Thursday, December 10, 2015

Recent items of interest

Recent news and commentary related to CSE or signals intelligence in general:

- Alec Wilson, "'Trust no one': The Citizen Lab’s Ronald Deibert and the biggest machine ever built," The Varsity, 7 December 2015.

- Dave Seglins, "New RCMP cyber unit to target global hackers, online scammers," CBC News, 2 December 2015. See also Justin Ling, "Canadian Cops Have a New Plan of Attack Against ‘Political’ Cybercrime and Anonymous," Vice News, 2 December 2015, and Marie-Danielle Smith, "New RCMP strategy emphasizes international intelligence-sharing," Embassy, 2 December 2015. Document: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cybercrime Strategy, December 2015.

- Andrew Mitrovica, "Can we please stop blaming terrorism on civil libertarians?" iPolitics, 30 November 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "RCMP need warrantless access to online subscriber info: Paulson," Canadian Press, 25 November 2015.

- "'Special Pages' from CSE's Wiki (April 2015)" (ATIP release),, 25 November 2015. My contribution.

- Dave Seglins & Lynn Burgess, "Canada 'failing' in fight against cybercrime, hacking," CBC News, 24 November 2015.

- Michael Geist, "Post Paris, Are Canada's Internet Privacy Laws at Risk?" The Tyee, 24 November 2015.

- Dave Seglins & Lynn Burgess, "Cyberattacks on infrastructure a 'major threat,' says CSIS chief," CBC News, 19 November 2015.

- Claire Wählen, "Trudeau government putting new emphasis on cybersecurity," iPolitics, 17 November 2015.

- Dean Beeby, "Internet plays role in terrorism, but is rarely the single cause, study says," CBC News, 15 November 2015.

- Ministerial mandate letters (13 November 2015): Minister of National Defence, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

- Daniel Therrien, "National Security and Privacy in 2015: Remarks at the Privacy and Access 20/20 Conference," Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 12 November 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "Federal security officials eye ‘big data analytics’ in a bid to pinpoint threats," Canadian Press, 12 November 2015.

- Tonda MacCharles, "Trudeau’s decision on national security file promising and risky, experts say," Toronto Star, 11 November 2015.

- Murray Brewster, "New Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan proved mettle in Afghanistan," Canadian Press, 5 November 2015. See also Sandy Garossino, "You have no idea how badass Trudeau's Defence Minister really is," National Observer, 4 November 2015, Tamara Baluja, "Harjit Sajjan: Meet Canada's new 'badass' defence minister," CBC News, 4 November 2015, and Matthew Fisher, "As ‘go-to guy’ in Kandahar, new defence minister won respect of senior officers," National Post, 5 November 2015. Should be interesting having a defence minister who has actually experienced SIGINT from the operational end and knows something about the topic.

- Jim Bronskill, "Trudeau faces demands to reverse an array of Harper-era security policies," Canadian Press, 2 November 2015.

- Ben Makuch, "These Emails Show Canada Was Super Stoked About Saudi Arms Deal," Vice News, 2 November 2015. Possibly relevant to this.

- Ian MacLeod, "Liberals mull keeping some new powers for spy service," Ottawa Citizen, 30 October 2015. As MacLeod reports, Joyce Murray's private member's bill in the last parliament (C-622), which formed the basis of the intelligence reform promises made by the Liberals during the election, "proposed amending the National Defence Act to take away the minister’s power to secretly authorize the interception of Canadians’ 'protected information,' including metadata, and putting it in the hands of Federal Court judges." If adopted, such a provision would probably result in the issuance of a single annual warrant authorizing the bulk collection of metadata, but at least it would put the agency's current metadata collection on a firmer legal footing, and such warrants might also include limitations on which data could be collected, what the data could be used for, whether and with whom it could be shared, and how long it could be retained.

- Patrick McGuire, "VICE News Battles Canadian Police Over Right to Protect Journalist's Material," Vice News, 30 October 2015. See also Alex Boutilier, "VICE Canada to fight RCMP’s demand for notes on suspected ISIS fighter," Toronto Star, 30 October 2015. "Parallel construction" at work?

- Michael Nesbitt, "Who watches the spies?" National Post, 29 October 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "CSIS Capacity Under C-51 To Work With Foreign Partners Raises Accountability Concerns," Canadian Press, 25 October 2015.

- Jim Bronskill, "Ten things to expect from the Liberal rewrite of C-51," Canadian Press, 22 October 2015.

- Colin Freeze, "Canadian software tied to Yemen civil war, report alleges," Globe and Mail, 21 October 2015. See also Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, "Researchers Accuse Canadian Internet Company of Helping Yemen Censor the Web, Motherboard, 21 October 2015. The Citizen Lab report: Information Controls during Military Operations: The case of Yemen during the 2015 political and armed conflict. Personally, I'd like to know whether CSE's CNE operators are able to take advantage of Netsweeper deployments in Yemen and other countries.

- Christopher Parsons, "Stuck on the Agenda: Drawing Lessons from the Stagnation of “Lawful Access” Legislation in Canada, Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets blog, 21 October 2015.

- Christopher Parsons, "Beyond Privacy: Articulating the Broader Harms of Pervasive Mass Surveillance, Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets blog, 20 October 2015.

- David Pugliese, "Chinese spies and hackers, U.S. security and the Canadian Space Agency," Ottawa Citizen, 30 September 2015.

- Justin Ling, "Canada’s Defense Minister Talks Fighting the Islamic State, Arming the Kurds, and Cyber Warfare," Vice News, 28 September 2015. Now an opposition MP rather than Defence Minister, but Kenney's comments on the Canadian Forces' computer network attack capabilities are still worthy of notice: "I think you can reasonably assume that when the military develops a command, it has to have the capability to be both offensive and defensive. Potentially hostile countries need to know that, if they are going to launch cyber attacks against our critical systems, Canada and its allies have the capacity to retaliate."

SIGINT history

- Corporal Michael Thomas, "Remembering the crash of Boxtop Flight 22," RCAF, 30 October 2015.

- Maria Robson, "Trading Secrets: Canada’s Comparative Advantage in Signals Intelligence Sharing, 1947 to Present," M.A. thesis, University of Calgary, April 2015.

- William F. Friedman Collection of Official Papers, declassified documents available on the National Security Agency website. Lots of interesting documents here, including quite a few pertaining to Canadian SIGINT, such as this, this, and this.

Update 10 December 2015:

Some additional items I meant to include:

- Janet Davison, "Russian spies in Canada: new lessons from the Gouzenko defection," CBC News, 18 October 2015. Comments by historian Jonathan Haslam. Book: Jonathan Haslam, Near and Distant Neighbours: A New History of Soviet Intelligence, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2015.

- Craig Forcese, "Capstone comments on security for 2015 election," National Security Law blog, 17 October 2015.

- Michael Geist, " How the TPP Puts Canadian Privacy at Risk,", 14 October 2015.

- Colin Freeze, "Former CSIS analyst on homegrown terrorism and Islamic doctrine," Globe and Mail, 13 October 2015. Book: Phil Gurski, The Threat From Within, Rowman & Littlefield, October 2015.

- Matthew Braga, "Where Canada's Three Political Parties Stand on Cybersecurity and Surveillance," Motherboard, 9 October 2015. See also OpenMedia's Report Card on the party platforms.

- Aaron Gluck Thaler, "New student coalition demands repeal of Harper’s surveillance Bill C-51, Ricochet, 9 October 2015.

- Jordan Pearson, "The Canadian Military Wants to Learn How to Hack Cars," Motherboard, 6 October 2015.

- Ian MacLeod, "Q&A: David Lyon talks about surveillance after Snowden," Ottawa Citizen, 5 October 2015. Book: David Lyon, Surveillance After Snowden, John Wiley & Sons, October 2015.

- David Pugliese, "Personnel levels drop at Communications Security Establishment, Ottawa Citizen, 19 September 2015. The numbers were back up to 2140 two months later.

-Stewart Bell, "Asking why people become terrorists is natural, but it’s better to recognize the signs and act, new book says," National Post, 11 September 2015. Interesting background info here: "[Phil Gurski] started work at the Communications Security Establishment in [July] 1983, two months before the Soviet Union’s nuclear early-warning alarm triggered, having falsely identified the launch of Minuteman intercontinental missiles from U.S. bases. The mistake almost started a nuclear war. Back then, the Cold War was the overwhelming focus of the CSE, which hired him at age 22, partly because he was adept at six languages. But Gurski was one of a dozen analysts given the job of keeping track of everything else going on in the world. Like terrorism. After picking up Arabic and Farsi, he became a Middle East expert, but he said there was no real sense of urgency around terrorism, even after the name Osama bin Laden began to surface. 'Terrorism was around back then but we didn’t pay a lot of attention,' he said."

Also of interest:

- The Globe and Mail has added a directory of the PGP keys of a number of its editors and reporters. They also have a SecureDrop site for more secure communications.


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