CSIS allowed targeted assassination of 2 residents on Canadian soil, says ex-spy in court docs

Canadian spies used death threats to secure sources and allowed the assassination of two people on Canadian soil by a foreign agency, a former intelligence officer alleges in documents filed with the Federal Court.

 Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Canadian spies used death threats to secure sources and allowed the assassination of two people on Canadian soil by a foreign agency, a former intelligence officer alleges in documents filed with the Federal Court.

Danny Palmer, a former intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), also said he authored two threat assessments in April and August 2001 warning of an “aerial attack” against the U.S. that were never passed on to U.S. authorities, according to court documents.

Palmer, a 12 year-veteran of CSIS, claimed in court documents he was fired from the spy agency because he repeatedly raised concerns about some of CSIS’ practices. He said the practices undermined the agency’s operations along with “national and international security.”

According to the court record, CSIS said it fired Palmer because of his “poor performance.”

The allegations and claims are contained in letters forming part of a Federal Court case where Palmer sought a judicial review of a Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) decision to not reopen his grievance against CSIS. Palmer initially settled with CSIS in 2007, but tried to have the settlement thrown out because he claimed the agency withheld important information about his case.

CSIS terminated Palmer’s employment in July 2003. The Federal Court dismissed Palmer’s application for the judicial review in April 2013.

Palmer, however, continues his battle with CSIS.

Palmer’s Montreal lawyer Jean-Francois Mercure sent a letter to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) in October giving it notice they are considering filing for a mandamus order to force the CSIS watchdog to review Palmer’s case.

SIRC turned down a 2007 request to look into Palmer’s case.

Mercure said his client did not want to cooperate with APTN National News lest he open himself up to accusations from CSIS that he violated the federal Security of Information Act.

Mercure said Palmer still wants reinstatement. In one of his letters from March 31, 2006, Palmer described himself as a “loyal and law-abiding intelligence officer” who “was dismissed because of his concerns over unethical and illegal practices.”

March 31, 2006, letter from Danny Palmer

Palmer stated in letters filed with the court that his allegations were “well documented for two years.” He claimed CSIS investigated the allegations after he was fired, but the agency refused to release the result to the labour board because it proved his case.

“As you also know, it is standard practice to not investigate potential criminal matters within CSIS, as it may cause political embarrassment,” wrote Palmer, in an Oct. 19, 2004, letter to Justice Canada lawyer Daniel Roussy, who initially represented CSIS on the case.

In a July 30, 2009, letter to a PSLRB official, Palmer wrote that the agency’s habit of “omitting important facts and manipulating (massaging) other facts caused in the end the undermining of national and international security (sic).”

In the same letter, he stated, “when ‘massaging facts’ (CSIS jargon) is for the sole purpose of promoting one’s career and is placed ahead of national security, I considered this to be a serious breach of trust (sic).”

CSIS dismissed Palmer’s claims after APTN National News provided the agency with an email detailing the main allegations.

“These allegations, coming from an unhappy former employee who was asked to leave our organization many years ago, are patently absurd,” said CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti.

Mufti said CSIS would not comment on what Palmer’s role was with the agency and provided no other information about the case.

July 30, 2009, letter from Danny Palmer

APTN National News contacted Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney’s office and provided an email detailing Palmer’s allegations to spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue. But a statement provided by the department did not deal with issues requested.

“The Security Intelligence Review Committee provides robust and objective review of CSIS, including the publishing of an annual report,” said the emailed statement. “CSIS abides by Canadian laws, regulations and ministerial directives.”

Aside from Palmer’s letters, APTN National News was unable to review any documents that supported his allegations.

The court file, however, contains a list of secret and top secret documents that were requested by Palmer and his lawyer during the labour board hearings.

List of documents

A whole volume of Palmer’s Federal Court case is marked “Top Secret” and is locked away, according to court officials. Several exhibits in the remaining three volumes available for viewing have also been removed.

An official with the PSLRB denied a request from APTN National News to view unclassified portions of two cases involving Palmer saying both were “classified” and unavailable to the public. The Federal Court record, however, shows that some of the evidence submitted during the labour board hearings were not classified.

None of Palmer’s allegations have been tested in court.

Internal Security Note

Palmer wrote eight letters containing the allegations between 2004 and 2009. The letters were addressed to Roussy and Susan Mailer, the director of registry operations and policy for the PSLRB.

Palmer’s letters were filed by the spy agency as exhibits in Federal Court to support an affidavit sworn on April 27, 2012, by Tiffanie Jennings, CSIS’ chief of the labour relations unit at the time. The affidavit summarized testimony delivered during a previous PSLRB hearing, including evidence presented by CSIS’ then-chief of physical security Ken Brothers who stated some documents distributed by Palmer after he left the agency “contained classified information.”

Tiffanie Jennings affidavit

Palmer’s main stated allegations centre around the use of “implied death threats” by CSIS agents to secure sources.

“The tactic, in its simplest form, involved stating to the prospective source that should he cooperate with CSIS, then he would be protected against assassination from the Mossad (the Israeli intelligence service) or the CIA,” wrote Palmer, in an Oct. 23, 2005, letter to Mailer. “Should the prospective source not cooperate, then CSIS could not guarantee his protection and as a casual reference it was mentioned CSIS is in regular contact with the CIA and Mossad…Given the countries where most of these prospective sources come from such as Iran, torture and assassination by their own domestic services is commonly known.”

In the same letter, Palmer alleged the tactic was in common use by CSIS agents on the “Counter Proliferation desk” in the Toronto and Quebec regions.

Palmer’s description echoes the tactic employed by a CSIS agent by the name of “Victoria” who was caught on video by APTN National News meeting with a First Nations activist in the 2010 run-up to the G20 meeting in Toronto. The agent warned the activist against setting up a blockade on Hwy 400.

“I will tell you that straight up because there’s going to be people travelling there from all over the world and different countries do not have the same perspective on activists as our county does…There’s other forces that are from other countries that will not put up with a blockade in front of their president,” said Victoria, to Harrison Friesen, a member of the group Red Power United, according to the exchange caught on video.

“The point is there was more than tacit approval in using this tactic,” wrote Palmer. “Please note that my ‘allegations’ of this tactic being used on the Counter Proliferation desk were never contested nor ever investigated while I was employed in Quebec Region.”

Palmer wrote he “cautioned” at least two other CSIS agents against using “implied death threats,” which he believed were “against policy, unethical but also illegal.”

Oct. 23, 2005, letter from Danny Palmer

This, he wrote, is the real reason he was fired from the spy agency. He blamed the current president of the Canada Border Services Agency Luc Portelance, who was his superior in the Quebec region at the time, for pulling the trigger.

“That is why after reading my performance comments that noted my warning again against such tactics that the only option Mr. Portelance saw in order to protect his career and that of others was dismissal, not a transfer or a demotion that is advocated in service policy and in employment law,” wrote Palmer, in the same letter.

Palmer’s correspondence was written in direct response to an Oct. 11, 2005, letter from Roussy to Mailer. In the letter, Roussy stated CSIS did not use threats as part of its operations.

“I wish to make it very clear that the service is not in the business of threatening anyone, using threats, intimidation or reprisals against anybody,” wrote Roussy. “Should Mr. Palmer or anyone else feel threatened, I invite these individuals to complain to the Security Intelligence Committee.”

Roussy also said CSIS was “extremely concerned” Palmer faxed a letter containing “a source’s codename and methodology.”

Oct. 11, 2005, letter from Daniel Roussy

Palmer planned to call at least three sources as witnesses for his labour board hearing, according to an Oct. 31, 2005, letter. The letter identified the individuals as “source codename Cxxxx, source codename Dxxxxxx and Mr. Rxxxxxx.” He also planned to call an ex-KGB officer known as “Mr. Pxxxx” and a psychiatrist. Palmer also requested a TV and VHS machine to play two tapes during the hearing.

Roussy, however, objected to allowing testimony from the individuals identified by Palmer as sources and the ex-KGB agent.

“If indeed these individuals were or are sources of the Service or even a target of the Service, which I cannot confirm or deny, I am of the view that their presence will not serve to establish whether Mr. Palmer was actually doing his job to a satisfactory level,” wrote Roussy, in a Nov. 2, 2005, letter. “An informer or a target is not in a position to provide an assessment as to how well Mr. Palmer performed his job at his workplace. They should not be aware of how Mr. Palmer does his jobs nor the methods used by the Service to control information they would provide. Unless otherwise informed, Mr. Palmer was employed by the Service and not these individuals.”

Oct. 31, 2005 letter from Danny Palmer

Nov. 2, 2005, letter from Daniel Roussy

The next year, in another letter to Mailer, Palmer leveled his most serious allegation, saying CSIS allowed a foreign intelligence agency to target two people in Canada for assassination.

“The conduct and discipline measures against me and my dismissal involved my concern over the undermining of operations, violations of policies and the actual criminal negligence, such as allowing two Canadian residents to be targeted assassination in Canada by a Foreign Intelligence Service and associated CSIS target (sic),” wrote Palmer, in the Nov. 15, 2006, letter.

Palmer did not say where or when he believed this alleged targeted assassination occurred.

There is no response to this particular allegation from Justice Canada or CSIS in the public Federal Court record.

Nov. 15, 2006, letter from Danny Palmer

A Dec.1, 2006, letter from Roussy to Mailer made no mention of Palmer’s Nov. 15 letter. Instead, the letter requested a planned Dec. 12 labour board hearing be closed to the public.

Palmer wrote a follow up letter to then CSIS director Jim Judd on Dec. 4, 2006, alleging “illicit” and “illegal” activities. Palmer’s letter is not included in the available court record. Evidence of the letter is contained in CSIS’ response, which was filed. The response, written by David Vigneault, a CSIS assistant director, and dated March 22, 2007, said the agency couldn’t deal with the allegations because Palmer’s case was before the labour board.

“I am responding to your letter of December 4, 2006, addressed to the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in which you bring to the director’s attention…complaints regarding alleged illicit/illegal activity,” wrote Vigneault. “Considering that the issues you have underlined have been brought before an independent tribunal…it would be inappropriate for the service to comment on these activities outside the current PSLRB process.”

March 22, 2007, letter from David Vigneault

There is also no record of a Justice Canada or CSIS response to Palmer’s claim that he wrote two threat assessments in April and August 2001 warning of 9-11-type attacks. The claims are contained in correspondence dated Nov. 30, 2004, and addressed to Roussy requesting a letter of recommendation from CSIS.

“You can include, for example, my warnings of a possible aerial Al-Qaeda attack on a specific US target at a specific time in April 2001 as outlined in a threat assessment,” wrote Palmer. “And my August 2001 assessment of a likely attack on the World Trade Centre that could have, if provided to US authorities, altered the events of September 11, 2001.”

Nov. 30, 2004, letter from Danny Palmer

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