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.”

Read Brent Stafford’s column

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!

The Duel July 8th

** some links to info on Canada’s program

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/head-of-canadas-anti-terror-committee-unaware-of-metadata-spying-program/article12506212/

http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/6881/135/

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.”

http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/06/17/michael-geist-on-the-perils-of-government-surveillance/

http://cips.uottawa.ca/20th-century-laws-meet-21st-century-surveillance-why-metadata-surveillance-is-a-serious-concern/

6 thoughts on “This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Right to privacy should stay strong in face of acts of terror

  1. Joanne Manley

    I’m with Laila on this one. The Premier’s comments regarding the foiled plot were over the top and left no doubt as to her intention to make political capital out of what was, according to police, never a real threat. The question remains, how did the RCMP get the info?

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    1. Laila

      Joanne, RCMP were tipped off by CSIS. My question is, how did they end up on CSIS’s radar? But I agree her speech was way over the top. It should be expected that she would make a statement, to go off on that tangent was quite startling..

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      1. Joanne Manley

        Laila, you are right of course. I should have said: how did CSIS find out about it. It could be a follow up on the overheard conversation by a neighbour. Perhaps more likely, (in my estimation) the perpetrator received some “encouragement”, just to see how far he would go with his anger. Was the guy “set up”? Will we ever know everything? So many questions….

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  2. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think that was an ‘act of terror’ at all. It sounds just like one of those Mr. Big stings the RCMP are so famous for. How did these two pathetic creatures who had no money and no car manage to get over to Victoria with several pressure cooker bombs?

    If they didn’t put them there, who did? The reports I read gave no clue as to where they were placed, except some vague reference to the Legislature grounds. And when were they disabled, and by whom?

    The two alleged bombers are supposed to appear in court tomorrow. I wonder if we’re going to learn anything further about this ‘incident’? Probably not.

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  3. Jean

    Gini, I completely agree with your take on this fake fearmongering. It’s simply another photo-op for the-tied-for-first-place with the drunk as the worst criminal premier of BC, and the photo-op sociopath, that the tax paying good citizens have ever had to endure.
    I believe the general public will be banned from OUR legislature buildings and grounds within at least a one mile radius, likely more, in preparation for any peaceful, legal protesting against those who infest our legislature. This bogus garbage could also give the libs a ‘reason’ to shut down parliament altogether, rid themselves of any ‘opposition’ and no more few days a year of libs opening it up at all to allow themselves to continue to give away everything the people own and finish off breaking BC without the pesky problems of the general public and completely gagged opposition who get almost no coverage by the corrupt mainstream media in bed with the BC libs and federal cons.
    The RCMP will remain useless and faithful to the libs and Harper who extended a 20-year contract so he could be sure the corruption continues to protect himself and his obedient polititical pals.
    The photo-ops’ leader wants BC and Alberta completely destroyed and uninhabitable so their big oil can strip our provinces of all our natural resources.

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  4. Rose P. Molina

    President claims National Security Agency’s spy programs are fine because they’ve been vetted by his administration, Congress, and a secret surveillance court.

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