Canada says it monitors foreign phone, internet traffic

Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:47pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's government on Monday declined to say whether it was using data gathered by a secret U.S. government eavesdropping program, but confirmed its own secret signals intelligence agency was monitoring foreign phone and internet traffic.

An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency says the NSA is running a massive surveillance program called Prism that scoops up information from phone companies as well as internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook.

His revelations have launched a broad debate on privacy rights and the limits of security programs in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Pressed by opposition legislators as to whether Canada was making use of Prism data, Defense Minister Peter MacKay did not answer the question.

Instead, he referred to the practices of Canada's top secret Communication Security Establishment (CSE), a branch of the defense ministry that specializes in gathering signals intelligence abroad.

"CSE does not target communications of Canadians. This is foreign intelligence. This is something that has been happening for years," he told the House of Commons.

Canada works very closely with the United States, which along with Britain, New Zealand and Australia belong to the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.

MacKay confirmed a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper that said CSE - which is not allowed to monitor domestic telecommunications or target Canadians - runs a global electronic eavesdropping program designed to detect patterns of suspicious activity.   Continued...

Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart waits to testify before the Commons privacy committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 19, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie