Episode 107



True spies work in all sorts of far-flung locales - but some assignments are closer to home. For Andrew Kirsch, a Special Operations officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the suburbs of Toronto hold as much intrigue as Moscow or Baghdad. Vanessa Kirby joins Andrew on a nail-biting infiltration mission to unmask a home-grown terrorist, right in his back yard. Could you spy in suburbia?
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True Spies Episode 107: I Was Never Here

NARRATOR: Welcome to True Spies. Week by week, mission by mission, you’ll hear the true stories behind the world’s greatest espionage operations. You’ll meet the people who navigate this secret world. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position? This is True Spies.

ANDREW KIRSCH: I turn to them and I realized we have a big problem because they are holding something from this car. So I look at my tech and he looks at me. And, at that moment, I sort of freeze. And obviously ‘don't get caught’ is number one. 

NARRATOR: Episode 107: I Was Never Here. Think for a moment about the term ‘homegrown terrorism’. Sounds almost quaint, doesn’t it? Homegrown. Like it’s a hobby. And that’s part of the point. The everydayness of it all. The threat that is so quotidian, so normal, that you hardly see it taking root until it’s much too late. It’s tempting to think extremism is cultivated somewhere else. But in the internet age, dangerous ideologies can thrive anywhere in the world, behind any old white picket fence. Even where you live. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: This was a suburb of Toronto, with row houses, driveways in front, shared driveways leading up to a garage with a detached house to it, tree-lined, and some cars parked in the street. Pretty uniform in the neighborhood, one of these communities that look like it was all relatively put together.

NARRATOR: This week’s true spy was inspired by acts of terrorism abroad to work for the intelligence service in his own country. And some of the threats he encountered hit dangerously close to home.

ANDREW KIRSCH: I was born and raised in Toronto. And it's funny, when you're a domestic intelligence service, I was largely working 15 minutes, 20 minutes from where I lived and grew up.

NARRATOR: Andrew spent 10 years working as an intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, Canada's domestic espionage agency - ‘domestic’ being the operative word.

ANDREW KIRSCH: So Canada is unique in that we don't have a foreign intelligence service. We are a domestic security service. And because we're neighbors with the United States, when we go and talk to people, they say: “Oh, you guys are the CIA.” And we say: “No, we are not. We don't operate abroad or we can, but in a very limited capacity” - which puts a lot of pressure on our domestic service to investigate threats to the security of Canada, to do that from wherever those threats originate.

NARRATOR: But Andrew is hardly a homebody. Far from it. It was his time abroad that inspired him to enter the intelligence field. Beginning with his years in the United States, as a senior at Brown University in Rhode Island, at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We were just watching the news. CNN was on in the background of the house. I was living with my friends, and we saw the first plane hit and we all huddled around the TV. We had friends in New York who had graduated years before us, friends and family who lived there who were trying to get in touch with us that whole day. It was a surreal experience. This was a large domestic terrorist attack we had not experienced. I was young. The world was small when you are in university and it hit home in a very big way.

NARRATOR: Plenty of people around the world were shocked and moved the day when those four hijacked aircraft upended the United States as we knew it. But for Andrew, it was the start of something - the first of two major events to set the stage for a career in intelligence. The second would happen four years later, on July 7, when suicide bombers orchestrated four coordinated attacks on the London Underground and a double-decker bus.

ANDREW KIRSCH: And then, what maybe people don't remember, is that a week later, two weeks later, there was a foiled attack. And we thought: “Are we doing this every week? Like, is this going to be a regular occurrence?”

NARRATOR: Fortunately, terrorist attacks did not become a weekly occurrence. At least not in North America and the United Kingdom. But the threat and the fear still lingered.

ANDREW KIRSCH: This was really an age of terrorism. There was the Spanish train derailment. They were domestic attacks in Saudi Arabia. And that's when I first Googled “How do I become a Canadian spy?” and “What do Canadian spies do?”

NARRATOR: 9/11 and 7/7. Today, Andrew credits those two attacks for motivating him to leave behind a career in finance and join Canada’s intelligence service. But, as True Spies listeners know, espionage isn’t all cloak-and-dagger stuff. Andrew found himself reading reports and writing memos, far from the frontlines in the war on terror in a windowless office.

ANDREW KIRSCH: I'm all for paying your dues and you start out and have to work your way to different roles. But there were absolutely days during two years - I did that for two years, doing policy compliance work - where I thought: “Yeah, this is not exactly what I pictured when I thought ‘I'm going to be a spy’.”

NARRATOR: Finally, Andrew did get a promotion. He became a field investigator, allowing him to break out of the windowless room and get into the world, to form connections with people who had access to valuable information. Later, he took a job in the Special Operations unit, where he would come at information-gathering rather more obliquely. As a team lead, he could invoke warrant powers in order to conduct surveillance of suspicious actors. Put simply…

ANDREW KIRSCH: You can't just go and tell the person: “We're allowed to listen to your conversations. So if you can just talk really loudly into this microphone, that would be appreciated.” We have to do it covertly. 

NARRATOR: And there were plenty of opportunities for Andrew and his team to surveil dodgy behavior.

ANDREW KIRSCH: Around that time, when I joined in 2006-7, we were very concerned about domestic extremists. We'd had all the bombs going off. And that was a concern. Later on in my career, when I was in Special Operations, the targets mostly became who we call 'foreign fighters' who were people that wanted to go abroad, engage in terrorist activities, and engaged in fighting abroad. Obviously, we don't want Canadians or people from Canada going overseas and killing people overseas. That's a big, big problem. And we don't want them to go overseas to get training and come back with networks and skills and training and tools to conduct activities at home.

NARRATOR: About a year into his Special Operations career, Andrew received the profile of one such person, a potential ‘foreign fighter’, someone whose activity had been alarming enough to attract the watchful eye of CSIS. Andrew remembers that he had made disturbing comments at community events and places of worship and that some of the threats he made were concerning enough that members of the public had brought them to the attention of the intelligence agency. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: We knew that this was somebody who had an extremist ideology, that had openly advocated that he wanted to cause death and destruction and that he was motivated to do it. He had expressed these radical beliefs. And we were concerned about whether he would do it. A lot of people talk, and then the fear is that they're going to follow through. And so, one of the things we need to figure out is: “Well, we know he's talking about it. Is he going to do it? And what's he going to do? And where is he going to do it?”

NARRATOR: Andrew also received a driver’s license photo for his target.

ANDREW KIRSCH: If you had in your mind a picture of this, of the stereotypical bad guy in the movies, the terrorist in the movies was not far off. He had a gleam in his eye and a bit of a knowing stare.

NARRATOR: To be fair, no one looks great on their driver’s license.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We don't have the benefit of seeing the complete picture and how they are with their friends, and when they're laughing and they're joking. All we read is all the horrible things that they want to do and see menacing pictures. I don't know what it was, just most people aren't so overt or so explicit in what they want to do. And I felt like he really had some ideas in his mind and was quite overt and open about it.

NARRATOR: Open about hating Canada, wanting to hurt its people, and target Canadians of influence. So, Andrew’s goal is to gather information on this guy, to see if he’s as dangerous as he seems. He can’t spill all the secrets behind this operation, but he’ll share as many details as he can. Starting with this.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We were interested in the individual's car. We felt that there may be some things in there that would be of interest. And we wanted to get a real thorough examination of the vehicle, looking for opportunities of what was happening in there. Were conversations happening there? Were there materials in there? We needed to spend some time with this individual's vehicle.

NARRATOR: A 'car job' as he and his colleagues called it. This person was known to give people rides to and from events, and his car served as a mobile office. Andrew’s team wanted to know whether those people were involved in threat-related activities, too. And what could be gleaned from the objects, the notes, the records they left behind? 

ANDREW KIRSCH: And it just so happened that we felt the best opportunity to get access to it would be when it was parked in his driveway late at night when he was sleeping.

NARRATOR: Of course, a squad of CSIS officers breaking into a car in the middle of the night could look suspicious. And they didn’t want to attract the attention of the police. Firstly, if the police get on a case, they automatically become the lead agency in charge of an investigation, according to Canadian law. And secondly, if there are CSIS officers and police personnel at the scene… well, it all gets a little confusing.

ANDREW KIRSCH: So the challenge for us was, well, we don't want to stumble, sitting there and the police are going to get access to the car. And we're sitting at the side of the car and we're all having a bit of that three-person Spider-Man meme about who's doing what.

NARRATOR: The fact that their target was so outspoken about his intentions only amplified the urgency of the operation.

ANDREW KIRSCH: He was not shy. He was telling a lot of people and he was getting quite active. So we knew the law enforcement would be up and running pretty quick. It was only a matter of time. So that added a time pressure to this where we said: “Okay, we have a window. We think something's coming down the pipe. We have a couple of days.” So the elaborate plans went out the window a little bit where it's like: “What can we do tomorrow? What can we do with two days?”

NARRATOR: Andrew has been tasked with gathering information from the car of a suspicious character in the suburbs of Toronto. Now he needs to wrangle his team to execute an operation in just two days. It all starts with phase one: Planning. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: We would have an investigator like I was come and say: “Look, we think that this individual is, let's say, engaged in conversations where he's doing some plotting. And we think it's happening in this location that we can't otherwise access. And so we need your help to find out a way. How do we get this information? How do we capture this information?” And then we get to sit around a special operations team and think about how do we do this without obviously getting caught?

NARRATOR: Everyone on the team will have to work fast. Especially the technical specialists, people who use their expertise to gather information. They’re known colloquially as the ‘techs’. A close-access tech might plant something in a wall so skillfully and discretely that no one would ever know it was there. And a remote-access tech will work from a distance to, say, hack into a database. This car job would require some close-access skills. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: Writing a plan with the techs is a challenge. So my job was to put the plan together, and I would go to the techs and I would say: “How much time do you need for this job?” And they would say: “We will take all the time you can give me. They had a tough job. If something's not working and we're in a place where they can't get more tools they have to fix it with whatever they have on them. And if things weren't what they expected and they have to make things up on the fly, that's hard. But my job is to tell them: “You have five minutes or we got to go.”

NARRATOR: Of course, a tech team needs to eliminate as many known unknowns as possible before the operation begins. And that brings us to phase two: Procurement. In this case, procurement meant procuring a used car.

ANDREW KIRSCH: The techs didn't like to walk into a place where they didn't know what to expect. And so, part of our job was to give them as much information as they can expect. And so, in this case, we're dealing with a car. They'd like to practice on a car that looks very similar to it. And so my job was to find a similar car that they could then play around with. 

NARRATOR: Andrew, admittedly not a ‘car guy’, did a lot of shopping around for used vehicles. But the task could be tedious. His budget was usually tight, and finding the exact right match was a constant challenge.

ANDREW KIRSCH: Not a lot of people we were interested in were driving rare, expensive vehicles. But finding an early Honda, Toyota, whatever it is, that is the exact make, model, or year of what you're interested in isn't the easiest thing to do in a day or two days. So I'd run around and say: "I think I found something that's a year off.” And they would say: "Well they changed the entire electrical system in a year, so don't know if that's going to work.” And now you're back online saying: "Oh my goodness.” And I'd say: "I think I found the car. It's the exact same year.” And they say: "Well, is it the sports package or is it the...” “Oh my, there's a sports package?”

NARRATOR: It may sound trivial, but in cases like these, there’s no room for compromise.

ANDREW KIRSCH: If we had 10 minutes and they were planning on one thing and that's all we had, and all they could use was the stuff they brought with them, that was tough. So I was happy to try my best.

NARRATOR: Now it’s time for phase three: Assessment.

ANDREW KIRSCH: Before you do anything anywhere, you want to have a pretty good understanding of what you're walking into. And if we're talking about a neighborhood, when is garbage day? Are people going to be out late at night putting their garbage out for the next morning? Or, what time do the neighbors go to sleep? And are people in the street doing shift work and coming back at 2 am from working at a bar? We would see that in some buildings you have some students who are going out and coming back at 3 am. And you want to have a pretty good idea of the neighborhood or the area that you're working in. What was the rhythm of it? When did it get quiet? When was your window of opportunity to do your thing? Where can I build a window of time and how much can I find? So maybe an hour or 2 hours, 15 minutes, whatever that is.

NARRATOR: As team lead, Andrew can minimize risk by selecting the right window of time for the right location. They’ll also get a little bit of help from a surveillance officer or two, staked out in the area in advance of the job to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the target and to note any changes in the area. Of course, sometimes, a Special Ops team will have no choice but to roll with the punches.

ANDREW KIRSCH: You think you got it all figured out and the neighbor goes out to walk their dog. You've got a national security investigation and we're all ready to go, and everybody's in the cars and we're waiting for a dog to finish his business or a neighbor decides to watch a movie and they're up because The Godfather is playing on A&E and they want to watch the end of it. And now you can't go because their window overlooks the area where you're going to be working. You always get surprises.

NARRATOR: Not that he speaks from experience or anything. So, expect the unexpected. And it never hurts to take a good luck charm with you.

ANDREW KIRSCH: I had a lucky T-shirt. And when I first joined the Special Operations unit, I found this T-shirt. It said: "I was never here." And it just struck me as, generally, a spy motto. When I was interviewing people, I would say: "I was never here. Our conversations are between you and I." And, and on the Special Operations unit, it was like a mantra. “I was never here. Don't get caught.” That's the goal. So I would wear this T-shirt, it became my lucky T-shirt, and my wife would know when she'd see me. "Ah, you're working tonight, you put on your lucky shirt." I put it under my hooded sweatshirt and headed down to the office.

NARRATOR: The evening of the operation unfolded like any other, lucky T-shirt included. Working strange hours was nothing out of the ordinary.

ANDREW KIRSCH: I would go home after work after 5 pm. I'd try to have a nap after dinner, like an 8 pm to 10 pm nap, I'd kiss my wife and kid goodnight. And I'd head out around 11 pm to go to work. We would gather and we would get our gear, whatever gear was required for the night. If you needed radios and night vision stuff and whatever the situation required. Now, there could be a number of operations going on at the same time. So if I'm leading one, I could be a part of somebody else, but I wouldn't be as knowledgeable about it. So that's where it was the team lead’s opportunity to gather everybody together and go back over the operation. If anything had changed, everyone read the plan. What's everybody's role? What are the objectives, timelines, and things like that?

NARRATOR: With such a tight window of time to work within, there was no room for error. It was on Andrew’s shoulders to make sure everyone understood the plan forwards and back. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: So that's when we'd say: “Okay, are we still all clear? Ready to go? Everything's good. Let's go into the neighborhood and get a last look.”

NARRATOR: And that was just how this operation began. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: We left the office. We were informed the area was secure. It was, was good. Everything was quiet. And we moved into the neighborhood. We parked in the street just to get the last little moment to collect our thoughts. And of course, at that moment was when someone decided to go and walk their dog. It was a relatively nice night. And one of the neighbors from down the street was walking his dog and having a smoke and interfering with a national security investigation and costing the government of Canada thousands of dollars.

NARRATOR: Terribly inconsiderate.

ANDREW KIRSCH: So we had to wait. Throughout my career, I caught myself just thinking: “What am I doing? And this is so funny and strange and surreal and I can't believe that I get to do this.” And sometimes I can't believe I have to do this. That's the feeling throughout.

NARRATOR: Remember, Andrew’s in charge here. He’s the one who decides whether to move or not. He’s sitting in a van with a bunch of guys with more experience than him, yet he’s got to be the one to give the green light because getting out of the van ups the ante. Once you’re out and about, you’re way more likely to attract attention. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: There's a number of stages where you get to make decisions about these things, right? So you're in the office, everything's quiet. You go up to the street, the street is quiet. But it's really until you make that turn and commit - “We are going to go and walk up to this car. We're going to go into this house. We're going to go touch this door.” - that you're really committed. 

NARRATOR: But the time comes to make that commitment. At Andrew’s command, the team makes its first steps out of the van into the quiet neighborhood.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We are committed. This is happening. And so all along I have people behind me and I'm looking around. I'm feeling: “Are we good? Is this going to be okay? How do I feel? How do things look?”

NARRATOR: If that sounds a bit self-conscious, you might be interested to know everything about this operation has been studied and rehearsed, including the way Andrew’s team walks together as a group.

ANDREW KIRSCH: There's this weird thing that happens. If you were on a special operation. I'm so curious to see if it happens at work in downtown corporate offices. But we would inevitably fall in line in some sort of either pair or in a single file and look like a paramilitary organization walking down the street, which, if you saw it from your window, would look extremely strange. Why are these people walking in a single-file line almost in lockstep, or two-by-two, straight ahead, no one talking, very focused? And you can't do that because that looks weird. So we had to practice walking casually. I say practice our gaggle, which is if we were in the neighborhood, we were coming back from the bar. If we were just walking down the street as friends, what would that look like? And we should walk like that.

NARRATOR: Of course, should anyone spot this amiable gaggle of friends strolling very naturally through the neighborhood, the group would need a cover story.

ANDREW KIRSCH: Our cover story was that we were friends. We were out having a round of drinks. We were coming home late. So to really live our cover, we splashed some booze on us. We wanted to look like that's where we had been. You're not all wearing Ninja gear. That looks weird. You might have a sweatshirt, but it's in place with where you are. So, yeah, if someone had stumbled across us, we would have reeked of booze. And, of course, if we'd been pulled over on our way to the operation, I think the police might have taken a whiff of what was inside of our vehicle and had a couple of questions. And that was a challenge of living. Your cover was to make it to the operation.

NARRATOR: Right. Look natural. Smell bad. And stay away from the cops.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We're trying our best to chat and look like we're enjoying each other's company. And laughing. And then at some point, I say: "Okay, it's on. Let's go.” And we all duck in.

NARRATOR: Duck in, that is, to the target’s driveway. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: So we get to the car and, at that point really, the techs take over. My job is to get them to the car and make sure they're not disturbed. Right. Then it’s ‘game on’ for the techs. 

NARRATOR: Sandwiched between two cars on the target’s driveway, the techs set to work doing what they do best. For the moment, the operation is out of Andrew’s hands.

ANDREW KIRSCH: To be honest, I barely know what they're doing. And it's not my job to micromanage them. My job is to make sure that they're not disturbed, that everything is okay. That I'm communicating with people all around in case anybody is going to interrupt us. And of course, that's what happens. This car comes. And this is late at night. It comes pretty quick and it's making a turn onto our street and we're near the top of the street and we don't know where cars are going - if that person could have pulled into the neighbor, pulled into the driveway, parked right in front of us.

NARRATOR: It’s time to think fast. But remember how each Special Operations team has a surveillance officer, or surveillant, staked out near the area, keeping an eye on comings and goings? Well, it’s Andrew’s surveillant who gets them out of this jam, by entering the scene in a vehicle of his own.

ANDREW KIRSCH: The surveillant proceeded, and I joke, to do the slowest, 13-point turn to pretend like they were trying to slowly get down and go the other side of the street. And you could see the person trying to drive down get increasingly more frustrated. The surveillant did his 15th, 16th-point turn. The car actually gave up, decided to do a U-turn, turn and go down around the other end of the street and parked way down the street. So not near to us.

NARRATOR: Crisis averted. For the moment.

ANDREW KIRSCH: But we went back and we're working back, working work and working. My team is rummaging in the back of the car. And one of my colleagues is crouched behind the vehicle, poking her head to keep an eye on the front door, because that's the most immediate threat, the front door. It's the person who is closest to us and obviously that we're most concerned about. And of course, that's when the light goes on in the front hallway.

NARRATOR: Someone in the target’s home is awake.

ANDREW KIRSCH: And I hear over the radio: “Someone's there.” And that's not what you want to hear when you're on one of these jobs. So I say: "What?” And they said: “Someone is there.”

NARRATOR: You have to wonder, in Andrew’s shoes, if you might be missing that office job right about now.

ANDREW KIRSCH: Now I look at my techs and I turn to them and I realize we have a big problem because they are holding part of this car, something from this car that the person would notice if it was missing or not there. And obviously ‘don't get caught’ is number one. And getting caught can mean a lot of things. It can mean them seeing us or them knowing that we were there at all. I was never here. So I look at my tech and he looks at me and, in that moment, I sort of freeze. And he's been on hundreds of jobs and I'm staring at him and he's holding this thing and he says: "Do you think I should put this back and maybe we should get out of here?” And he wasn't saying it to be snarky. He was just offering a suggestion at a time when I could really use a suggestion. And I said: “That's a great idea. Let's do that.”

NARRATOR: Seems like a wise choice.

ANDREW KIRSCH: So he got to work with his guy to put that thing back. And number two, who was around the side of the vehicle was keeping an eye on the front. And we quickly - as quick as we could - closed the door. And it's like the posters of when the apes become the men, as we were duck-walking and slowly re-emerging into full height as we crouched out from aside that car, made our way back to the van upright, and got out of there.

NARRATOR: This might seem like a natural place for this mission to end. Andrew’s team is already packed up in the van - they could just cut their losses, drive back to CSIS, and chalk it up to a bad night with a surprising amount of street traffic. Andrew’s the team leader; he can send everyone home to get some sleep. Isn’t that what you’d do in his position? Well, no - you almost certainly wouldn’t because you were rattled by two major terrorist attacks in your formative years. You’ve seen what can happen when precautions aren’t taken. Now you’re steps away from a man who’s said outright that he wants to bring harm to your country. Walking away now isn’t the choice you’d make. And it wasn’t the choice Andrew made, either.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We were not done. We still had a mission that we needed to do. We still had the time constraints of having a night to do it. And we still had some time left in the night. So we thought: “We'll give that a little bit of time to quiet down. We'll let the house lights go out, and hopefully, the person will go back to bed and we'll get right back to it.” Which we did.

NARRATOR: So, third time’s a charm? That’s what Andrew thought.

ANDREW KIRSCH: And we said: “It's got to be done, right? It's got to be it, right?” And away we went. We were back and we were finishing up our job, and a car at the bottom end of the street slipped by the surveillance. It was going very, very slowly. We thought: “Okay, they're going to park down the street. They're far enough down the street. We'll just… we’ve got lots of time.” But it didn't stop. It didn't park. It kept going. And we realized not quickly, not quick enough, that it was delivering flyers. It was this early morning flier delivery guy who was stopping, getting out, walking to the houses, and then getting back in his car and continuing up the street. And his big torch flashlight was looking for house numbers, and he was spraying this torch up the street.

NARRATOR: And by this time, after so many interruptions, the team is facing another challenge: the sun is starting to rise.

ANDREW KIRSCH: When it's dark, you can hide in the shadows. When it starts to get bright, you're not hidden. You are basically on the road, sitting behind a car where everyone can see you. 

NARRATOR: Andrew and his team are sardined in between the two cars parked side-by-side in their target’s driveway. They know that if they move now, they’ll just attract suspicion, and the man distributing flyers will hit them with his flashlight. And they are so close, finally, to pulling this off. 

ANDREW KIRSCH: We can't come back. There's no other time. And we just got to see this through. Yeah, I was sweating the whole time, thinking: “Why is it my operation where all this stuff is happening? Why is this happening to me? Is it something I'm doing? And then, man, let's just get through this and all laugh about it later. Right? Right, everybody?”

NARRATOR: Right. Maybe later.

ANDREW KIRSCH: We're going to hang tight. And he flashes the light above our heads. We hear the door open. We're all huddled together. And he gets out and he walks right beside us, the other side of the car to the neighbor's house, drops the flyers in, gets back in his car, and drives away. And I look back at my tech, the senior tech guy who had been very supportive the whole night. And I say: "You know, I've never, ever seen that one before.” He goes: "That's a new one to me.” And we said: "Why don't we get out of here?” He said: “Sounds good, sounds good.”

NARRATOR: That was the not-so-triumphant ending to what was, nevertheless, a successful operation. Andrew and his colleagues left the scene with all parts of the car returned to their proper place. Mission accomplished. And it was a good thing, too. Turns out, the bad feeling Andrew got from the target’s photo was a pretty accurate read of his character.

ANDREW KIRSCH: He ended up getting deported. So they did find him inadmissible for threat-related activities. I don't know if our piece of information helped or was validating, but it reinforced the fact that it wasn't just me who got a bad feeling about this dude but that the people in positions of authority who make these decisions on the balance of evidence found that this was a person that we should not admit. And I'm really lucky that we didn't get caught or in trouble or jeopardize it.

NARRATOR: This wasn’t the only operation Andrew and his team carried out against potential foreign fighters. But domestic intelligence and small-scale operations like that car job don’t typically make the news. Especially when they’re done successfully. They’re carried out quietly in ordinary neighborhoods, targeting seemingly ordinary people. And it makes you wonder: Are they happening in your neighborhood, too? 

ANDREW KIRSCH: I say to some people that Canada, we're a relatively safe country and we should appreciate that. And that's something to be thankful for. But it's not because we don't have our threats and challenges. It's because we do a pretty good job of managing them and because, every day, a bunch of people in my organization - I was a small part of it - get up every day and do their best to keep us safe. And it's not necessarily evidence that we don't need security. It's evidence that it works or we do a decent job.

NARRATOR: You can hear more stories from Andrew Kirsch in his new book I Was Never Here. I’m Vanessa Kirby.

Guest Bio

Andrew Kirsch served 10 years as an Intelligence Officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), where he rose up the ranks to leading technical and physical covert teams in special operations. He now works as a security consultant and is the author of I Was Never Here.

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