Trudeau's security adviser says intelligence leaker 'will be found' and punished

Jody Thomas says there's never a benefit to leaking classified information on national security. She declined to confirm details from CSIS documents leaked to journalists.

Trudeau's security adviser says intelligence leaker 'will be found' and punished
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The top national security adviser to the prime minister expects the security whistleblower who leaked 'sensitive information' on Chinese interference to be caught and punished.

"The law has been broken. Sources and techniques have been put at risk," Jody Thomas told the CBC.

In a series of articles by Global News and the Globe and Mail, anonymous security sources alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 general elections. The cited sources leaked top-secret intelligence to the news outlets.

One source wrote that they spoke out because "it had become increasingly clear that no serious action was being considered," claiming there was "evidence of senior public officials ignoring interference beginning to mount."

Thomas told the House affairs committee several months ago that the leaks don't tell the whole story. "Given the very nature of intelligence, individual reports taken out of context may be incomplete and misrepresent the full story," she said.

While Trudeau's national security advisor said China is an 'aggressive player,' noting they interfered in Canada's elections through 'misinformation,' illegal donations, and coercing international students to volunteer on campaigns, she condemned the "unlawful sharing of information" as "it jeopardizes institutions, and puts people at risk." 

On May 23, 'special rapporteur' David Johnston concurred that common interference tactics included 'disinformation' campaigns and the "abuse of human relationships" but clarified that "individual pieces of intelligence must be viewed with skepticism."

He articulated that several leaked materials were "misconstrued" without the "benefit of the full context," adding, "Foreign interference is not usually embodied in discrete one-off pieces of intelligence."

According to Thomas, the whistleblower could have raised their concerns internally. "There are better ways of trying to bring some light to this topic than risking Canada's national security," she said. 

"It's incredibly disturbing on a number of levels. One that they would be so unaware of what has been done. That, two, they would risk our national security to leak information and gain some notoriety."

Thomas said she would never concede there being a 'benefit' to leaking classified information into national security. She declined to confirm details from Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents leaked to journalists and later reported.

Amid the ongoing controversy, Parliament maintains that the 2019 and 2021 elections remained 'free and fair,' and interference did not change their results.

Opposition officials have since publicly criticized the federal government and their security agency for 'mishandling' and failing to inform Conservative MP Michael Chong about China's foreign 'intimidation' campaign against him and his family.

"While CSIS has briefed me about foreign interference threat activities, these briefings did not provide any information about specific threats to my family or me," penned Chong in a letter.

"At a minimum, I would have expected my government to have a duty of care to inform me that my family was being targeted."

Before the 2021 federal election, Thomas served as one of three deputy ministers who received the CSIS memo warning that China had targeted Chong. She said the memo went unread and was destroyed.

The story became the subject of a Globe expose on May 1, revealing that China's Ministry of State Security wanted information on the MP's relatives abroad after Chong tabled a motion declaring Beijing's treatment of Uyghurs a "genocide" on February 18, 2021. Beijing allegedly assigned the file to a People's Republic of China (PRC) diplomat in Toronto.

Subsequent disclosure of the memo prompted the May 8 expulsion of Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei from Canada, a spy working at the Chinese consulate in Toronto.

On June 1, Conservative MP Michael Cooper intensely questioned Thomas about the memo, noting Trudeau dropped the writ on August 15, 2021. 

"That was a month before the federal election campaign involving allegations of interference targeting democratically elected Members of Parliament," said Cooper. "If that doesn't get to the Prime Minister, what does?"

Thomas confirmed the memo only went to three deputy ministers and herself. Trudeau and his cabinet repeatedly said they first learned of threats by foreign agents after reading the May 1 article.

"You want Canadians to believe that?" Cooper asked the prime minister's national security advisor. "I don't think the integrity of my statements here and what I said to Mr. Chong is in question," she replied. 

"It is an absolute fact that the memo was distributed and not briefed to the Prime Minister," continued Thomas. "I was the only one in the department who could read it." 

Thomas conceded that Chong should have been informed of the interest in his family due to his work on the Uyghur motion. "I will agree with that," she said. 

"On the whole, actionable intelligence is acted upon," she said. "This was more anomalous than it sounds because we've been talking about foreign interference for quite some time."

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