It’s time to watch the watchers

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Usually, I try not to endorse legislation.

More often than not, I either don’t feel compelled to, or the legislation is a mixed bag.

But there’s current a bill before the House of Commons, which has virtually no chance of becoming law, that this country really oughta get behind.

It’s Joyce Murray’s Bill C-622, and it would put a collar on our mini-NSA.

Communications Security Establishment Canada is an uber-secretive bulk data collection agency that, supposedly, isn’t to be spying on Canada.

But, new legislation was introduced this week —which I wrote about here, for Motherboard; here, for National Magazine; and here, for the Christian Science Monitor —which would authorize broad new abilities for Canada’s spies to snoop on Canadians’ communications.

Now, last month, Stephen Harper told a room full of American investors that he simply didn’t care for the American-style big data surveillance.

“I’m not a big believer in those kinds of systems, not just because they have a potential to infringe on civil liberty but usually overwhelm you with data in a way that you can’t actually process,” Harper told the room.

Well that’s probably a lot of nonsense.

We know from the limited info that is tucked deep inside the CSEC Commissioner’s annual report — virtually the only conduit through which we learn about the agency’s activities — CSEC has been bulk capturing data, and it includes many Canadian communications.  What’s more, they’re storing it on their servers for no apparent reason.

We have no idea about the detail of that spying, and only one man outside of CSEC seems to —the Commissioner.

So Murray is asking to slap new judicial oversight onto CSEC, force it to report more frequently to the minister, and to be subject to a Parliamentary committee with security clearance.

You can read the whole thing, here.

But Roxanne James, defending her government’s indefensible position, stood up in the House Thursday night to say: no way, Jose.

Leaning on the idea that increased oversight is somehow “duplicative”or counter-productive, James cast the idea aside, boasted “we believe that the current review process that we have in place serves our government,”and high-tailed it out of the room.

As a proud tinfoil-hat-wearer, I can safely say that until this government moves on actually adopting real measures to oversee our otherwise free-range intelligence services, I have absolutely no confidence in this state to not spy on me.

Because, lest we forget, CSIS, CSEC and the NSA all work hand-in-hand.  When the court told them to knock it off, the government changed the law to legalize it.

There is no doubt that, within months, our federal spy service will employ CSEC and the NSA to intercept Canadians’ data within Canada.  That’s new.  That’s never been properly legal before.

And we have no extra oversight to go with it.

That’s offensive.

Click here for more political news headlines.

 

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Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

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