Friday, January 31, 2014

Harper Now Has His Own Secret Police

A feature of totalitarian states around the world is a "secret" police force that is engaged in spying on a nation's citizens and keeping them in line with implicit threats of "legal action".  Most notorious among these would be East Germany's Stasi, but there are many examples.

In Canada, it appears that Harper's Secret Police has become CSEC (and presumably its cousin CSIS).
Experts say that probably included many Canadians whose smartphone and laptop signals were intercepted without their knowledge as they passed through the terminal. 
The document shows the federal intelligence agency was then able to track the travellers for a week or more as they — and their wireless devices — showed up in other Wi-Fi "hot spots" in cities across Canada and even at U.S. airports.
My first thought is that while I acknowledge that there is no real expectation of "privacy" per se when using a public WiFi hotspot, I do have problems with what has been done here.  This isn't focused surveillance of particular "individuals of interest", but rather it is an across-the-board surveillance on a scale that the GDR's Stasi could only dream of.

CSEC's mandate very clearly restricts it from carrying out surveillance on Canada and Canadians directly, and yet that is precisely what it has done.  This may have only been a "test run" of a new technology, but that doesn't make it right, nor does it reassure me that this government has actually focused this new system within CSEC's actual mandate.  Given the "data sharing" arrangements between CSEC, CSIS and the NSA, I can imagine that CSEC has access to the equivalent data on Canadians that the NSA is no doubt gathering.

In short, the CSEC and its sister organization have become the secret police in this country - they have enormous amounts of information about all Canadians at their disposal.  This is mass surveillance when in fact these organizations are charged with identifying threats.  Law abiding Canadians _ARE_NOT_THREATS_, and should not be subjected to arbitrary, unwarranted surveillance simply because the state is able to do so.

This day has been coming for years.  Ever since the first DARPA experiments networked two computers together, the ability to gather and analyze network data has been evolving.  This is where the notion of professional ethics comes into play.  The fact that we can do something does not automatically mean that we should do it.

That Harper has allowed CSEC to believe that it can do this legitimately is no real surprise.  It is time to bring this government to heel and demand that it operate in the interests of Canadians, not treat us as adversaries.

[Update 31/1/14]
Apparently, according to Defence Minister Nicholson, there is no sign that CSEC is spying on Canadians.
Under repeated questioning by opposition MPs, Nicholson didn't directly deny the story, but said that the document detailing work by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CESC) doesn't show that Canadian communications were targeted or used. 
"It's my understanding that CSEC made it clear to CBC that nothing in the documents that they had obtained showed that Canadian communications were targeted, collected, or used, nor that travellers' movements were tracked," Nicholson said in the House of Commons.
Right.  So stealing information from Canadian airports, which largely contain Canadian travellers, and then tracking their devices when they pop up in other locales is apparent not spying on Canadians.  News to me - last I checked ... surreptitiously gathering information about Canadians is spying on Canadians.  Apparently the Harperites have adopted Orwell's Newspeak as their official language.
[/Update]

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