Limits to Secrecy: What are the Communications Security Establishment's (CSE) Capabilities for Intercepting Canadians’ Internet Communications?
Forthcoming in National Security Intelligence and Surveillance in a Big Data Age, UBC Press, edited by David Lyon and David Murakami Wood
23 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018
Date Written: June 28, 2018
This chapter contributes to the growing debate in Canada over mass state surveillance by shedding light on key aspects of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) domestic internet surveillance capabilities and activities. Drawing mainly on the Snowden documents, it argues that there are good reasons to suspect that the CSE is routinely intercepting the internet communications of millions of Canadians. It relies on an exploratory analysis of Canadian internet traceroute data to estimate where and with which carriers the CSE is most likely to capture internet traffic. This analysis shows that by accessing the main switching centres of a handful of leading telecom providers (e.g. Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus) the CSE could surveil a large fraction of Canadians’ internet communications by establishing interception facilities within a few key cities (notably Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver). This chapter draws attention as well to CSE’s excessive secrecy about its domestic internet surveillance capabilities. It concludes by arguing that for the CSE to meet its obligations to respect international human rights and democratic norms, it must reform its practices of excessive secrecy and become significantly more transparent and accountable to Canadians, especially around its capabilities for mass interception of internet communications.
Keywords: surveillance, big data, signals intelligence, national security
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