East Coast naval spy case causes ripples on Pacific coast

Accused sailor may have trained at CFB Esquimalt, say military officials

The case of a Halifax-based naval intelligence officer arrested for leaking classified information to Russia is making waves on the Pacific coast, home to Canada’s West Coast naval fleet.

Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle, 40, was arrested by RCMP last week, making him the first person to face charges under Canada’s Security of Information Act, brought into effect after the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Delisle, a resident of the Halifax, N.S. suburb of Bedford, was assigned to a communications centre at CFB Halifax. Media is reporting the accused was caught passing information to Russian sources.

Delisle is alleged to have passed information near Ottawa, Halifax, Bedford and Kingston between July 6, 2007 and as recently as Jan. 13.

Whether he worked at CFB Esquimalt or underwent training at Venture, the naval officers training centre in Esquimalt, is unclear.

The facility schools hundreds of naval officers each year in seamanship, navigation and bridge watch-keeping.

The Canadian Forces School of Military Intelligence is located at CFB Kingston, Ont., but the accused could have passed through Esquimalt depending on his earlier career path, a high-ranking military source told the News. It has been widely reported that Delisle started out in the military as a reservist in 1996, before becoming an officer in 2001.

“He could have started off as a (maritime surface and sub-surface) officer (and attended Venture), but I’m guessing, based on the timeline I’ve seen, that’s not the case,” the source said. “He could have been anybody before he decided to become an intelligence officer.”

Many past and present military members in Greater Victoria are following the spy case with interest.

Canada, like other countries, even corporations, have secrets, said retired admiral John Anderson, former chief of the defence staff and Canadian ambassador to NATO.

“Information is power,” said the North Saanich resident, who began his naval career at CFB Esquimalt.

“How much damage has been (allegedly) done, will have to be assessed. And if there’s implications for the allies, then the allies will have to be informed about that.”

Despite being a junior officer, Delisle could have had a “fairly high” security clearance.

“In a security structure, there’s an operative’s phrase called ‘need to know,’” Anderson said. “And that is not governed by rank necessarily.”

Delisle remains in police custody, facing charges that include breach of trust and communicating safeguarded information to a foreign entity without lawful authority. That carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Delisle is scheduled to appear in Nova Scotia provincial court for a bail hearing on Jan. 25.

 

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