What the rest of the country calls accountability, Canada’s electronic spies, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), paints as a threat to security. It’s a tried and true tactic for intelligence agencies here and abroad when public scrutiny begins to stir.
According to the Star’s Alex Boutilier, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is in a protracted battle with the CSE to make them comply with laws mandating the reporting of material privacy breaches by government agencies. Predictably, the CSE has played the national security card: they are above the laws everyone else follows because accountability could betray their methods to the nation’s adversaries.
The history of organizations in Canada that believe they are above the law is not a happy one for either citizens or the organizations themselves. Just ask the RCMP about its defunct Security Service. They were shut down after being discovered to have perpetrated a string of break-ins, acts of vandalism and other crimes out of fealty to the paranoid mission of the day during the early 1970s: defeating communism and separatism.
Doubtless, the Security Service probably wouldn’t have thought too much of meddlesome privacy commissioners either, especially if reporting requirements meant exposing the scale of its nefarious activities.
Indeed, scale has always been a sore point for the CSE, too. Perhaps the number and type of material privacy breaches is a distant but somewhat reasonable proxy for the magnitude of invasive surveillance ordinary Canadians are subjected to every day on the Internet by way of metadata collection programs.
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