Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

CSIS Altered Report on Alleged Foreign Interference in 2019 Election, Former Chair Expresses Concerns

CSIS watered down ‘problematic’ report originally alleging foreign agents affected 2019 election results

The former chair of the SITE Task Force raised concerns about a report suggesting a foreign actor had an impact on the 2019 election

The former chair of the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force raised alarms about a piece of intelligence from Canada’s spy agency, suggesting a foreign actor influenced the 2019 election, labeling it as “massively problematic.”

Ultimately, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) deemed the assessment too assertive and made modifications before resubmitting the report, according to testimony heard at the Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference on Thursday.

Lyall King, in an email to the CSIS SITE representative on October 31, 2019, conveyed his surprise and concern about the intelligence, describing it as “extremely interesting” yet potentially raising significant questions.

CSIS assistant director Cherie Henderson revealed that the report initially indicated a foreign actor impacting the 2019 federal election, but CSIS internally deemed it a “leap too far.” Henderson clarified that while the foreign actor might have influenced a specific issue within a particular timeframe, it did not compromise the integrity of the election. Consequently, CSIS adjusted the language before resubmission.

CSIS director David Vigneault testified that while the agency’s priorities align with the government of the day, he never felt pressured to censor intelligence.

Former SITE Task Force members, including King, are scheduled to testify on Friday, shedding light on challenges surrounding intelligence sharing among different government departments tasked with safeguarding Canada’s electoral integrity.

Earlier in the week, the inquiry heard from former party campaign directors who lacked details from a briefing note showing red flags raised by the Rapid Response Mechanism about interference from the People’s Republic of China in 2021.

The inquiry also explored instances of disinformation campaigns targeting specific candidates, such as former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, prompting calls for increased transparency and vigilance against foreign interference.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officials, testifying on Thursday, refrained from disclosing the number of ongoing investigations into foreign interference, emphasizing the need to balance transparency with privacy concerns.

Overall, the inquiry delves into the distinction between foreign influence and interference, aiming to bolster Canada’s defenses against malign activities while preserving democratic integrity.

This article by Catherine Lévesque was published on April 4, 2024, and may have received updates since then.

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