In January 2000, the Globe and Mail published an astonishing story about the aftermath of the bombing of an Air India jet nearly 15 years earlier.
In the article, an unnamed former officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service admitted that he burned tapes of 150 hours of interviews with informants in Vancouver.
This former agent claimed that if he had given the tapes to the Mounties, his sources might have been compelled to testify in any criminal case. And the agent believed that this would have led to these people being murdered.
CSIS had already destroyed 156 of 210 tapes of wiretapped conversations with the alleged mastermind of the Air India bombing, Talwinder Singh Parmar.
This occurred before Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri were charged in connection with the crime. Malik and Bagri were later acquitted when the judge, Ian Bruce Josephson, concluded that several Crown witnesses were not credible.
Stunning revelations at Air India inquiry
Meanwhile at the Air India inquiry in 2007, a former RCMP superintendent testified that he was unaware that CSIS had been recording Parmar's conversations in the three months leading up to the bombing.
At the same inquiry, a former Vancouver police officer, Rick Crook, testified that an informant had warned in the fall of 1984 of a plan to bomb two Air India planes. Crook said that he wrote a report and forwarded it to CSIS and the RCMP, which had jurisdiction in this area.
The terrorist attack on June 23, 1985, killed all 329 people onboard Air India Flight 182. Another bomb went off from an Air India plane on the tarmac at Japan's Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers.
Wai Young backtracked on controversial remarks
This is the backdrop for Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young's recent comments, which landed her in hot water.
Last month, she suggested at a church service that CSIS knew there was a bomb on Air India Flight 182. The Conservative MP maintained that CSIS was legally prevented from conveying this information to the Mounties. In an astonishing claim, Young also told the congregation that the government's antiterrorism legislation fixes that problem.
Of course, there was no legislated prohibition on CSIS issuing a warning to the RCMP. And there has never been proof that CSIS knew that a bomb was on the plane. So Young quickly backtracked from her comments.
But there's still a nagging question: why didn't CSIS tell the RCMP that it had taped conversations with the apparent mastermind of the plot in the period leading up to the bombing? Why were so many tapes destroyed?
The Air India inquiry commissioner, John Major, didn't find that CSIS knew of the bomb plot. Nor has it been conclusively demonstrated anywhere else.
But just because there's no proof doesn't mean it's not a plausible possibility that someone within CSIS might have known.
America worked with Pakistan in South Asia
There's plenty of evidence that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was active in the early 1980s promoting the movement for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab called Khalistan.
At the time, the Ronald Reagan–led U.S. government wasn't happy with the friendship between then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and the Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. The CIA worked closely with its allies in Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
The CIA and the ISI supported militant Sunni Muslim extremists, including Osama bin Laden, in their jihad against the Soviet-backed Afghan government in that era.
And militant Sikh extremists were supported in their holy war against the government of India.
Militant Sunnis and militant Sikhs were also useful American counterweights in the region to the militant Shiites who were governing Iran, which was America's arch enemy.
Should it come as a huge surprise that there would be blowback in the form of aviation terrorism (i.e. 9/11 and the Air India bombings) from working so closely with these religious extremists?
There's much more to the Air India bombing than meets the eye—and any realistic analysis has to include the geopolitical realities of the times.
It's a point that's often made by Vancouver broadcaster Gurpreet Singh, but which has been largely overlooked by much of the Canadian mainstream media coverage.