Accused in naval spy case presses for info on CSIS wiretaps of Chinese Embassy

Accused in spy case wants CSIS wiretap info

OTTAWA — A naval engineer accused of trying to spy for Beijing is asking a federal judge for full access to information about Canadian Security Intelligence Service wiretaps of the Chinese Embassy.

Qing Quentin Huang says federal secrecy has placed him in an “impossible position” as he prepares to defend against espionage charges.

The Canadian citizen was arrested on Dec. 1, 2013, in Burlington, Ont., following a brief RCMP-led investigation dubbed Project Seascape.

Huang, 53 at the time, worked for Lloyd’s Register, a subcontractor to Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

He was charged under the Security of Information Act with attempting to communicate secret information to a foreign power. Police said the information related to elements of the federal shipbuilding strategy, which includes patrol ships, frigates, naval auxiliary vessels, science research vessels and icebreakers.

In documents filed with the Federal Court of Canada, Huang and his counsel say CSIS received a court-approved warrant in March 2013 to intercept telecommunications at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa.

On Nov. 27, 2013, CSIS sent a letter to the RCMP advising the national police force of phone calls Huang allegedly made to the embassy two days earlier offering sensitive information.

The federal prosecution service wants to introduce transcripts of the calls into evidence at the applicant’s criminal trial in Ontario Superior Court.

As a result, the prosecution service disclosed to Huang redacted copies of the CSIS warrant and the CSIS affidavit sworn in support of the application to obtain the warrant.  

However, Huang’s court submission says, the warrant and the affidavit are so heavily censored that he cannot test the validity of the warrant or make full answer and defence.

“The warrant and affidavit, as redacted, put Mr. Huang in an impossible position,” says the filing.

“Without the redacted information, he cannot investigate or challenge the lawfulness of the interception of private communications that form the basis for his criminal charges.”

While in certain cases national security considerations can limit the extent of the information disclosed to the affected individual, in criminal cases the court’s duty to ensure fairness is all the more essential, Huang’s submission says.

Huang’s counsel alerted the prosecution service to the disclosure issue “in a number of letters,” the submission adds.

In February, the prosecution service replied that “virtually all” of the redactions were covered by a section of the Canada Evidence Act that allows the government to shield information from disclosure due to national security concerns.

That prompted Huang to apply to the Federal Court for access to the desired information.

Huang’s current lawyer, Frank Addario, declined to comment on the case.

Huang, who is free on bail, maintains his innocence and will plead not guilty to the charges in Ontario court.

A trial could get underway as early as June, though the Federal Court tussle over the redacted information might delay criminal proceedings.

The Federal Court record indicates the government response to Huang’s submission includes sworn testimony from a CSIS intelligence officer. However, it has not yet been disclosed, nor has a public hearing date been set.

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Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press