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CSIS’ Unapproved Foreign Spies Put Canadians Abroad At Risk: Judge

CSIS’ Unapproved Foreign Spies Put Canadians Abroad At Risk: Judge.

TORONTO – Canada’s spy agency deliberately withheld information from the courts in an effort to do an end-run around the law when it applied for top-secret warrants to intercept the communications of Canadians abroad, a Federal Court judge said Friday.

In doing so, the judge said in written reasons, the agency put Canadians abroad at potential risk.

The situation arose five years ago when Canadian Security Intelligence Service asked Federal Court for special warrants related to two Canadian citizens — already under investigation as a potential threat to national security — that would apply while they were abroad.

CSIS assured Judge Richard Mosley the intercepts would be carried out from inside Canada, and controlled by Canadian government personnel, court records show.

Mosley granted the warrants in January 2009 based on what CSIS and Canada’s top secret eavesdropping agency — the Communication Security Establishment of Canada or CSEC — had told him.

However, Canadian officials then asked for intercept help from foreign intelligence allies without telling the court.

Mosley was unimpressed, saying the courts had never approved the foreign involvement.

“It is clear that the exercise of the court’s warrant issuing has been used as protective cover for activities that it has not authorized,” Mosley wrote in redacted reasons.

“The failure to disclose that information was the result of a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court’s issuance of a warrant.”

Under current legislation, Federal Court has no authority to issue warrants that involve intercepts of Canadians carried out abroad by Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence partners, Mosley noted.

He said CSIS, which was granted several similar warrants on fresh or renewed applications in relation to other targets, knew the law but deliberately sought to get around the limitation by misinterpreting it.

“CSIS and CSEC officials are relying on that interpretation at their peril and… incurring the risk that targets may be detained or otherwise harmed as a result of the use of the intercepted communications by the foreign agencies,” Mosley wrote.

“(The law) does not authorize the service and CSEC to incur that risk or shield them from liability.”

The documents show alarm bells went off after the commissioner of CSEC, Robert Decary, tabled his annual report in August.

In the report, he suggested CSIS provide Federal Court with “certain additional evidence about the nature and extent” of his agency’s help to the intelligence service.

Mosley ordered both agencies to explain what Decary meant. He did not like what he heard about the hidden foreign involvement in the intercepts.

“This was a breach of the duty of candour owed by the service and their legal advisers to the court,” he said.

“It has led to misstatements in the public record about the scope of the authority granted the service.”

Mosley made it clear the warrants do not authorize any foreign service to intercept communications of any Canadian on behalf of CSIS or CSEC.

 

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief | UK news | The Guardian

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief | UK news | The Guardian.

Edward Snowden composite with GCHQ and fibre optics

The details of GCHQ and NSA targets are the latest revelations from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Photograph: Guardian

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list ofsurveillance targets that included the EU’s competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top-secret documents reveal.

The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef andMédecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.

The latest disclosures will add to Washington’s embarrassment after the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile phone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear that the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another important American ally – the “Israeli prime minister”. Ehud Olmert was in office at the time.

Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.

Prominent names that appear in the GCHQ documents include Joaquín Almunia, a Spaniard who is vice-president of the European commissionwith responsibility for competition policy.

Britain’s targeting of Germany may also prove awkward for the prime minister, David Cameron: in October, he endorsed an EU statementcondemning NSA spying on world leaders, including Merkel.

They have both been in Brussels, attending an EU summit that concludes on Friday.

The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. They provoked a furious reaction from the European commission, Almunia and others on the target lists.

• The commission said the disclosures “are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation. This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states.” Almunia said he was “very upset” to discover his name was on GCHQdocuments.

• Leigh Daynes, UK executive director of Médecins du Monde, said he was “bewildered by these extraordinary allegations of secret surveillance. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored.”

• Another target, Nicolas Imboden, the head of an NGO that provides help to African countries, said the spying on him was “clearly economic espionage and politically motivated”.

• Human Rights Watch, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch condemned the targeting.

• Labour said the committee that oversees GCHQ should be given extra powers.

The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries. Asked about this activity, a spokesman for GCHQ said it was “longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”, but the official maintained the agency “takes its obligations under the law very seriously”.

The new information is published after a joint investigation by the Guardian, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the New York Times. According to documents, the targeting efforts involved programmes run from GCHQ’s listening post near the small Cornish seaside resort of Bude. This is a key listening facility that receives substantial funding from the NSA to undertake shared transatlantic surveillance operations.

Among other activities, the base was tasked with monitoring satellite communications between Europe and Africa, and the papers show that Bude tested the value of new “carriers” used by telecoms companies to judge whether they would be worth intercepting.

According to documents, dated from 2008 to 2011, a unit at Bude did this by testing samples of data to see whether surveillance targets already on GCHQ and NSA databases were making use of the new connections.

If GCHQ analysts identified a carrier they thought could be useful, they would be asked: “Can this carrier be tasked on collection system?”

Providing more permanent surveillance would often depend on whetherGCHQ had suitable software and, if not, whether it was possible to upgrade systems to make it possible.

Almunia is in charge of major anti-monopoly investigations and approving mergers of companies with significant presence in the EU. He has been involved in a long-running investigation into Google over complaints about the company’s alleged stranglehold on online advertising. He has also clashed with Google and Microsoft over privacy concerns and was prominent in the EU’s response to the global financial crisis.

Surveillance on such a senior EU official with a major role in economic affairs is bound to alarm other European nations, and raise concerns as to whether intelligence produced from Almunia or others is shared with the US – the NSA has a number of personnel at the base in Bude and contributes millions of pounds to its budget.

Another target was the French defence and logistics giant Thales Group, which is part-owned by the French government.

In all, communications from more than 60 countries were targeted in this particular operation, with other names listed in the GCHQ documents including Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the current African Union-United Nations joint special representative for Darfur, as well as multiple African heads of state.

Imboden, from the non-profit Ideas Centre in Geneva, and Solomon Asamoah, deputy head of the Africa Finance Corporation, also appeared on GCHQ’s lists.

The documents do not give any insight into why GCHQ deemed them worthy of surveillance.

In 2009, Chambas was president of Ecowas. He had been closely involved in efforts to bring peace to Liberia, and GCHQ picked up text messages he sent while in the country to receive an award.

One message read: “Thanks Kwame. Glad to know all is well. Am in Liberia for receive National Award … inde celebration.” A second added: “What machine gun sounds? Am in Gbanga former HQ of Charles Taylor …”

Offices operated by the UN development programme, which administers financial relief to poor nations, and of the World Health Organisation were also among listed targets.

The targeting of German government buildings may prove the biggest political headache for the UK. The documents show GCHQ targeting German government networks in Berlin, and official communications between Germany and Georgia and Germany and Turkey. Germany’s embassy in Rwanda was also a target.

The papers seen by the Guardian do not disclose the extent of any surveillance or for how long any collection took place.

However, each individual or group had a specific ID number in the agency’s “target knowledge base”. This indicates they had been a deliberate target of surveillance efforts, rather than accidentally caught in a dragnet.

Unlike its US counterpart, GCHQ is entitled to engage in spying relating to economic matters, but only if it is linked to national security issues.

The 1994 Intelligence and Security Act says the agency can work “in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the defence and foreign policies of Her Majesty’s government; in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom; and in support of the prevention and the detection of serious crime”. However, critics have repeatedly called for a proper definition of “national security”, and raised questions about what should be permitted to protect “economic wellbeing” beyond the need to help UK companies defend themselves against the theft of intellectual property or from cyber-attacks.

Documents show GCHQ has also been keen to break into global roaming exchanges (known as GRXs), which are centres that handle routing international mobile calls to the appropriate countries and phone networks. Belgacom, which Der Spiegel revealed this year was the victim of GCHQ hacking efforts, is one such international exchange.

One 2010 presentation referring to the agency’s efforts against GRXs went on to note that “diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO [modus operandi] of using smartphones” and added the agency had “exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year”. The Guardian in Junerevealed GCHQ had engaged in extensive surveillance efforts against G20 delegates in 2009, including in order to secure advantages in trade talks and bilaterals.

On Monday, the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times jointly approached GCHQ for comment. The agency would not go into any details but said: “One of the purposes for which GCHQ may be authorised to intercept communications is where it is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the UK.” However, the code of practice made clear this had to be “directly related to state security. Interception under this purpose is categorically not about industrial espionage.”

The NSA said: “As we have previously said, we do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. The United States collects foreign intelligence just as many other governments do.

“The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policymakers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security. As the administration also announced several months ago, the US government is undertaking a review of our activities around the world – looking at, among other issues, how we co-ordinate with our closest allies and partners.”

 

Fed Seen Tapering QE in $10B Steps in Next Seven Meetings – Bloomberg

Fed Seen Tapering QE in $10B Steps in Next Seven Meetings – Bloomberg.

The Federal Reserve will probably reduce its bond purchases in $10 billion increments over the next seven meetings before ending the program in December 2014, economists said.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 41 economists matches the $10 billion reduction announced two days ago as the Fed began to unwind the unprecedented stimulus that has defined Ben S. Bernanke’s chairmanship.

The Federal Open Market Committeesaid in a statement it will slow buying “in further measured steps at future meetings” if the economy improves as forecast. The Fed may taper its buying by about $10 billion per gathering, Bernanke said at a press conference in Washington on Dec. 18.

“If we’re making progress in terms of inflation and continued job gains, then I imagine we’ll continue to do, probably at each meeting, a measured reduction” in purchases, Bernanke said, calling $10 billion in the “general range” for a “modest” reduction. If the economy slows, the Fed may “skip a meeting or two,” and if the economy accelerates it may taper a “bit faster.”

Such predictable increments would extend Bernanke’s push toward greater transparency and openness at the Fed, said Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York.

The Fed Tiptoes Into a Taper

“Doing this would avoid the drama of having to come to a consensus at each meeting,” Saporta said. “It may have been difficult enough to agree on the timing, size and composition of the first taper, so maybe no one has the appetite to do that on an ongoing basis.”

Exceeded Expectations

A report today showed third-quarter growth exceeded expectations. Gross domestic product climbed at a 4.1 percent annualized rate, the strongest since the final three months of 2011 and up from a previous estimate of 3.6 percent, Commerce Department figures showed in Washington.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.4 percent to 1,816.33 at 10:17 a.m. in New York, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 0.02 percentage point to 2.91 percent.

Bernanke’s second four-year term ends Jan. 31, and Vice Chairman Janet Yellen is awaiting Senate confirmation to succeed him.

The Fed coupled its decision to taper bond purchases with a stronger commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate low. Bernanke said the decision was intended to “keep the level of accommodation the same overall.”

Jobless Rate

Unemployment fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November as employers added 203,000 workers to payrolls. Inflation measured by the personal consumption expenditures index was 0.7 percent in October and has remained below the Fed’s 2 percent objective for almost a year and a half.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose to a record $4.01 trillion as of Dec. 18, up from $2.82 trillion when it began the third round of purchases. The FOMC began QE3, as the program is known, in September 2012 with monthly purchases of $40 billion in mortgage bonds and added $45 billion in Treasury purchases starting in December 2012.

The balance sheet will expand to about $4.4 trillion by the time the program ends, according to median estimates in the survey. Economists forecast purchases in the third round eventually will reach $800 billion in mortgage bonds and $789 billion in Treasuries.

 

HRW says Egypt broadens opposition crackdown – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

HRW says Egypt broadens opposition crackdown – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Several prominent secular activists have been arrested in the past three weeks [Al Jazeera]
Human Rights Watch has denounced the arrest of a prominent Egyptian activist during a raid by security forces on a domestic human rights organisation, which it described as a continuation of a crackdown on dissent.Police broke into the offices of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights late Thursday and arrested six of its members who were blindfolded and detained in an undisclosed place for nine hours. Five of them were later released.

Mohamed Adel, a founding member of the April 6 movement that contributed to the 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak, remains in custody.

Police have in the past three weeks also gone after three other prominent activists of the Egyptian protest movement; Alaa Abdelfattah, Ahmed Maher and Ahmad Douma.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said the pursuit of the activists is a deliberate effort to target “voices who demand justice and security agency reform”.

“It should come as no surprise that with the persecution of the Muslim Brotherhood well underway, the Ministry of Interior is now targeting leaders of the secular protest movement,” Whitson said in a statement released on Saturday.

“The Egyptian government has sent a strong signal with its attack on a human rights group, and these arrests and prosecutions, that it is not in the mood for dissent of any kind,” Whitson said.

Anti-protest law

With Adel’s arrest, the number of prominent political activists arrested by Egypt’s security forces in the past three years has risen to a total of five.

Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 youth movement and a 2011 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, is among those put in jail since the government passed a law outlawing the calling for protests without first attaining approvals from the Ministry of Interior.

Along with Adel, Maher and activist Ahmed Douma are on trial on charges relating to a protest on November 30, with a verdict scheduled for December 22.

Prosecutors also recently referred Alaa Abdelfattah, one of the most vocal critics of the police and the military, to trial on charges of organising a demonstration without notification.

Human Rights Watch accused the police of using “the deeply repressive” law to arrest scores of political activists on grounds that they failed to seek advance permission for their demonstrations.

“The government claims that, instead of criminal penalties, the new law sets fines – of 10,000 – 30,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$ $1,500 – 4,300) under article 21 – for failing to get advance permission,” the HRW statement said, adding: “Yet the new law incorporates the existing restrictive assembly laws, including Law 14 of 1923, which carries with it a prison sentence for participation in an unauthorised demonstration.”

 

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