#CyberFLASH: Security agencies must obey letter of law, Trudeau says amid surveillance fears

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OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government will ensure security and spy agencies follow the “letter and spirit” of the law, amid mounting concerns they have trampled the privacy of journalists and other Canadians.

In a roundtable interview this week with The Canadian Press, the prime minister stressed that national security agencies must protect Canadians but also safeguard the laws and values the public cherishes.

Trudeau’s words come as the Liberal government wraps up a national consultation on federal security policy and they follow two recent episodes that heightened public concern about unwarranted surveillance.

It emerged last month that the Montreal and Quebec provincial police forces had been tracking the communications of several journalists. Only days later, a Federal Court judge found the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had broken the law by keeping and analyzing information about the communications of innocent people — potentially revealing data that was collected during investigations into actual suspects.

There are also nagging questions about whether CSIS has used its considerable powers to monitor media members.

In the interview, Trudeau said the Liberals would “make sure that our security agencies and intelligence agencies obey the letter and the spirit of the laws that frame them.”

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#CyberFLASH: Balancing police, power and privacy

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Canadians support more investigative powers for police — with a catch, Nov. 17

Your story declares that Canadians support police demands for more surveillance, even though data from the survey indicates only 34 per cent are confident that new powers will be used “reasonably and according to the law.” Presumably that is why, in every case, the survey found that people want use of these powers to require a warrant from a judge.

Yet while it mentions reports of police spying on journalists and lawbreaking by CSIS, both your story and the survey neglect to mention that warrants were granted inappropriately in the first case, and that CSIS lied to the courts about their actions in the second.

The survey also suggests Canadians support data retention by telecom providers if authorities have a warrant to access the data. However, it wasn’t asked whether they should be able to retain that data before a warrant is granted or only afterwards. Your story assumes, without any justification, that Canadians support retention of data about a person before a warrant is granted.

The report also states that 74 per cent of Canadians have never encrypted their communications, without pointing out that we do so every time we use online banking, or visit an increasing number of websites — including the Star’s! Worst of all, it leaves out that Canadians have a right not to incriminate themselves under the Charter, protecting them against giving their passwords or encryption keys in an investigation.

Finally, the survey suggests 47 per cent of Canadians think there is a right to “complete digital privacy,” while only 23 per cent think it is currently possible to have that privacy.

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#CyberFLASH: CSIS, Bill C-51 and Canada’s growing metadata collection mess

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Much has been made over whether the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency, should be armed with broader powers to “disrupt” what it perceives as terrorist plots.

A report tabled this month by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which watches over CSIS’s work, notes that while the spy agency hasn’t abused its new powers of disruption, its bulk data collection program needs to be scaled back.

It’s easy to think of CSIS and other spy agencies as shadowy organizations that carry out James Bond-like “missions” involving cool gadgets and high-tech weaponry, but the Snowden leaks, among other revelations, have shown the public that metadata collection (online communications, phone logs and other electronic exchanges that can be intercepted in enormous amounts) now constitutes the state’s primary instrument of control.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien recently called upon legislators (the Liberals in particular) to amend certain aspects of Canada’s national security laws in order to address the issue of metadata collection.

In particular, Therrien referred to the Communications Security Establishment, which seems to get a lot less public scrutiny than CSIS. The CSE is responsible for collecting massive volumes of foreign communications through “signals-intelligence,” (or “sigint”), but also tends to drag up large amounts of Canadian metadata as well, which it isn’t supposed to be doing.

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#CyberFLASH: Ex-CSIS official backs Canada’s attempt to get cyber promise from China

feature-china-hack-keyboard-thinkstock-620x250For several years Western governments have blamed official Chinese or Chinese-government backed groups for hacking into databases of public and private organizations. But a year ago the U.S. president Barack Obama and Chinese president president Xi Jinping signed an agreement not to direct or support cyberattacks that steal corporate data for economic benefit.

Now Canada wants to do the same.

A spokesman for Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale told the Globe and Mail that this country will try to get a similar agreement, which has also been negotiated between China and the United Kingdom.

The idea has the support of Ray Boisvert, a former assistant director for intelligence at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) who now has his own security consulting company.

“I do support this type of approach,” he said in an email to ITWorldCanada.com. “As we collectively mature in this new networked, cyber-enabled world, be it governments, the private sector or citizens, we will have to apply all types of risk reduction strategies. And of course diplomacy should always be a first among strategic plays. It is no guarantee of success, especially without verification, but two previous agreements involving the U.S. and U.K. (and China) have recorded measurable reductions in cyber thefts of intellectual property and by extension breaches of individual privacy.

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#CyberFLASH: Ottawa has little regard for protecting privacy rights when it comes to national security

1297658073661_ORIGINALOTTAWA — The federal government has scant regard for privacy rights when it comes to national security, according to the federal privacy commissioner’s new annual report.

Tabled in Parliament Tuesday, it reveals:

• Only two of the 17 departments and agencies with power collect personal information from other federal entities under the new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA) believe privacy impact assessments (PIAs) are necessary. The assessments are designed ensure privacy protection is a core consideration and are required under government policy for any new or substantially modified government programs and activities involving personal information.

The act, created under the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, formerly Bill C-51, allows 111 departments and agencies to share information, including citizens’ personal data, with 17 departments with national security responsibilities. The information must be “relevant” to the recipient’s jurisdiction in relation to “activities that undermine the security of Canada.” The intent is to persuade bureaucrats to share information so authorities can better connect the “dots” of potential national security threats.

The act has been used 110 times between Aug. 1, 2015, when it became law, and Jan. 31, by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

When privacy concerns about SCISA were raised last spring as C-51 made its way through Parliament, then-public safety minister Steven Blaney attempted to placate critics by insisting PIAs would be the norm.

• Thirteen of the 17 departments and agencies with national security responsibilities collected or shared information under “very broad” pre-existing legal authorities, including common law, because the Conservative government did not create detailed new legal authorities spelling out permitted collection and disclosure of information for national security.

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#CyberFLASH: How much do we really know about the Canadian intelligence community?

csis.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxLast year American whistle-blower Edward Snowden proclaimed that Canadian intelligence agencies have the “weakest oversight” in the Western world and compared the Canadian government’s Bill C-51 to George W. Bush’s post-9-11 U.S. Patriot Act.

Canada became a surveillance state under the Stephen Harper Conservatives. In 2014, for example, it came to light that the Government Operations Centre was monitoring residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, including Indigenous Peoples, residents of the Island’s west coast who opposed fracking, and fishermen who were protesting shrimp quotas. This ongoing problem is further complicated by multiple transnational intelligence sharing agreements, in place since World War II, that remain largely unknown to the general public.

Indeed, the rise of the surveillance state is a global phenomenon that cannot be separated from the rise of the internet. But in Canada, because of the lack of any credible oversight, it has played out in a very specific way. This has everything to do with what the Canadian public knows—and more importantly, does not know—about Canadian intelligence agencies.

Canada’s new and highly invasive so-called anti-terror legislation came into force last year with the support of then-Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus. The Trudeau Liberals knew that in order to win the election they would need to undo—or at least promise to undo—much of the damage done by their predecessors. They would have to address the alienation felt by Canadians from having a government that used national security as an excuse to trade away its citizens’ freedom and civil liberties.

Unfortunately, they have yet to repeal or even reform Bill C-51, and recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the U.S, and here at home in Canada have provided the perfect backdrop against which to further delay the process. On August 10, for example Aaron Driver, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen who was allegedly plotting a terrorist attack in the southern Ontario town of Strathroy, died in a confrontation with police who were following up on a tip from the FBI.

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#CyberFLASH: What Aaron Driver means for the debate on amending Bill C-51

rcmp-terror-20160811The case of Aaron Driver, the ISIS sympathizer who was killed in Strathroy, Ont., on Wednesday, comes to the fore amid the outstanding question of federal anti-terror laws and the fate of Bill C-51, the former Conservative government’s controversial legislation of last year.

And on Thursday, the Conservatives spoke of both in nearly the same breath.

“I salute and thank the law enforcement and intelligence officers who put their own lives on the line to stop this potential attack on innocent Canadians,” interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said in a statement distributed on Thursday morning.

“Unfortunately, the Liberal government campaigned on a promise to strip these officers of some of the essential investigative and enforcement tools to do this work, which the previous Conservative government provided through Bill C-51, and which have already been wisely used to disrupt terrorist activities nearly two dozen times since last fall. I call on the Liberal government to ensure all of Canada’s security and intelligence services keep the tools they need to do their jobs.”

On a very basic level, Driver’s fate might well factor into the general debate: a case of suspected terrorism informing a debate about how the law should be used to respond to the threat of terrorism. “This disturbing event serves to remind us that Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Thursday.

But on the particulars, it is unclear what precisely Driver’s case might have to do with C-51.

Liberal commitment to rewrite C-51

In bestowing new powers on law enforcement and national security agencies, C-51 raised various concerns about civil liberties.

In opposition at the time, the Liberals support the bill’s passage, but vowed they would amend the legislation if they were to form government.

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