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Canada’s RCMP and Secret Service (CSIS) Spy on Enbridge Pipeline Opponents, Native Groups, Environmentalists | Global Research

Canada’s RCMP and Secret Service (CSIS) Spy on Enbridge Pipeline Opponents, Native Groups, Environmentalists | Global Research.

Global Research, March 07, 2014
Big Brother: America's Police State Mentality in the Electronic Age

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed two complaints today against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The complaints allege that the two agencies illegally monitored and spied on the peaceful and democratic activities of community groups and First Nations opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. These groups include ForestEthics Advocacy, Dogwood Initiative, LeadNow.ca, the Idle No More movement, and others.

The BCCLA alleges that the RCMP and CSIS interfered with the freedoms of expression, assembly and association protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by gathering intelligence about citizens opposed to the Enbridge project through a range of sources. The complaints also claim that the spying activities potentially included illegal searches of private information. The complaint against CSIS further alleges that the spy agency broke the law by gathering information on the peaceful and democratic activities of Canadians, which it is banned by law from doing. The documents released made clear that none of the groups under surveillance posed any threat to the National Energy Board hearings or public safety.

“It’s against the law and the constitution for police and spy agencies to spy on the lawful activities of people who are just speaking out and getting involved in their communities. That’s why we have filed these complaints,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA. “This is bigger than an environmental debate – it’s a question of fundamental human rights. There are plenty of undemocratic countries where governments spy on people that they don’t agree with. That’s not supposed to happen in Canada, and when it does, it can frighten people away from expressing themselves and participating in democratic debate.”

“It’s intimidating for people to learn that they’re being spied on by their own government,” said Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director for ForestEthics Advocacy, one of the groups that was spied upon. “Regular people are being made to feel like they are on a list of enemies of the state, just because they are speaking out to protect their community from a threat to their health and safety or trying to do what’s right in the era of climate change.”

One incident recorded in the intelligence-gathering was a Kelowna, B.C. volunteer meeting co-hosted by the advocacy organization LeadNow.ca and the Dogwood Initiative, a community action group based in Victoria. Jamie Biggar, the Executive Director of LeadNow, said, “Government spies should not be compiling reports about volunteers literally gathered in church basements to hand-paint signs – and then sharing that information with oil companies. That puts the interests of a handful of corporations ahead of the privacy rights of Canadians. It’s just wrong – period.”

Will Horter, the Executive Director of the Dogwood Initiative, added: “We are helping Canadians engage in their communities and in public decision-making processes for Enbridge and other projects. There is something deeply wrong when holding a story-telling workshop attracts heat from spies and police forces. It’s democracy, not a national security threat.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who attended one of the meetings that was spied upon, stated: “I was shocked and disgusted to learn that the police and the National Energy Board colluded to keep track of First Nations people who are simply speaking out, including those who participate in Idle No More. This is the kind of thing we’d expect to see in a police state, and it’s a violation of our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

Some of the intelligence gathered appears to have been shared with the National Energy Board, including information about ForestEthics Advocacy which was an intervening party in the Board’s hearings, as well as with Enbridge and other oil and energy companies. The complaint against the RCMP alleges that this could compromise the fairness of the Enbridge hearings. West added: “You can’t have a fair hearing when the police secretly gather information about our activities and then provide secret evidence to the National Energy Board and Enbridge, one of the other parties.”

The activities of CSIS and the RCMP outlined in the complaints originally came to light through an access to information request filed by Matthew Millar of the Vancouver Observer. It is unclear whether covert surveillance, wiretaps or other means were used in gathering the intelligence.

Canada’s RCMP and Secret Service (CSIS) Spy on Enbridge Pipeline Opponents, Native Groups, Environmentalists | Global Research

Canada’s RCMP and Secret Service (CSIS) Spy on Enbridge Pipeline Opponents, Native Groups, Environmentalists | Global Research.

Global Research, March 07, 2014
Big Brother: America's Police State Mentality in the Electronic Age

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed two complaints today against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The complaints allege that the two agencies illegally monitored and spied on the peaceful and democratic activities of community groups and First Nations opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. These groups include ForestEthics Advocacy, Dogwood Initiative, LeadNow.ca, the Idle No More movement, and others.

The BCCLA alleges that the RCMP and CSIS interfered with the freedoms of expression, assembly and association protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by gathering intelligence about citizens opposed to the Enbridge project through a range of sources. The complaints also claim that the spying activities potentially included illegal searches of private information. The complaint against CSIS further alleges that the spy agency broke the law by gathering information on the peaceful and democratic activities of Canadians, which it is banned by law from doing. The documents released made clear that none of the groups under surveillance posed any threat to the National Energy Board hearings or public safety.

“It’s against the law and the constitution for police and spy agencies to spy on the lawful activities of people who are just speaking out and getting involved in their communities. That’s why we have filed these complaints,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA. “This is bigger than an environmental debate – it’s a question of fundamental human rights. There are plenty of undemocratic countries where governments spy on people that they don’t agree with. That’s not supposed to happen in Canada, and when it does, it can frighten people away from expressing themselves and participating in democratic debate.”

“It’s intimidating for people to learn that they’re being spied on by their own government,” said Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director for ForestEthics Advocacy, one of the groups that was spied upon. “Regular people are being made to feel like they are on a list of enemies of the state, just because they are speaking out to protect their community from a threat to their health and safety or trying to do what’s right in the era of climate change.”

One incident recorded in the intelligence-gathering was a Kelowna, B.C. volunteer meeting co-hosted by the advocacy organization LeadNow.ca and the Dogwood Initiative, a community action group based in Victoria. Jamie Biggar, the Executive Director of LeadNow, said, “Government spies should not be compiling reports about volunteers literally gathered in church basements to hand-paint signs – and then sharing that information with oil companies. That puts the interests of a handful of corporations ahead of the privacy rights of Canadians. It’s just wrong – period.”

Will Horter, the Executive Director of the Dogwood Initiative, added: “We are helping Canadians engage in their communities and in public decision-making processes for Enbridge and other projects. There is something deeply wrong when holding a story-telling workshop attracts heat from spies and police forces. It’s democracy, not a national security threat.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who attended one of the meetings that was spied upon, stated: “I was shocked and disgusted to learn that the police and the National Energy Board colluded to keep track of First Nations people who are simply speaking out, including those who participate in Idle No More. This is the kind of thing we’d expect to see in a police state, and it’s a violation of our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

Some of the intelligence gathered appears to have been shared with the National Energy Board, including information about ForestEthics Advocacy which was an intervening party in the Board’s hearings, as well as with Enbridge and other oil and energy companies. The complaint against the RCMP alleges that this could compromise the fairness of the Enbridge hearings. West added: “You can’t have a fair hearing when the police secretly gather information about our activities and then provide secret evidence to the National Energy Board and Enbridge, one of the other parties.”

The activities of CSIS and the RCMP outlined in the complaints originally came to light through an access to information request filed by Matthew Millar of the Vancouver Observer. It is unclear whether covert surveillance, wiretaps or other means were used in gathering the intelligence.

CSEC Headquarters’ $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged

CSEC Headquarters’ $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged.

CSEC

When the Harper government tables its latest budget Tuesday afternoon, it will include continued funding for a massive, opulent new headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC.

The $1.2-billion building on Ottawa’s east side — dubbed the “spy palace” by critics and believed to be the most expensive government building ever constructed in Canada — has become a rallying point for activists protesting in the wake of allegations that CSEC has been spying on Canadians, in contravention of its mandate and possibly Canadian law.

More than 45 organizations, including OpenMedia, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Greenpeace and several unions, are launching a campaign Tuesday “to tell MPs to stop wasting billions on Canada’s expensive online spying apparatus,” according to a statement from OpenMedia.

It’s part of a multinational event, dubbed “The Day We Fight Back,” meant to launch a new, ongoing campaign to bring government surveillance under control.

In the U.S., the campaign will focus on revelations that the National Security Agency has been involved in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ phone and internet activities.

In CSEC’s new headquarters, the Canadian activist groups see a potent symbol of the growth of the surveillance state in recent years.

We now have this dramatic, visual point of reference for CSEC — this grand piece of architecture rising in the east end — at a time when surveillance is becoming more and more of an issue,” Ian MacLeod, an Ottawa Citizen reporter who covers national security issues, explained to CBC Radio last fall.

Government estimates place the official cost of the new CSEC headquarters at $867 million, but according to a CBC investigation last fall, the building’s final cost will be closer to $1.2 billion. And when the $3-billion contract to operate the building for 20 years is added, the new HQ’s cost soars past $4 billion.

As the CBC noted, the building has more floor space than Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and cost enough to build “several” large hospitals. It will house about 2,000 CSEC employees.

“Canadians are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a bloated spy bureaucracy that is monitoring our private lives,” OpenMedia.ca executive director Steve Anderson said in a statement.

“It’s time for common sense to prevail. We need to rein in CSEC and other security agencies before they get even more out of control. That’s why we’re calling on MPs to make a firm commitment to introduce pro-privacy legislation to protect the privacy of all residents of Canada.”

Documents from Edward Snowden’s trove of NSA data indicate that CSEC spied on Canadian travelers through WiFi hot spots at a major airport. The Harper government denies that the privacy of Canadians was invaded in the experiment, but privacy experts say the metadata collected by the CSEC would have exposed a great deal of private information about the targeted individuals.

The CSEC headquarters is being developed by Plenary Group Canada, an infrastructure company that specializes in government projects. The building is expected to be completed this year. Plenary Group boasts of the building’s innovative green technologies.

Walls of windows fill the facility with natural light and reduce the building’s electricity consumption and rainwater collection ponds reduce the facility’s consumption of water for irrigation,” the company’s fact sheet reads.

In an interview with CBC, former CSEC head John Adams admitted the building didn’t need to be an “architectural wonder.”

“But, you know, glass in this [CBC] building is the same price as glass in that [CSEC] building,” he said. “That building is just going to look an awful lot better than this building … That facility is going to be quite magnificent.”

Is it worth $1.2 billion to build a “magnificent” headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency? Let us know in the comments below.

CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track Canadian travellers: Edward Snowden documents – Politics – CBC News

CSEC used airport Wi-Fi to track Canadian travellers: Edward Snowden documents – Politics – CBC News.

Privacy and security experts on CSEC

Privacy and security experts on CSEC 2:32

Airport Wi-Fi used to track Canadians

Airport Wi-Fi used to track Canadians 4:16

About The Author

Photo of Greg Weston

Greg Weston
National Affairs Specialist

Greg Weston is an investigative reporter and a regular political commentator on CBC Radio and Television. Based in Ottawa, he has afflicted governments of all stripes for over three decades. His investigative work has won awards including the coveted Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. He is also the author of two best-selling books, Reign of Error and The Stopwatch Gang.

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowdenand obtained by CBC News shows that Canada’s electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

After reviewing the document, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on cyber-security says the clandestine operation by the Communications Security Establishment Canada ( CSEC) was almost certainly illegal.

Ronald Deibert told CBC News: “I can’t see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC’s mandates.”

The spy agency is supposed to be collecting primarily foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic, and is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without a judicial warrant.

As CSEC chief John Forster recently stated: “I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada.

“In fact, it’s prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle.”

But security experts who have been apprised of the document point out the airline passengers in a Canadian airport were clearly in Canada.

CSEC said in a written statement to CBC News that it is “mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians. And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata.”

Metadata reveals a trove of information including, for example, the location and telephone numbers of all calls a person makes and receives — but not the content of the call, which would legally be considered a private communication and cannot be intercepted without a warrant.

“No Canadian communications were (or are) targeted, collected or used,” the agency says.

In the case of the airport tracking operation, the metadata apparently identified travelers’ wireless devices, but not the content of calls made or emails sent from them.

Black Code

Diebert is author of the book Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace, which is about internet surveillance, and he heads the world-renowned Citizen Lab cyber research program at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

He says that whatever CSEC calls it, the tracking of those passengers was nothing less than an “indiscriminate collection and analysis of Canadians’ communications data,” and he could not imagine any circumstances that would have convinced a judge to authorize it.

Cellphone-travelA passenger checks his cellphone while boarding a flight in Boston in October. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued new guidelines under which passengers will be able to use electronic devices from the time they board to the time they leave the plane, which will also help electronic spies to keep tabs on them. (Associated Press)

The latest Snowden document indicates the spy service was provided with information captured from unsuspecting travellers’ wireless devices by the airport’s free Wi-Fi system over a two-week period.

Experts say that probably included many Canadians whose smartphone and laptop signals were intercepted without their knowledge as they passed through the terminal.

The document shows the federal intelligence agency was then able to track the travellers for a week or more as they — and their wireless devices — showed up in other Wi-Fi “hot spots” in cities across Canada and even at U.S. airports.

That included people visiting other airports, hotels, coffee shops and restaurants, libraries, ground transportation hubs, and any number of places among the literally thousands with public wireless internet access.

The document shows CSEC had so much data it could even track the travellers back in time through the days leading up to their arrival at the airport, these experts say.

While the documents make no mention of specific individuals, Deibert and other cyber experts say it would be simple for the spy agency to have put names to all the Canadians swept up in the operation.

All Canadians with a smartphone, tablet or laptop are “essentially carrying around digital dog tags as we go about our daily lives,” Deibert says.

Anyone able to access the data that those devices leave behind on wireless hotspots, he says, can obtain “extraordinarily precise information about our movements and social relationships.”

Trial run for NSA

The document indicates the passenger tracking operation was a trial run of a powerful new software program CSEC was developing with help from its U.S. counterpart, the National Security Agency.

In the document, CSEC called the new technologies “game-changing,” and said they could be used for tracking “any target that makes occasional forays into other cities/regions.”

Sources tell CBC News the technologies tested on Canadians in 2012 have since become fully operational.

CSEC claims “no Canadian or foreign travellers’ movements were ‘tracked,'” although it does not explain why it put the word “tracked” in quotation marks.

Deibert says metadata is “way more powerful that the content of communications. You can tell a lot more about people, their habits, their relationships, their friendships, even their political preferences, based on that type of metadata.”

The document does not say exactly how the Canadian spy service managed to get its hands on two weeks’ of travellers’ wireless data from the airport Wi-Fi system, although there are indications it was provided voluntarily by a “special source.”

The country’s two largest airports — Toronto and Vancouver — both say they have never supplied CSEC or other Canadian intelligence agency with information on passengers’ Wi-Fi use.

Alana Lawrence, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Airport Authority, says it operates the free Wi-Fi there, but does “not in any way store any personal data associated with it,” and has never received a request from any Canadian intelligence agency for it.

A U.S.-based company, Boingo, is the largest independent supplier of Wi-Fi services at other Canadian airports, including Pearson International in Toronto.

Spokesperson Katie O’Neill tells CBC News: “To the best of our knowledge, [Boingo] has not provided any information about any of our users to the Canadian government, law enforcement or intelligence agencies.”

It is also unclear from the document how CSEC managed to penetrate so many wireless systems to see who was using them — specifically, to know every time someone targeted at the airport showed up on one of those other Wi-Fi networks elsewhere.

Deibert and other experts say the federal intelligence agency must have gained direct access to at least some of the country’s main telephone and internet pipelines, allowing the mass-surveillance of Canadian emails and phone calls.

‘Blown away’

Ontario’s privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian says she is “blown away” by the revelations.

“It is really unbelievable that CSEC would engage in that kind of surveillance of Canadians. Of us.

“I mean that could have been me at the airport walking around… This resembles the activities of a totalitarian state, not a free and open society.”

 Ann CavoukianPrivacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Experts say the document makes clear CSEC intended to share both the technologies and future information generated by it with Canada’s official spying partners — the U.S., Britain, New Zealand and Australia, the so-called Five Eyes intelligence network.

Indeed, the spy agency boasts in its leaked document that, in an apparently separate pilot project, it obtained access to two communications systems with more than 300,000 users, and was then able to “sweep” an entire mid-sized Canadian city to pinpoint a specific imaginary target in a fictional kidnapping.

The document dated May 2012 is a 27-page power-point presentation by CSEC describing its airport tracking operation.

While the document was in the trove of secret NSA files retrieved by Snowden, it bears CSEC’s logo and clearly originated with the Canadian spy service.

Wesley Wark, a renowned authority on international security and intelligence, agrees with Deibert.

“I cannot see any way in which it fits CSEC’s legal mandate.”

Wark says the document suggests CSEC was “trying to push the technological boundaries” in part to impress its other international counterparts in the Five-Eyes intelligence network.

“This document is kind of suffused with the language of technological gee-whiz.”

Wark says if CSEC’s use of “very powerful and intrusive technological tools” puts it outside its mandate and even the law, “then you are in a situation for democracy where you simply don’t want to be.”

Like Wark and other experts interviewed for this story, Deibert says there’s no question Canada needs CSEC to be gathering foreign intelligence, “but they must do it within a framework of proper checks and balances so their formidable powers can never be abused. And that’s the missing ingredient right now in Canada.”

The only official oversight of CSEC’s spying operations is a retired judge appointed by the prime minister, and reporting to the minister of defence who is also responsible for the intelligence agency.

“Here we clearly have an agency of the state collecting in an indiscriminate and bulk fashion all of Canadian communications and the oversight mechanism is flimsy at best,” Deibert says.

“Those to me are circumstances ripe for potential abuse.”

CSEC spends over $400 million a year, and employs about 2,000 people, almost half of whom are involved in intercepting phone conversations, and hacking into computer systems supposedly in other countries.

It has long been Canada’s most secretive spy agency, responding to almost all questions about its operations with reassurances it is doing nothing wrong.

Privacy watchdog Cavoukian says there has to be “greater openness and transparency because without that there can be no accountability.

“This trust-me model that the government is advancing and CSEC is advancing – ‘Oh just trust us, we’re doing the right thing, don’t worry’ — yes, worry! We have very good reason to worry.”

In the U.S., Snowden exposed massive metadata collection by the National Security Agency, which is said to have scooped up private phone and internet records of more than 100 million Americans.

A U.S. judge recently called the NSA’s metadata collection an Orwellian surveillance program that is likely unconstitutional.

The public furor over NSA snooping prompted a White House review of the American spy agency’s operations, and President Barack Obama recently vowed to clamp down on the collection and use of metadata.

Cavoukian says Canadians deserve nothing less.

“Look at the U.S. — they’ve been talking about these matters involving national security for months now very publicly because the public deserves answers.

“And that’s what I would tell our government, our minister of national defence and our prime minister: We demand some answers to this.”

Ottawa defends spy agency, says collection of Canadians’ data ‘incidental’ – Politics – CBC News

Ottawa defends spy agency, says collection of Canadians’ data ‘incidental’ – Politics – CBC News.

The government says it's impossible to know whether a foreign target may be communicating with someone in Canada, which means a "small" number of communications from Canadians has be collected.The government says it’s impossible to know whether a foreign target may be communicating with someone in Canada, which means a “small” number of communications from Canadians has be collected. (CBC)

The federal government is defending its secretive eavesdropping agency in a lawsuit filed by a B.C. civil rights group, insisting any collection of Canadians’ communication is unintentional.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit last fall, alleging Canadians’ communications were being illegally swept up by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC.

The group’s lawsuit targeted the spy agency’s monitoring of foreign communications, as well as the collection of metadata, which reveals technical information but not the content of electronic communication.

But Ottawa has filed a statement of defence that says CSEC follows strict rules that prevent the agency from specifically targeting Canadians and its activities are monitored by an independent commissioner.

The government says it’s impossible to know whether a foreign target may be communicating with someone in Canada, which means a “small” number of communications from Canadians has be collected.

As for the collection of metadata, the statement of defence says it plays a vital role in identifying and thwarting cyber threats.

SIRC chair’s pipeline lobbying seen as symptom of larger problem – Politics – CBC News

SIRC chair’s pipeline lobbying seen as symptom of larger problem – Politics – CBC News.

Former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl was appointed last year to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees Canada's spy agency, CSIS. Word that Strahl has been hired as a lobbyist for pipeline company Enbridge has raised concerns among environmentalists and others.Former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl was appointed last year to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees Canada’s spy agency, CSIS. Word that Strahl has been hired as a lobbyist for pipeline company Enbridge has raised concerns among environmentalists and others. (Canadian Press)

A former head of the committee that oversees Canada’s spies has a warning for the current chair: It’s generally not a good idea for someone in their position to act as a lobbyist.

Paule Gauthier was commenting on questions surrounding former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, currently the head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Strahl has come under fire after it was revealed he is also a registered lobbyist for Enbridge, the company pushing to build the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to B.C.

SIRC’s job is to monitor the activities of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which has been known to keep tabs on environmentalists and native groups opposed to pipelines. Forest Ethics, a group opposed to Northern Gateway, issued a statement this week calling on Strahl to step down as SIRC chair.

Gauthier, who served as chair of SIRC from 1996 to 2005, doesn’t see a conflict of interest in Strahl working as a lobbyist, but acknowledges it could create the perception of one.

“I think it would be much better to refrain from these activities,” she said in an interview from her law office in Quebec City.

Gauthier says if Strahl has followed the rules and is satisfied he’s not in conflict, there shouldn’t be a problem. But she can see how a SIRC chair doing lobbying work could raise eyebrows.

“It’s putting himself or herself in maybe a difficult situation that you cannot expect when you accept the mandate as a lobbyist,” she said.

Strahl has been quoted as saying he has checked with the federal ethics commissioner to make sure his work is above board. He told one interviewer if SIRC were asked to look at any files involving pipelines, he wouldn’t touch them.

Part-time job

The position of SIRC chair is a part-time job paid on a per diem basis — about $600 a day plus travel expenses. Another former chair says that’s part of the problem.

Ronald Atkey was appointed the first-ever SIRC chair when the committee was established in 1984. He now teaches at the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario.

Atkey has long argued the position of chair should be a full-time job with a full-time salary so anyone serving would not have to look for outside work.

“I think the two organizations that Canadians should worry the most about are CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) and CSIS,” he said by phone from London, Ont.

“They’re fine organizations with fine people doing important work. But they’re asked to go close to the line in complying with the law. I think, therefore, to give public comfort that these groups are monitored properly after the fact, I think a full-time watchdog may be in order.”

Wesley Wark sees merit in that idea. He’s a security expert and visiting professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. A part-time chair, he says, is “one of a number of problems that makes the Security Intelligence Review Committee less robust than it could be.”

“I think the position should be full-time and we should also define the job properly,” Wark said.

“You do want someone with considerable stature, considerable power, considerable experience. And somebody really to be a critic when criticism is needed.”

Office cut in 2012

Wark says there was more of that critical oversight when CSIS had its own inspector general.

The Conservative government abolished that office in 2012, arguing it would save money and end duplication by allowing SIRC to take over all monitoring of CSIS. The outgoing director of the inspector general’s office, Eve Plunkett, warned at the time the closure would be a “huge loss.”

Wark believes the government regarded the office and its often critical reviews of CSIS as “an annoyance.” As for Chuck Strahl, Wark says he’s less concerned about the former cabinet minister’s lobbying work than he is with SIRC’s overall ability to act as an effective watchdog.

“I just think, given the ways in which the intelligence world in Canada has been transformed and the problems that it presents and the skepticism that I think now surrounds the notion that anybody is really keeping a watch on intelligence agencies to make sure they don’t break the law or abuse their powers, I think something does need to be done,” he said.

“And that’s the real story. It’s not whether Mr. Strahl is a lobbyist. It’s what do we need to do to fix SIRC.”

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.

 

Canada’s electronic spy agency says tracking allies is necessary – Politics – CBC News

Canada’s electronic spy agency says tracking allies is necessary – Politics – CBC News.

A document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that Canada has set up covert spying posts at the request of the giant U.S. National Security Agency, and is involved in joint espionage operations with the NSA in about 20 countries.
A document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals that Canada has set up covert spying posts at the request of the giant U.S. National Security Agency, and is involved in joint espionage operations with the NSA in about 20 countries.

Canada’s electronic spy agency is defending its espionage activities against countries around the world, including trading partners — often at the request of the U.S. — as necessary to support government decision-making and provide a better understanding of global events.

The statement came in response to questions that CBC News posed to the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the little-known spy service that collects intelligence by intercepting mainly foreign communications and hacking into computer data systems.

CBC News reported Monday that a top secret document retrieved by American whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals Canada has set up covert spying posts at the request of the giant U.S. National Security Agency, and is involved in joint espionage operations with the NSA in about 20 countries.

CSEC says it has a “mandate to intercept foreign communications signals to respond to government of Canada priorities.”

The agency says it collects foreign intelligence “to protect Canadians from threats, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

It is not clear in either the leaked Snowden document or CSEC’s response to it, what kind of threats Canada faces that would require it to conduct espionage against 20 countries, including some of its important trading partners.

The secret document reveals that Canada has undertaken spying operations in countries that are “unavailable” to the NSA, as well as setting up listening posts “at the request” of the U.S. agency.

CBC News asked CSEC whether it does whatever the NSA asks it to do.

The agency replied that its activities respond only to the priorities of the Canadian government, “many of which are common to our allies.”

All of this sparked some heated questions for the Harper government in the House of Commons today.

NDP MP Jack Harris demanded to know whether the government would implement some form of parliamentary oversight of the spy service in light of the CBC News report.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, who is responsible for CSEC, pointed out only that the operations of the intelligence service are already reviewed by an oversight commissioner.

That commissioner reports to Nicholson.

 

Canada set up spy posts for U.S., new Snowden document shows – Politics – CBC News

Canada set up spy posts for U.S., new Snowden document shows – Politics – CBC News.

Canada set up spy posts for U.S.

Canada set up spy posts for U.S. 4:18

Canada has set up spying posts and conducted espionage at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, according to top secret documents retrieved by US whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported exclusively by CBC News.

The information is contained in a four-page document marked Top Secret by the NSA and dated April 3, 2013. This makes it one of the freshest documents available in a trove of over 50,000 pages.

CBC has decided not to publish much of the information in the document because the information would be harmful to Canadian national security.

The document, a briefing note prepared for a senior leader at the NSA, describes the nature of the intelligence relationship between the United States’ largest spy agency and its Canadian partner, the Communications Security Establishment Canada.

It makes clear for the first time the intricate and intimate relationship between Canadian and American spy agencies that was formed in a secret agreement more than six decades ago.

The document goes further to show that a number of Americans are working at CSEC and Canadians are working at the NSA’s top-secret facility in Maryland.

In the document, the NSA depicts CSEC as a sophisticated, capable and highly respected intelligence partner involved in all manner of joint spy missions.

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