

There is also an emerg­ing — and more subtle — threat of for­eign in­ter­fer­ence, the act by for­eign agents to try to in­flu­ence the opin­ions and de­ci­sions of Cana­di­ans in or­der to ob­tain po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic ad­van­tage, Vigneault said. This can take the form of so­cial me­dia “bot-nets,” “fake news” and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns de­signed to con­fuse and dis­tort pub­lic per­cep­tion.

For­eign espionage and for­eign in­ter­fer­ence were key themes in a pre­sen­ta­tion Vigneault made to pres­i­dents of Canada’s lead­ing re­search uni­ver­si­ties, known as the U15 group, in April 2018.

Vigneault iden­ti­fied China and Rus­sia among the coun­tries seek­ing to ex­ploit uni­ver­si­ties’ “cul­ture of open­ness” to ac­quire knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy.

“Threat ac­tors from some of th­ese gov­ern­ments also seek to mon­i­tor and in­flu­ence their cit­i­zens abroad, in an at­tempt to both root out dis­si­dents and use their na­tion­als as tools of in­flu­ence and in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion. While some for­eign na­tion­als in Canada as­sist their gov­ern­ments will­ingly, many do so be­grudg­ingly out of fear of state ret­ri­bu­tion upon them or their fam­i­lies,” the speech said.

“CSIS as­sesses that China rep­re­sents the most sig­nif­i­cant and clear chal­lenge for (hu­man-en­abled espionage) tar­geted against Canada’s uni­ver­si­ties.”

Vigneault noted that in June 2017, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties for­mal­ized leg­is­la­tion com­pelling Chi­nese in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions — both pub­lic and pri­vate, as well as those op­er­at­ing abroad — to co­op­er­ate with state in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials upon re­quest or face jail time.

China’s use of “non-tra­di­tional col­lec­tors (NTCs),” such as stu­dents and re­searchers, to ac­quire sen­si­tive and pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion from Cana­di­ans is par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing, the speech said. “NTCs have little-to-no for­mal in­tel­li­gence trade­craft train­ing but are of­ten in a po­si­tion to ac­quire vast quan­ti­ties of data or knowl­edge.”

When it comes to for­eign in­flu­ence, Chi­nese threat ac­tors are “par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in uni­ver­si­ties and stu­dents, es­pe­cially when they in­ter­sect with the so­called ‘five poi­sons,’ i.e. the Falun Gong, Tai­wan, Ti­bet, the Uyghur com­mu­nity of Xin­jiang and pro-democ­racy move­ments or in­di­vid­u­als,” the speech said.

Be­cause Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties host large num­bers of Chi­nese na­tion­als as stu­dents, fac­ulty and re­searchers, China’s state ac­tors seek to “covertly in­flu­ence th­ese in­di­vid­u­als for the pur­poses of fur­ther­ing state in­ter­ests.” This could take the form of pres­sur­ing stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in demon­stra­tions or to spy on other stu­dents.

Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, Vigneault added, are “not above hold­ing fund­ing, stu­dent ap­pli­ca­tions, and fu­ture en­gage­ment hostage in or­der to co­erce for­eign aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions into co­op­er­at­ing with state au­thor­i­ties.”

THOMAS PETER / REUTERS

Hong Kong pro­test­ers chanted an “Eye for an Eye’ and wore eye­patches in sup­port of a medic hit in the eye by a po­lice pel­let round. Story, A7.

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