Archive for March, 2008

Hear the one about the “lefties” who found secrets military plans in the garbage one day?

Here is a little long weekend reading for you…
No doubt you have heard about my colleague Anthony Salloum’s discovery of plans for a secret military installation – that he found in the garbage on Bank Street. “What are the odds of that happening” – you might ask? More than a few people have expressed their suspicions about the story, and maybe I would too had I not been involved….
Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese likely predicted that reaction too, so he wrote an entry in his blog (BTW, highly recommended!) about how the whole story unfolded. It is a funny read, if you have a minute.




David Pugliese’s Defence Watch
The Canadian Forces and the Defence Department are a major presence in the Ottawa area, along with a robust industry serving the needs of our military. The Ottawa Citizen’s defence reporter David Pugliese takes you behind the scenes at National Defence Headquarters and provides the latest news on DND and the defence industry.

I thought I’d seen everything in my day….or most everything. But the article I wrote in today’s Citizen about the blueprints for a new military counter-terrorism installation ending up in the trash on Bank Street is one for the books.

If you read today’s paper, you’ll see that the blueprints were found on March 13 on top of a mound of garbage bags on Bank St. The blueprints showed every nook and cranny of the new installation including sewer lines, electrical grids, security fences, and a detailed floor plan, etc. The plans were for the building housing the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit at CFB Trenton, a force which deals with nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological threats and is one of the country’s first responders to a terror attack.

Even as I was writing the article I had trouble digesting the whole situation.

How did this all come about?

Yesterday, I got a phone call from Steve Staples, the president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa. Mr. Staples as you most likely know is one of the most outspoken critics of the Afghan war and a critic of DND’s spending. He is what is usually termed a leftie and believes defence dollars should be directed to peacekeeping and the defence of Canada (Arctic, coastal patrols etc). To say he is disliked by some in the defence community is an understatement.

Mr. Staples was trying to interest me in covering a press conference regarding opposition to the sale of Canada’s main satellite Radarsat-2 but I told him I was too busy. The conversation then turned to the fact that he had just returned from a holidays in Florida and that his work had piled up in the meantime. One of the things he was meaning to look at were some documents found on Bank Street by his program director Anthony Salloum.

Mr. Salloum and his spouse had been walking in the Glebe on their way to dinner when they passed a mound of garbage bags near a telephone pole. Nothing unusual there…but Mr. Salloum’s spouse’s attention was caught by the rather large rolls of paper which had “Department of National Defence” in black letters stamped on the outside. About 7 rolls were sitting on top of the garbage bags.

Mr. Salloum was obviously intrigued but his main priority was to get something to eat so he figured if the rolls were still there after dinner he would grab one. An hour later he and his spouse walked back down Bank Street and the rolls were indeed still there. He took one and the next day briefly looked at it. He could see that it said 8 Wing Trenton but not realizing what it was about he left it in the corner of his office.

Fast forward to a week later (i.e. yesterday) when Mr. Staples came back from vacation and Mr. Salloum told him about the documents. The two were so wrapped up with arranging their Radarsat-2 press conference they hadn’t fully opened up the rolls.

“I think it’s some kind of map of where they are going to put light poles and other electrical stuff at Trenton,” Mr. Staples told me on the phone.

“Or maybe it’s a plan for the new C-17 hangers?,” he joked.

To me it didn’t sound like a big deal…….but with my interest tweaked I asked Mr. Staples to unroll the paper and see if there were any indications of what exactly these records were of.

After a lot of crinkling of paper, he came back on the phone: “Yeah, it says NBCD Company, 8 Wing Trenton.”

“Say again?” I asked, thinking I had heard wrong the first time.

“Something called NBCD Company at 8 Wing Trenton,” replied Mr. Staples. “What’s that?”

At that point I thought this was all some kind of practical joke being played me. Two of DND’s biggest critics had the blueprints for special operations command’s new Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit (which used to be called the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence Company) installation and they had no clue whatsoever what they were looking at.

I jokingly berated Mr. Staples for pulling my chain on what I thought was an elaborate stunt…. but he said he didn’t know what on earth I was talking about. He was so preoccupied with his press conference set for today that I don’t think even by the end of the day he had fully comprehended what was in his hands.

It was a truly bizarre situation. The plans for a secret military counter-terrorism installation had been sitting in the corner of the Rideau Institute’s office for a week. Neither men had realized the extent security had been breached at DND.

Then I had a another thought (my cynical side working overtime). This seemed too bizarre to be a coincidence- especially since it involved Mr. Staples and Mr. Salloum. Maybe someone was setting these two guys up for a fall. Certainly, catching DND’s critics with sensitive records might be a good way of discrediting both Mr. Staples and Mr. Salloum, since after all they had become royal pains in the ass for DND.

Had someone placed the rolled blueprints on Bank Street just so Mr. Salloum’s spouse would see them? The documents were so big….at least a metre in length, they would be impossible for someone to miss.

But as Mr. Staples kept talking, reading details from the blueprints, things started to make more sense and I eased up on my conspiracy theories. The Trenton blueprints had project identification numbers on them as well as the time, date and the name of a civilian contractor who had printed them out. (I later tracked down the name of the contractor and confirmed it).

The docs had also been stamped with “Received” by another civilian contractor working on the Trenton installation. There were also the telephone numbers of six civilian contractors who had worked on the project. A couple of quick checks confirmed the named contractors.

To me it was obvious that one of the contractors or someone associated with them (secretary, engineer, who knows) lived on or near that stretch of Bank Street…..and since the plans were dated March 2007–and there was no “SECRET” stamp on them — they had tossed the blueprints out into the garbage, not fully understanding the security ramifications of what they had done.

Along comes Mr. Salloum and his spouse and ……boom, the perfect security storm.

I told Mr. Salloum and Mr. Staples what they were in possession of and they immediately said they would return the plans to DND if they could figure out who to give them to.

I made a few phone calls to CANSOFCOM to let them know not only where the blueprints were but to give them a heads up that there were six other rolls of blueprints most likely somewhere at the Ottawa dump.

A military investigation was immediately launched when DND realized the severity of the breach.

The Citizen decided to do an article on the security breach but not to show details of the blueprints in photographs because of the national security implications.

I have to give credit to Col. Mike Day, commander of  CANSOFCOM. When I talked to him his guys got right on the issue. CANSOFCOM picked up the blueprints last night from Mr. Salloum.

I get the sense that this was not a case of CANSOFCOM security breaking down; I would start looking towards some of the various civilian agencies and government departments involved in the construction of the Trenton site. The big question is: did other people walking along Bank Street that day take any of the rolls of blueprints?

Mr. Salloum can’t remember exactly which telephone pole the garbage bags and the blueprints were sitting beside but he recalls it was close to Feleena’s Mexican restaurant. So it should be a case of determining which civilian employees lives in this area. As well, the contractor who printed the blueprints had his name and phone number on the documents, so again a key place to start the investigation.

Who knows – maybe this incident will push DND to tighten up its security on the use of outside civilian contractors and there will be lessons learned for the Canadian Forces in all this.


March 23, 2008 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

Please Help Stop the Sell-off of the CANADARM and RADARSAT-2 to a U.S. Space Weapons Corporation

UPDATE: Last week the government listened to Canadians like you and took the first step to block the Canadarm and Radarsat-2 sell-off.

That’s why I need your help – to keep ATK out of Canada, and to keep control of our world class space program.Should Canada’s environmental satellite be used for space weapons?


Make your donation now


Canada’s top scientific and environmental space science programs, the CANADARM and the remarkable RADARSAT-2 satellite, are being sold off to a U.S. weapons corporation.

The American corporation builds space and nuclear weapons systems, landmines, cluster bombs, depleted uranium weapons and Pentagon “black budget” programs.

RADARSAT-2 is a satellite designed to monitor climate change and Arctic sovereignty, but now it could be used for U.S. American space weapons programs. Please make your contribution to stop this from happening

In the 1990s the federal government made a terrible mistake by privatizing much of our space program. Now, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) intends to sell off RADARSAT-2, the CANADARM, and other programs to Alliant Techsystems (ATK).

But the sale needs to be approved by the government. According to reports, the approval could be given before March 22 – if we do not act quickly.

We are launching an emergency action campaign and fund to stop the sale of RADARSAT-2 and CANADARM to ATK, and I need your help. In the coming days and weeks we will:

   • Lobby MPs to stop the sale of the CANADARM and RADARSAT-2 to ATK
   • Launch a media blitz to let Canadians know what is happening
   • Use legal challenges to try to block the sale 
   • Build a coalition of scientists, experts, labour leaders, diplomats and activists 

Please make your donation of $100, or whatever you can afford, at Or print off and mail this coupon.
Thank you for your support.
Steve Staples
Rideau Institute and founder of

P.S. Please make your financial contribution now, and send your letter to Prime Minister Harper.




March 12, 2008 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

Stop the sale of CANADARM and RADARSAT-2

March 7, 2008

Dear Supporter,

You might have heard or read this week that the iconic Canadian-built Canadarm and
RADARSAT-2 satellite may be sold off to the American arms builder Alliant Techsystems.

On Wednesday I appeared before the Commons Committee on Industry and warned the MPs that this would be a disaster for Canadian environmental protection, jobs, sovereignty, and our role in promoting the peaceful uses of space.

In January of this year, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) announced the sale of its information systems and space division to Alliant Techsystems, a U.S. company that describes itself as “the world’s leading manufacturer of rocket motor systems for space launch vehicles, strategic missiles, prompt global strike missiles, and missile defense interceptors.”

While Canada owned RADARSAT-1, the federal government entered into a privatization deal with MDA whereby the corporation would fully own its successor, RADARSAT-2. Canadian taxpayers contributed $430 million toward its development, but we now stand to lose the benefit of this remarkable satellite.

I ask you to join me in calling on Prime Minister Harper to do the right thing, and refuse to allow this deal to go forward. The deal could be approved by March 22 – please send your letter now.

Thanks for taking action.

Steve Staples


‘An affront’
Outrage greets U.S. bid to buy Canada’s largest space firm; sale to include taxpayer-funded $524-million Radarsat-2 satellite

by David Pugliese

Friday, March 07, 2008

CREDIT: Cole Garside, The Ottawa Citizen
Physicist Lawrence Morley wants the auditor general to probe the pending sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ space division to a U.S. firm because it would include the Radarsat-2 satellite, a piece of cutting-edge technology that has received millions in taxpayer funding.

The proposed purchase by a U.S. firm of Canada’s largest space company, and with it a $524-million high-tech satellite built mainly with taxpayers’ money, is being challenged by a growing number of scientists and engineers.

Lawrence Morley, one of Canada’s top geophysicists and the man who pushed the federal government to invest in what eventually became the Radarsat-2 satellite, is calling for the auditor general to probe what he calls a sweetheart deal that allows a private firm to sell off such a valuable spacecraft.

In addition, Hugh Thompson, a spacecraft systems engineer with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, yesterday came forward to say the sale of the British Columbia company’s space division to a U.S. firm should be halted.

Two other engineers at the company have already quit in protest over the deal.

Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, also said earlier this week that he hopes the company’s space division will not be sold because that would represent a major loss of Canada’s space capabilities, built up over the years with large amounts of taxpayer funding.

At issue are plans by U.S. firm Alliant Techsystems to purchase MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ space and military assets for $1.325 billion. The firm is considered the backbone of Canada’s space industry.

With that deal, announced by both firms in early January, comes ownership of the recently launched Radarsat-2 satellite, the world’s most advanced radar imaging spacecraft. The $524-million Radarsat-2 was built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, but Canadian taxpayers funded most of that project.

Its technology, which allows the satellite to produce images of objects the size of a car from 800 kilometres in space, is seen as key to Canada’s security and science efforts. Radarsat-2 can be used for agricultural, environmental and forestry purposes as well as to measure the thickness of ice in the North.

However, in the late 1990s, the Canadian Space Agency transferred ownership of the satellite to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).

Mr. Morley said the company is simply doing what’s best for its shareholders and earning a profit from selling the satellite and other technology. But he pointed out that someone has to be looking out for Canadians.

“A mistake was made by the Canadian Space Agency when they gave this sweetheart deal to MDA and transferred the ownership of all the technology and the satellite, and all the data to them,” said the 88-year-old scientist and Order of Canada winner. “That’s a thing for the auditor general to look into on whether it was a mistake or whether it was a government decision.”

Two employees of the company, Paul Cottle and Trevor Williams, have quit their jobs in protest of the sale, saying they do not want to work for Alliant, which builds landmines, cluster bombs and engines for nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.

Officials with Alliant Techsystems and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates declined to comment, citing pending government approval of the sale. Both firms have previously said the sale will be good for Canada. Alliant officials have also said they will keep jobs in the country and they plan to expand the Canadian company’s space division so it can attract even more work.

But Mr. Morley said the government should put a halt to the deal. “It’s an affront that will be a major blow to our space efforts,” he said.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice will have final say on whether the deal goes through. Bill Rodgers, his director of communications, said Mr. Prentice has until March 22 to make a decision, although a 30-day extension could be requested.

“Under the Investment Canada Act, the big thing is whether this transaction is of net benefit to Canada,” said Mr. Rodgers. “That is the test.

“It won’t be a done deal until the minister is satisfied that the tests under the act are met and, if they’re not, he, as the minister, can make a decision on that basis,” Mr. Rodgers said.

The Canadian Space Agency did not respond to e-mailed questions earlier this week.

Mr. Morley said the technology used by the first satellite, Radarsat-1, and now Radarsat-2, is cutting-edge and the imagery from the spacecraft is in demand by Canadian government departments, scientists and other nations.

Mr. Morley, then director general of the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, pushed the government in the mid-1970s to invest in the unique technology outfitted on the Radarsat spacecraft, and his organization did the original research. He also selected MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, then a small Canadian firm, to work on the sensors and had government research transferred to the firm.

Mr. Morley said that billions of dollars of tax money have been invested in the company over the years, but he didn’t hold out much hope the sale will be halted.

Mr. Garneau said the government has invested heavily in the Canadian firm to build it up into the country’s largest space firm producing world-class technology.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

March 7, 2008 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

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