#CyberFLASH: Federal spies suddenly intercepting 26 times more Canadian phone calls and communications

five_eyes_spies_20160603OTTAWA — Interception of Canadians’ private communications by the federal electronic spy agency increased 26-fold last year, for reasons authorities won’t fully explain.

And despite commitments between Canada and its intelligence-sharing allies to respect the privacy of each nation’s citizens, the volume of information on Canadians collected by allied intelligence agencies and informally shared with Canada’s spies has grown to the point that it now requires a formal mechanism to cope with all the data.

At least one intelligence expert is concerned the change sidesteps the spirit of Canadian privacy laws.

Details are contained in the latest annual report by the independent, external oversight organization that reviews activities of the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE), Ottawa’s super-secret foreign signals intelligence agency. Quietly tabled in Parliament July 20, the report concludes CSE’s 2015-16 activities were lawful.

But the watchdog Office of the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment notes CSE intercepted 342 private communications in 2014-15, compared to just 13 for the previous year.

By law, CSE can only target communications of foreign entities outside Canada. If one end of that communication is in Canada, making it a “private communication,” it requires a written authorization from the minister of national defence, responsible for the CSE, and only if it is essential for “international affairs, defence or security.”

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