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The fact that it was [sic] responsibility not of the RCMP but of the employer, whether government department or private company, to actually remove a security risk from employment, that is, to exercise direct coercion, is precisely in line with the panoptic element. The RCMP merely watched, gathered information, and provided advice, silently and in the shadows. The effect was to induce political discipline through pervasive, diffuse fear of the consequences of risky ideas, friends, or associations. Totalitarian states enforced political discipline through cruder forms of police state coercion. In fighting the Nazi state, Canada was also groping towards a more effective, non-coercive, form of discipline. The RCMP provided to be able students of the new science of political surveillance.

  • Reg Whitaker et al, Secret Service: Political Policing in Canada from the Fenians to Fortress America
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Supreme Court of Canada to Decide on Protection of Journalistic Material

From CBC News:

The materials at issue relate to three stories Makuch wrote in 2014 on a Calgary man, Farah Shirdon, 22, charged in absentia with various terrorism-related offences. The articles were largely based on conversations Makuch had with Shirdon, who was said to be in Iraq, via the online instant messaging app Kik Messenger.

With court permission, RCMP sought access to Makuch’s screen captures and logs of those chats. Makuch refused to hand them over.

RCMP and the Crown argued successfully at two levels of court that access to the chat logs were essential to the ongoing investigation into Shirdon, who may or may not be dead. They maintained that journalists have no special rights to withhold crucial information.

Backed by alarmed media and free-expression groups, Makuch and Vice Media argued unsuccessfully that the RCMP demand would put a damper on the willingness of sources to speak to journalists.

The conflicting views will now be tested before the Supreme Court.

This case matters for numerous reasons.

First, there has been a real drying up of certain sources, which has prevented journalists in Canada from bringing material to public light. Such material doesn’t just pertain to terrorism and foreign combatants but, also, white collar crime, political scandals, cybercrime issues, and more. The Canadian public is being badly served by the Crown’s continued pursuit of this case.

Second, this case threatens to further diminish relations between the state and non-state actors who may, as a result, be (further) biased against state authorities. It’s important to be critical of the government and especially aspects of the government which can dramatically reshape citizens’ life opportunities. But should the press gallery adopt an unwarranted and more critical and combative tone towards the government there could be a deleterious impact on the trust Canadians have in their government . By extension, this could lead to a further decline in the willingness to see the government as something that tries to represent the citizenry writ large. That kind of democratic malaise is dangerous to ongoing governance and a threat to the legitimization of all kinds of state activities.

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Twenty-four pedestrians were hit on Toronto’s roads on Tuesday — including an 87-year-old who died

“Do we recognize that weather plays a part in it? Yes, that’s a contributing factor. But what do you do when you can’t see where you’re going? You slow down, you look around. Unfortunately, drivers, let’s be quite frank, are somewhat lazy. They don’t adjust for the driving conditions they face. They’re still trying to push the envelope.”

It’s always a bit shocking to have the Toronto police holding drivers to account for, you know, killing people with their vehicles. It’s a nice change from just blaming pedestrians.

But, at the same time, I don’t think that drivers being “somewhat lazy” is a legitimate comment when talking about people being killed. People get lazy and don’t wash the dishes. Or don’t take the dog out. When they get lazy and kill someone we tend to use another word when we’re not referring to drivers killing pedestrians.

That word? Manslaughter.

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Police surveillance scandal: Quebec tightens rules for monitoring journalists

From the Montreal Gazette:

Mark Bantey, a specialist in media law (who is also the Montreal Gazette’s lawyer), said he was stunned by the scope of the warrant involved in the Lagacé case. He said it seems the police were more worried about who was leaking information to the press than the actual crime.

“It sure looks like they (the police) have gone overboard because they’re not out there investigating a crime, but trying to determine who in the police department is leaking information to the press. You can’t use search warrants to get that sort of information,” Bantey said in an interview Tuesday. “There’s an obligation to exhaust all other possible sources of information before targeting the media.”

As for Couillard’s new directive about obtaining search warrants, he called it a first step that was unlikely to bring an immediate change to police practices. A better solution might be to adopt new legislation — a shield law — that protects media sources, he said.

Legislation to protect journalists from police surveillance is a good idea…until you ask a question of ‘who constitutes a journalist’?

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NYPD can’t count cash they’ve seized because it would crash computers

From Ars Technica:

The New York City Police Department takes in millions of dollars in cash each year as evidence, often keeping the money through a procedure called civil forfeiture. But as New York City lawmakers pressed for greater transparency into how much was being seized and from whom, a department official claimed providing that information would be nearly impossible—because querying the 4-year old computer system that tracks evidence and property for the data would “lead to system crashes.”

Even with the system, however, the NYPD’s Assistant Deputy Commissioner Robert Messner told the New York City Council’s Public Safety Committee that the department had no idea how much money it took in as evidence, nor did it have a way of reporting how much was seized through civil forfeiture proceedings—where property and money is taken from people suspected of involvement in a crime through a civil filing, and the individuals whom it is seized from are put in the position of proving that the property was not involved in the crime of which they were accused.

So NYPD has spend millions on an expensive database that prevents them from conducting accountability queries on seized evidence? That’s an interesting design choice.

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Location Privacy: The Purview of the Rich and Indigent

Krebs on Security:

In Texas, the EFF highlights how state and local law enforcement agencies have free access to ALPR equipment and license plate data maintained by a private company called Vigilant Solutions. In exchange, police cruisers are retrofitted with credit-card machines so that law enforcement officers can take payments for delinquent fines and other charges on the spot — with a 25 percent processing fee tacked on that goes straight to Vigilant. In essence, the driver is paying Vigilant to provide the local cops with the technology used to identify and detain the driver.

“The ‘warrant redemption’ program works like this,” the EFF wrote. “The agency is given no-cost license plate readers as well as free access to LEARN-NVLS, the ALPR data system Vigilant says contains more than 2.8-billion plate scans and is growing by more than 70-million scans a month. This also includes a wide variety of analytical and predictive software tools. Also, the agency is merely licensing the technology; Vigilant can take it back at any time.”

That’s right: Even if the contract between the state and Vigilant ends, the latter gets to keep all of the license plate data collected by the agency, and potentially sell or license the information to other governments or use it for other purposes.

Another case of the private surveillance sector overcoming state institutions, and to the detriment of citizens’ rights to privacy.

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How ‘white hat’ hackers could help in the Ashley Madison investigation

How ‘white hat’ hackers could help in the Ashley Madison investigation:

TORONTO – It’s not every day that the police appeal to the hacking community to help investigate a wide-scale hacking incident.

Because much of the Ashley Madison data leak unfolded on the dark web, it makes sense that authorities are appealing to “good” hackers who may have engaged with those behind the leak to come forward. However, according to cyber security expert Chris Parsons, it could have major implications.

“Such hackers possess a technical skill set and may use it to analyze leaked data or to try and track down or identify those suspected for leaking the Ashley Madison data,” said Parsons.

“The danger…is that in hunting for suspected leakers some parties may act beyond, or outside, the law in an attempt to help authorities. In the course of behaving this way they might actually endanger the investigation’s legitimacy or even compromise legitimate evidence.”

Parsons added that without a clearer set of ‘terms of engagement,’ police could bring on further investigations into those “recruited” to help them – putting a strain on resources and risking the integrity into the investigation into the Ashley Madison data breach.