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Will Pentagon leak put US-Canada relationship on thin ice?

Will Pentagon leak put US-Canada relationship on thin ice?

Leaked US intelligence materials have been making the rounds online for months. Recently, the media became aware of them, bringing more attention to information that the US and its allies would have preferred to keep quiet. Some of the materials may be fake, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, although he didn't indicate which ones. In the meanwhile, authorities have detained a suspect.

Leaky pool full with water

Top-secret US military plans for operations in Ukraine are included in the disclosures, along with data the US has gathered on its allies, including South Korea, Israel, Egypt, and Canada. They contain information—and maybe fabrications—that nations relied on Washington to keep private. The South Korean data is especially murky; it implies that the Koreans were under US pressure to establish a fictitious "end user" to transfer artillery to Ukraine in order to get around the country's export restrictions on supplying weaponry to governments at war. According to the records, South Korea transported or intended to ship the weaponry at some point.

Canada became involved in the debate as well. Unconfirmed allegations claim that the Zarya hacktivist organization, which is pro-Russian, gained access to Canada's natural gas infrastructure and acquired the capacity "to increase valve pressure, disable alarms, and initiate an emergency shutdown of an unspecified gas distribution station." The statements may or may not be accurate, but experts warn that the industry is vulnerable to cyberattacks, which are common and not uncommon.

losing the trust game

There was a lot of discussion about whether Canada could trust the US with its intelligence under the Trump administration. Later, it was feared that Canada's 2022 decision to prohibit Huawei from its communications infrastructure was made too late. Canada's exclusion from the "Three Eyes" defense alliance with the US, Australia, and the UK (AUKUS) a year prior caused anxiety over Canada's national security and defense responsibilities both at home and abroad. More recently, concerns concerning the security of the nation's intelligence infrastructure were raised in the wake of several revelations regarding suspected Chinese electoral meddling in Canada.

The recent US disclosures make it appear as though the shoe is on the other foot. However, Canada is not, at least not publicly, stating that.

The expected response from the Canadian Public Safety Ministry was, "We do not comment, whether to confirm or deny, on allegedly leaked intelligence."

What else was Canada planning to say, though? This disclosure won't damage confidence in the US intelligence architecture any more than previous breaches, according to Jessica Davis, president of Insight Threat Intelligence and the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies. More importantly, the US will always be needed by Canada and its friends. There isn't much room for movement for the other Five Eyes here. We just need to adopt American practices. In reality, the Five Eyes only consume a large portion of what the Americans provide for us. We are the relationship's junior partners in a big way.

Unlikely US spy target: Canada

In contrast to the other nations listed in the papers, namely Egypt and South Korea, Davis asserts that Canada may not be as outraged by the US snooping on its citizens' whereabouts. "It's not evident that the Americans are actively eavesdropping on us," she asserts, adding that "the aim wasn't Canada; it was the Russian side of it. In contrast to some other nations, where they are rather obviously the subject of intelligence gathering, this is a different situation.

But it comes as no surprise that countries that support the US are being spied on. They must speak up about it, yet they are all aware that it is true. We all know that, in reality, the US spies on the great majority of its friends.

It's time to dispatch some spy-hunting Mounties.

Canada says it will let the US look into the leaks and is, for the time being at least, keeping quiet and letting things happen. Davis, though, asserts that there could be more going on behind the scenes. Canada will likely follow up with the United States to ensure that we have the complete picture or that they are sharing any additional information they may have access to that might assist us build defenses. However, it's unlikely to grow much hotter than that. She concludes by saying that "nobody wants to escalate this."

Despite its embarrassment, the Five Eyes partnership will continue to snoop. However, persistent leaks may eventually cause confidence between alliance members to crumble, particularly when crises on the domestic and foreign front mount and take their toll. America's friends are currently on high alert for what may be lurking beneath the surface since whatever is being reported publicly about the leaks is only the top of the iceberg.