Canada watchdog body to hold secret hearings over illegal spying claims

CSIS canadaA government watchdog in Canada is preparing to hold a series of closed-door hearings to weigh accusations that the country’s intelligence services illegally spied on law-abiding activists opposing the construction of oil pipelines. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sued the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in February 2014, claiming they spied on Canadian citizens engaging in legal protest. The lawsuit was filed after nearly 150 pages of internal records were accessed by The Vancouver Observer, following an official Access to Information request made by the newspaper.

The BCCLA argues that information contained in the released documents shows that the RCMP and the CSIS gathered data on individuals and groups —including the Sierra Club— who are opposed to the construction of oil pipelines connecting Alberta’s so-called tar-sands to a number of ports in British Columbia. According to the BCCLA’s lawsuit, the documents demonstrate a series of clear violations of the 1985 Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which expressly forbids intelligence-collection activities targeting individuals or groups engaged in “lawful advocacy, protest or dissent”. Additionally, the BCCLA claims that the RCMP and the CSIS communicated the illegally acquired information to members of the Canadian Energy Board, officials in the country’s petroleum industry, and even employees of private security companies.

The hearings will be conducted in Vancouver by the Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a government body that monitors Canada’s intelligence agencies. Josh Paterson, a lawyer for the BCCLA, told The Vancouver Sun newspaper that the hearings would be so secretive that even the legal teams representing the two sides of the dispute would not be allowed to remain in the room for the entire length of the proceedings.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 August 2015 | Permalink

Peru crisis deepens as prime minister is ousted over spy scandal

Ollanta Humala and Ana JaraBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
For the first time in 50 years, the Peruvian Congress has voted to depose the nation’s prime minister, following allegations of espionage against opposition figures by the country’s intelligence agency. Prime Minister Ana Jara assumed office less than a year ago, after being asked to form a government by Peru’s embattled President, Ollanta Humala. Although her government faced sustained criticism from opposition forces almost from the very beginning, critics began calling for her immediate resignation on March 19, when allegations of politically motivated espionage surfaced in the national press. Peru’s leading weekly, Correo Semanal, said it had uncovered systematic spying by Peru’s National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) against law-abiding citizens who had voiced disagreements with the government. The paper alleged that DINI had for years gathered information on dozens of opposition politicians, military leaders and their families, business executives, as well as journalists known to be critical of government policies.

The revelations prompted a swift reorganization of DINI’s upper echelons on orders of the prime minister. But members of Congress said the restructuring of the intelligence agency had been an attempt by Prime Minister Jara to pacify her critics and called for her ouster. In a barrage of editorials in the Peruvian press, opposition figures accused the prime minister of failing to control the country’s unruly and corrupt intelligence community, whose controversial history is marred by excesses during and after the Cold War.

Late on Monday evening, the Peruvian Congress voted by 72 to 42 and two abstentions to unseat the prime minister. She will now have to tend her resignation to the president within 72 hours of losing Monday’s confidence vote. Presidnet Humala will then seek to form a government under a new prime minister, the eighth in his four years in power. The outgoing prime minster, meanwhile, accused Congress of treating her as a scapegoat and blasted the opposition for politicizing the issue of domestic espionage. In a message posted on her personal Twitter account, Jara said it was “an honor” for her to have been censured “by this Congress”.

News you may have missed #858

Recep Tayyip ErdoğanBy IAN ALLEN |
►►The FBI facilitates NSA’s domestic surveillance. Shane Harris writes in Foreign Policy: “When the media and members of Congress say the NSA spies on Americans, what they really mean is that the FBI helps the NSA do it, providing a technical and legal infrastructure that permits the NSA, which by law collects foreign intelligence, to operate on US soil. It’s the FBI, a domestic US law enforcement agency, that collects digital information from at least nine American technology companies as part of the NSA’s PRISM system. It was the FBI that petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order Verizon Business Network Services, one of the United States’ biggest telecom carriers for corporations, to hand over the call records of millions of its customers to the NSA”.
►►Egypt expels Turkish ambassador. Egypt says it has ordered the Turkish ambassador to be expelled, following comments by Turkey’s prime minister. Saturday’s decision comes after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan renewed his criticism of Egypt’s new leaders earlier in the week. Turkey and Egypt recalled their ambassadors in August following Turkey’s sharp criticism of Egypt’s leaders and Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. Turkey’s ambassador returned to Egypt a few weeks later, but Egypt has declined to return its ambassador to Turkey. Turkey’s government had forged a close alliance with Morsi since he won Egypt’s first free presidential election in June of 2012.
►►The internet mystery that has the world baffled. For the past two years, a mysterious online organization has been setting the world’s finest code-breakers a series of seemingly unsolvable problems. It is a scavenger hunt that has led thousands of competitors across the web, down telephone lines, out to several physical locations around the globe, and into unchartered areas of the “darknet”. Only one thing is certain: as it stands, no one is entirely sure what the challenge —known as Cicada 3301— is all about or who is behind it. Depending on who you listen to, it’s either a mysterious secret society, a statement by a new political think tank, or an arcane recruitment drive by some quasi-military body. Which means, of course, everyone thinks it’s the CIA.

Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. Read more of this post

CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. Read more of this post

Court rejects release of spy records on iconic Canadian politician

Canada’s highest court has rejected a legal argument in favor of releasing surveillance records on Tommy Douglas, an iconic Canadian politician who was monitored for most of his life by the security services. Douglas was a Scottish-born Baptist minister who later became the leader of the New Democratic Party and Premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Under his Premiership, which lasted from 1944 to 1961, Saskatchewan’s government became the first democratic socialist administration in North America and the first in the Americas to introduce a single-payer universal healthcare program. But Douglas, who is widely recognized as the father of Canada’s healthcare system, was under constant surveillance by Canadian intelligence throughout most of his life. Government records show that the now-defunct Security Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began monitoring the socialist politician shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It appears that, in the political context of the Cold War, Douglas had drawn the attention of Canada’s security establishment by supporting antiwar causes, which led some to suspect him of holding pro-communist sympathies. The government surveillance, which was at times extensive, lasted until shortly before the politician’s death in 1986. Under Canada’s legal system, security dossiers on individuals are typically released 20 years after the target’s death. However, even though several hundred pages from Douglas’ dossier have already been released, many hundreds more remain secret. In 2005, Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill launched a legal campaign aimed at securing the release of the remaining pages in Douglas’ dossier. His campaign is supported by Douglas’ family, notably Douglas’ daughter, Shirley. But the Canadian government has resisted Bronskill’s effort from the very beginning. Read more of this post

MI5 chief credited with ‘transforming the agency’ to step down

Jonathan EvansBy IAN ALLEN | |
The head of MI5, Britain’s primary domestic intelligence agency, is to step down at the end of this month, it has been announced. Sir Jonathan Evans is widely credited with transforming MI5, also known as the Security Service, in one of the agency’s most turbulent periods following 9/11/2001. A career MI5 officer, Sir Jonathan entered MI5 in 1980 and eventually joined the agency’s G-Branch, which focuses on international counter-terrorism. He rose to lead G-Branch just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent launch of America’s ‘war on terrorism’. In 2005, Evans was faced with another major crisis as chief of G-Branch, when Britain suffered the bloody July 7 suicide attacks —also known as the 7/7 attacks— which killed 56 and injured nearly 1,000 people. Two years later, in 2007, he rose to the post of Director General at MI5, replacing Eliza Manningham-Buller (now Baroness Manningham-Buller), who had been only the second female intelligence officer to head the organization. Perhaps inevitably, considering world events, Evans helped steer MI5’s operational focus away from Irish republican groups and toward Islamist-inspired militancy in the United Kingdom and beyond. In early 2009, in a move that stunned some intelligence insiders, Evans gave the first public interview by a serving MI5 Director General in the organization’s 100-year history. He answered questions in a face-to-face interview with a carefully selected group of security correspondents representing a handful of British media outlets. The event was seen as reflecting a sea of change in the culture of MI5 —an agency that had never revealed the identities of its Director Generals until 1990. Later in the same year, however, Sir Jonathan caused controversy by suggesting during a public lecture that the intelligence extracted by torturing suspects after 9/11 had stopped “many attacks” on Western and other targets. Read more of this post


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