Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.
Among the piles of information National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has released to media outlets and the public, is revelations that are not only NSA officials, but also the NSA’s counterparts in other countries like Australia and Britain, scanning the phones, computers and cameras of millions. Coming into the fold of worldwide surveillance is north of the border in Canada.
Seemingly never ending, Snowden published more information Monday, revealing that the Canadian spy agency ‘Communications Security Establishment Canada’ (CSEC) has been working hand-in-hand with the NSA. CBC News broke the story, but decided to release limited information on the matter. However, what has been released is enough to make even the smallest privacy rights advocates cringe.
In all, the NSA and CSEC managed to set up “spying posts”, which allowed the agencies to oversee, without consent, 20 high-priority foreign countries. American intelligence officials decided to make the move with Canada’s CSEC due to the “unique geographic access” where US presence is restricted. The two surveillance communities have shared nationwide, worldwide and transnational targets, and only plan to increase their activity.
Interestingly, accounting for all of Snowden’s released material, the CSEC/NSA documents are, so far, the most recent. Dated in April 2013 and stamped “Top Secret”, the released documents show a quickly growing relationship. Focusing on more recent conditions in which the NSA/CSEC operate, the information describes Canada’s compliance to the NSA’s request of “covert sites” used for joint spying missions.
One of the released documents reads, “CSEC offers resources for advanced collection, processing and analysis, and has opened covert sites at the request of NSA,” executing most of its surveillance activities out of the Ottawa branch. According to CBC, Ottawa’s branch is equipped with high-level computing equipment to intercept phone calls, to Internet communications, around the globe.
Known as the “Five Eyes”, the documents show US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand agencies as a partnership of countries, while holding Canada’s relationship as a unique one. Snowden’s Monday leak explains how CSEC and NSA officials shared information, but in addition, office space. “Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and intégrée,” or in other words, working in and out of NSA/CSEC offices.
Other perks the CSEC receives from the NSA’s community is computer equipment and encryption software. NSA-donated hardware and software is all used for “collection, processing and analytic efforts.” Exchanged for the tools, the CSEC provides the NSA’s community with “cryptographic products, cryptanalysis, technology and software”: a beneficial relationship for the spy industry, sure, but for privacy advocates? Not so much.
Before creating an anti-NSA offense on Facebook or Twitter about Snowden’s newly released information, the CBC reported that with CSEC’s annual budget sitting at $450 million, it’s only about to get worse for taxpayers. The agency is in the midst of opening a brand new, shiny headquarters in Ottawa worth $1.2 billion – double the annual budget itself. Fortunately for Canadians, they still have about $38 billion to catch up with the NSA’s pace.
Of course, just two weeks ago, Snowden released information citing the Canadian government’s consent to allow NSA surveillance at the G8 and G20 summits in 2010.
In a time of true, Orwellian prediction, expecting anything as being possible by government surveillance agencies is probably the most reasonable path to take, and if it wasn’t for whistleblower Snowden, the age of information would cease to exist.