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National Post

Tuesday, December 24, 2002


'Misuse of Canada's identity' questioned in Israeli spy operation

Stewart Bell
National Post

A SENIOR Cabinet official questioned the head of Israel's security service about allegations Israeli undercover agents posed as Canadians during an operation to assassinate a Palestinian terrorist leader, newly released documents show.

Although Ottawa has said publicly it was convinced all along the spy claims were false, internal documents obtained yesterday show the matter has continued to concern the government and has been the subject of behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

In a confidential report, officials said they were concerned about "other countries' intelligence services misusing Canada's identity" and that "such misuse endangers Canadians travelling around the world and undermines the integrity of Canadian passports."

Ronald Bilodeau, the Privy Council Office security and intelligence co-ordinator and Cabinet assistant secretary, met on Oct. 1 with the head of the Israeli Security Agency, whose spies allegedly used false Canadian identities during the operation in Gaza.

"The ISA is reported to have recently had its agents pose as Canadians to lure a Palestinian, 22-year-old Akram Zatmeh, into informing on Intifada leaders in return for promises of resettlement in Canada," according to a "Secret: Canadian Eyes Only" memo prepared for the meeting.

The documents do not describe the response of the ISA chief, who reports directly to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister. Israel has denied the claims. But the papers show Ottawa was worried about being linked to a spy operation and a botched assassination that killed 14 bystanders, nine of them children.

The allegations surfaced in August, when Mr. Zatmeh publicly detailed how he was lured into becoming an Israeli informant by agents who told him they were Canadians and could help him immigrate. Mr. Zatmeh said he was recruited by three "Canadian" agents who brought him to the Canadian embassy in Tel Aviv before coercing him into helping them, with doctored photos that showed him with naked women.

On July 23, Mr. Zatmeh helped Israeli agents pinpoint the location of Sheik Salah Shehadeh, a Hamas leader. Twenty minutes later, an Israeli F-16 fired a one-tonne missile at the building, killing not only the sheik but also more than a dozen bystanders.

Mr. Zatmeh was later arrested as a collaborator and is facing a possible death sentence.

"Our initial concern ... was that the press articles could be seen by some as alleging Canadian involvement with Israel in the assassination of Sheik Salah Shehadeh," according to an Aug. 29 internal government memo. "Canada has nothing to do with this or with any other purported Israeli operation."

After the Post learned of the informant's allegations, officials told the newspaper on Sept. 4 they were satisfied the claims were false. However, hours after the Post report on Sept. 5, John McNee, assistant deputy minister for Africa and the Mideast, discussed the matter with Haim Divon, Israel's ambassador to Canada.

© Copyright 2002 National Post



Our dossier on The Mossad
1998: Israeli secret service still using Canadian passports
Ottawa investigating: the Mossad has history of using counterfeit Canadian documents
Sept 6, 1999: Probe of the Mossad's use of Canadian ID halted

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