Ontario lt. governor's testimony stuns Kanishka probe panel
May 4, 2007 - 2:10:13 PM
Toronto, May 4 - The lieutenant governor of Ontario has told the inquiry commission probing the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182 that he saw secret intelligence intercepts, indicating that an attack on the airline was imminent, just days before the incident.
James Bartleman, a former diplomat, testified Thursday that he saw the information in an electronic intercept from the top-secret Canadian Communications Security Establishment -, an arm of the Canadian defence department.
'In the week of June 18, the week of the bombing which took place on the 23rd, I was going through the daily intercept package from CSE,' Bartleman told the inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major.
'And I saw in there a document which indicated that Air India was being targeted that weekend - specifically the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd.' he added.
But when he tried to draw it to the attention of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police -, he was told the force already knew about it and was advised to ignore it, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
'I am providing you with the truth as I see it,' the former diplomat said, adding that he would be a poor lieutenant governor if he didn't do his 'duty as a citizen'.
All 329 passengers on Air India's Kanishka flight were killed when the plane crashed into the sea off the coast of Ireland June 22, 1985.
Jacques Shore, one of the lawyers for the families of the Air India victims, called the testimony 'astounding' but congratulated Bartleman on his decision to go public, even if it was belated.
'I think the lieutenant governor being here today demonstrated his courage,' said Shore. 'He recognised there was something that was left undone, in his mind, and that this was a part of the story that needed to be told.'
The inquiry commission looking into the 1985 Air India bombing which resumed Monday was told that government agencies were warned a number of times that an airline attack was imminent.
For 22 years, the Canadian official position has been that the system did not fail because there were no specific warnings. But the inquiry was told of specific warnings about a coming attack on Air India.
The warnings came from Canadian police informers, the Indian government and Air India itself, which told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - three weeks before the bombing that Sikh extremists in Canada were planning to put bombs on Air India flights.
Hints of all this emerged in a censored version of a top-secret 1992 report prepared by a Canadian parliamentary committee, which described many warnings and concluded: 'There is no doubt that the government of India warned Canada on a number of occasions that Air India operations were about to be attacked.'
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