Sunday, April 3, 2016

National security adviser to Harper, Trudeau retires from one of Ottawa’s weightiest jobs

National security adviser to Harper, Trudeau retires from one of Ottawa’s weightiest jobs

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“Dick was the guy who could get things done in a deliberate and calm fashion and never got his knickers in a twist,” says a former colleague of Richard Fadden.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld/File“Dick was the guy who could get things done in a deliberate and calm fashion and never got his knickers in a twist,” says a former colleague of Richard Fadden.
OTTAWA — On his way to the Privy Council Office each morning, Richard Fadden resembled John le Carré’s fictional British spymaster George Smiley. Greying hair parted down the side, black horn-rimmed glasses, conservative button-down dress shirts, red cardigan and an unadorned light khaki overcoat.
His restrained appearance, reticent manner and average height made him indiscernible in a crowd. Calm, dispassionate, analytical and highly experienced are some of the words used to describe him. Which is what a prime minister wants from his national security adviser (NSA), especially when all hell breaks loose.
The career Ottawa bureaucrat, former spymaster and point man on security at home and abroad under two prime ministers quietly retired Thursday, presumably to decompress. With his 65th birthday approaching, Fadden made the decision to leave some time ago, but waited until the new Liberal government was settled in.
“He’s done a great job, made a great contribution to government and was a fine public servant,” Mel Cappe, retired clerk of the Privy Council and former high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said Thursday.
Fadden’s replacement, yet to be named, will take over one of the capital’s weightiest jobs. The position is established by prime ministerial prerogative and therefore has no statutory powers. The NSA cannot compel deputy ministers and other securocrats running the state security apparatus to do anything.
He did his job very well, he thinks strategically.
But as ear-whisperer to the prime minister on security and intelligence issues, foreign and defence policy and as a conduit for conveying the prime minister’s directions (and those of cabinet) to the national security community at large, the NSA wields considerable influence at a critical time.
The NSA’s other stated role is to co-ordinate and strategize the security and intelligence community, including the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment, the Canada Border Services Agency, the department of foreign affairs, national defence and others from time to time. Particularly sensitive matters are brought to the attention of the minister responsible and or the prime minister.
The NSA maintains high-level contacts with the allied intelligence community, particularly the Americans and British. Fadden’s successor is expected to play a vital role helping with the planned committee of parliamentarians to monitor the country’s national security establishment. That includes assuring Washington and London the committee can be trusted to keep their secrets. And all of that will require professional credibility.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Richard Fadden walks past an RCMP officer as police secure the area during the Parliament Hill shooting on Oct. 22, 2014.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper appointed the workaholic Fadden as NSA in January 2015, pulling him as deputy minister at National Defence after 20 months to fill the vacancy created by the sudden departure of then-NSA Stephen Rigby.
Sources say Fadden already had been contemplating retirement, but couldn’t refuse the prime ministerial request.
“I assume what the prime minister wanted was some safe, tried and true hands and there’s not a lot of people around town that would meet that criteria in this particular area,” said a former senior government mandarin.
During the Parliament Hill terrorist attack on Oct. 22, 2014, Fadden, as deputy minister of defence, was meeting across the street at the Privy Council Office with Rigby, CSIS director Michel Coulombe and then-chief of defence staff Gen. Tom Lawson. Fadden was president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency when mad cow disease surfaced for the first time in Canada in 2003. And he was co-ordinating the security and intelligence file at the PCO on Sept. 11, 2001, and was deeply involved in the landmark Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 that followed.
“Dick was the guy who could get things done in a deliberate and calm fashion and never got his knickers in a twist,” said a former colleague, one of a handful of Fadden’s contemporaries and security intelligence people who spoke on condition they not be named.
One former CSIS colleague remembers Fadden differently. He possessed a mercurial temper and was “a task master, very demanding, a difficult boss who alienated many within.”
Still, “he did his job very well, he thinks strategically.”
With 39 years in the public service, much at the deputy minister level in five departments and agencies, Fadden could have retired long ago with a handsome pension.
“I think he believes he’s doing good,” said a former colleague. “There are some people who are decent men and they genuinely are doing this for the right reasons. Dick is trained as a lawyer, he could have made a load of money on Bay Street and has chosen a career in public service.”
Fadden existed in the shadows, content to be a faceless bureaucrat. The only time he appeared before the public at large was his controversial 2010 appearance on CBC television when he revealed that some unnamed Canadian politicians were suspected of being under the spell of  “foreign (read China) influences.”
“It was a brave thing to say in his job, but he’s right, people are pretty naïve in this country in many ways,” said a former high-level national security official. “I assume he decided deliberately to do that. I don’t think Dick does things just off the cuff.”
Others believed the remarks were a perilous breach by an influential security establishment figure into the political realm. Members of Parliament and provincial premiers howled for Fadden’s head. He is said to have been in the penalty box for a time, but clearly won back Harper’s trust.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick“Dick is trained as a lawyer, he could have made a load of money on Bay Street and has chosen a career in public service,” a former colleague says.
His personal life was as closeted from view as his job. He was raised in Cowansville, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, one of five children. His belief in the importance of family life resulted in one of the most popular departmental memos issued in government recent years.
As deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in 2008, Fadden told employees to turn off their Blackberrys between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. to help “attack some of the stresses around work.”
.Judging Fadden’s performance in such a secretive position is difficult. One potentially crucial aspect of the job is whether he challenged the RCMP, CSIS and other departments and agencies to demonstrate the effectiveness of their policies and operations Did he question whether they’re doing their jobs appropriately and lawfully?
“I don’t see much sign of it,” said Wesley Wark, a University of Ottawa expert on international intelligence and security. “It speaks to a fractured internal accountability system in Canada.”