CSEC and Canada's top spies scheduled to answer questions before Senate defence committee

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      On February 3, the public will have a rare opportunity to learn a little about spying activities conducted by Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

      John Forster, the chief of Canada’s version of the NSA, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on National Defence and Security.

      Michel Coulombe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is also listed as a witness for the meeting, as is Stephen Rigby, national security advisor to the Prime Minister.

      The session is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. EST and will be broadcast live on PTN and online at the website of the Parliament of Canada.

      It will come just four days after CBC News reported that CSEC used airport Wi-Fi networks to track the electronic devices of thousands airline passengers, many of whom it can be presumed were Canadian citizens.

      David Christopher, communications manager at OpenMedia.ca, described those revelations as the “most significant” in a long line of disclosures made by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden.

      “For months, we’ve been hearing from the government that CSEC doesn’t spy on Canadians, and now we know that isn’t true,” Christopher told the Straight. “They’ve been monitoring the communications data of thousands of Canadians who used public Wi-Fi at major airports, and actually going so far as to track those people’s locations over the weeks after that.”

      Christopher noted that there’s a seemingly growing list of revelations on which the public deserves answers. Among them, he listed an October 2013 report about CSEC spying in Brazil, news the following month that Stephen Harper's government allowed the U.S. to spy on G20 partners in Canada for a summit, and a December 2013 report about CSEC assisting U.S. spy operations around the world.

      “Government or whoever is representing that perspective usually just hides behind the phrase that they’re not tracking the communications of Canadians,” Christopher said. “But in the light of what we learned yesterday [January 30] and the last 24 hours, it will be really interesting to see how that gets played.”

      He noted that among the nine Senate members sitting on the National Defence and Security Committee is deputy chair Roméo Dallaire, who in the past has criticized government spying for a lack of oversight.

      “Hopefully, this Senate hearing on Monday will shed great light on all of this,” Christopher said. “But to be honest, the government stonewalls so much that I’ll almost be surprised if that is the case.”

      On February 11, OpenMedia.ca is joining a number of high-profile tech organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Reddit to host events across North America that aim to raise awareness about mass domestic surveillance.

      “We’re seeing a steady stream of these and with every new story that comes out, pressure is building and more and more Canadians are saying that this is just ridiculous,” Christopher said.

      You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.



      patrick venton

      Jan 31, 2014 at 5:10pm

      Does this sort of thing have to pass a vote in the house of commons. This to me is another bureaucracy, coming after CSIS, and the RCMP. Is this all because of new Canadians of mid east extraction going back and forth to their homeland? Perhaps a warring one. Are they holding dual citizenship which can be part of such needs of another snoop orgnaisation? Or is this a way to show the NSA that we too are snooping on all and anything.


      Jan 31, 2014 at 5:17pm

      Step One : CSEC denies any wrong doing.

      Step Two : CSEC gets caught red handed in wrong doing.

      Step Three : ... depends on our prime minister doesn't it ? Will he shut them down ? Will he give them nothing more than a slap on the wrist and tell them to enjoy their time in bed with the NSA ?

      Step Three is the interesting step. I wonder what it will be.

      Ian Coutts

      Jan 31, 2014 at 5:35pm

      It would seem that finally people have declared that enough is enough. CSEC has attempted to fly under the radar once too often. The spotlight is about to be shown on them, at least a little bit. Canadians are a patient and tolerant people, but we don't take kindly to repeated abuses.

      Ian Coutts

      Jan 31, 2014 at 7:03pm

      @ Patrick Venton - My understanding is that Canada's privacy laws, under which CSEC operates, were last significantly reviewed in 1983. It's probably time to update them. Until we do no vote is required.

      The attitude of our spy agencies is Machiavellian. They protect us by abusing us, and in the process make a good living and have a lot of fun. They do what they do because they can get away with it, just like the bad guys do.


      Feb 1, 2014 at 10:54am

      The naïveté of people is amusing. Apparently some people believe that spying on other countries and their own citizens is somehow "new" or even unique to Harpo and the cabal, at least in Canadian history. The story about. Brasil was most entertaining considering Embraer supporters in the Brasilian intelligence were caught red handed several years ago attempting to steal secrets from Bombardier. As for domestic spying absolutely nothing new or unknown has been revealed: ECHELON and other programs have been in place for a very long time and predate every elected government involved. Outrage is pointless as it accomplishes nothing of substance. Unfortunately he conditioned herds believe that things will be "different" under the leadership of Trudeau or Mulcair,a hope completely undermined by reality.


      Feb 1, 2014 at 1:23pm

      So, I actually read the docs. Everybody missed that little part where they describe "Earlier IP Clusters and identities". This means they have wholesale access to telecom data and have been archiving it for who knows how long, that they can pipe and grep looking for indicators and identities.

      As for the statements of CSEC, it's the same game they play in the US. They carefully word their statements so they are in fact not lying. It is true they are not "targeting" Canadian, instead they are merely "analyzing metadata" of every Canadian. These 5 countries get around domestic laws by spying on each other and sharing results. CSEC can't legally rid themselves of executive enemies through political blackmail (like the FBI setting up the CIA director) so they have Australia or the NSA do it for them. That way they can with a straight face say they do not have any active spying programs on Canada meanwhile New Zealand intel agency promises the same thing to their people while CSEC hands NZSIS wholesale collected totalitarian levels of mined data over to them.

      Just wait until some of our politicians take a real stand against CSEC operating in the dark, you'll find they suddenly have scandals galore and disappear from office.


      Feb 2, 2014 at 12:55pm

      CSEC & CSIS are two peas in a pod just like the NSA & FBI.
      CSEC was created as a Ministry of Defense branch for sole purpose of gathering foreign intelligence. The enacting legislation Section 273.63 & 273.64 clearly spells out CSEC's mandate and specifically excludes activities directed at Canadians. The exception is when assisting federal law enforcement or security agencies which must be conducted in accordance with the law governing their actions. Presumably, this means under a warrant issued based on reasonable cause.
      Where the entire process goes off the rails is section 273.65 which provides the following ;

      Ministerial authorization Conditions for authorization 273.65 

      (1) The Minister may, for the sole purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence, authorize the Communications Security Establishment in writing to intercept private communications in relation to an activity or class of activities specified in the authorization. (2) The Minister may only issue an authorization under subsection (1) if satisfied that (a) the interception will be directed at foreign entities located outside Canada; (b) the information to be obtained could not reasonably be obtained by other means; (c) the expected foreign intelligence value of the information that would be derived from the interception justifies it; and (d) satisfactory measures are in place to protect the privacy of Canadians and to ensure that private communications will only be used or retained if they are essential to international affairs, defence or security

      I believe that it is within the foregoing that we will discover the true extent of what CSEC is up to especially with regard to collection and storage of Canadians metadata. The ministerial authorizations essentially amount to giving the Min. Of Defense the ability to create "secret laws" governing CSEC activities. It is important to note that a later clause (7) declares the authorizations as "not statutory instruments as defined by the Statutory Instruments Act". Not positive but I believe that, in plain English, this means it can be kept secret.
      Hopefully, the Committee inquiring into these matters can get some answers in this regard.


      Feb 2, 2014 at 4:01pm

      The 5 eyes are expanding the worlds largest electronic concentration camp.

      Trojan Horace

      Feb 3, 2014 at 3:03am

      Softball questions only please