Dissecting CSIS’ Statement Concerning Indefinite Metadata Retention

The Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) released a public statement after the Federal Court found the Service to be breaking the law by permanently retaining metadata they had been collecting. To date, the Public Safety Minister has refused to clarify the numbers of Canadians who have been caught up in this ‘catch once, catch forever’ surveillance regime.

The Service’s statement is incredibly misleading. It is designed to trick Canadians and parliamentarians into thinking that CSIS didn’t do anything that was really ‘that’ bad. I fundamentally disagree with CSIS’ activities in this regard and, as a result, I’ve conducted a detailed evaluation of each sentence of the Service’s statement.

You can read my dissection of CSIS’ statement at Technology, Thoughts, and Trinkets.


Canada’s spy agency illegally kept data for a decade, court rules

To be clear, the judge’s ruling:

  1. Found that CSIS had deliberately been misleading/lying to the court for a decade concerning the agency’s permanent retention of metadata;
  2. Raised the prospect of contempt of court proceedings against CSIS and its attorneys at the Department of Justice;
  3. Approved changes to unknown warrants (we’re not allowed, as members of the public, to know the warranting powers of CSIS it seems);
  4. Did not require CSIS to delete or stop using the metadata it had illegally collected, on grounds that doing so could raise jurisdictional issues. Translation: the information has been shared, or mixed with, foreign agencies’ metadata already and thus prevents the court from easily crafting a judgment around its use;
  5. CSIS did not believe that it was required to be fully transparent with the federal court that issues CSIS’ warrants on grounds that the court was ‘not an oversight body’;
  6. CSIS had internally, with Department of Justice guidance, secretly reinterpreted laws to cloak its actions in the guise of lawfulness (internally) while deliberately hiding such interpretations and the implications thereof from the court.

Canada has a national security consultation going on, and part of it raises the question of ‘does Canada have sufficient oversight and accountability for its national security operations?’ If you care about these issues, go and spend some time sending a message to the government.


Document reveals hidden squabble between spies and diplomats

Following the passage of Canada’s Bill C-51 which, amongst other things, was intended to heighten information sharing amongst federal agencies, CSIS apparently expected to receive more information from Canadian diplomats abroad. Government Affairs Canada (GAC), however, has largely refused to share information with the security intelligence on grounds that CSIS’ actions could lead to the abuse of Canadians or those with whom Canada has a significant relationship. Moreover, the current Liberal government’s assertions it will be modifying C-51 has meant that GAC is unwilling to significantly share information until further clarity is provided with regards to the legislation.

Articles like this are helpful in reminding people that government is composed of competing institutions. And these institutions tend to focus on their own interests, first, which can promote significant conflict between the different parts of government. The reporting also showcases that even after bad legislation is passed that there are a host of ways in which authorizing legislation may be stopped or inhibited.


CSIS can’t keep up with ‘daily’ state-sponsored cyber attacks | Toronto Star

CSIS can’t keep up with ‘daily’ state-sponsored cyber attacks:

OTTAWA—Canada’s spies admit they can’t keep up with daily cyber attacks from state-sponsored hackers, according to an internal report obtained by the Star.

Christopher Parsons at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said the documents point to a larger conflict that’s largely been taking place behind the scenes — the militarization of the Internet.

“Canada is hardly alone as the target — or originator — of state-sponsored hacking,” Parsons said.

As countries, including Canada, continue to develop both offensive and defensive Internet capabilities, he said it’s become urgent to come to an international consensus of what counts as legitimate targets in the Internet age.

“The internet has become militarized behind the backs of most citizens, and I think that if we’re not going to roll back that militarization entirely … at the very least principled agreements about what are legitimate and illegitimate modes of militarization have to be established,” Parsons said.



CSIS’s New Powers Demand New Accountability Mechanisms

CSIS’s New Powers Demand New Accountability Mechanisms:

It is imperative that the Canadian public trust that CSIS is not acting in a lawless manner. And while improving how SIRC functions, or adding Parliamentary review, could regain or maintain that trust, a more cost-sensitive approach could involve statutory reporting. Regardless, something must be done to ensure that CSIS’ actions remain fully accountable to the public, especially given the new powers the Service may soon enjoy. Doing anything less would irresponsibly expand the state’s surveillance capabilities and threaten to dilute the public’s trust in its intelligence and security service.



Canada’s spy agency helped prepare all-of-government approach in case Idle No More protests ‘escalated’: secret files

Given CSIS’s ongoing efforts to monitor for threats against national oil interests and other resource extraction companies and associated policies, it’s not necessarily a surprise that the security agency was focusing in on Idle No More. Native land is, after all, required to effectively mobilize resources across Canada.

This said, Canadians generally should be mindful that our security agency was “planning for every eventuality, concerned by the decentralized, leaderless nature of the protests and the multiple motivations and influences that drove them.“ Mindfulness is needed for two reasons: first, because CSIS’s concerns will likely lead to enhanced attempts to map communications patterns to divine ‘leaders’ and ‘centralization’ within activist groupings. Second, because CSIS’s activities are known to include stretching or breaking the law by lying to federal justices. CSIS’s targeting of Aboriginal groups shouldn’t be ignored by other Canadian citizens as not ultimately affecting them as well.

What might be most damaging about CSIS’s actions is how they will (continue to) damage relations between Canada and the Aboriginal people’s. Rather than trying to find a way of working with Canada’s native peoples the Canadian government has again classified them as prospective threats: that’s not how you develop a trusted negotiating relationship, let alone try to heal age-old wounds. And no matter how much surveillance CSIS engages in they can’t guard every mile of roads or pipelines that are used in extracting and transporting Canada’s natural resources.

Source: Canada’s spy agency helped prepare all-of-government approach in case Idle No More protests ‘escalated’: secret files