Monday, June 17, 2013

Monitoring the G20

GCHQ conducted extensive monitoring of diplomatic communications at the G20 summit in London in 2009, the Guardian reports (Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger & James Ball, "GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits," Guardian, 17 June 2013).

No particular surprise there, but the Guardian story has some interesting details of the mechanics of the operation, including "Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls".

The Guardian reproduces a censored version of a GCHQ briefing slide concerning BlackBerry monitoring (see image at right). Interestingly, the slide displays the logos not only of GCHQ, but also of NSA, CSE, and something called JOINT APPS, suggesting that CSE and other organizations also had some sort of role in the operation.

CSE has warned in the past about the vulnerability of BlackBerries to monitoring (see, for example, Stephanie Levitz, "Bureaucrats sent sensitive information on BlackBerrys despite warnings," Canadian Press, 18 February 2011).

The released documents focus on the role of GCHQ and the support that it provided to the UK government, but it is clear that the monitoring drew on the broader capabilities of the UKUSA community (including the US base at Menwith Hill). And the fact the GCHQ documents were shared with NSA -- thus enabling Edward Snowden to leak them -- indicates that its results were also shared.

It seems extremely unlikely, therefore, that this was a one-off.

Did CSE lead similar operations in Toronto during the 2010 G20 summit?

Was the gazebo bugged?

Update 18 June 2013: Jim Bronskill covers the Canadian angle: "Canada's eavesdropping agency helped spy on G20, documents suggest," Canadian Press, 18 June 2013.

Update 20 June 2013: Craig Forcese explains the legal questions surrounding spying on diplomatic summits: "Spying at the G20: A Captain Renault Moment," National Security Law blog, 20 June 2013.

More shocking moments here.

Update 27 November 2013: Yes, the gazebo was bugged: Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald & Ryan Gallagher, "New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto: Surveillance during 2010 summit 'closely co-ordinated with Canadian partner' CSEC," CBC News, 27 November 2013.

Update 23 March 2015: Judging from this document (page 2) and this document (page 19), I'm going to have to make a COVENANT to stop referring to s.16 foreign intelligence-gathering within Canada as GAZEBO. That name is taken.


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