Spy agency CSEC needs MPs’ oversight, ex-director says, Highly secretive organization at the heart of Brazilian espionage allegations

Spy agency CSEC needs MPs’ oversight, ex-director says, Highly secretive organization at the heart of Brazilian espionage allegations by CBC News, October 7, 2013
Calls for more openness are sure to get louder in the wake of fresh allegations CSEC spied on Brazil’s mining and energy ministry, in search of corporate secrets. CSEC’s mandate is to monitor foreign communications, including those coming into Canada. But by law, it cannot target domestic telephone or email traffic. “That’s against the law,” said Adams, who left the highly secretive Ottawa-based agency last year and has a deep understanding of its inner workings. “Absolutely not.” But, he adds, “We have got capability that is unique to this country. No one else has it,” Adams said.

Warning for Canadians
Adams was opening up about CSEC’s capabilities in the wake of worldwide controversy over the intelligence activities of the U.S. National Security Agency, a sister agency of sorts to CSEC. And he has a warning for Canadians: if you think anything you read, write or send via the internet is private, think again. “The reality is if you’re on the internet, you literally might as well be on the front page of the Globe and Mail,” Adams said in the interview. “It’s very accessible by anybody that has any inclination to access it. So, you, I’m much more — I wouldn’t say ‘paranoid’ — but I am much more careful about what I write and what I say [online],” Adams said.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, is among those who worry Canadians are being kept in the dark about what goes on at CSEC. “We don’t know enough about what CSEC does,” Stoddart said in an interview, adding that her office doesn’t have the authority to shine a light on CSEC. The agency has its own watchdog, retired judge Robert Decary, who is stepping down for personal reasons at the end of the year. In his final report to Parliament, he called for greater transparency about the CSEC. … Documents obtained by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in the British newspaper the Guardian in June, suggest CSEC may have been part of a scheme to hack the phone calls and emails of ministers and diplomats at a G20 summit in London in 2009. [Emphasis added]

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