CSEC is watching you

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War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength – and Stephen Harper is watching… well, sort of.

CBC’s The National reported Wednesday on documents it said were leaked by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The United States supposedly carried out widespread surveillance while world leaders met for the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto, and Canada welcomed it.

The national broadcaster said the documents show that Canada allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct the operation out of its Ottawa embassy during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.  A briefing in the report describes the NSA plans and stated they were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian Partner.”  Canada’s Big Brother and NSA counterpart is Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

One of Prime Minister Harper’s spokeswoman said the government refuses to comment on “operational matters related to national security,” but alleged that “independent oversight mechanisms” keep Canadian security organizations in check with the law.  “Under the law, CSEC does not target Canadians anywhere or any person in Canada through its foreign intelligence activities,” the spokeswoman, Lauri Sullivan, told The Associated Press.  “CSEC cannot ask our international partners to act in a way that circumvents Canadian laws.”

Sure.  We’ll take your word for it.

But, if they’re not watching Canadians now then who is on their radar?

Allegedly, CESC is engaging in espionage elsewhere and the international community isn’t too pleased.

Two months ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called out the Canadian government in what was dubbed a “grave and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty.”  President Dilma demanded answers following the release of reports that accused Canada of spying on Brazil’s mines and energy ministry.

The spying allegations have raised, and rightly so, new questions about the activities of the ultra-secret CSEC.  These tensions may even erode further relationships with Brazil, Latin America’s largest country and an emerging economic powerhouse.

“The report points to Canadian interests in mining.  The (Brazilian Foreign Ministry) will demand explanations from Canada,” Brazil’s Rousseff said on her Twitter account.  “The United States and its allies must immediately stop their spying activity once and for all.”

It’s no surprise a developed country like Canada would engage in international espionage.  It notably acts as a means of defending national interests.  But now it seems that the Government is sniffing around for new economic opportunities.

Yet, the trustworthiness of CESC has become more questionable than ever, especially as their super high-tech spy palace is coming to fruition.

The Ottawa based intelligence headquarters will be completed next year, and while Harper’s government is preaching government austerity, it is spending almost $1.2 billion on the construction.  The CBC notes that it’s “the most expensive Canadian government building ever constructed and will house roughly 2,000 CESC employees.

The national broadcasters gained access to the uncompleted headquarters, reporting that: “The nerve centre of the agency is a separate concrete bunker the size of a football field, home to what is being touted as the most powerful super-computer in the country, along with its mammoth electrical power generators and cooling systems….When fully operational, the data centre alone will apparently suck up enough electricity to light much of the nation’s capital.”

Yet, none the specific expenses can be verified by taxpayers or the media as almost everything to do with the project has been labelled a matter of national security.

Hmm.  Seems like our friendly government is up to some sneaky stuff given their willingness to throw a lump sum of money at a shiny new spy headquarters while deeming it all a matter of secrecy.

But, from allowing the USA to spy on our doorsteps, to allegations of international espionage, the most frightening matter is the one hitting closer to home.

Bill C-30, which was ostensibly killed in 2012, aimed to give unwarranted access to telecommunication activities.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson pledged that the government “will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30.”

Last week, however, Bill C-30 got a new name – Bill C-13, or the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act.

Bill C-13 is an anti-cyberbullying act that was coincidently introduced last Wednesday during national anti-bullying week.  Justice Minister Peter McKay revealed the Bill as a key tool in “ensuring that our children are safe from online predators and online exploitation.”

Well, at least someone is thinking of the children.  But, these seemingly honest propositions of securing child safety online are not the only tools the bill provides.

The legislation would give police enhanced powers to investigate incidents, including the ability to seize — with a court order — computers, phones and other devices used in an alleged offence.

Andrea Slane, a law professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says C-13 is in many ways “identical” to its failed predecessor — though one of the key differences is that C-13 emphasizes judicial oversight.

For the most part, the new bill still observes “the checks and balances around what judges are meant to do to make sure warrants are issued” where they are supposed to be.

The bill would also give law enforcement easier access to metadata, the information that ISPs and phone companies keep on every phone call or email, which has raised concerns among civil liberties groups that C-13 is giving police greater surveillance powers.

But legal experts were left wondering why a piece of legislation that is meant to target cyber bullies and predators is also taking on suspected terrorists and people who hijack TV signals.

“There is a much larger agenda at play here,” says Rob Currie, director of the Law and Technology Institute at Dalhousie University.

Under the banner of anti-cyberbullying measures, the government is “trying to push through a number of things that have to do with law enforcement but nothing to do with cyberbullying.”

That said, one notable feature of the proposed bill is that it will allow ISPs to voluntarily give customer information to police without civil or criminal liability.

Just imagine your entire internet and phone activities being voluntarily handed over to the government.  A little Orwellian don’t you think?  But, don’t fret yet Winston.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, has not had a chance to examine the bill.  Thankfully her office released a statement to CBC saying C-13 “appears to be a complex bill, and we will be examining all of its privacy implications and preparing to provide our full analysis and recommendations before the parliamentary committee that will be studying the legislation.”

There seems to be a big push in Canadian politics to strengthen espionage activities while hushing government actions under the radar by dubbing them interests of national security.  This notable trend suggests the need to keeper a watchful eye on government activities.  Well, at least the ones we know about.

 

Other Articles By Eric Klingenberger

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Scandal plagued Senate drama continues to unfold

 

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