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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2017 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Why do we still vote

    That was a good laugh - thx

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