Not any more

WikiLeaks dump lists U.S. interest in Canada’s energy assets

In Canada on December 6, 2010 at 20:21

When Americans think about Canada’s most vital assets, they think energy.

The latest WikiLeaks dump of secret U.S. government cables includes a list of infrastructure and facilities in foreign countries crucial to U.S. interests. The country with the most identified sites, by far, is Canada, with more than 30 facilities or structures listed, most of them energy-related.

The list includes such items as the James Bay Project and other Hydro-Québec assets described as a “critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of Northeast U.S.”; the Mica Dam and other power sources in British Columbia; the Pickering and Darlington nuclear power stations in Ontario; the Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing at Halifax; and natural gas transmission lines.

“The energy economies of Canada and the United States are highly integrated,” said Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe, which analyzes energy policy. “It’s not surprising that Americans would attach importance to maintaining the security of energy facilities.”

But the Americans should rest assured: Canada’s energy facilities are as secure as practically possible, maintains Aaron Shull, a lawyer and professor who specializes in security and intelligence issues.

“Our law enforcement, security and intelligence officers and protocols are as good as theirs are,” he said in an interview. Nuclear facilities are heavily protected, and while more remote sites such as hydro-electric generating facilities in Northern Quebec may be less strictly guarded, “from a terrorist perspective, those don’t make very good targets, because though they’re easily accessible, they’re not symbolically important,” he said.

Also listed in the cable are the Windsor-Detroit bridge and other vital border crossings, several mines, the nuclear isotopes produced at Chalk River, private companies that supply military hardware, and pharmaceutical manufacturers such as GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Quebec, which is considered a vital supplier of vaccine to ward off pandemics.

The leaked cable is particularly damaging to U.S. interests because it provides terrorist groups with a handy inventory of facilities around the world that the United States considers most essential to its economy and security.

“The release of this kind of information gives a group like al-Qaeda a targeting list,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN. “This is why we have condemned WikiLeaks for what it has done.”

Government leaders around the world also condemned the release.

“The publication of the documents that we’re seeing is incredibly irresponsible and reprehensible,” said Robert McClelland, Australia’s Attorney-General. The half-dozen Australian sites mentioned include two factories that produce rattlesnake anti-venom.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews appeared less concerned. “I don’t follow gossip very much, so I don’t really know the impact of WikiLeaks,” he told reporters on Monday, “but I can assure you that the security agencies in Canada are following it very closely, and to the extent that I need to be involved and address those issues, they will brief me on the issues.”

The U.S. State Department asked embassies around the world in February, 2009, to update their lists of “infrastructure and resources in each host country whose loss could immediately affect the public health, economic security and/or national and homeland security of the United States.”

Mr. Shull considered the leaked cable particularly worrisome because it can indicate to terrorists which Canadian targets are most essential to the United States.

“All the secrets are out there,” he said. “The actual targets have been identified and located. From a security perspective, that’s problematic. But from an infrastructure-protection perspective, should the Americans be concerned? No.”

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