#CyberFLASH: CSIS operations under C-51 raise accountability concerns

image-3OTTAWA — Internal government notes say the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is likely to team up with “trusted allies,” such as the American CIA and Britain’s MI6, on overseas operations to derail threats — plans that underscore concerns about CSIS accountability under new security legislation.

The omnibus bill known as C-51 allows CSIS to engage in joint “disruption” efforts abroad — including covert actions that break foreign laws — something the spy service previously had no authority to do, according to the government notes.

“In the international context, CSIS would likely first seek avenues to work jointly with partners in the local jurisdiction or trusted allies before engaging in independent action,” the notes say.

“In the past, CSIS has been invited to participate in joint operations abroad to disrupt threats or to provide assistance to allies, but has had no mandate to do so.”

CSIS’s new threat disruption mandate — perhaps the most contentious element of the legislation that received royal assent in June — could include surreptitious meddling with websites, cancelling airline reservations, disabling a car or myriad other schemes.

The spy service would be allowed to engage in disruption activities that violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as long as a judge sanctions them, a measure critics say perverts the role of the judiciary.

CSIS would co-ordinate threat disruption activity with other agencies such as the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and Foreign Affairs, and could use its statutory mandate to enlist the technical expertise of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s electronic spy agency, the government notes say.

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