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CBC News has released a top-secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden showing the Canadian government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.
The four-page National Security Agency document was posted online at CBC.ca early Monday.
The document is one of thousands that Snowden entrusted to U.S. freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald, who co-authored the story reported exclusively by CBC News on Nov. 27.
- Read the NSA document on surveillance at the 2010 G8 and G20 summits
- New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G8, G20 in Toronto
- Top spy won’t answer questions about G20 surveillance
- Editor’s blog: Reporting on secrets and national security
Since then, CBC has offered the U.S. government an opportunity to retrieve and review the document from its files, and to comment on any information in the document it believes should not be released.
David Walmsley, CBC’s director of news content, says the public broadcaster “believes in transparency to support its journalism.”
Late Sunday, the NSA requested only that CBC News black out any information that could identify NSA and other U.S. government employees to protect their personal safety.
The network agreed with the request, and certain segments of the documents appearing online have been blacked out.
The U.S. State Department initially issued a statement in reaction to the original CBC story about the NSA’s spying at the G20 summit, pointing out U.S. President Barack Obama has already ordered a broad review of U.S. intelligence activities in the wake of Snowden’s earlier revelations.
But on Friday, a State Department official said there would be no comment on the publication of the actual secret document: “Thank you for the offer, but we cannot discuss allegedly classified materials.”
Later Friday evening, the White House requested an opportunity to review the document. An official sent CBC an email Sunday morning, saying: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.”
Wesley Wark, one of Canada’s leading experts on national security and intelligence, reviewed the document and says it still leaves a lot of questions.
The biggest, he says, is Canada’s role in the NSA’s surveillance operations at the G8 and G20.
The document says only that the NSA’s surveillance plans were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner” — the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).
Both agencies gather intelligence by intercepting phone calls and data, and by hacking into computer systems.
But Wark says it is not clear from the document what the NSA was “co-ordinating” with Canada before and during the Toronto summit.
“This may be commonplace and relatively banal or it may be very troubling,” Wark said in an interview. “But until we have more of this story, I don’t think we know where it goes.”
Both the U.S. and Canadian governments have refused to provide any details of security and intelligence operations during the summits.
“I don’t think we can accept at face value the assurances of the government about the legal mandate of CSEC,” Wark says. “Nor can we simply assume that something illegal happened here. We just don’t know enough from my perspective.”
While much of the U.S. intelligence gathering during the summit was related to security, the document also talks about snooping operations in support of policymakers.
“They would want to be collecting intelligence on the sort of personalities of key international leaders — often you get some very interesting information from these kinds of summit meetings, where they are close in with conversations and chit-chats among delegates in not always secure circumstances,” Wark says.
“They would want some political intelligence whatever (way) they could acquire it, and some economic intelligence.
“So there might be a whole range of things, and the document itself refers to various tasks that exist for the NSA [at the G20] in terms of that policy support.”
- Barrick Fined $15.8 Million Over Chile Environmental Concerns (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Chile’s Indians take on world’s largest gold miner (news.yahoo.com)
- Chile Blocks World’s Highest Mine Project (abcnews.go.com)
- Barrick fined $16m for Pascua-Lama violations (news.yahoo.com)
- Chile blocks Pascua-Lama mine, fines Barrick Gold $16-million for serious environmental violation (business.financialpost.com)
- Barrick Gold fined for Chile project (bbc.co.uk)
- Canada household debt remains at record high (bnn.ca)
- Household debt grows as manufacturing lags (bnn.ca)
- Bank of Canada’s Mark Carney eyes three factors as rate hike guide (business.financialpost.com)
- Bank of Canada’s Carney says eyes three factors as rate hike guide (xe.com)
- Consumer debt in Canada hits half a trillion (beaconnews.ca)
- UPDATE 1-Bank of Canada’s Carney sees little rate-hike pressure (xe.com)
- Tar Sands Solutions Network launches oil sands news aggregation site (vancouverobserver.com)
- Students, Community Protest Utah Tar Sands Conference (southwestearthfirst.wordpress.com)
- Academics warn Canada against further tar sands production (guardian.co.uk)
- UK signals support for EU import of Canadian tar sands oil (guardian.co.uk)
- Better oil price needed for emissions controls to work: environment minister (calgaryherald.com)
- Peter Kent announces new climate change initiative in U.S. (canada.com)
- What exactly is Peter Kent’s position on carbon pricing? (macleans.ca)
- Alison Redford, Peter Kent wrap up Washington trip to promote Keystone XL (ctvnews.ca)
- Peter Kent’s department ducks questions about cuts following concerns over contaminant from Erin Brockovich case (o.canada.com)
- Peter Kent orders doomed advisory panel to turn over website files (o.canada.com)
- Eisman Is Gloomy on Canadian Housing (dealbook.nytimes.com)
- Canada’s Housing Market: The Next Big Short? (cnbc.com)
- Canadian housing ripe for short bets? Famed U.S. investor thinks so (business.financialpost.com)
- The Harper government has many ears (macleans.ca)
- Ontario judge blasts Harper government’s ‘tough on crime’ agenda: Editorial (thestar.com)
- Conservative MPs accuse Harper government of muzzling them on abortion (news.nationalpost.com)
- Conservative MPs accuse Harper government of muzzling them (o.canada.com)
- Al Gore’s oilsands remarks displease Canada’s natural resources minister (o.canada.com)
- Misquoted researcher offers minister lessons in climate science (globalnews.ca)
- Canada: Joe Oliver beats back accusations of climate change denial – CBC.ca (cbc.ca)
- Climate change scientist calls Conservatives ‘Neanderthal’ (cbc.ca)
- Joe Oliver on climate change: ‘Scientists have recently told us that our fears are exaggerated’ (macleans.ca)
- Ottawa fights EU plan to label Canadian oil as dirty (irishexaminer.com)
- Canada crude-Prices slip on refinery work (xe.com)
- UPDATE 1-Crude-by-rail no substitute for Keystone XL -energy minister (xe.com)
- CHART: Oil sands crude’s deepening discount (mining.com)
- Canada’s rising oil production at risk if no new pipelines (dawn.com)
- Oliver to defend oil sands during visit to Europe (business.financialpost.com)
- Just the Beginning of Canada’s Filthy Tar Sands (counterpunch.org)
May 2, 2012
A number of media articles over the past couple of weeks have me wondering about how quickly liberty and freedom can be lost, even here in Canada. Various levels of government have been legislating changes that can be perceived as quite Totalitarian in nature (i.e. a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life whenever necessary).
First, we see increasing secrecy and closed-door decision-making regarding government actions and reactions. While this is never a good sign in a democracy, in one particular arena the government is giving itself the ‘legal authority’ to engage in ‘investigative hearings’ behind closed doors; and, any citizen that refuses to comply with this ‘authority’ faces imposed conditions on their ‘freedom’ or incarceration. In addition, any citizen can be charged if they attempt to leave the country to engage in ‘terrorist’ activities (however these might be defined). This latter provision is reminiscent of pre-crime arrests in Philip K. Dick’s novel and Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, where citizens are arrested for even thinking about committing a crime.
The government’s ideology around the issue of terrorism has been succinctly presented by one of its backbenchers, Pierre Poilievre, who on CBC’s Power and Politics stated that “…the root cause of terrorism is terrorists…”. In an attempt to highlight the different leadership styles of his party and one of the opposition parties, where he explained that his party was one of action while the other politicians were busy ‘committing sociology’ (statement by our Prime Minister when an opposition party leader suggested that Canadians need to understand the root cause of terrorism to help eliminate it). Basically, the government’s perspective is that it is evil people and their evil leaders that give rise to terrorism. There is little insight by such ideologues that it is, as Congressman Dr. Ron Paul argues in his book, The Revolution, interventionist foreign policies that see ‘our’ armed forces intervening, often quite violently, in other sovereign nations. He goes on to highlight, quite compellingly, that if we were to follow noninterventionist policies that do not create more chaos, uncertainty, and very often, death in these occupied foreign lands, then we would not see ‘terrorists’ carrying out acts of violence within our borders. The ‘blowback’ we are witnessing is a logical consequence of a people under the thumb of our intrusion into their lands.
Second, we see an increasing trend to silence opposition. Most recently, we in Canada are witnessing this in the form of restrictive policies for scientists. Eminent and world-renowned scientist David Suzuki sums up the conundrum as follows:
a) The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication.”
b) Science offers the best information to help guide us during an uncertain future of climate change and environmental degradation.
c) The federal government is attempting to suppress information, especially when the data runs counter to government policy, on such a broad basis that Canada’s Information Commissioner is investigating seven separate government departments for such repressive actions.
d) Environmental laws have been gutted and the funding for oversight agencies slashed.
e) Climate change reporting has seen extraordinary pressure, being reduced by some 80%.
f) Environmentalists, including Suzuki himself, have been labeled ‘radicals, un-Canadian, and money launderers,’ while also being blamed for opposition to pipelines despite never commenting on them.
This stifling of dissent or opposition is one of the steps taken by Totalitarian regimes. I have witnessed it first hand as an educator when the Ontario provincial government introduced legislation (Bill 115) that gave them the authority to impose collective agreements and working conditions on the province’s public education sector. Teachers’ federations have filed legal challenges to the implementation around this bill, arguing that it is unconstitutional. What concerned me more than the draconian implementation was the clause that stated the government and its decisions regarding Bill 115 were above the rule of law and judiciary; in other words, the courts could not be used to challenge the law, regardless of its unconstitutionality.
Finally, we see greater intrusion into freedom of the press and our public broadcaster, CBC. In its latest omnibus budget bill, the federal government has given itself the power to impose unilaterally collective agreements, salaries, and working conditions for a number of supposed arms-length Crown corporations (see Bill 115 discussion above). In addition, Canada has come under fire for repressive actions against its press, falling on the World Press Freedom Index from the top five to 20th spot. The report cites obstruction of journalists during the ‘Maple Spring’ student protests of 2012, threats to confidentiality of press sources, and attempts to pass legislation to access Internet users’ personal data without warrant.
It appears Canada has begun down a slippery slope with respect to a loss of fundamental freedoms and liberty. I believe the elite are well aware that when the economic Ponzi we live within begins to implode, we may experience severe austerity (see Europe), and social unrest will escalate significantly. Or, if the world’s central banks continue flooding the world with fiat currency printed from air and hyperinflation begins, social unrest will also fare up. Either way, the plutocratic elite will continue to repress the population for its own sake, using the narrative that it’s for our own protection.
For those who accept these changes and think they are for the best, you need to think about the parable regarding boiling a frog. If you attempt to place a frog in a pot of boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out of the water; however, if you place that same frog in a pot of room temperature water and slowly increase the heat, the frog will remain in the slowly warming water until it is boiled alive. A great example of how little changes can result in a very significant change overall. As Benjamin Franklin stated many years ago, “those who would give up their liberty for a bit of safety, deserve neither safety nor liberty.”
And, as Noam Chomsky reminds us, control of the population has always been a concern for those in power, and in less violent states the control is there, just more subtle. Thus, it is always important to keep our politicians’ feet to the fire. While there are differences between repression in violent regimes and non-violent ones, there is still repression. And, such repression can take a quick leap forward given the right ‘event.’ It seems foolish and naïve for any of us to believe that our government would not turn on a dime and be far, far worse if they felt the ‘need.’ There are far too many examples of increasing Totalitarian and Fascist moves by supposedly ‘democratic’ governments not to be taking these intrusions and changes seriously, and speaking out against them repeatedly.