Canada says not receiving information from U.S. spying program

Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:57pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has no access to data gathered by a top-secret U.S. government surveillance program, but the nation's secret signals intelligence agency is monitoring foreign phone and internet traffic, officials said on Monday.

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

His revelations have opened 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. It also posed questions as to whether the NSA was sharing data with allies.

Opposition lawmakers had said they feared Canada's top-secret Communication Security Establishment (CSE), a branch of the defense ministry that specializes in gathering signals intelligence abroad, might be using Prism data to circumvent rules that ban it from spying on Canadians.

"The Communications Security Establishment does not have access to data in Prism," CSE spokesman Ryan Foreman said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters late on Monday.

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

Britain on Monday dismissed accusations that its security agencies had been circumventing British law by using Prism. But officials would not confirm or deny that Britain had had access to the information.

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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