Ontario privacy chief supports security oversight bill

What’s the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) up to these days and should Canadians be worried about it? Ann Cavoukian, commissioner of the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario, wants to know.

That’s why Cavoukian is supporting Bill C-551 which calls for the creation of a parliamentary committee that will provide oversight for all agencies responsible for national security.

“I have been deeply concerned by the steady stream of revelations arising from Edward Snowden, especially around the activities of the Communications Security Establishment of Canada and its role in the so-called “Five Eyes” signals intelligence alliance,” she said in a statement. “…This begs the question, what else has CSEC been doing that Canadians should be worried about.”

Former United States National Security Agency security contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year spilled the beans on NSA’s massive snooping activities of people’s phone calls and Internet communications. Documents he released to the media during his subsequent self-exile also detailed cyber espionage activities of CSEC targeting Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry. Canada , the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are members of the so-called Five Eyes alliance that share intelligence information among themselves.

Cavoukian said greater transparency and oversight is needed when it comes to government surveillance and intelligence activities and that is why she supports B C-551 which was introduced in the House of Commons last Thursday by Wayne Easter, member of parliament for Malpeque.

Aside for calling for the creation of oversight committee, the bill also requires for the Prime Minister to table that committee’s report to parliament.

“While the bill may not give committee members sufficient authority to peer behind the veil of secrecy surrounding national security powers and programs, I see Mr. Easter’s bill as a proposal worthy of consideration, debate and ultimately passing into law,” said Cavoukian.

She also called for a review of how CSEC operations are handled arguing that while the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court receives a lot of criticism “at least its provides for a degree of judicial control” over many of the NSA’s surveillance activities.

“The only gate-keepers limiting CSEC’s power to conduct intelligence gathering is the Minister of Defence, lacking entirely in independence,” she said. “Why have the courts been kept out of the equation here in Canada?”


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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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