But Atwal Has Denied He’s Spying For India Or Were Part Of A Conspiracy To Embarrass PM Trudeau During India Visit!
The Senior Government Official told Global News that “one of the most senior [Indian] intelligence officers meet[s] regularly with Mr. Atwal” though, when I asked for more detail — whether those meetings were in Canada or in India, for example — the SGO refused to say, citing intelligence confidences. But Atwal, through his lawyer, on March 8 refused to respond to any of this.
OTTAWA – While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security advisor, Daniel Jean, has agreed to testify in front of a parliamentary committee, a senior government official (SGO) told the national Canadian media that controversial Surrey-based Jaspal Athwal, who was convicted of attempted assassination of a visiting Punjab official in the mid 1980s, met regularly with Indian government officials in Vancouver.
The SGO told Global News that “one of the most senior [Indian] intelligence officers meet[s] regularly with Mr. Atwal” though, when I asked for more detail — whether those meetings were in Canada or in India, for example — the SGO refused to say, citing intelligence confidences.
But Atwal, through his lawyer, on March 8 refused to respond to any of this and denied any suggestions.
But the SGO did have this to say to Global News: “There is a limit in how far I can go so the background interview would not start to give you a lot of classified [information] which I cannot do, which would burn intel [but] I just wanted to say to people, beware to buy … you know, sometimes things are not what they look like. And in this situation, I can tell you, things are not exactly what they look like.”
Trudeau’s national security advisor is expected to provide to committee members — each of them Members of Parliament — the same information that was provided on background by a senior government official to a handful of news organizations about Trudeau’s recent trip to India.
The SGO had volunteered to explain to journalists how it had come to be that a man convicted of the attempted murder of a Punjab politician in Canada — a crime the sentencing judge called an act of terrorism — ended up years later on the guest list for a reception in India with Canada’s prime minister.
Atwal, had also managed to get his picture snapped with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and other Trudeau cabinet ministers at another reception in India
The SGO used the opportunity with the media to advance the theory that Atwal’s presence at these receptions in India may have been engineered by the Indian government or “factions” within the government in order to embarrass the Trudeau government, which some in India consider to be “soft” on Sikh extremism.
The Indian government has poo-pooed that theory as “baseless and unacceptable.”
But the SGO told reporters that countering “fake news” and other kinds of disinformation is now part of the job of the Canadian security and national intelligence community.
“We have prevented over the last two years a number of situations where foreign governments have tried to attack our institutions. And we’re going to take action to prevent that. We’re not trying to prevent an action against a Liberal institution. We’re trying to prevent an action against a cabinet minister.”
And that fake news included a false report in the Vancouver Sun, which said the government — the security and national intelligence community — had known of Atwal’s presence in India for days ahead of time and only acted when Atwal’s presence showed up in media reports.
That’s absolutely not true, the SGO said.
“We were informed first by a source which was not a media source that Mr. Atwal was on the guest list,” the SGO said. “The minute we were informed of that we did our due diligence, confirmed he was the individual and we basically told the political side you may wish to have him removed from a reputational standpoint.”
The SGO said the government was tipped to Atwal’s presence almost at the same time that the first media reports of his presence emerged.
“I checked with CSIS at all levels, in the region, in Ottawa. Nobody had ever heard of the case until the morning when we were informed who put him on the list,” the SGO said.
Is Atwal a security risk? Is he a “person of interest” to Canadian security or intelligence authorities?
“He’s not someone we are concerned about from a security standpoint. So the decision to remove him from the [prime minister’s reception] list had to do with reputational risk.”
It was clear from my conversation with the SGO that no one in Canada — or India for that matter — thinks Atwal is or was a risk to the safety of the Canadian prime minister or the prime minister’s guests.
“He is not a person of interest to our security agencies,” the SGO said.
Rather, Atwal’s presence was rightly judged by Canada’s security and intelligence community likely to embarrass the Canadian prime minister during his India trip.
With Files from Global News