Sunday, October 20, 2013

More on economic intelligence gathering II

Further to this discussion, here is a very interesting exchange between then CSE Chief John Adams and Senator Tommy Banks in April 2007:
[John Adams:] Foreign intelligence means information or intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group as they relate to international affairs, defence or security. It is much broader than just security.

Senator Banks: Could that include communications between two foreign entities or persons having to do with commercial matters that are of interest to Canadian national interests?

Mr. Adams: You said it, not us.

Senator Banks: It is a question, though.

Mr. Adams: I cannot talk about what we target and what we do not target. It is dealing with international affairs.
I don't think you have to be a tinfoil aficionado to conclude that Adams's you-might-think-that;-I-couldn't-possibly-comment answer was tantamount to confirmation that CSE does at least sometimes target "commercial matters that are of interest to Canadian national interests".

And there seems to be little doubt that Senator Banks understood it that way as well. (He certainly didn't take it as a denial.) In a recent op/ed, the now retired senator dismissed the reactions of Prime Minister Harper and opposition leader Thomas Mulcair to the Brazil revelations as "disingenuous phoniness on the part of people who certainly know better" (Tommy Banks, "Opinion: Canada needs watchdog over spy agency," Edmonton Journal, 14 October 2013):
I’m pretty sure that the person riding home on the 5 p.m. bus understands that in our national interests, Canada carries on intelligence-gathering and analysis, very much including commercial intelligence, just like every other industrialized nation.
Another senator who was present on the day Adams made his comments, Colin Kenny, also recently expressed his views on this question (Colin Kenny, "Is Canada Being Polite Enough When it Comes to Espionage?" Huffington Post, 15 October 2013):
CSEC defends Canadians against international hackers and does electronic snooping around the world, for reasons of security, and yes, for reasons of ultimately securing economic advantage for Canadian firms, although it will deny the latter. ...

Agencies like CSEC and CSIS clearly deem it to be part of their mandate to help Canadian companies stay competitive in various fields, less we shed still more of the hundreds of thousands of full time jobs this country has lost to foreign competition early in this new century.
Clearly, if CSE was not collecting economic intelligence in 2007, Chief Adams botched his opportunity to point that out rather badly.

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