CSIS agents urged UK police to conceal Canadian link to ISIL smuggler: book

OTTAWA – A new book says Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents urged police in the United Kingdom not to reveal CSIS’s recruitment of a man who allegedly helped smuggle three British teenagers to Syria to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

In the book to be released Thursday, “The Secret History of the Five Eyes: The Untold Story of the Shadowy International Spy Network, Through Its Targets, Traitors and Spies,” author Richard Kerbaj says that at first March 2015, two CSIS agents visited Richard Walton, then head of counter-terrorism command at the Metropolitan Police Service in London.

Kerbaj’s book says Canadian officers told Walton that the accused smuggler, Mohammed al-Rashed, was working as a CSIS agent when he was arrested by Turkish authorities the previous month – a case that has yet to be heard. been made public.

The book says Canadian intelligence officials were not meeting with Walton to apologize, but rather in the hope that any ongoing investigation into the teens’ trip to Syria would not result in CSIS being questioned or held accountable.

Allegations about al-Rashed’s involvement in Canadian intelligence made international headlines – and surfaced in the House of Commons – in mid-March 2015.

Asked about Kerbaj’s book, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that in a “particularly dangerous world,” Canada’s intelligence services must be creative and flexible in the fight against terrorism, but he also noted that they are bound by strict protocols.

“Our intelligence services are subject to rigorous rules and principles which they must adhere to,” he said.

The government will continue to ensure there is proper oversight and will take “further action” if necessary, Trudeau added.

CSIS had no immediate response to questions about the book.

During questioning by Turkish intelligence officials, al-Rashed claimed he met a regional ISIL leader while working at a hospital in Raqqa, Syria, the book says.

The leader wanted him to meet jihadists and “jihadist brides” arriving in Turkey from countries such as the UK and arrange for them to travel across the border to Syria.

However, al-Rashed was desperate to start a new life beyond Syria, where he was born, and had attempted to seek political asylum in Canada by submitting an application to the country’s embassy in Jordan, the official said. book.

“There, the Canadian intelligence representatives of the CSIS had seen his request for asylum as a doorway for his recruitment as an agent.”

From then on, al-Rashed began documenting the details of people he had smuggled as ISIL by photographing their passports under the pretense that he required proof of their identity to purchase their transport tickets for domestic travel. , according to the book.

“He would then download the passport images to his laptop and eventually forward them to his CSIS handler at the Jordanian Embassy.”

After his arrest, Turkish authorities searched his laptop and found a video clip he had filmed of the three British schoolgirls, along with images of maps of ISIL camps in Syria and passport photos for at least 20 people, writes Kerbaj.

“Aware that Turkish authorities would likely release information about al-Rashed’s arrest to the media, the Canadians tried to get ahead of the game to avoid any further embarrassment regarding the role CSIS had played in his handling as as an agent,” the book says.

“And it was in this spirit of post-operational maneuvering that the two CSIS agents had traveled from the Canadian High Commission in London to meet with Walton – before their agent’s arrest in Turkey was made public.”

Canadians could have done nothing to prevent the three teenagers from traveling to Syria, because by the time al-Rashed’s official found out, the schoolgirls had already crossed the border into ISIL territory, writes Kerbaj.

The author says he was told by numerous intelligence officials that it made no operational sense for British police to publicize Canada’s involvement in the case, as any verification would have reinforced ISIL’s lingering paranoia and compromised any chance of infiltrating it with new informants.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 31, 2022.

“With a file from Marie Woolf.”

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Harry D. Gonzalez