HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — A top Canadian spy official told a court Thursday that a navy officer who sold secrets to Russia harmed his country’s credibility and could hinder its ability to gather intelligence.
Speaking at a sentencing hearing, Michelle Tessier, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s director general of internal security, said that Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle’s crimes could make allies less likely to share intelligence with Canada in the future.
“There’s a risk we might be cut off of certain intelligence,” Tessier said.
Delisle, who pleaded guilty last October, worked at a naval intelligence center and had access to information shared by the Five Eyes community that includes Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
According to prosecutor Lyne Decarie, Delisle received 23 payments from Russia totaling $72,000 between 2007 and 2011.
Tessier said the Five Eyes group have decided to “increase the safeguarding of information” following Delisle’s actions and that a lot of resources have been diverted to reassuring Canada’s allies that their information is safe.
Two CSIS documents that Delisle tried to transmit to the Russians just before his arrest contained information that could potentially identify sources that work for CSIS, she said. She said CSIS is continuing to assess the fallout from Delisle’s actions.
Brig-Gen. Rob Williams, director general of the military signals intelligence, said Canada has not been told it has been cut off from intelligence, but he said it’s not business as usual.
Delisle will be sentenced under Canada’s Security of Information Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Decarie said Delisle came under suspicion after returning to the country in September 2011 from Brazil, where he met a Russian agent named Victor who told him that his role would change so that he would become a “pigeon” or liaison for all Russian agents in Canada.
Alarms were raised within the Canada Border Services Agency because he had no tan, little awareness of the tourist sites in Rio de Janeiro, three prepaid credit cards, thousands of dollars in U.S. currency and a handwritten note with an email address, she said. She outlined how Delisle acquired and then transferred classified information to the Russians by searching references to Russia, copying them onto a floppy disc on his secure system at work, took it to an unsecure system and pasted it onto a memory stick.
Delisle joined the navy as a reservist in 1996, became a member of the regular forces in 2001 and was promoted to an officer rank in 2008.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled to last two days.