Canadian mole spying for KGB identified

An investigation by Canada’s Spy Service concluded that frustrations over money, ego and career were likely the reasons a veteran RCMP officer passed on highly sensitive information to the services. intelligence agencies for years, recently released documents reveal.

Mole Hunters determined in the mid-1980s that Gilles Germain Brunet was a Soviet KGB agent from the late 1960s through the 1970s, a Cold War spy saga detailed in documents obtained by La Presse. Canadian by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) through the Access to Information Act.

Mr. Brunet’s betrayal has long been the subject of rumors, recounted in press articles and books since at least the early 1990s. But so far, Canadian intelligence officials have not publicly confirmed his actions nor disclosed the details of the investigation which left them convinced he was a mole.

Gilles Germain Brunet, a heavy drinker with a high lifestyle, died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 49 on April 9, 1984, just as the intelligence service investigators approached him.

The Canadian Press filed a complaint with the Federal Information Commissioner in 2015 after CSIS initially refused to release Mr. Brunet’s files under the Access to Information Act. Six years later, intelligence services agreed to release hundreds of pages, although some of the documents are heavily redacted.

An RCMP review of operational records involving the Soviets from 1967 to 1973 did not reveal any leads that could identify the officer. A review of hundreds of personal files and interviews with members also revealed nothing concrete.

Despite this, Mr. Brunet was considered a “prime suspect”, according to the CSIS report. “As a result, the in-depth investigation was carried out both to prove his innocence and to determine the identity of the KGB agent recruited into the Service. “

Gilles Germain Brunet joined the RCMP in 1955 after a stint in the army. He left the federal forces and worked for an insurance company for a few years. He then returned and spent much of the 1960s in Ottawa with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. His father, Josaphat Brunet, had headed the security division of the RCMP for a time in the 1950s.

The young Brunet passed a Russian language course in 1967, had marital problems and got into debt. In 1968, he transferred to Montreal and continued to work on security issues. He was fired by the RCMP in 1973 for refusing to sever ties with a person suspected of having connections with the underworld.

Mr. Brunet entered the private security industry and then sold pre-arranged funerals.

He was seen as intelligent, combative and ambitious, but also “stingy, vindictive and devoid of morality,” according to internal records. “When it suited his needs, he was extremely outgoing and gregarious. He played hard and was a heavy drinker ”.

In December 1983, a security investigator digging into Mr. Brunet’s past believed the gendarmes had their man.

First of all, no Soviet business known to Mr. Brunet ever came to fruition, although there were operational successes in other parts of the country during the period in question.

Second, in each of the cases documented by the mole hunters, “the operations died immediately after Mr. Brunet learned of it,” the investigator’s note indicates.

“It seems that not only was M. Brunet compromised, but that he was so committed that he gave his Soviet masters everything he got his hands on.”

Subsequent investigations included numerous interviews with active and retired members of the Security Service as well as acquaintances and contacts.

Several sources who spoke to the officers were not surprised that Gilles Germain Brunet – then identified under the code name “Notebook” – was a prime suspect, as they said he not only had a grudge against the RCMP. , but also “lacked character and his loyalty was questionable,” the CSIS report said.

Investigators highlighted two key incidents that emerged from their queries.

An envelope containing $ 960 in $ 20 bills had been discovered in the glove compartment of Mr. Brunet’s car in 1968, at a time when he was in financial difficulty and his annual salary was less than $ 10,000. There was no satisfactory explanation.

A former employee of a bar at the Skyline Hotel in Ottawa who was asked to look at photographs left investigators convinced that Mr. Brunet had met there more than once a person of concern whose name has been mentioned. been deleted from CSIS records. All signs indicate that this is Mr. Brunet’s KGB connection.

In February 1984, detectives found Gilles Germain Brunet’s address in Montreal, near Mount Royal, obtaining aerial photographs of the area and noting that his house was within sight of the Soviet consulate.

The RCMP followed Mr. Brunet for several days in early April 1984, covertly observing his visits to the cleaner, a grocery store and, the day before his death, a pizzeria.

His gravestone in a Montreal cemetery depicts a beach scene in Acapulco, Mexico – a destination he loved – and a martini glass.

In the year of Gilles Germain Brunet’s death, the newly created CSIS took over the intelligence functions of the RCMP Security Service, dissolved after a series of scandals that led to the creation of a commission of inquiry.

CSIS continued the investigation of Mr. Brunet, fueled by additional information received in 1985 or early 1986. Although details were removed from the files, this lead – like the one in 1982 – is believed to have come from a defector. Soviet.

Investigators sifted through the evidence and interviewed more people, apparently not excluding other suspects. The spy service executed warrants to obtain records detailing the banking transactions of Mr. Brunet, to whom they assigned the new code name “Coach”.

The 1987 CSIS report given to John Tait makes it clear that the spy service “is convinced” that Gilles Germain Brunet was the agent recruited by the Soviet intelligence services.

CSIS also concluded that Mr. Brunet’s contact with former colleagues meant that his “service for the KGB did not end with his dismissal from the security service in 1973”.

In August 1986, CSIS began to assess the damage caused by Mr. Brunet.

A document prepared for a 1998 conference by Peter Marwitz, a retired Security Service and CSIS member, suggested that Mr. Brunet had disclosed the location of listening devices installed at the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa and betrayed the activities of a Canadian military attaché stationed in Moscow. According to the document, Brunet raised a total of over $ 700,000 from the KGB.

At the time, a CSIS spokeswoman called Mr. Marwitz’s research “speculation.”

Several investigators who worked on the Brunet case are deceased or refuse to talk about it.

The CSIS report forwarded to John Tait said that only Mr. Brunet could reveal his true motivation, but suggests that it was a combination of financial gain, ego, professional frustrations, and public opinion. mole “that the security service was too small a pawn in a big game”.

Mr Brunet was constantly reminded that his father had reached high levels within the RCMP and he felt his own progress was stalled due to the lack of recognition of his expertise, the report added.

Although Brunet’s relationship with the KGB was undetected during his time with the RCMP, the RCMP searched for a suspected mole, prompting the departure of civilian counterintelligence chief Leslie James Bennett. In 1993, the federal government exonerated Mr. Bennett, who had moved to Australia, and paid him compensation.

CSIS records indicate that with hindsight, it could be argued that Brunet’s suspicions of treason “should have been aroused to a marked degree” earlier since he had become by 1978 the prime suspect in an internal investigation into the leaks. classified information from the security service.

But it seems that Mr. Brunet was a puzzle. One memo sums him up as “a very low-key person,” noting that even those who have worked and socialized with him for years “claim they don’t know him.”

CSIS spokesman John Townsend said he could not give details of documents released through the Access to Information Act.

“This case, however, is a clear example of how Canada has always been targeted by hostile actors and another example of the risks associated with the insider threat,” he said. “Canada was clearly and remains an attractive target for espionage. “

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