Monday, 28 July 2014 14:40

Spy Agencies Have Too Much Latitude

by Amira Elghawaby (@AmiraElghawaby) in Ottawa

How much does it concern you that your emails, texts, social media, and phone calls might be monitored?

If recent polling from both around the world and here at home is any indication, it probably concerns you quite a bit.

Earlier this month, the Pew Forum published the results of a global survey that shows a significant majority of people from around the world find it unacceptable that the U.S. monitors both foreigners and its own citizens.  The same poll shows that a wide margin of those polled in 43 countries disapprove of the U.S.’s monitoring of the communications of other world leaders.

Most Canadians would probably agree. They weren’t polled by the Pew Forum’s latest Global Attitudes Project, but did recently share their own thoughts about domestic espionage. It seems Canadians find spying just as distasteful, at least when it’s breaching their own privacy.

A national survey in Canada by Forum Research released this past June found that 79 per cent of those polled expected their online data to remain private. A majority also disagreed with the Canadian government’s tabling of new legislation that would grant wider latitude to law enforcement to gather data from telecommunication companies. Bill C-13, a 70-page bill which includes praiseworthy provisions around cyber-bullying, has raised alarms from those claiming that our rights to privacy are being stealthily infringed upon.

Of all the government agencies collecting Canadians’ data, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), CSEC was least trusted.

Individual freedoms

Perhaps that’s because while Canadians don’t know much about the million-dollar agency, they did learn that CSEC had been spying on travellers using airport Wi-Fi. That information came from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s trove of classified documents obtained from the U.S.’s National Security Agency (NSA); Snowden’s disclosures, incidentally, have diminished America’s standing in the world as a protector of individual freedoms.

 “Canadians are quite rightly upset at the volume of their personal data which is routinely available to law enforcement and others with less pure motives. It is clear they don't want their data made available and expect it not to be,” explained Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff in a news release about the poll. “It is instructive that among the agencies trusted the least with their data are CSEC, which is in charge of collecting it, and the telecommunications companies, who are the ones who are legally permitted to supply it."

In their own defence, CSEC has claimed that it isn’t monitoring the specific communications of Canadians, but only the metadata. That means the content of phone calls, emails, texts, etc., isn’t being recorded, only the locations from which communications are happening, as well as to who and from whom.

This data is in high demand. The federal privacy commissioner revealed late last spring that government and law enforcement agencies made nearly 1.2 million requests for Canadian’s user data in 2011.

Foreign espionage

Spying has long been a shadowy hallmark of international relations. And yet, recent disclosures that the U.S. had tried to obtain classified German intelligence prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to remark wryly that she considered spying on friends and allies a “waste of energy”.

The Snowden documents also revealed that like the NSA, CSEC had spied on friendly countries. Namely, Brazil, in what some termed economic espionage. No surprise that the news didn’t go over well with the Brazilians. However, Canadian security analyst Michel Juneau-Katsuya (a former CSIS senior intelligence officer), told the CBC that it isn’t unusual for countries to spy on each other where they have economic stakes.

Fuzzy rules

Yet further disclosures in July about the NSA’s monitoring of the emails of prominent American Muslim leaders raises more questions.  The rules around the warrantless monitoring of foreign nationals and American citizens seemed to blur when federal agents decided to keep tabs on the emails of a senior political candidate for the U.S. Republican Party, several high-profile academics, and the head of a large civil rights organization.

“I just don’t know why,” said Faisal Gill, one of the targets of the NSA spying, in an interview with The Intercept. The investigation by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain found that his email accounts were monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. “I’ve done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community — I’ve done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do,” he explained.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I’ve done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community — I’ve done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do.”[/quote]

 Growing outcry

“[The] revelations prove what we’ve long suspected -- that our spy agencies are running hugely invasive and reckless surveillance operations against their own citizens,” wrote Steve Anderson, Executive Director of Canada’s OpenMedia.ca on its website following the story.

“This kind of spying tears at the very fabric of our democracy and we’re already seeing how it can affect law-abiding citizens in their daily lives. Clearly, government spying operations are out-of-control and must be reined in,” he continued. The community-based organization has organized a coalition of prominent academics and institutions to oppose Canada’s Bill C-13, as well as a video [see below] and petition aimed at educating Canadians about the legislation’s shortcomings.

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shuC3H0Wto4[/youtube]

Are these fears legitimate? Do our spy agencies monitor the communications of individuals indiscriminately, even when they are clearly “friends” and “allies”?

Global attitudes on spying shift dramatically when the targets of the state’s vast monitoring apparatus are suspected terrorists. Not surprisingly, a majority agree that it’s acceptable to scrutinize the communications of those who would potentially do harm.

Unfortunately, though, our governments have failed to show that they are capable of doing the job with care and precision. That should prompt more of us to demand greater scrutiny of their actions and be skeptical of their assurances.

Amira Elghawaby is a freelance journalist, human rights advocate in Ottawa and NCM's History/Multimedia Editor.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 08 February 2014 18:22

Brazilians getting over it

by Humberta Araújo

The October allegations that Canada’s surveillance agency was spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy took Brazilians in Canada by surprise. The so-called “industrial espionage” has strained the relationship between both countries. The incident became a serious diplomatic embroilment overshadowing bilateral relations.

These allegations seem contrary to Canada’s official statements that Brazil is a key partner for Canada. "Brazil is at the nexus of the Government of Canada’s Strategy for Engagement in the Americas, Global Commerce Strategy and International Education Strategy,” reads the Government of Canada’s web site.

Raul Papaleo, president of Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), said there was no justification for Canada’s espionage. "This incident was an unwise and serious act. Canadian companies with interests in Brazil have always had open channels of communication. There was no need for such an attitude. The Canadian ambassador and the Brazilian minister have daily and direct contacts with each other, in case they need to discuss any kind of issue.”

The Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce was established in 1973 as a business association to foster stronger commercial relations between Brazil and Canada, and, in fact, hosted a meeting between Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and Canadian mining corporations last December, just a few weeks after these spying allegations were front page news in Brazilian and Canadian media.

"We all know that countries are concerned with their own national security sector. However, this kind of industrial and commercial espionage is not good and no one accepts it," added Mr. Papaleo.

While Brazilians may be upset by these actions, Mr. Papaleo believes that the work of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) will have no impact on ongoing business. "The Brazilian Government will not implement specific regulations to restrict business in the wake of this incident. But, of course, this cannot happen again," he warned.

The allegations

Allegations of espionage arose in October, after documents leaked by former (U.S.) National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claimed that the CSEC was targeting metadata of phone calls and emails to and from the ministry.

José Francisco Schuster is a Brazilian-Canadian journalist who has been following this issue. For him, the "allegations of espionage caught Brazilians in Canada by surprise. Until then, Brazilians saw Canada as a sympathetic and supportive neighbour."

These claims "could affect the bilateral relationship between Brazil and Canada, endangering a 10-year history of important diplomatic partnerships and trade growth," said Mr. Schuster.

While more than three months have passed since these accusations "the situation seems to have vanished from front page news, while Brazilian cordiality gives way to caution," he said.

When the news broke, Brazilian foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, summoned the Canadian ambassador to demand explanations.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed concern about the situation, and announced that government officials were reaching out to their counterparts in Brazil, he did not issue an official apology — a gesture that Brazil, including its president, Dilma Rousseff, hoped for.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Brazilian Secretary of Geology, Mining and Mineral Transformation, Carlos Nogueira da Costa Júnior, said in an interview with New Canadian Media that "questions relating to this matter are being taken care exclusively by the Ministry of External Relations." He also said these allegations they won’t impact future bilateral relations. "Currently, Brazil and Canada enjoy a very positive bilateral environment with good expectations for current and future business."[/quote]

Mr. Nogueira visited Canada last December and met with Canadian corporations working in Brazil. "In Toronto, I had the chance at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, to present the forecast for the mining industry in 2014. As we all know, both countries have important business interests in the sector, the reason for my get-together with the many public and private Canadian companies, who are active in the mining industry."

Canada leading investors

Currently, there are 55 Canadian companies working in Brazil. "The majority are mining gold and iron in Minas Gerais, Pará and Bahia. Canadian companies are also active in the equipment and services sector," said the Secretary.

The Brazilian Mining Institute estimates that between 2012 and 2016, investment in this sector will reach $75 billion U.S., with Canada as one of the leading investors. "The rate increase in commercial relations between the two countries tells us that the mining industry will continue growing in the next few years," he said.

In Toronto, Mr. Nogueira met one-on-one with investors and new corporations interested in exploring Brazil's potential. Kinross, MBAC Fertilizer Corp, and Jaguar Mining Inc.  were some of the companies present.

The spying claims were clearly on the minds of the investors during those meetings. "Obviously, there was some concern, but not enough to hurt each one's trust. The Brazilian government is open to dialogue and the ongoing projects were not impacted by the news," said Mr. Nogueira.

Commercial ties

Today, the volume of bilateral business in the mining sector is around $35 billion:  $19 million for Brazil and $16 million for Canada, after the purchase of Inco. Canadian commercial ties to Brazil are not limited to the mining industry, however. Investments in education, technology, health, aeronautics, satellites and transportation infrastructure are on the rise. All in all, some 500 Canadian companies are active in Brazil. In 2012, Brazil was the 7th highest source of foreign direct investment in Canada with $15.8 billion in cumulative stocks.

If the trend continues, Canada’s investment in Brazil will likely increase and although it looks like the recent espionage will not affect its business and commercial relations, they do leave a bad taste for the more than 20,000 Brazilians that live in Canada, especially as Brazil waits for an apology.

The first significant wave of Brazilians came to Canada in 1987 and Canada has recently become the largest recipient of Brazilian students, surpassing the United States. In 2011, 20,000 Brazilian students came to Canada. The program Science without Borders is sending thousands of Brazilian students for under-graduate and post-doctoral degrees in Canada. Most Brazilians in Canada reside in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Canada has had a trade office in Brazil since 1866, and in May 1941, Brazil opened its embassy in Ottawa and now has consulate offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. 

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Latin America
Friday, 31 January 2014 01:45

Brazilians getting over it

by Humberta Araújo

The October allegations that Canada’s surveillance agency was spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy took Brazilians in Canada by surprise. The so-called “industrial espionage” has strained the relationship between both countries. The incident became a serious diplomatic embroilment overshadowing bilateral relations.

These allegations seem contrary to Canada’s official statements that Brazil is a key partner for Canada. "Brazil is at the nexus of the Government of Canada’s Strategy for Engagement in the Americas, Global Commerce Strategy and International Education Strategy,” reads the Government of Canada’s web site.

Raul Papaleo, president of Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), said there was no justification for Canada’s espionage. "This incident was an unwise and serious act. Canadian companies with interests in Brazil have always had open channels of communication. There was no need for such an attitude. The Canadian ambassador and the Brazilian minister have daily and direct contacts with each other, in case they need to discuss any kind of issue.”

The Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce was established in 1973 as a business association to foster stronger commercial relations between Brazil and Canada, and, in fact, hosted a meeting between Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and Canadian mining corporations last December, just a few weeks after these spying allegations were front page news in Brazilian and Canadian media.

"We all know that countries are concerned with their own national security sector. However, this kind of industrial and commercial espionage is not good and no one accepts it," added Mr. Papaleo.

While Brazilians may be upset by these actions, Mr. Papaleo believes that the work of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) will have no impact on ongoing business. "The Brazilian Government will not implement specific regulations to restrict business in the wake of this incident. But, of course, this cannot happen again," he warned.

The allegations

Allegations of espionage arose in October, after documents leaked by former (U.S.) National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claimed that the CSEC was targeting metadata of phone calls and emails to and from the ministry.

José Francisco Schuster is a Brazilian-Canadian journalist who has been following this issue. For him, the "allegations of espionage caught Brazilians in Canada by surprise. Until then, Brazilians saw Canada as a sympathetic and supportive neighbour."

These claims "could affect the bilateral relationship between Brazil and Canada, endangering a 10-year history of important diplomatic partnerships and trade growth," said Mr. Schuster.

While more than three months have passed since these accusations "the situation seems to have vanished from front page news, while Brazilian cordiality gives way to caution," he said.

When the news broke, Brazilian foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, summoned the Canadian ambassador to demand explanations.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed concern about the situation, and announced that government officials were reaching out to their counterparts in Brazil, he did not issue an official apology — a gesture that Brazil, including its president, Dilma Rousseff, hoped for.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Brazilian Secretary of Geology, Mining and Mineral Transformation, Carlos Nogueira da Costa Júnior, said in an interview with New Canadian Media that "questions relating to this matter are being taken care exclusively by the Ministry of External Relations." He also said these allegations they won’t impact future bilateral relations. "Currently, Brazil and Canada enjoy a very positive bilateral environment with good expectations for current and future business."[/quote]

Mr. Nogueira visited Canada last December and met with Canadian corporations working in Brazil. "In Toronto, I had the chance at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, to present the forecast for the mining industry in 2014. As we all know, both countries have important business interests in the sector, the reason for my get-together with the many public and private Canadian companies, who are active in the mining industry."

Canada leading investors

Currently, there are 55 Canadian companies working in Brazil. "The majority are mining gold and iron in Minas Gerais, Pará and Bahia. Canadian companies are also active in the equipment and services sector," said the Secretary.

The Brazilian Mining Institute estimates that between 2012 and 2016, investment in this sector will reach $75 billion U.S., with Canada as one of the leading investors. "The rate increase in commercial relations between the two countries tells us that the mining industry will continue growing in the next few years," he said.

In Toronto, Mr. Nogueira met one-on-one with investors and new corporations interested in exploring Brazil's potential. Kinross, MBAC Fertilizer Corp, and Jaguar Mining Inc.  were some of the companies present.

The spying claims were clearly on the minds of the investors during those meetings. "Obviously, there was some concern, but not enough to hurt each one's trust. The Brazilian government is open to dialogue and the ongoing projects were not impacted by the news," said Mr. Nogueira.

Commercial ties

Today, the volume of bilateral business in the mining sector is around $35 billion:  $19 million for Brazil and $16 million for Canada, after the purchase of Inco. Canadian commercial ties to Brazil are not limited to the mining industry, however. Investments in education, technology, health, aeronautics, satellites and transportation infrastructure are on the rise. All in all, some 500 Canadian companies are active in Brazil. In 2012, Brazil was the 7th highest source of foreign direct investment in Canada with $15.8 billion in cumulative stocks.

If the trend continues, Canada’s investment in Brazil will likely increase and although it looks like the recent espionage will not affect its business and commercial relations, they do leave a bad taste for the more than 20,000 Brazilians that live in Canada, especially as Brazil waits for an apology.

The first significant wave of Brazilians came to Canada in 1987 and Canada has recently become the largest recipient of Brazilian students, surpassing the United States. In 2011, 20,000 Brazilian students came to Canada. The program Science without Borders is sending thousands of Brazilian students for under-graduate and post-doctoral degrees in Canada. Most Brazilians in Canada reside in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Canada has had a trade office in Brazil since 1866, and in May 1941, Brazil opened its embassy in Ottawa and now has consulate offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. 

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Economy

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