The Snowden leaks prompted the New American Foundation to do a study last year on the efficacy of metadata collection. Of 225 arrests, kills, and convictions in the US since 9/11, only four were truly influenced by metadata collection. Conclusion? The report reads: “[…] our review of the government’s claims about the role that NSA ‘bulk’ surveillance of phone and email communications records has had in keeping the United States safe from terrorism shows that these claims are overblown and even misleading.” Aka: it doesn’t work so well.
Homegrown terrorism is a local problem that requires local solutions, particularly the empowerment of community groups to be vigilant in their own, separate contexts.
Apparently none of that hippy-dippy stuff matters to law enforcement and spying agencies in Canada, as Vice Motherboard reports this week that “[…] at least 6,000 wiretaps and intercepts were authorized per year across all levels of government in Canada as of 2011,” and “[…] that approximately 12,000 requests for call detail records (CDRs)—a log of numbers dialled—were authorized per year.”
This is on top of appx. 1.2 million requests made by Harper government agencies to several Canadian telecoms for personal customer data (according to Canada’s former [interim] privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier). Which agencies? The government won’t say. Neither will the telecoms, who have all stonewalled requests for more information made by folks at U of T’s Citizen Lab. The Canadian Border Services Agency disclosed that it made over 18,000 between 2012 and 2013, and the RCMP made about 28,000 requests for subscriber data in 2010 alone, all without a warrant. All this has been well reported/documented this year, as more information about this kind of national security practice is being questioned.
We already know that the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) illegally spies on Canadian citizens, as the CBC has reported in conjunction with Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher of The Intercept (who handle the Snowden files), as they have done so via airport wireless services. This is all done as a part of the “5-Eyes” alliance countries that share data with each other.
Just this week, Colin Freeze of the Globe and Mail gave documents he obtained to Canadian blogger Bill Robinson (Lux Ex Umbra) who read them and concluded that “[…]thousands of ‘private communications’ of Canadians were collected and used or retained by CSE in the course of its cyber defence operations during a recent one-year period.”
All this is just a disparate snapshot or window into the world of Canadian surveillance amidst great global skepticism at the efficacy of mass, non-targeted surveillance in the digital age–and at he insistence that such surveillance don’t threaten civil liberties.