Canada’s Communications Security Establishment part of a secret state-within-the-state
2013-07-30 0:00

By Ed Patrick and Keith Jones | WSWS

Most Canadians had never heard of the Communications Security Establishment (CSEC), the Canadian counterpart of the US National Security Agency (NSA), prior to last month’s Globe and Mail report that CSEC has been metadata mining Canadians’ electronic communications since 2005.

And Canada’s elite is determined to keep it that way—to ensure that the public knows as little as possible about the activities of CSEC.

The Conservative government and CSEC have responded with a series of lies, half-truths and disingenuous statements to the revelation that Canada’s signal intelligence agency has been collecting Canadians’ metadata. Peter MacKay, who until last week’s cabinet shuffle was the minister in charge of CSEC, lied repeatedly and brazenly in the days following the exposure of CSEC’s metadata mining, declaring that CSEC is only involved with “foreign threats.” A former CSEC deputy director, meanwhile, termed the exposure a “manufactured” story. Yet, the Supreme Court Justice who served as the government-appointed “watchdog” on CSEC’s activities from August 2006 until his death in July 2009 repeatedly raised concerns that the program violated the agency’s mandate and Canadians’ rights.

The government’s aim is to cover up the fact that the CSEC is systematically spying on Canadians and collecting information that can be—and undoubtedly is being—used by Canada’s national security apparatus to identify and develop intimate portraits of the views, habits and connections of individuals and groups that it deems hostile to the interests of Canadian big business and its state.

The press and opposition parties, for their part, quickly dropped discussion of CSEC’s activities.

The reality is that CSEC functions as part of a burgeoning state-within-the-state: a network of national intelligence, military and police agencies that are armed with draconian powers, subject to little and ever-shrinking judicial and parliamentary oversight, and shielded from public scrutiny.

CSEC is, as far as we know, the most secretive part of this network. It functions under secret ministerial directives issued by the Defence Minister. Not only are the directives’ contents shrouded in secrecy, even their topics are kept secret from the public, opposition and government parliamentarians, and almost all ministers.

CSEC does not report directly to parliament and its activities are not subject to the oversight of a parliamentary committee. Until 2011 it released annual reports through the Ministry of Defence that were tailored to obfuscate its activities. Since then, it is no longer obliged to publicly issue any annual report or document outlining its plans, priorities and performance.


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