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"Canada's black chamber.".


Professor Eayrs indicts Kurt Jensen's Cautious Beginnings for being long on detail and short on "florid narrative" and "lurid melodrama" The book is deficient, we are told, in secret agent thrills and undercover anecdote.

Alas, academic-press chronicles of mid 20th-century Canadian foreign intelligence will disappoint those seeking historico-literary equivalents of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. But this is the risk we take in cracking open serious works of intelligence scholarship.

Professor Eayrs is particularly disappointed that Herbert Yardley, that one-man intelligence roller coaster, was not painted in more flamboyantly sympathetic colours. Eayrs's enthusiasm for the secret-spilling cryptographer underplays the wartime security dilemmas posed by him. After all, global conflagrations are not generally the time to tempt a proven security risk's recidivist propensities. No matter Yardley's technical skills, why risk lives by chancing that a sequel to his American Black Chamber expose would wind up in the Tokyo Nichi Nichi features section? Whatever next? Exchange programs for Nazi Beobachtungsdienst code breakers to tutor our combat cryptanalysts?

Then the finale: Professor Eayrs looses a Parthian shot at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Canadian foreign intelligence, he says, is "a function for which [CSIS] possesses neither competence nor credibility (nor for that matter parliamentary mandate):' The professor is seriously mistaken.

For a quarter century, the service has properly had foreign intelligence functions. How else to make sense of its parliamentary authority under the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act's foundational provisions--sections 2 and 12--to collect intelligence and advise government on threats to Canada's security? Glance at section 2's mandate for counter-intelligence--"espionage" and "foreign influenced activity"--to see that the "intelligence" that must be "countered" springs almost by definition from the activity of foreign intelligence services and other entities under foreign influence.

Security screening and counterterrorism mandates carry the same decisive foreign intelligence inference discernible on any plain reading of the Act. That's why CSIS has a longstanding network of international liaison offices, transnational intelligence relationships and joint operations, all reviewed by the independent watchdog Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Meanwhile, CSIS's foreign intelligence record takes us from the historic unmasking of Russian "illegals" Dmitry Olshevsky and Elena Olshevskaya to successful intelligence support for the rescuing of Canadians in Iraq and the repatriating of Canadians during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Today, in-theatre CSIS intelligence protects our soldiers in Afghanistan and is credited with saving lives there. This intel warns of attacks and contributes to munitions recovery and the arrest of suspected terrorists in the region.

Competence? Credibility? Parliamentary mandate? It is fun to be florid, but important to he factual.






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Title Annotation:Letters & Responses
Author:Harris, David B.
Publication:Literary Review of Canada
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Previous Article:"After the apology.".
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