VANCOUVER – The BC Civil Liberties Association released the following statements in response to the evolving revelations about massive Canadian and U.S. surveillance operations gathering information about Canadians’ telecommunications.
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA said: “We are hearing from Canadians who are shocked and outraged by media reports about the vast monitoring of their activities by the U.S. and our own government. It is absolutely critical that Canadians receive answers. Canadians demand to know what information about us is being collected by Canada’s intelligence agencies; what information is being gathered by other government’s intelligence agencies, and what information sharing is happening between governments.
“For example, we now know that the U.S. has been accessing huge swathes of Canadians digital lives through US internet companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook. This surveillance program is called PRISM and PRISM data is being disclosed to the intelligence agency of the UK, which is part of the “Five Eyes” alliance between the intelligence agencies of the US, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada. Canada’s Defence Minister says that the Communications Security Establishment of Canada does not have access to PRISM. Are Canadians to believe that Canada, which shares a much-vaunted “Secure Perimeter” with the US, is not receiving intelligence that was offered to another alliance member an ocean away? It is far more likely that Canada is receiving PRISM data, although perhaps not through the CSE. The government must not turn this into a hide n’ go seek game of national security secrecy. Canadians have a right to know.
“The scope and scale of the surveillance operations that are coming to light must be challenged. We need a genuine Parliamentary debate, grounded in real information, not security sermons from the government. We will almost certainly need recourse to the Privacy Commissioner and the courts to help shape these programs for the appropriate balancing of rights. This work will need to be done in collaboration with allies around the globe, because there is no country that is untouched by news that the Internet is essentially bugged.
“The word “privacy” doesn’t go far enough to describe what’s at stake. This is about rights so fundamental that they go to the heart of democracy. This is about whether or not we will fight for a free press and a free Internet and whether anyone – from journalist sources to whistle-blowers to protesters to business executives guarding trade secrets and people seeking legal advice, will be able to communicate safely.
“The BCCLA is working vigorously to uphold Canadians rights to privacy and fight against dragnet surveillance and the undue national security secrecy that allows abuses of citizens’ rights to go unchecked.”