Spying on postal workers

A new book details the story of a CSIS and Canada Post Security Inspector who spied on postal workers, illegally intercepted the mail of innocent people, and stole Crown keys to get into apartments and mail boxes.

And he did so upon the instructions of senior officers in CSIS and Canada Post.

Published in both English and French, Covert Entry: Spies, Lies and Crimes Inside Canada's Secret Service by award winning journalist Andrew Mitrovica, provides evidence backing up many allegations which have surfaced in recent years, but have been always denied by CSIS and CPC.

The book follows the day-to-day clandestine activities of John Farrell, who worked as a Postal Inspector for CPC from 1989 to 1991 and for CSIS (as an Auxiliary Postal Inspector) from 1991 to 1998.

While a CPC Security Officer, Farrell's job largely focused on spying on the Union. As CUPW engaged in the difficult negotiations leading to the strike of 1991, Farrell and his fellow S and I (now called Corporate Security) officers in the York Region prepared dossiers on "troublesome" CUPW leaders, including the President of the Toronto Local at the time. Farrell himself opened up 15 to 20 files on key union activists. These dossiers included, among other matters:

* Where union leaders had gone to school;

* Banking records;

* Photos of some family members and home addresses and names of schools attended by union activists' children;

* Records of divorce proceedings;

* Accusations of infidelity, physical abuse and financial problems; and

* Illegally broke into cars of CUPW activists at the Gateway plant.

As well, S and I inspectors were authorized to intercept every piece of mail delivered to the homes of targeted union leaders. While most mail wasn't necessarily opened, photocopies were made of both side of each piece. Information from this was used to "mine contacts" at credit card agencies and banks and "pry loose" monthly statements on each card. The garbage of targeted CUPW leaders was routinely stolen and inspected.

"Canada Post's quest for intelligence about union leaders ... was simply insatiable," says the author.

This was a full-blown espionage operation, in violation of the basic prohibitions of the Privacy Act.

Farrell's job as a CSIS agent didn't really change that much. As an "Auxiliary Postal Inspector" he worked for CSIS but on paper was an "independent contractor" hired by Canada Post. Many "Auxiliary Postal Inspectors" came from the ranks of CPC's Security and Investigation Division.

While much of the section on CSIS unveils the remarkable incompetence of its operations, it also illustrates the inappropriate relationship between Canada Post Corporation and CSIS, at least up until 1997, and the pattern of law-breaking and corruption characterizing CSIS operations.

During this period, Farrell, on the instructions of CSIS senior officers:

o Carried out illegal interceptions of mail for every resident in apartments where CSIS "targets" lived, without first obtaining judicial warrants;

o Planted a listening device illegally in a postal station where a postal worker was suspected of leaking information to the media about the "Grant Bristow" affair in 1994; and

o Stole Crown keys from a postal depot to break into apartment buildings and mail boxes.

This book covers the activities of one agent and Security Officer in York Region. It is not unreasonable to assume similar activities have occurred in all other Regions. And if such spying has been carried out against CUPW, it clearly could happen to other unions and lawful organizations.

CUPW intends to respond vigorously to these revelations, including pursuing an independent public inquiry into CSIS activities and holding Canada Post Corporation to account for its outrageous treatment of union activists.

In solidarity,
Deborah Bourque
National President

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Copyright New Media Services Inc. 2004. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications.