The RCMP says it has launched an investigation into violations of national security information law in connection to media leaks of Chinese foreign interference allegations.
“The RCMP has initiated an investigation into violations of the Security of Information Act (SOIA) associated with recent media reports,” said a spokesperson for the federal police force in a statement to CTV News on Monday.
“This investigation is not focused on any one security agency. As the RCMP is investigating these incidents, there will be no further comment on this matter at this time,” said the RCMP’s Robin Percival.
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Formerly known as Canada’s Official Secrets Act, the Security of Information Act outlines both the expectations around federal government employees’ legal obligations for protecting classified operational information, and the punishment for committing offences such as unauthorized disclosure of such information.
For example, all CSIS employees are permanently bound to secrecy when it comes to their access to classified information.
Last week, during committee testimony on the issue, CSIS Director David Vigneault told MPs that an investigation into the leaks was underway, by CSIS and its “partners” regarding the sources of the leaks, noting there are internal mechanisms for spy agency employees to express their concerns over how information is handled.
Vigneault’s testimony came as part of an ongoing study into foreign interference, sparked by months of media reports, including those citing unnamed CSIS sources, alleging Chinese attempts to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 elections by targeting certain MPs.
CTV News has not independently verified the reporting.
The RCMP has said it is not investigating the allegations raised through the reporting, citing a lack of “actionable intelligence” that would prompt a criminal investigation.
Federal security and intelligence officials have nevertheless spoken frankly about the national security risks posed by the leaks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas called the leaks “very concerning” and said people leaking information are jeopardizing Canada’s national security and putting employees and those subject to investigations “at unnecessary risk.”
In a follow-up statement to CTV News, CSIS said it takes “any allegations of security breaches, including the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, very seriously.”
“Following any alleged unauthorized disclosure of classified information, CSIS takes appropriate action. Currently, CSIS is working with other Government of Canada departments and organizations to investigate these recent allegations, and the Government will take appropriate actions in response to any identified unauthorized releases of information,” said CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam.
Balsam said that CSIS is also taking “additional proactive and precautionary internal security actions.”
The prime minister was asked on Monday night by a Globe and Mail reporter—after announcing a series of measures aimed at digging into the issue of foreign interference— if his government referred the matter of the leaks to the RCMP, and whether he thought it was appropriate that the leaks and not the allegations are what has come under investigation.
Trudeau said the RCMP makes its own decisions.
“It is not appropriate for politicians to direct our police services to do, or to not do investigations. We can certainly ask but the RCMP makes its determinations based on what they have,” he said. “They are now deciding to pursue a criminal investigation, or an investigation into the various national security breaches that we’ve seen over the past months, and that is their decision to do.”
With files from CTV News Channel’s Power Play chase producer Caroline O’Neill
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