OTTAWA, Jun 10 – Canada has also been electronically eavesdropping on Canadians and others, scouring global telephone records and Internet data for patterns of suspicious activity, a newspaper said on Monday.
The daily Globe and Mail reported that Defense Minister Peter MacKay signed a ministerial directive renewing the program in November 2011, after a brief hiatus over concerns that it could lead to surveillance of Canadians without a warrant.
The program, operated by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), originated during the Cold War to spy on Soviet states but its mandate shifted in 2005 amid rising fears of terrorist networks.
CSEC spokesman Ryan Foreman told the Globe and Mail that the CSEC “incidentally” intercepts Canadian communications but primarily “is used to isolate and identify foreign communications, as CSEC is prohibited by law from directing its activities at Canadians.”
The report came as controversy swirls over US National Security Agency programs that have swept up millions of US telephone records and secretly monitor Internet activity.
The program that targets phone records does not involve the “tapping” of phones, nor agents listening in to conversations, but instead collects data to be analysed in complicated mathematical programs.
Paloma Aguilar, spokeswoman for MacKay, told AFP the CSEC “works to keep Canadians secure and it does so knowing strict legislation protects individuals’ right to privacy.”
She noted also that the CSEC’s activities “are reviewed annually and have been found to comply with the law.”