This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Right to privacy should stay strong in face of acts of terror
Summer is here, the days are long and after taking a break from the column due to the Canada Day weekend, Brent and I are back at it today with another look at Canada’s secret surveillance program.
The question this week? Does foiling an alleged terror plot in Victoria justify Canada’s secret surveillance program?
When the RCMP recently announced it would be holding a press conference about terrorism charges related to foiling an allege plot, I called a friend in the media for his opinion. He said we would see vague details from the RCMP with a lot of back-patting, followed by a press conference from the premier in which she would try to capitalize on it, politically speaking.
Turns out he was absolutely correct. The reports that followed were high on loaded terminology, drama and three words that instantly create fear in the minds of many — “al-Qaida ideology.”
We know that the RCMP were deeply involved in this investigation as early as February as investigators monitored the activity of the Surrey-based suspects. Police say there was no international terrorist group connection, nor was much of a motive or cause presented. At no time was there ever a risk to the public — something the RCMP made clear during its press conference.
What RCMP didn’t make clear, however, was what initially triggered this investigation. We know it was the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that tipped off RCMP, but how did the suspects land on their radar? Was it a call by neighbours hearing about a Jihad discussed loudly in the street? Did someone report them after seeing potentially radical posts on Internet discussion forums? Or was it secret surveillance of our national security teams at work monitoring metadata?
Metadata collection is not as benign as some would have you believe. While it will not reveal the content of your phone call, it can reveal incoming and outgoing numbers, locations, IP addresses, relationships with other people, and even medical and health information. Harmless information? Hardly — and Canada’s privacy commissioner agrees it’s debatable that the information gleaned should be exempt from privacy laws….
Read the rest of this weeks column, at this link http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2013/07/08/right-to-privacy-should-stay-strong-in-face-of-acts-of-terror Don’t forget to vote and or leave your comments before the commenting period closes in 48 hours.
If you’d like to see what today’s edition looks like on paper, click here and flip to page 4 http://eedition.vancouver.24hrs.ca/epaper/viewer.aspx
I’ll have another post for you tomorrow to catch up on a few news items that haven’t received the attention they should have!! See you then!
** some links to info on Canada’s program
an excerpt from that link: “The government has tried to downplay the public concern by focusing on two safeguards. First, it argues that its secret metadata surveillance program only targets foreign communications. Second, it notes that the data captured is metadata rather than content and therefore does not raise significant privacy issues. Neither response should provide Canadians concerned for their privacy with much comfort. Indeed, the emphasis on these two issues highlights how Canadian surveillance laws have failed to keep pace with current surveillance technologies.
The suggestion that Canadians are not affected by surveillance targeting foreign communications does not stand up to even mild scrutiny. The same claims are made by other intelligence agencies, with each claiming that they limit surveillance to foreign targets. However, information sharing between intelligence services is common, providing a backdoor mechanism to access information.”