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Canada’s illegal spying on airport travellers must stop: BCCLA

Vancouver – Last night, a classified document obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the details of  new initiative to spy on Canadians conducted by Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

The new document shows that CSEC exploited the free wi-fi internet service offered at a major Canadian airport in order to spy on passengers while they were in the terminal – and for several days after they departed.

“This is appalling. CSEC has claimed over and over that they do not target their spying on Canadians. This revelation seems to blow that claim right out of the water and raises serious questions as to the extent of Canada’s spying on its own people. ,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA). “We say that this kind of indiscriminate spying is illegal.”

The new information suggests that CSEC’s airport operation was not targeted at any particular individual, but was intended to serve as a dragnet to collect information from any airport passenger who carried a mobile device or laptop with wi-fi capability through the terminal.  The operation was reportedly part of a “trial run” of powerful new software developed with the assistance of CSEC’s counterpart in the United States, the National Security Agency (NSA).

“We know that CSEC has been collecting the private metadata information of Canadians under a secret directive issued by the Minister of National Defence since 2005,” said Caily DiPuma, counsel for the BCCLA. “What we have here is a concrete example of that kind of collection, an example that shows Canadians the very real potential for CSEC to spy on anyone, anytime, anywhere. And, once again, we see CSEC working with the NSA to engage in an illegal spying operation on Canadian soil. ”

In October 2013, the BCCLA filed a lawsuit against Canada alleging that CSEC was collecting Canadians’ private communications and metadata information in a manner that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The BCCLA claimed that CSEC’s domestic spying violates fundamental protections against unreasonable search and seizure and infringes on free expression.

“Airports are public spaces where people engage in a range of expressive activities, everything from using the free wi-fi service to finalize a time-sensitive business deal to emailing a friend to arrange a ride from the airport,” said Caily DiPuma. “This kind of indiscriminate, out of control spying is precisely the kind of activity that will cause ordinary Canadians to censor themselves.”

Paterson added: “Clearly, CSEC is not using any legal standard of suspicion or reasonable belief when it goes about collecting metadata. We have a Canadian spy agency operating without any judicial oversight or Parliamentary accountability. In light of these new revelations, it is incumbent on the federal government to take immediate steps to stop this unacceptable and unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of Canadians.”