Friday, June 27, 2008

Domestic Spying: The Ever Convenient Rationale Of The Security State

I've said it before, but I'll say it yet again - because apparently it bears repeating ad nauseam until enough people out there finally wake up and do something about it:
It is a given, demonstrated fact that governmental security agencies are not seekers of truth, but seekers of guilt. Whenever they are given any powers to spy on their own citizens, they will do so - for reasons frivolous, paranoid or (apparently very rarely as shown so far) actually justified.

Anything and nothing can - and will - be held against you.

Because in the mindset of governmental security agencies, everyone is suspect, everyone is guilty. Period.
This not just about what is going on in the U.S.A. This is also very much about what is going on over here in Canada.

Take this little tidbit of news, as but one small example:
Intelligence reports obtained by National Post reveal for the first time how the Canadian government tracked "ongoing and planned protests" by First Nations and their supporters from British Columbia to the Maritimes.

The Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, based at CSIS headquarters and made up of representatives of CSIS, the RCMP, Canadian Forces and other departments, circulated lists of protestors' plans in a series of intelligence reports.
Now here's the clincher:
The Government Operations Centre was also involved. It coordinates the national response to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and anything else that threatens the safety and security of Canadians or the integrity of Canada's critical infrastructure.
As if this was not frightening in and of itself, here comes the rationale that I have come to expect, but one which apparently still escapes the grasp of far too many people out there:
According to the documents, security officials were concerned "a small minority" of demonstrators could escalate the protests "as a means of attracting attention to their cause." Sympathetic environmentalists, "social issues extremists" and criminal groups could also exploit the protests, the reports say.

(...) "In addition to these, there are also non-aboriginals who may oppose the aspirations of the aboriginals (local residents, cottagers, fishermen, etc. and also white supremacists and other extremists)," it adds. "These factors may cause instability and drive an individual protest in unpredictable ways."

(...) The reports say the right to protest "is a cornerstone of Canada's democratic society. ITAC is concerned only where there is a threat of politically motivated violence, or where protests threaten the functioning of critical infrastructure."
So - to recap: just because there may or may not be some violence during protests, whether by protestors or infiltrators or counter-protestors or extra-terrestrials or monsters from outer space, this warrants the mobilization of the terrorist monitoring apparatus of the government to spy on activist groups, especially those who are planning lawful protest events.

Let me put it in other words: because something/anything deemed potentially disruptive (even remotely or not at all) to "the safety and security of Canadians or the integrity of Canada's critical infrastructure" may or may not happen, this warrants the full use and deployment of the government's terrorism monitoring apparatus to spy on lawful citizens.

Let this reality sink in for a minute or two ... or five ... or ten.

Do you get it now?

This means that anything can and will be viewed by our security agencies within the narrow, paranoid prism of terrorism and threats to security.


From blogging to writing a dissenting letter to a newspaper editor to a journalist trying to do investigative work to gathering at a coffee shop to rant about politics to reading "suspicious" stuff (books, blogs) to organizing/participating in activist actions (letter/phone/email campaigns, peaceful protests), etc., etc., etc.

Because any such activities may or may not -immediately or at some point in time or never at all - lead to acts which may or may not "threaten the safety and security of citizens or the integrity of the country's critical infrastructure".

So just in case and to be safe, let's monitor and survey and spy away on the citizenry.

And that is the ever convenient rationale of authoritarian security states for spying on their citizens.

I repeat: no one is safe.

What is happening south of the border is also happening here. More cases in point to this effect:
  • Canada has its own no-fly list, which is shared with the U.S. (and the U.S. shares its own with Canada) - more "efficiency" in snaring "suspected terrorists", I am sure;
  • The Canadian military is keeping tabs on peace advocacy groups;
  • CSIS has been monitoring Olympics protesters (and definitely other kinds of advocacy groups), all the while doing everything it can to escape public scrutiny and accountability;
  • The RCMP has been keeping secret files on Canadians in a highly secretive database meant for criminal intelligence information - in fact, more than 60% of the data stored therein is related to innocent Canadians;
  • The RCMP has also been keeping files on Canadians in a highly secretive database meant for national security investigations - in fact, more than half of the data therein was found "inappropriate" (i.e. relating to innocent Canadians);
  • One year ago, the Harper government announced that it was planning to institute extraordinary anti-terror police powers of "investigative hearings" and "preventive arrests" as part of a series of major security initiatives, including beefing the powers of CSIS - then the matter disappeared completely from public view and consciousness, as I am left to wonder: "what's been happening since then? What has been implemented outside of proper legislation, if anything?"
  • The Harper government has unilaterally and quietly clamped down on a free database of all the requests it is answering under the Access to Information Act, using a most duplicitous excuse after being found out;
  • Some eight months ago, it was revealed that the Harper Government was conducting "behind closed doors" discussions in order to create legislation that would force telecommunications providers to cough up personal information about their clients to authorities, without the need for court ordered warrants - the revelation forced the hand of the Harper government to open said discussions to the public. Since then? I keep hearing crickets chirping through the overwhelming silence on this matter.
It appears that we Canadians are indeed riding fast down the same road to perdition with regards to our human rights, our civil liberties and our constitution, as the Americans.

All in the sacro-saint name of Security.

It sure does seem like everyone over here is sleeping at the switch on this matter.

I've written to my MP, to newspapers and news stations to ask them to look into the extent through which we are being surveyed by our security agencies and whether such activities conflict with our constitutional/privacy rights. But nothing has happened - because when you are only one, of just a few, then nothing gets done.

Now imagine if thousands and thousands of letters/emails were sent to MPs, newspapers and news stations, demanding to know what exactly has been going on with regards to domestic spying of lawful citizens.

Let us ask en masse those questions of vital importance to our privacy, civil liberties and constitutional rule of law.

We must draw the line once and for all - unless we really want to go all the way of our neighbor south of the 49th.

Either we Canadians stand up for our civil rights and therefore win against terror, or stand down in the name of Security and lose to terror.

It is as simple as that.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Great research and reminders of just how far down the road to perdition we've traveled while everyone is sleeping. Joe citizen is more concerned about next year's Leafs roster than the loss of his liberty.

    It reminds of the old axiom: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. They are.


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