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‘This isn’t about national security’: Civil liberties group publishes CSIS reports related to alleged spying

The B.C. Civil Liberties Affiliation has launched hundreds of closely redacted paperwork by the Canadian Safety Intelligence Service (CSIS) with reference to allegations the company had spied on peaceable protesters of the now-defunct Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline venture.

The BCCLA has uploaded all of the paperwork to a searchable web site.

The CSIS-disclosed paperwork had been held underneath a confidentiality order by the Safety Intelligence Assessment Committee [SIRC], Canada’s spy company watchdog, which lately expired.

“What we’ve now received is a huge volume of secret evidence that we didn’t get to see at all before,” mentioned Paul Champ, a lawyer with Champ and Associates representing the BCCLA.

Champ informed CBC’s Early Version host Stephen Quinn the paperwork present over 500 CSIS studies about people or teams who had been protesting the pipeline proposal.

“[It] raises concerns that this isn’t about national security, but it’s about protecting the economic interests of Canada’s energy sector and, in our view, that’s completely beyond CSIS’ mandate,” he mentioned. 

The civil liberties affiliation first challenged CSIS’ actions in 2014 with a criticism to SIRC alleging the company was spying on pipeline opponents. The affiliation additional claimed the knowledge was being shared with the Nationwide Vitality Board and the petroleum trade.

Throughout personal hearings with SIRC, CSIS disclosed the now-available paperwork.

The criticism was dismissed, nevertheless,  when the assessment committee concluded info had solely been gathered on peaceable protesters as a by-product of investigations into legit threats, not because the purpose.

The BCCLA has been working to overturn the watchdog’s dismissal in Federal Courtroom.

Retaining info on protesters

The newly disclosed paperwork reveal Canada’s spy service routinely welcomed studies from the vitality trade about perceived threats and stored such info in its recordsdata in case it’d show helpful later.

The Canadian Safety Intelligence Service is meant to retain solely info that’s “strictly necessary” to do its job, and the spy company is now dealing with questions on whether or not it collected and held on to materials about teams or individuals who posed no actual menace.

CSIS says it will not present remark as SIRC’s resolution on the criticism is earlier than the courts, however it did present a brief assertion that “CSIS investigates activities that fall within the definition of threats to the security of Canada and reports them to the government of Canada.”

It additionally famous SIRC’s 2017 resolution, which discovered it had not acted out of its mandate.

'This isn't about national security': Civil liberties group publishes CSIS reports related to alleged spying 1
Meghan McDermott with the BCCLA exhibits an instance of a number of the closely redacted paperwork disclosed by CSIS. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Throughout one listening to, a CSIS official whose id is confidential informed the committee that info volunteered by vitality corporations was put in a spy service database.

“It is not actionable. It just sits there,” the CSIS official mentioned. “But should something happen, should violence erupt, then we will go back to this and be able to see that we had the information … it is just information that was given to us, and we need to log it.”

‘One thing we do not anticipate to expertise’

The assessment committee heard from a number of witnesses and examined tons of of paperwork in weighing the civil liberties affiliation’s criticism.

Advocacy and environmental teams Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and the Council of Canadians are talked about within the hundreds of pages of CSIS operational studies scrutinized by the assessment committee.

“This is something we don’t expect to experience here in Canada,” says Alexandra Woodsworth with Dogwood BC.

Particularly regarding, she says, is how the doc recommend CSIS shared their info with fossil gasoline corporations.

“Our tax dollars are being used to spy on Canadians to benefit the fossil fuel industry,” mentioned Woodsworth.  “A government that appears to be working more to safeguard the interests of big oil than to safeguard the interests of its citizens.”

'This isn't about national security': Civil liberties group publishes CSIS reports related to alleged spying 2
Protesters exhibit in opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in Vancouver on Jan. 14, 2013. Canada’s spy service routinely welcomed studies from the vitality trade about perceived threats, and stored such info in its recordsdata in case it’d show helpful later, newly disclosed paperwork reveal. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

However the committee’s report mentioned CSIS’s actions didn’t stray into surveillance of organizations engaged in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent.

A CSIS witness testified the spy service “is not in the business of investigating environmentalists because they are advocating for an environmental cause, period.”

Nonetheless, the assessment committee urged CSIS to make sure it was preserving solely “strictly necessary” info, as spelled out within the legislation governing the spy service.

The civil liberties affiliation informed the committee of a chilling impact for civil society teams from the spy service’s information-gathering in addition to feedback by then-natural sources minister Joe Oliver denouncing “environmental and other radical groups.”

One CSIS witness informed the committee that Oliver’s assertion didn’t circulate from info supplied by the spy company.

“As a service, we never found out where he was coming from, where he got this information or who had briefed him,” the unnamed CSIS official mentioned. “So we’re not sure where he got it. But it wasn’t from us.”

CSIS questioned if it was going too far

The assessment committee discovered CSIS didn’t share details about the environmental teams in query with the NEB or the petroleum trade.

The affiliation desires the Federal Courtroom to take a re-evaluation, given CSIS created greater than 500 operational studies related to the committee’s inquiry.

“The main impression one draws from the [committee] report is ‘nothing to see here, look away,’ when in fact there is a lot to see here,” mentioned Champ. 

Dozens of censored CSIS information say the reporting was additional to “the service’s efforts in assessing the threat environment and the potential for threat-related violence stemming from [redacted] protests/demonstrations.”

'This isn't about national security': Civil liberties group publishes CSIS reports related to alleged spying 3
Alexandra Woodsworth with Dogwood BC says the paperwork recommend details about her group had been shared with fossil gasoline corporations. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Among the paperwork reveal CSIS itself is questioning whether or not it’s going too far, noting that the spy service is “pressing on the limitations of our mandate.”

The notion that info on some teams or people was gathered by the way is “cold comfort to people whose names might end up in the databanks of Canada’s intelligence service simply because they expressed a political opinion on Facebook, signed a petition or attended a protest,” Champ mentioned.

One doc refers back to the Dogwood Initiative as a “non-profit, Canadian environmental organization that was established in 1999 ‘to help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”‘

The passages earlier than and after the outline are blacked out.

“This court case will take some time to play out,” Champ mentioned. “Right now, we are focused on getting access to as much information as possible so we can properly make our main arguments about how these CSIS activities violate the law.”

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