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Covert Entry: Spies, Lies and Crimes Inside Canada’s Secret Service

by Andrew Mitrovica

In the post-9/11 climate of fear and paranoia, few voices have criticized the civil liberties abuses by agencies charged with safeguarding the security of Canadians. That may change with this remarkable exposé by reporter Andrew Mitrovica. Together with the assistance of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) whistle blower John Farrell, this insider’s account documents a decade’s worth of official illegality, corruption, and incompetence. Mitrovica backs up these allegations with plenty of supplementary research and documentation.

Covert Entry portrays a world in which untold millions are poured into an agency where the daily work of many of its operatives consists of bellying up to bars, playing golf, sudden inexplicable trips to Cancun, and renting apartments on the taxpayer’s dime that serve more as trysting places than as surveillance outposts. We also learn that even in those instances where there might be a bona fide threat to Canadian security, the number of people who can seriously play the spymaster’s game is limited by the agency’s nepotism, laziness, and petty jealousies.

Agents who do take their jobs seriously often indulge in such activities as unauthorized interception of mail, illegal break-ins, spying on union officials, theft of postal keys that allow for entry into most apartment buildings, performing unauthorized background checks on hundreds of people, and ignoring the CSIS oversight committee.

Mitrovica’s hard-hitting style occasionally betrays an affection for the language of Raymond Chandler potboilers. He also seems enamoured of spy novel hyperbole, and it is not clear where he stands on the CSIS argument that Canada is a breeding ground for terrorists and saboteurs.