#CyberFLASH: Edward Snowden speaks to Queen’s students via Skype

snowden0.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxReceiving astounding applause, Edward Snowden appeared on screen at Queen’s University stage via Skype as the keynote speaker for the Queen’s Model United Nations Invitational on Thursday night.

The security-agency whistleblower, who now lives in exile in Russia, first thanked the professors and students involved with organizing the conference, moderated by Dr. David Lyons, who directs the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queens. Then he thanked the online Twitter community for ensuring that he received the invitation to speak at Queen’s — something he had missed at first — as an example of the importance of public opinion.

“Too often, when we are engaging in society we don’t get to seem to get the right response. By working together, and if we amplify our voice… we can get results.”

Snowden, a hero or a criminal depending on your point of view, began to lay down a brief history of the “growing up in the shadow of the NSA (National Security Agency)” and coming from a family with deep roots in the U.S. military. “When I started working for the government, I was really a true believer,” said Snowden. “I swallowed propaganda entirely.”

He recalled how, as he worked in various parts of the NSA with increasing levels of access, he began to sketch out the contradictions between the public pronouncements made to citizens and the reality behind the government’s closed doors, where his agency was carrying out programs of mass surveillance, including extensive phone and Internet surveillance of the public.

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#CyberFLASH: There’s a Secret Hearing Into Allegations Canada Illegally Spied on Environmental Activists

gavel-stock-image-2A federal watchdog committee is set to begin a round of secret hearings to probe complaints that Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has been illegally snooping on environmental activists working against oil pipeline projects.

In 2014 the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed two complaints against CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) accusing both agencies of spying on environmental and First Nations groups who were organizing against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude west from Alberta to BC. The groups allegedly subjected to surveillance include the Sierra Club of BC, the Dogwood Initiative, and ForestEthics Advocacy.

“This kind of activity, what’s being alleged, has no place in democracy. The government and its spy agencies should not be busy surveilling and gathering intelligences on citizenships who are simply living their lives and participating in their communities,” Josh Paterson, BCCLA’s executive director, told VICE News. “There are plenty of undemocratic countries where governments spy on people they don’t agree with. And Canada should not be one of them.”

The BCCLA’s complaints, based on government documents obtained under access to information requests, further allege the spy agency also shared their intelligence about “radicalized environmentalist” groups with the National Energy Board.

CSIS has long denied the BCCLA’s allegations. “CSIS investigates — and advises government on — threats to national security, and that does not include peaceful protest and dissent,” a CSIS spokesperson told the CBC last year.

New federal anti-terror legislation, known as Bill C-51, that recently came into force gives CSIS more powers to probe and disrupt extremist activities and has raised further worries that environmental and aboriginal groups in Canada could be subjected to more surveillance than ever before.

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#CyberFLASH: Mayor of Saanich, B.C. suspected staff was spying on him — and he was right

AtwellVICTORIA — Less than two weeks after being sworn in as mayor, Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell learned he was being spied upon.

A whistleblower sidled up to the rookie mayor at a community event, last December, and suggested the mayor’s own staff had bugged his municipal computer.

Distrustful of Saanich’s top bureaucrats — many of whom were loyal to the six-term incumbent that Atwell had just upset at the polls — the mayor of Vancouver Island’s largest municipality felt he had only one option left: Launch his own investigation.

Armed only with the recording app on his iPhone, Atwell began interviewing former and current staff in Saanich’s computer department. He approached one employee outside a local recreation centre, hoping to catch him away from his managers so he could speak freely. When the mayor tracked down the technician who’d installed the tracking software, he went to the man’s home on the employee’s day off to record their conversation.

“It just seemed so incredible,” Atwell said. “These employees were very uncomfortable having done this job. They felt so uncomfortable they were asking questions internally and trying to get the information out somehow.”

Atwell’s suspicions were vindicated Monday in a report by privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who said Saanich staff broke the law by installing spyware software called Spector 360 onto several municipal computers.

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Navy spy Delisle sentenced to 20 years in prison

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Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle, the Halifax naval officer who sold secrets to Russia, has been given a 20-year prison sentence.

But Judge Patrick Curran said Delisle will serve 18 years and five months behind bars because of time he has already served.

Delisle, 41, was also fined over $111,000, equal to what investigators say he received from the Russians. He has 20 years to pay.

Delisle is the first person to be sentenced under Canada’s Security of Information Act.

He pleaded guilty last October to one count of breach of trust and two charges of passing information to a foreign entity that could harm Canada’s interest.

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National Defence took ‘insufficient action’ to address security concerns before spy case: Documents

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OTTAWA — New questions are being raised over whether National Defence’s failure to heed internal audits and better secure itself from threats and breaches contributed to the high-profile spy case involving Jeffrey Delisle.

Documents obtained by Postmedia News show auditors repeatedly called on the Defence Department over the years to bolster its security systems, but were largely ignored.

The department has now launched a review of its ability to deter threats and prevent breaches, which is expected to result in “fundamental changes.”

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CSIS knew of navy spy’s activity, left RCMP in the dark

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Canada’s spy agency clandestinely watched a navy officer pass top secret information to Russia for months without briefing the RCMP — a previously unknown operation that raises questions about whether Jeffrey Delisle could have been arrested sooner.

The Canadian Press has learned that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation alerted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to Delisle’s illicit dealings with Moscow well before the Mounties took on the file in December 2011 and later brought him into custody.

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