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OTTAWA — RCMP officials have identified a new threat to national security: a coup d’etat.
The reference to a violent overthrow of the federal government is contained in the RCMP’s plans and priorities report to government for 2010-11. It lists national security as one of five operational priorities for the year.
The document then cites four specific security concerns:
• Espionage and sabotage.
• Foreign-influenced criminal activities detrimental to the interests of Canada.
• And . . . “activities aimed at overthrowing, by violence, the Government of Canada.”
RCMP officials were not immediately available Friday to explain the reference, but such language has not appeared in previous RCMP reports.
Over the past year, the Mounties have signalled a renewed emphasis on national security issues that have been pushed aside by law enforcement’s preoccupation with global terrorism since 9/11.
In a major speech last fall, for example, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said while transnational terrorism and “homegrown” radicalization remain big threats, so too are economic espionage by foreign states, transnational organized crime, proliferation issues, illegal migration and other border-security issues.
While hyperbolic, the mention of a coup threat appears to reflect the force’s return to a broader operational approach to guarding national security.
It’s also not the first talk of a government overthrow. The 1999 book Agent of Influence alleged the U.S. CIA plotted a de facto coup of Lester B. Pearson’s government in the early 1960s.
Canadian author Ian Adams claimed that after the 1963 assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, CIA counter-intelligence branch head James Jesus Angleton became convinced Pearson was an agent for Russian intelligence and supposedly had information from a Soviet defector backing him up.
“The CIA took great personal offence at Pearson’s independent stands in foreign policy, his grain trades with the Soviet Union, his antiwar positions on Vietnam, and especially his friendly stance on Cuba,” wrote Adams.
To get at Pearson, the CIA set its sights first on Canadian diplomat James Watkins, Canada’s ambassador to Russia in the mid-1950s and a friend of the prime minister. After 27 days of interrogation by the Mounties, the 62-year-old Watkins’ troubled heart gave out and he died, apparently without supplying the confession the spymasters hoped could bring down the government.
“I think what they wanted was to extract some kind of compromising confession from him that would somehow put Pearson in a bad light and bring down Pearson and his government,” Adams told the Ottawa Citizen in an interview in 1999.
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