Friday, October 11, 2013

The Con Regime and the Surveillance State

Normally the sight of the moon rising over Mount Royal on a beautiful cloudless night would make me whoop with joy at the thought that I had finally escaped from Harperland.

If only for a few precious moments.

Or smile at the sight of the Muslim crescent and the Christian cross sharing the mountain, after the way the hideously flawed PQ Charter of Values has divided the province.

But somehow last night I found myself shivering in the cool night air, staring up at the inky darkness, and wondering again where Stephen Harper is taking this country.

Because this rings hollow.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s "very concerned" about reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada has spied on Brazil’s ministry of mines and energy. Harper said his government will be doing “appropriate follow-up” on the matter. He said there is a commissioner at the CSEC whose job it is to ensure the agency operates under Canadian law.

I mean surely he's not surprised that his growing army of spooks might be out of control, after building them a golden palace like this one?

Who does he think he is? Big Brother, Stalin, or Ramses the Great?

And surely he's not talking about the outgoing CSEC commissioner, Robert Decary, who doesn't seem to have a clue about what's going on.

The thing is, the last time Decary checked, he couldn’t make sure that CSEC was following the law at all. He was unable to confirm whether or not the CSEC was spying on Canadian citizens, something it is not legally allowed to do. Here’s what Decary wrote in his last annual report:

“A small number of records suggested the possibility that some activities may have been directed at Canadians, contrary to law. A number of CSEC records relating to these activities were unclear or incomplete. After in-depth and lengthy review, I was unable to reach a definitive conclusion about compliance or non-compliance with the law.”

And when Con regime parrots the line that CSEC cannot by law spy on Canadians, who is to say they are not just playing WORD GAMES?

I’d say it’s a fair guess that CSEC has been doing things that the NSA asked them to do: namely, spying on American citizens. Intelligence analysts have long suspected that members of the Five Eyes intelligence network (the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the U.K.) scratch each others’ backs by spying on each others’ citizens when they cannot. Meaning (hypothetically) that the NSA might ask CSEC to spy on an American to skirt U.S. laws, and CSEC would in turn ask the NSA to provide data on a Canadian citizen.

Or just lying like they do all the time.

And what I can't help but wonder is how many Canadians really understand the size and scope of the surveillance state that the Cons appear to be building in Canada? And its almost mindblowing implications.

Because in Britain they're also having a debate about the Snowden files and the GCHQ, their version of CSEC. And as the novelist John Lanchester points out in this long but interesting article, even if you concede the need for spies, the post 911 intelligence machine is clearly out of control.

The problem and the risk comes in the area of mass capture of data, or strategic surveillance. This is the kind of intelligence gathering that sucks in data from everyone, everywhere: from phones, internet use from email to website visits, social networking, instant messaging and video calls, and even areas such as video gaming; in short, everything digital.

What this adds up to is a new thing in human history: with a couple of clicks of a mouse, an agent of the state can target your home phone, or your mobile, or your email, or your passport number, or any of your credit card numbers, or your address, or any of your log-ins to a web service.

Using that "selector", the state can get access to all the content of your communications, via any of those channels; can gather information about anyone you communicate with, can get a full picture of all your internet use, can track your location online and offline. It can, in essence, know everything about you, including – thanks to the ability to look at your internet searches – what's on your mind.

We have finally arrived in the Big Brother world that would have astounded or horrified even Orwell.

Most of us know someone who has plucked up the courage to reveal their homosexuality, only to be cheerfully told by friends and family, "oh, we've known that for years". Now, though, search engines know facts about people's thoughts and fantasies long before anyone else does. To put it crudely, Google doesn't just know you're gay before you tell your mum; it knows you're gay before you do. And now GCHQ does too.

And now is the time to decide whether we want to live in that kind of surveillance state. Before it's too late.

We are right on the verge of being an entirely new kind of human society, one involving an unprecedented penetration by the state into areas which have always been regarded as private. Do we agree to that? If we don't, this is the last chance to stop it happening.

Which leads me to my last question. Knowing how the Cons mine data, so they can target the ten percent of voters they need to sway or buy an election. Or steal one. Knowing that Stephen Harper demands total control, muzzles scientists, and keeps a long list of his enemies.

Does anybody seriously believe that he would NOT want to know what's on our minds? 

Or that Great Ugly Leader is NOT capable of turning his monstrous spying machine  on his opponents?

Because if they do they really should memorize the last lines of 1984:

Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

Because they'll be there soon enough eh?

As for the rest of us we need to demand some serious parliamentary oversight, and rein in the beast before it consumes us.

While understanding now more than ever, that we will never truly be safe. Never be out of this nightmarish darkness.

Until the truth sets us free.

And our ghastly Con Big Brother is finally defeated...

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1 comment:

Alison said...

Just to clear up this business about CSEC not being allowed to spy on Canadians. They are allowed to when assisting CSIS or law enforcement agencies; it's in their mandate.

Communications Security Establishment Commissioner,
Annual Report 2012 - 2013

CSEC assistance to CSIS under part (c) of CSEC’s mandate (Page 21)

"CSIS is authorized to collect threat-related information about Canadian persons and others and, as discussed above, is not subject to territorial limitation.
CSEC’s assistance to CSIS under the warrants may include use of Canadian identity information and the interception of the communications of Canadians."

CSEC advised the Commissioner’s office during discussions that it uses part (c) of its mandate for three purposes:
1. to provide technical assistance to CSIS/LEAs [law enforcement agencies];
2. to assist CSIS under s. 16 of the CSIS Act; [protecting government security] and
3. to assist CSIS/LEAs by intercepting the communications of a Canadian/person in Canada that is subject to a CSIS warrant (s. 12 of the CSIS Act) or an LEA’s authorization (under Part VI of the Criminal Code).