Canada has several agreements with other countries enabling the sharing of Canada’s national security information with its security partners. Notably, Canada is a member of the Five Eyes, and Canada also has its own security sharing agreement with Israel. Today, the Five Eyes consist of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with Israel as an observer. The Five Eyes alliance seeks to enhance national security of members via mass electronic surveillance and information gathering techniques. The Five Eyes alliance is ultra-secretive and member organizations operate with little governmental oversight. Canada must reform its own domestic security laws according to the CCLA and Public Safety Committee’s 2017 report to ensure that Canadians’ civil liberties are not violated via the actions of Canada’s security agencies. Similarly, Canada must ensure careful use of any security data or threat data provided by security partners – especially Israel and the US – to protect against potential political bias against immigrants to, or citizens of Canada.
Canada has several agreements with other countries enabling the sharing of Canada’s national security information with its security partners. Notably, Canada is a member of the Five Eyes, and Canada also has its own security sharing agreement with Israel. The Five Eyes alliance grew out of the UK-US intelligence cooperation in the Second World War and matured during the Cold War era to included other Western allies. Today, the Five Eyes consist of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with Israel as an observer.[i] The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) is Canada’s representative of the Five Eyes alliance. This surveillance alliance works to collect and share mass surveillance data in the joint security interests of participating members. The Five Eyes alliance seeks to enhance national security of members via mass electronic surveillance and information gathering techniques.[ii] The Five Eyes alliance is ultra-secretive and member organizations operate with little governmental oversight[iii].
According to U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, he refers to the Five Eyes as a "supra-national intelligence organization that doesn't answer to the known laws of its own countries."[iv] The leaked NSA documents exposed how Canada set up spying posts around the world and conducted espionage against trading partners at the request of the NSA.[v] CSEC shares with NSA their unique geographic access to areas unavailable to the US. Much the material collected by Canada is transmitted directly to the NSA and not first processed and analyzed in Canada due to the lack of capacity. Intelligence collected at interception posts are often remitted to NSA for deciphering and analysis.[vi] Another, problematic aspect in the CSEC and NSA relationship of sharing information is that the NSA shares raw intelligence with Israel with no legal limits on the use of data by Israelis.[vii] With Israel’s extremely poor human rights record, many question whether such sharing is appropriate. Therefore, it is critically important that Canada manage who obtains this intelligence data.
In 2014, Canada-Israel signed a Strategic Partnership Memorandum of Understanding which facilitates a deeper cooperation in various areas including security.[viii] These close ties between Canadian and Israeli intelligence agencies allows for information sharing between the two countries on counter-terrorism collaboration and border defence relations; even though Canada and Israel do not share a border. Israel is a country that has militarily occupied Palestinian territories for over 50 years, and routinely disregards international law and human rights. It also has no “bill of rights” for its citizens. Sharing sensitive information with other countries that systematically disregard human rights is not ethical. Such sharing could not only endanger individuals under Israeli administration in the Middle East but could also lead to inappropriate bias against people of Middle East origin seeking to immigrate or seek asylum in Canada.
Questions for Federal Candidates
- Would you support a review of Canadian governmental oversight of CSEC?
- Would you support a review of CSEC’s involvement with the Five Eyes, and the information sharing that currently goes on?
- Would you support a review of Canada’s security sharing with Israel?
- Would you support a review of the Five Eyes security sharing with Israel?
- Will you work within your caucus to encourage a review of Canada’s security cooperation and sharing relationships, and specifically its involvement with the Five Eyes and Israel?
- Will you work within your caucus to call for a review of the oversight of the CSEC?
- The Case of Maher Arar.[ix] The case of Maher Arar, illustrates the human cost when governments misuse “security” information. American authorities detained Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar while he was travelling through New York City. They eventually shipped him Syria where he was detained and tortured for two years before being released to Canada. Arar was never charged with a crime, yet it was revealed that American authorities had detained him based on information received from Canadian security agencies. This case demonstrates the need for greater oversight by the Canadian government.
- Annual report from the oversite commissioners of the CSEC.[x] Jean-Pierre Plouffe, the commissioner who oversees the CSEC, recommended that the government issue a new directive on how the intelligence agency shares information with the Five Eyes. A 2013 report by the commissioner’s office concluded that it was unable to assess the extent to which the Five Eyes security alliance partners follow agreements and protect private communications and information about Canadians.[xi] The report also noted that CSEC had to prepare 161 risk assessments over the course of a year where sharing intelligence with its partners-Fives Eyes- could risk in mistreatment of an individual, including 35 cases where that risk was substantial.[xii] In 2016,the commissioner revealed how CSEC had illegally and unintentionally shared domestic metadata with the Five-Eyes surveillance alliance.[xiii] CSEC is technically not allowed to conduct surveillance on Canadians; although it can collect information on anyone inside the country if doing so with Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). CBC reported, that it is impossible to know how many Canadians had their personal data shared with CSEC. The commissioner expressed his belief that the misuse of sharing information was not accidental but rather a lack of due diligence.[xiv] In the report, CSEC also disclosed that they did not know how long the problem had existed. The misuse of intelligence shared by CSEC or CSIS could result in the abuse of the civil liberties of Canadian citizens.
- Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.[xv] In May 2017, the government released Protecting Canadians and their Rights: A New Road Map for Canada’s National Security The Anti Terrorism Act (ATA), 2015 amended the CSIS Act to authorize CSIS, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that a particular activity constitutes “a threat to the security of Canada,” to “take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce the threat.” By giving CSIS powers to “disrupt” perceived security threats, the CSIS amendments remove longstanding restrictions on security intelligence agencies. In the report, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) stated that CSIS should be stripped of its disruption powers that could violate the Charter or international human rights obligations. The report recommended that the CSIS Act amendment allowing “disruption powers” be repealed in order to remove the ability to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The report also recommended the Government of Canada ensure that protections guaranteed under the Privacy Act are not violated by the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA), thus ensuring Canadians’ privacy is protected.
Recommendations for Canada
- Canada must reform its own domestic security laws according to the CCLA and Public Safety Committee’s 2017 report to ensure that Canadians’ civil liberties are not violated via the actions of Canada’s security agencies.
- Canada ought to better manage and limit the intelligence data that is shared with security partners to protect against misuse by security partners. .
- Canada should implement better controls on CSEC, its representative to the Five Eyes, to ensure that CSEC operates under greater oversight, and that it respects Canada’s laws regarding the privacy of Canadian citizens.
- Canada must ensure careful use of any security data or threat data provided by security partners – especially Israel and the US – to protect against potential political bias against immigrants to, or citizens of Canada.
[i] Fishman, A., Israel cannot ignore damage caused by Trump's Russia leak. Retrieved from https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4963869,00.html
[ii] Canada and the Five Eyes Intelligence Community. Retrieved from https://www.opencanada.org/features/canada-and-the-five-eyes-intelligence-community/
[iii] Engler, Y. (2018). Trudeau promotes Five Eyes spying as CSE gets more money. Retrieved from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/yves-englers-blog/2018/05/trudeau-promotes-five-eyes-spying-cse-gets-more-money
[iv] Engler, Y. (2018). Trudeau promotes Five Eyes spying as CSE gets more money. Retrieved from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/yves-englers-blog/2018/05/trudeau-promotes-five-eyes-spying-cse-gets-more-money
[v] Canada set up spy posts around the world for the NSA | CBC News. (2013, December 10). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/snowden-document-shows-canada-set-up-spy-posts-for-nsa-1.2456886
[vi] Engler, Y. (2018). Trudeau promotes Five Eyes spying as CSE gets more money. Retrieved from http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/yves-englers-blog/2018/05/trudeau-promotes-five-eyes-spying-cse-gets-more-money
[vii] Greenwald, G., Poitras, L., & MacAskill, E. (2013, September 11). NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans' data with Israel. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents
[viii] Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada, Foreign Affairs, & E-Communications Communications Products. (2014, January 22). Canada-Israel Strategic Partnership. Retrieved from https://www.international.gc.ca/name-anmo/canada_israel_MOU-prot_ent_canada_israel.aspx?lang=eng
[ix] THE CASE OF MAHER ARAR. (2019, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.ca/legal-brief/case-maher-arar
[x] Ocsec. (2017, August 18). 2016-2017 Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.ocsec-bccst.gc.ca/s21/s76/eng/2016-2017-annual-report
[xi] Ling, J. (2017, August 24). Canada still hasn't developed new rules for intelligence sharing with U.S. and allies. Retrieved from https://news.vice.com/en_ca/article/a3jyn8/canada-still-hasnt-developed-new-rules-for-intelligence-sharing-with-u-s-and-allies
[xii] Ling, J. (2017, August 24). Canada still hasn't developed new rules for intelligence sharing with U.S. and allies. Retrieved from https://news.vice.com/en_ca/article/a3jyn8/canada-still-hasnt-developed-new-rules-for-intelligence-sharing-with-u-s-and-allies
[xiii] Canada's electronic spy agency to get new rules for sharing data with allies | CBC News. (2017, August 29). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/sajjan-cse-data-sharing-five-eyes-1.4265583
[xiv] Spy agency watchdog says 'impossible' to know how many Canadians had their privacy breached | CBC News. (2016, February 23). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cse-metadata-five-eyes-sharing-1.3459717
[xv] Committee Report No. 9 - SECU (42-1) - House of Commons of Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/SECU/report-9