Canadian Government Looking To Step Up Domestic Surveillance, Scale Back Intelligence Oversight

from the if-you-like-your-surveillance-state,-you-can-keep-it dept

Canada has its own PATRIOT Act — one that was supposed to be fixed by its new heartthrob PM, Justin Trudeau. As Cory Doctorow points out at Boing Boing, Trudeau promised to fix it in post, but that’s not what’s happening.

Back in 2015, Canada’s failing, doomed Conservative government introduced Bill C-51, a far-reaching mass surveillance bill that read like PATRIOT Act fanfic; Justin Trudeau, leader of what was then a minority opposition party, whipped his MPs to vote for it, allowing it to pass, and cynically admitting that he was only turning this into law because he didn’t want to give the Conservatives a rhetorical stick to beat him with in the next election — he promised that once he was Prime Minister, he’d fix it.

Now the Trudeau government has introduced Bill C-59, which is meant to correct those deficits. Instead, it makes them far, far worse.

Security research group Citizen Lab have done the heavy lifting Trudeau seems uninterested in doing. A comprehensive report [PDF] detailing everything wrong with the bill (along with 54[!] recommendations for fixes) has been published by the group. In it, Citizen Lab notes C-59 expands domestic surveillance, lowers standards for surveillance deployment, and trims back government oversight.

Dozens of problems have been found in the draft bill by Citizen Lab. The bill Trudeau was supposed to fix is instead morphing into a surveillance state blank check. The Lab finds a whole lot that’s unlikable in the legislation.

Longstanding problems with the CSE’s foreign intelligence operations, which are predicated on ambiguous and secretive legal interpretations that legitimize bulk collection and mass surveillance activities.

The complete lack of meaningful oversight and control of the CSE’s activities under the proposed active and defensive cyber operations aspects of its mandate.

The absence of meaningful safeguards or restrictions on the CSE’s active and defensive cyber operations activities, which have the potential to seriously threaten secure communications tools, public safety, and global security.

The absence of meaningful safeguards or restrictions on the CSE’s activities more generally. As drafted, the CSE Act appears to include a loophole which would allow the Establishment to cause death or bodily harm, and to interfere with the “course of justice or democracy,” if acting under its foreign intelligence or cybersecurity powers while prohibiting these outcomes under its new cyber operation powers.

Concerns regarding the framework for the CSE’s acquisition of malware, spyware and hacking tools, which may legitimize a market predicated on undermining and subverting, rather than strengthening, the security of the global information infrastructure.

Weak and vague protections for the privacy of Canadians and persons in Canada, alongside an abject disregard for privacy rights as an international human rights norm.

Extraordinary exceptions to the CSE’s general rule against “directing” activities at Canadians and persons in Canada significantly expand the CSE’s ability to use its expansive powers domestically.

Deep tensions at the core of the CSE mandate, which requires the Establishment to both protect and defend against security threats while simultaneously exploiting, maintaining, and creating new vulnerabilities in order to further its foreign intelligence agenda. These tensions are exacerbated by the introduction of new offensive powers and the two new aspects of its mandate.

So, how do you fix it? Well, 54 recommendations are laid out by Citizen Lab, approximately 54 of which supporters of the bill will find unfeasible. The recommendations would put all the stuff back in legislators left out in their desire to expand government power under the cover of national security. More oversight. Fewer powers. Refined definitions. More public reporting. These are all enhancements Canada’s intelligence agencies are unlikely to find beneficial.

With a great deal of editing, C-59 could become a streamlined, responsible answer to the national security question. Instead, it’s hardly better than the atrocity it’s replacing, despite Trudeau’s pre-campaign promises.

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Comments on “Canadian Government Looking To Step Up Domestic Surveillance, Scale Back Intelligence Oversight”

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Bay Area Borg says:

Re: Re: Why do we still vote

Blasphemy !

Your sacred right to vote guarantees good government in U.S. and Canada.

Our electoral system delivers selfless public officials of the highest quality and personal integrity. It depends on faithful citizens trusting their government institutions, or at least meekly obeying their rulers.

(you must be some kinda Idaho anarchist or wacko libertarian)

art (profile) says:

Re: Sounds familiar

Canada no longer has a Canadian government and hasn’t since the first Trudeau. He sold the country and it’s values down the tubes. Canada is an outright surveillance state. They do it boldly and proudly it is a haven for crime and there is no party running against the atrocities taking place in Canada. No one defending free speech, protection of privacy, or of person. The country has been reduced to a skeleton with pieces of memories scattered around the naked bones rotting on the landscape.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dispite the fact that repealing this was an election promise

but trudeau is like his father, I was young so it took me a long time to understand why my father hated him, the war measures act was repealed because it had to be repealed by an act of parliament when I was in my 20’s and I was born the year it was invoked

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dispite the fact that repealing this was an election promise

More than a couple of people were kidnapped. A terrorist group, The FLQ were setting off bombs across Montreal.

There were negotiations between the Province of Quebec and an FLQ lawyer for the release of the two hostages, a British trade representative and a Provincial Cabinet Minister. These negotiations broke down when the FLQ kept increasing their demands.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet invoked the War Measures Act at the request of the Province and City of Montreal. This was supported by a huge majority of Canadians.

The military deployed to protect government institutions and buildings. All arrests were conducted by local police. Newspapers were still free to print what they liked and were often critical. TV and radio were even more critical in Quebec, but allowed to broadcast without restriction. Popular politicians (mostly leftist) were allowed to object in print and broadcast.

~500 people were arrested. 435 were released shortly. Not one person complained of being abused. ~65 were charged, of which 35 were denied bail. The charges ranged from advocating insurrection to kidnapping and murder (one hostage was killed).

The WMA was rescinded by the end of February. The military had not fired a gun (nor had the police), had not arrested or even assisted in an arrest, not held or confined anyone, nor adjudicated any case. BUT, it helped to maintain civil procedure over violent rebellion.

At no time did, or could, Trudeau invoke the WMA on his own. It had to be with the agreement of the Privy Council, which included the Cabinet and Leader of the Opposition. Much of the WMA was superseded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dispite the fact that repealing this was an election promise

It was a terrible, stupid knee-jerk reaction to terrorism that included the kidnapping of a foreign diplomat.

But be honest:

  • The War Measures Act wasn’t martial law. Think of the US or Canada during WWII. The government and military get more powers, the military gets called up to support the police, but the police remain in charge and the military doesn’t get a judicial role.
  • But like in WWII some people declared possible enemies (in this case suspected FLQ members and sympathizers) got locked up and could be held without due process for up to 21 days.
  • While on paper it was "all of Canada", in reality it was Quebec, mostly Montreal, because that’s where the FLQ was active. Plus a bit of theatre in Ottawa. In the rest of Canada it had no noticeable effect.
  • It was in force for three months. No, not "until the ’90’s."
  • In 1988 the War Measures Act – the law itself, not any declaration – was replaced with the Emergencies Act. (Notable changes: A declaration of an emergency by the Cabinet must be reviewed by Parliament. Any temporary laws made under the Act are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Dispite the fact that repealing this was an election promise

.. and then 20/20 hindsight admits that internment of the American citizens of Japanese descent was probably not the right thing to do. Certainly, stealing all their stuff while imprisoned was not right, and then they never got anything back did they. I wonder if those who stole that property ever had to claim it as income and pay tax on it. Probably not.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Dispite the fact that repealing this was an election promise

Judging things 50+ years after the fact usually results in knee jerk reactions. As much as everyone thought the Japanese (as well as the German and Italian) internment was wrong from today’s perspectives, in 1942 it was seen as prudent.

In 2001 the FBI’s massive round up of Muslims on Witness Warrants was seen as prudent as well, even though none of them resulted in a conviction. I can only hope that in 20 years we’ll look at Trump’s Muslim’s hate as just a foolish exercise by our Dotard in Chief.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

I am more worried that our free society and democracy will be undermined by those intent on destroying it through terrorism than I am by the government looking to see who the terrorists are.

A true Utopian world is a figment. There will always be those who insist on taking more then their’s at the expense of those who don’t wish to part with it. So we will always need police.

Terrorists shooting up a Christmas Party, school, or concert scares me far more than worrying that the government is reading my emails to my English relatives or even monitoring my porn usage. Would I prefer that they could catch terrorists some other way? Of course. Until they can perfect how to catch them better, they know my taste in porn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

“I am more worried that our free society and democracy will be undermined by those intent on destroying it through terrorism than I am by the government looking to see who the terrorists are. “

But that is what the terrorists want … they want you to think exactly that. Weird huh.

“There will always be those who insist on taking more then their’s ”

Yes, and many of these people are members of government and other influential positions but the police protect them, not the proles.

“Would I prefer that they could catch terrorists some other way?”

To date, how many terrorists have they caught using any tactic? And I mean real ones, not the silly comical antics of a few agencies.

ralph_the_bus_driver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

Uummm, police routinely charge politicians with various crimes. Just because we don’t like it does not mean it is a crime. They aren’t perfect by a long shot, but they do charge corrupt politicians.

How many terrorists have been caught using current techniques? I don’t know. If the terrorists know how they are being monitored then they will just change their ways of communicating. I fully expect the “secret” agencies to keep their methods and successes secret so they may continue to do their jobs. Knowing or not knowing their success rate does not make my life any better.

Yes, the terrorists won. But, we don’t need to let them continue to win. If knowing my porn habits and what radical sites I frequent helps stop one terrorist operation in Bumphuc Wyoming then so be it. The government isn’t using that to harm me, or you.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

The government isn’t using that to harm me, or you.

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

  • Cardinal Richelieu

Richelieu’s point is valid even without evil intent. Even without electronic surveillance there are endless cases of people put through hell because of confirmation bias: Officers seizing on details that support their suspicion while ignoring those that oppose it.

WITH electronic surveillance – emails, Facebook posts, Google search history, grocery purchase history etc. – instead of six lines they’re getting six million. They’ll always be able to find something with which to hang the most honest of people. And there’s a growing number of examples of this happening.

A big reason they’re imaging phones of returning Americans at the border – and in other investigations within the country – and through data mining of call metadata – is to build a database of who knows who. You can careful in who you know, but you don’t know who those people know. Or who the folks two steps out know.

Consider Canadian telecommunications engineer Maher Arar. Kidnapped by the US government, sent to a third country, tortured, and finally cleared and released with an "er, never mind." Because data mining showed that he knew someone who knew someone who had ties to terrorists. (The same has happened to others merely because their name resembled someone else’s.)

Or maybe it’s some other innocent activity. Shopping online for a pressure cooker for example. Or just having your fingerprints on record, like in the case of American lawyer and veteran Brandon Mayfield. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings a partial fingerprint found on a bag somewhat matched his own from veteran’s records. Despite Spanish officials telling the FBI that it wasn’t a match, the FBI didn’t just arrest him; they "disappeared" him. (Lied to the judge about the case against him, and later lied about where he was being held.) He was arrested as a "material witness", so he could be held as long as they wanted without charging him. And of course they raided his home and carted off his and his family’s belongings.

Then there’s the data mining now used by law enforcement for "civil forfeiture." A small business’s nightly deposits are less than $10,000? (Deposits greater than that amount must be reported to the federal government) Seize the account. No other evidence needed, and a system set up so that there’s little chance of getting it back.

C’mon. There plenty more… not just examples, but entire genres of examples.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

Any politician that can wrest enough power to form a dictatorship will do so, regardless. Corruption happens even in the best of our societies. Bigoted ulterior motives happen. The best we can do is root them out.

You are wrong on the small business civil forfeiture. Amounts larger than a few thousand are encouraged to use an armed courier service, but any business that can show their receipts are far from a concern. Those that can’t show receipts and are in the type of business that is often used by money laundering just might find them self in trouble. The government won’t use civil forfeiture though, they will seize the bank accounts and charge the business owner.

Brandon Mayfield was an atrocity, As was Arar. They shouldn’t have happened but they did. In both cases, as well as the majority of those who were illegally arrested after 2001, sued and won. Police and courts often make mistakes. A just society allows for the correction of mistakes. We aren’t perfect but we are far better than many.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

“police routinely charge politicians with various crimes”

.. and that proves what? Politicians still steal shit.
and those that do get investigated (not charged – as that is not a police function), and then many times the DA does not prosecute.

If the method used does not work then why continue using said method at all, but they want to make the collateral damage worse. It’s all a big secret so it must be working hardly cuts it.

Why do we continue to fund terrorist activities across the globe? Maybe we should stop doing that.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

Peace is bad for business. The military-surveillance-incarceration-industrial complex is the biggest employer after the service industry in most Western countries.

Think about it: if we go all lovey-dovey Kum Ba Yah tomorrow, ’nuff people will end up on the dole. There’s your problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

“worrying that the government is reading my emails”

Thats too bad you feel that way. There is no way the govt will make you safer by taking away your freedoms. Just like the police – they always act after the fact. Only diff is that they use the incident to pass more restrictive laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

I am more worried that our free society and democracy will be undermined by those intent on destroying it through terrorism than I am by the government looking to see who the terrorists are.

You should worry much more about government surveillance, as that is setting up the government organ a tyrant could use to squelch any and all opposition. Democracy will most likely be destroyed from within, like a certain chancellor did in Germany.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

No US president EVER has come to power via democratic means.

US is not a Democracy in either actual practice or theory, it is a “Constitutional Republic”, heck since we all shit on the constitution from Gov to Citizens… saying we even have a functional government now is a stretch. All allusions to it being a Democracy are all born of ignorance and deceit designed to pervert people into thinking the government is supposed to follow majority rule.

There is no federal constitutional right for citizens to be even able to vote for President as it is. The states decide how they vote for president.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?"

Thank you for your well thought out post, however – it seems to be arguing with something other than what you responded to.

Since you brought it up ….. I am curious how a citizen can “shit on the constitution”. I understand that politicians do this on a daily basis but a citizen’s ability to do same is somewhere between severely limited and none.

anonymous me says:

Re: Re: Interfere with the course of justice or democracy?

"I am more worried that our free society and democracy will be undermined by those intent on destroying it through terrorism than I am by the government looking to see who the terrorists are."

So we give up our free society and democracy because terrorism? Unfortunately, one of the many problems with increased surveillance is the guaranteed, insidious mission creep. With little-to-no oversight as well? Gah! In the beginning the purported reason for blanket surveillance may be "terrorism." But incremental change by incremental change, it ends up being for anything those in power want to use it for. Which, of course, is for their own ends rather than for the good of all. It happens so slowly, we sit like frogs in water not noticing the temperature rising.

I remember when Mr.Trudeau okayed C51, saying he’d fix it if/when he was elected. So basically: "We’ll put the toothpaste back in the tube, after." That’s pretty much what decided me to vote to the left of the Liberal party.

dobbie606 (profile) says:

n pwned for decades

Mainstream media calls the shots,but If we keep an open mind, we may run across the following:

Confirmed: Numerous Agencies Held ‘Mass Casualty Incident’ Drills on Same Day as Amtrak Derailment
Training for the same scenario on the same day it happens —similar to 9/11, the London subway bombings and Paris theater mass terror attacks.
By Jay Syrmopoulos…

and this:

Oklahoma City, Mena, Clintons & 9/11 Exposed by Black Ops Contractor Cody Snodgres

CIA Whistleblower Cody Snodgres refused to blow up the Murrah Bldg in OKC.

In 1994 he was offered 1,000,000 USD by the CIA
to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

He turned it down and went from being an asset to a liability, and the agency then tried to kill him on several occasions.
Cody Snogres, a CIA whistleblower who refused to blow up
the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, giveshis testimony on what really happened…

dobbie606 (profile) says:

Re: Re: n pwned for decades

Transparency in Canuckistan,aka, the GreatWhiteNorth,a Monty Python-esque moment:

‘“This outbreak has been going on for weeks
it’s perplexing that a lettuce source has not been named,”
the Seattle attorney who has been representing victims of food poisoning
since the deadly 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak.

“Canada has a very sophisticated surveillance system,
similar to the U.S.
That raises concerns
if you don’t know where the lettuce is coming from,
don’t know if there is an ongoing threat.”’

…’It remains unknown
if whole heads of romaine or chopped, bagged romaine
— or both —
are implicated in the current outbreak.

Canadian officials have not revealed those details.
No products have been recalled’
Canadians warned to avoid romaine lettuce until further notice…’

oh for the sanity of the McKenzie bros:
Great White North: Beer Nog

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nothing to hide, nothing to fear

“Privacy is the tool of the devil. People with nothing to hide do not fear scrutiny. Time to change the debate”

Tell this to members of congress and the current administration, who have probably exempted themselves from same. Congress does this often – they should be forced to eat their own cooking.

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