Today many websites around the world joined together to protest the NSA’s practice of spying on the online activities of innocent people in the United States and around the world. The American NSA (National Security Agency) is joined in these activities by its Five Eyes partners, England’s GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), Australia’a ASD (Australian Signals Directorate), New Zealand’s (GCSD (Government Communications Security Bureau), and Canada’s own CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada).
Instead of using the one provided by www.thedaywefightback.org, I decided to create my own Canadian graphic using a darkened photo of CSEC’s current headquarters, rather than the NSA’s.
Being Canadian, my own protest is not directed at NSA; that is an agency of the Government of the United States. The USA has little motivation to pay any heed at all to non-Americans. On the other hand, The Government of Canada and CSEC are supposed to be working for Canadians; they should have reason to listen to the voices of Canadians.
Most of those Canadians aware of the existence of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) prior to the Snowden revelations believed our premier spy agency existed to spy for us, not on us. In spite of evidence provided by Edward Snowden and responsibly reported by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, CSEC protests it’s innocence.
Join me in signing Open Media’s Protect Our Privacy petition.
Even better: contact your member of parliament (see “Find Your Member of Parliament” in the sidebar) and letting him or her know we would be better served if the billions squandered spying on innocent Canadians was invested in something worthwhile instead, like:
- replenishing the CPP, or
- fully funding Library and Archives Canada, or
- providing adequate education and health care to First Nations peoples, or
- creating a postal service that actually delivers mail,
- ensuring Canadian veterans get a fair shake, or
- investing in green energy, or
- improving health care, or
- making a university education available to all qualified Canadians.
I’ll bet you can think of a dozen places you would rather see Canadian tax dollars being spent.
The CSE Commissioner has never found CSE to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSE’s culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians.
With no such budgetary restraints of its own, CSEC took over the luxury digs. While a case can be made that CBC needs impressive offices in an industry where image is everything, it is hard to explain why a Government Industry operating in the shadows should need opulent digs. As it turns out even this spacious architecturally significant Ottawa building was not enough for Canada’s spy agency.
CSEC is spending 1.2 billion to construct the most expensive Canadian government building ever. And although Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill, most will never be allowed to set foot in it.
Canada’s cryptologic agency is part of the 5 Eyes spy consortium that shares intelligence.
CSE is mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians, and by law, only directs its foreign intelligence activities at foreign entities.
In order to fulfill this key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSE is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata. In simple terms, metadata is technical information used to route communications, and not the contents of a communication.”
— CSE statement re: January 30 CBC story
CSEC’s claims (like the other Five Eyes claims) that it limits itself to metadata rings hollow. Reporter Glenn Greenwald makes a convincing case that metadata collection is even more invasive than having the our email read.
For years now, our Canadian Government has been working hard to make such spying on citizens legal by passing “lawful access” legislation, which would make it legal for government to spy on innocent citizens without having to convince a judge that there is a good reason to invade citizen privacy.
After 9/11 the Liberal Government first introduced “lawful access” legislation which failed to pass. The second try at legalizing unfettered citizen surveillance was made by the Conservative government, but was one of the laws lost to premature prorogation.
The third attempt is the one we started hearing about; because it was misleadingly titled Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, yet it neglected to even mention children or internet predators anywhere except in its title. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews infamously told an opposition MP that he could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers” during a debate.
Despite promises not to revisit the issue, the Harper Government’s new Justice Minister Peter MacKay has introduced yet another incarnation, “Bill C-13, The Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act,” which will effectively allow unprecedented digital surveillance. Which would look very much like the things are being revealed through Edward Snowden’s leaked documents. If Bill C-13 becomes law, our spy agencies would be legally allowed to spy on Canadians who happened to use airport WiFi, or read our email, collect our metadata. There would be no legal means for citizens to protest being watched 24/7.
I have spent my entire life being grateful that my maternal grandparents fled the Russian Revolution and emigrated to Canada. This saved me from growing up in the Soviet Union, where citizens didn’t have civil rights. Where the government decided where you went to school, or if you did; and what work you do, and where you lived. Where people were correct in assuming they were being listened to when they spoke on the telephone. Or even when they didn’t.
Even if the education you receive led to the career you always wanted, not being able to say what you think, or even think aloud, without risking instant relocation to Siberia, makes such a system hard to take.
If you don’t think its such a bad idea, try to imagine what it would be like to spend every minute of every day with your mother. No matter how much you love your mom, no matter how good your relationship, chances are good there are things you won’t want to say out loud, or emails you won’t be comfortable writing if you know she is going to read it.
Now think about doing the same thing, but this time instead of your mother, you are now going to spend every minute of every day of the rest of your life with the most annoying person you have ever known. Maybe it’s the whiny little kid who followed you around in the third grade and wanted to be included in everything you did. Or maybe it’s the bully who jumped out of the bushes every day and stole your lunch money.
If all of our digital communications are subject to surveillance after such a law eliminates oversight, the civil liberties promised by the Canadian Charter of Rights And Freedoms won’t be worth the paper its printed on.
If Bill C-13 Lawful Access legislation should become law, Canadians will find ourselves tripping over the government in our bedrooms after all.
Edward Drake Building has been released into the public domain by its author, Vanished User