Canadian Security Establishment: a threat to Canadian values
A very interesting report on the French CBC network (Radio Canada) about the Canadian Security Establishment, also known as the CSE. As described in several sources that can be easily found on the Internet the CSE is the Canadian 'equivalent' of the US National Security Agency and the local branch of the Echelon surveillance system. Echelon’s birth stems from the early partnerships of the US, UK and Canadian espionage agencies during WWII, described in the famous spy book “ A man called intrepid”,.
The French CBC reports talks about the 48 electronic listening authorizations that have been given since 2002. These authorizations require only the signature of the Minister of Defense, who is in charge of the CSE. This is similar to the provisions of article 215 of the US Patriot Act. The government of Canada seems to believe that this is acceptable practice and that we should trust the Minister, the CSE and their Staff to act in the best interest of Canada and to respect the privacy of Canada. However there is little oversight of these activities, as discussed in the CBC report.
Many CSE employees are active duty and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as civilians with knowledge of foreign languages or culture. They can be found representing Canada in international organizations in the field of cryptology and Information Security, such as ISO, ITU and other similar organizations. Former CSE employees can be found working in senior positions in the field of Information Security in the private sector and in government agencies.
They are certainly very qualified individuals, but can they be trusted?
For most of it’s existence, the CSE has had no form of independent oversight organization to ensure that its invasive powers are not abused. In 1996, the House of appointed Mr. Claude Bisson, former chief justice of Quebec, as the first Commissioner for the Communications Security Establishment. He was to have full access to all materials, records and documentation. He was to make an annual report to the Minister who, in turn, was to report to Parliament.
In the last year, three reports, from a House of Commons comity, the Senate and the office of the Commissioner of the CSE, have asked the Canadian Government to put in place more rigid oversight of the CSE. The issue has been brought to the forefront by Bloc Quebecois members in the House of Commons. This should deeply concern all Canadians. It is surprising that this has not been carried by other news media in the rest of Canada.
The French CBC report: http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/National/2008/04/02/001-ecoute-cst.shtml