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Canada Has its Own Version of PRISM, Reveals Toronto Newspaper

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, June 11 2013

President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Pete Souza via Wikipedia)

While it may not have a Bond film-worthy name like PRISM, it turns out Canada has a surveillance program of its own. The Toronto Globe and Mail learned about the program through Access to Information requests filed with the government. They sifted through hundred of records, although extensive passages were redacted for reasons of national security so there are still lingering questions and concerns.

The program went into effect after being secretly approved by the defense minister, Bill Graham, in 2005. It is operated by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which is part of the Canadian defense department. Like the NSA, it collects metadata from communications, not the content of the communications themselves.

Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, explained to CBC News that “We're talking about tracking of every kind of information. The people you talk to, the kinds of things you're interested in.”

Tamir Israel, staff lawyer with a Internet Policy and Public Interest organization, added that people “generally underestimate the “revealing potential” of metadata.”

The CSEC suspended the surveillance program in 2008 “after a federal watchdog agency raised concerns that it could lead to warrantless surveillance of Canadians,” which is illegal, although metadata seems to be a gray area in both Canada and the U.S.

However, it was signed back into effect in November of 2011 by the Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

All things considered, this revelation is not altogether shocking. The Canadian public might even agree that measures like this are necessary. More concerning is the secrecy and lack of public discussion about the program, says Israel. “Nobody can legally challenge how CSEC is interpreting their powers.”

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