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Sunday, August 8, 2010

BENNETT, LESLIE (“JIM”)

The son of a Welsh coal miner, Bennett was a former British intercept operator who served in Malta during World War II and joined GCHQ in 1945. He was posted to Istanbul to run a clandestine intercept station  inside the British Consulate-General, a few doors away from Kim Philby’s office. After his tour of duty in  Turkey, Bennett was transferred as a liaison officer to the Defence Signals Directorate in Melbourne,  Australia, where he met his wife, Heather, and in 1954 they emigrated to Canada. He joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service, having been rejected by his original intended employer, the Communications Branch of the National Research Council, and spent the next 18 years as an intelligence officer, running the FEATHERBED investigation of moles inside the Canadian government that led to the  interrogation of a senior diplomat, Herbert Norman.
Bennett proved a success in the Security Service and ran Ops B, the counterintelligence branch responsible  for maintaining surveillance on suspected Soviet spies, but he was identified by the KGB defector Anatoli  Golitsyn as a potential traitor. A lengthy mole hunt code-named GRIDIRON proved inconclusive, so Bennett was interrogated in 1972 and dismissed. After a divorce, he followed his ex-wife and two daughters to  Australia and settled first in Perth and then in the Glenelg suburb of Adelaide.
In 1977 the Canadian solicitor-general publicly declared that there was no evidence against Bennett, and  when another Mountie, Gilles Brunet, was exposed as having been the KGB’s mole, he belatedly received compensation. Later, in January 1986, another RCMP mole, James Morrison, code-named LONG KNIFE, was convicted of having sold Security Service secrets to the KGB between 1955 and 1958.
Brunet died in April 1984 before he was discovered, and Bennett succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in  October 2000.