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True North Surveilled and Free?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on July 17, 2013

An extended look at the ‘bad’ of Big Data…its dark side. This is a Six Part Series based on my discussion on Radio Freethinkers broken down into bite sized pieces.

Part 6: CSEC – don’t know them? They know you…


Now, some people may say, “well, I have nothing to hide”…and that may be true.

But much can happen when the government is storing your data for years…decades?

What if your name is similar to an actual suspect…or there is a typo…or someone just guesses wrong?

They then can get the warrants needed to go back through this data and then you have what we skeptics call anomaly hunting.

For example;

Did you know when you bought that latte at Starbucks, the head of the Gambino Family was also enjoying a coffee there?

And how can you explain that you bought a propane tank just 2 days before one was used to kill a Gambino rival?

On November 3rd you said you received a call from a wrong phone number? Or was that a kill signal from a burner phone…and so it goes.

1144ckCOMIC-chagrin-falls---open-bookAll of this available because of meta-data gathering and co-mingling of information corrupted thru government/private contracting practices as mentioned in Parts 3 &4.

In the world of “Boundless Informant” and “Total Information Awareness”…innocence and ‘nothing to hide’ may only be seen as the lame excuses of someone committing pre-crime.

Now, we have focused on the US because…well it’s out there everywhere. Snowden, Manning and many others have exposed what is going on there. I would like to believe that such things do not happen here in Canada…but I think that would label me naive. Regardless, as I have said before, what happens in the US will happen here within a decade or so…the robocalls are such a vindication of that thesis.

Well according to the Globe and Mail, we are not immune. They reported on our version of the NSA, the Communications Security Establishment Canada that there is:

“An ultrasecretive electronic-eavesdropping agency, Communications Security Establishment Canada, has been authorized to collect data trails – phone logs, Internet Protocol addresses, and other ‘metadata’ – associated with Canadian telecommunications. This is being done as part of a continuing effort to pinpoint Canada’s adversaries in the wider world”.

What qualifies as a Canadian adversary? Just last year, the Harper government labelled environmentalists…like the World Wildlife Federation…as terrorist groups.

The program was started in 2005 and reauthorized in a “top secret” directive by Peter MacKay in 2011.

Unlike in the US where they still technically have to approach the court to get a warrant, however vague and broad…to get their data, not so here in Canada where a liberal interpretation of law makes warrants unnecessary.

Here in Canada, the CSEC’s metadata collecting rests on a foundational legal assumption by the Minister and CSEC. They believe that metadata telecommunications are legally different from private communications, such as the content of e-mails and phone calls, which can’t be intercepted without a warrant. So, it’s all fair game.

Frustratingly, the issue of oversight is well …twisted. Most parliamentarians cannot review the operations of CSEC because they lack the top secret clearance. However our Privacy Commissioner does have that clearance.

So, where our elected representatives are left it the dark, at least our civil servants are on the job.

The privacy commissioner stated…privately of course because the program was top secret…that because metadata can reveal important things about people, it should be classified as personal information. A recommendation the government has chosen to ignore…wonder why?

Perhaps we can take a  lesson from history ; during the the Weimar Republic the German equivalent to Prime Minister, for very good reasons, ruled by President’s emergency decrees because they saw the nation in a state of crisis (economic) and no other way to defend the German economy. What they did not know was that they provided the legal precedent for Hitler to seize power a few years later.

So, even if you trust Obama, or Sagan forbid Harper…that they will not abuse these powers…well history has shown once power is available it is only a matter of time before someone of unscrupulous intent has the opportunity to abuse them.

For many American readers…I hope you remember the whole reason the FISA courts were created was because of the rampant abuse of surveillance under Nixon (and his predecessor).  Check out the Church Committee report.

It is also ironic, to my Canadian ears; that Americans will fight tooth and nail to prevent the government’s keeping track of missing guns from guns shops because they believe the government will track them down and create a police state…

Yet, these very same people will roll over and give up all their 4th Amendment rights and allow the government to know and track EVERYTHING else but their guns. Don’t they know that your gun app marks you as a gun owner? When the jack boot state comes down on America, only then will they realize that it’s not guns that will keep you free, but information…which ironically will also enslave you.


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