Canada’s New Way to Spy on You

Snowden documents show Canada used free airport Wi-Fi to track travelers.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police pose for a photograph during Canada Day Celebrations on July 1, 2011 in Ottawa, Canada.
National Journal
Alex Brown
Add to Briefcase
Alex Brown
Jan. 31, 2014, 8:30 a.m.

Canada’s elec­tron­ic spy agency snooped on trav­el­ers who used free air­port Wi-Fi — and tracked them long after they left, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased files provided by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden.

And while our north­ern neigh­bors squabble over the leg­al­ity of Com­mu­nic­a­tions Se­cur­ity Es­tab­lish­ment Canada’s data-col­lec­tion pro­gram, it could have big­ger rami­fic­a­tions in the U.S. The Snowden doc­u­ment shows the track­ing was launched with the help of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency, part of a tri­al run for a new soft­ware pro­gram. CBC re­ports the tech­no­logy has be­come fully op­er­a­tion­al since the 2012 test.

Ex­perts say the spy­ing is il­leg­al un­der Ca­na­dian law, which pro­hib­its spy agen­cies from tar­get­ing Ca­na­dian cit­izens — or any­one in Canada — without a war­rant. CSEC denied it col­lec­ted con­tent from people’s phones, but de­fen­ded its tra­cing of metadata — which can be used to track loc­a­tion and see all in­com­ing and out­go­ing calls.

After the agency picked up Wi-Fi devices at the as-yet-uniden­ti­fied Ca­na­dian air­port, it was able to track them for more than a week as they popped up at oth­er Wi-Fi loc­a­tions in Canada and at U.S. air­ports. Ca­na­dian cy­ber­se­cur­ity ex­pert Ron­ald Deibert told CBC the agency would have had no trouble identi­fy­ing in­di­vidu­als based on the metadata it ob­tained.

The Snowden doc­u­ment in­dic­ated the Wi-Fi data was ob­tained through a “spe­cial source” — both the Toronto and Van­couver air­ports denied provid­ing that in­form­a­tion. Air­port Wi-Fi pro­vider Boingo also said it was not in­volved.

Not only was the NSA in­volved in the Ca­na­dian tri­al run — CSEC called the tech­no­logy “game-chan­ging” — but ex­perts say the Ca­na­dians also planned to share the tech­no­logy and the in­tel­li­gence it pro­duced with the U.S., Bri­tain, New Zea­l­and, and Aus­tralia. It’s un­clear if the pro­gram has been de­ployed else­where.

Thanks to the TSA, Amer­ic­ans are used to pri­vacy vi­ol­a­tions when they head to the air­port. But it’s no sure bet the in­tru­sions have ended once you get through the body scan­ner.

What We're Following See More »
TO VISIT US TROOPS
John McCain Paid Secret Visit To Syria
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Senator John McCain paid a secret visit to Northern Syria over the weekend during his trip abroad. McCain reportedly went "to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold." The trip was organized with the help of U.S. military.

Source:
‘MORE WITH LESS’
Trump Budget to Call for Major Cuts
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Trump administration will deliver its first budget to Congress in mid-March, and the president confirmed Wednesday it will contain major cuts for federal agencies." The blueprint, expected to be released in mid-March, will not include the kinds of specifics usually seen in White House budgets, but rather will instruct the heads of agencies to "do more with less."

Source:
DEFERENCE TO PRESIDENT
More Republicans Trust Trump than GOP Members
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
THANKS TO MILITARY ROLE
McMaster Requires Congressional Approval
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Congress will need to vote on Donald Trump's pick of Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his next national security adviser, but not for the reason you think. The position of NSA doesn't require Senate approval, but since McMaster currently holds a three-star military position, Congress will need to vote to allow him to keep his position instead of forcing him to drop one star and become a Major General, which could potentially affect his pension.

Source:
SENT LETTERS TO A DOZEN ORGANIZATIONS
Senate Intel Looks to Preserve Records of Russian Interference
18 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to ensure that records related to Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections are preserved as it begins investigating that country’s ties to the Trump team. The panel sent more than a dozen letters to 'organizations, agencies and officials' on Friday, asking them to preserve materials related to the congressional investigation, according to a Senate aide, who was not authorized to comment publicly. The Senate Intelligence Committee is spearheading the most comprehensive probe on Capitol Hill of Russia’s alleged activities in the elections."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login