OTTAWA (Reuters) - In an unexpected move, the head of Canada's spy agency will soon quit his job at a time when the force is preparing for both the Winter Olympics and a major international summit next year.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said late on Tuesday that director Jim Judd, 61, would retire in June after a 36-year career in the federal bureaucracy. His five-year term was due to end in November and he had given no hints he planned to quit.
One prominent security expert described the timing of the announcement as surprising but said there had been signs of tension inside the service, which has been rattled recently by high-profile controversies.
Judd's appointment as CSIS boss in 2004 came as a surprise, since he was not a member of the country's security community. He pushed to open up the highly secretive agency and was much more visible than his predecessors.
His tenure has encompassed some difficult moments for the agency, which grew rapidly in the years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Wesley Wark, a leading intelligence specialist at the University of Toronto, said he believed both Judd and CSIS were becoming tired of each other.
"It's not a palace revolt, as CSIS is incapable of such a thing, but there's a degree of disgruntlement over two recent initiatives," he told Reuters on Wednesday.
Earlier this month Judd publicly admonished one of his own officials for saying that CSIS would, in some extreme cases, use intelligence that had been gathered through torture.
"I know of no instance where such use of information has been made by our service," Judd told a parliamentary committee, saying the official in question may have been confused.
In March, he requested an investigation into allegations of CSIS misconduct in the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Canadian man taking refuge in the Canadian embassy in Sudan.
A secret Foreign Ministry document obtained by local media suggests Sudan jailed Abdelrazik at the request of CSIS. Judd said the agency made no such request.
"I'm pretty sure that that initiative (seeking a probe) struck people in CSIS as unnecessarily perilous," said Wark.
No one at CSIS was immediately available for comment.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said a replacement for Judd would be named in due course.
The Olympics will start in Vancouver in February 2010. Canada will also host a summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations next year.
CSIS employs around 2,500 people. Its budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year was C$389 million ($321 million) compared with C$171 million in 1998-99.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson