Saturday, April 30, 2016

Recent items of interest


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

- Matthew Braga, "Canada Needs to Revive the Encryption Debate It Had in the 1990s," Motherboard, 26 April 2016.

- "Minister Sajjan delivers keynote address at the 2016 SINET IT Security Entrepreneurs Forum," Government of Canada news release, 20 April 2016. Text of the speech here. [Update 6 May 2016: I don't know where the Minister or his speechwriters got the idea that CSE has been around for "close to 75 years". CSE (then called CBNRC) was born on 1 September 1946, or close to 70 years ago.]

- Alex Boutilier, "Canada’s spies closely watching quantum tech developments," Toronto Star, 20 April 2016.

- Victoria Ahearn, "5 moments from The Good Wife’s visit to Toronto," Canadian Press, 18 April 2016. CSE makes a cameo appearance in the U.S. TV series The Good Wife. But they got the CSE badge wrong (HT to Justin Ling).



- Jordan Pearson & Justin Ling, "Exclusive: How Canadian Police Intercept and Read Encrypted BlackBerry Messages," Motherboard, 14 April 2016. See also Justin Ling & Jordan Pearson, "Exclusive: Canadian Police Obtained BlackBerry’s Global Decryption Key," Vice News, 14 April 2016; Jordan Pearson, "Canada Desperately Needs to Have a Public Debate About Encryption," Motherboard, 14 April 2016; and Justin Ling, "BlackBerry's CEO Won’t Answer Media Calls, Instead He Blogged About Cooperating With Canadian Cops," Vice News, 18 April 2016. Chen's blog post. CSE's March 2011 warning on the (in)security of Blackberry PIN-to-PIN messaging. Chris Parsons on the vulnerability of BlackBerry messages.

- Ben Makuch, "The 'Darth Vader' of Cyberwar Sold Services to Canada," Vice News, 11 April 2016.

- "Spy Shit," Canadaland podcast episode 129, 10 April 2016. Matt Braga and Jesse Brown discuss "the Panama Papers, CSIS, C-51, and Ben Makuch's ongoing battle with the RCMP". Well worth a listen, but the statement (at about 13:50) that the CSE Commissioner has never declared CSE in violation of the law is not correct.

- Leslie Young, "Former CSIS head Richard Fadden says Canada could someday carry out cyber attacks," Global News, 6 April 2016. More here.

- Sunny Dhillon, "Edward Snowden's talk in Vancouver had an 'electric quality'," Globe and Mail, 6 April 2016.

- Ron Deibert, "My conversation with Edward Snowden," Ronald Deibert blog, 3 April 2016. Video here: "Fireside Chat: Ron Deibert, Edward Snowden & Amie Stephanovich," RightsCon, 1 April 2016. Interesting Snowden comment: "It's true, [CSE's] oversight is hideous, because it was never really thought about. But there's a reason for that. In my experience of the Five Eyes, the Canadian intelligence services were always the least aggressive, they were the least adventurous, they didn't really push the legal boundaries. It was difficult to target Canadians, legally and so on and so forth, for surveillance. And it wasn't until the recent government—I'm not Canadian so I'm not going to name [garbled], I believe it was the Harper government—that things really started to change and oversight became much more important because they became much more aggressive in a short period of time."

- Alex Boutilier, "Canada’s spy agencies looking to work together more, say top secret documents," Toronto Star, 2 April 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Government instructions to CSIS on bill C-51 to remain largely secret," Canadian Press, 27 March 2016.

- Jim Bronskill, "Federal agencies sharing information under Bill C-51 provisions," Canadian Press, 24 March 2016.

-Ian MacLeod, "Spy agency watchdog ‘in a difficult position’ with huge budget cuts looming," Ottawa Citizen, 24 March 2016. Possibly a sign the government is planning a major overhaul of the various review agencies?

- Colin Freeze, "RCMP, CSIS see no significant support for operations from federal budget," Globe and Mail, 23 March 2016.

- Colin Freeze, "B.C. multimillionaire pleads guilty to hacking into U.S. military for China," Globe and Mail, 22 March 2016.

- Kyle Matthews & Chantalle Gonzalez, "Our mission against ISIL has one major flaw — it ignores the Internet," National Post, 22 March 2016.

- Dylan Robertson, "Canada Doubles Spending on Counter-Radicalization," Vice News, 22 March 2016.

- Matthew Braga & Colin Freeze, "Agencies did not get federal authorization to use surveillance devices," Globe and Mail, 11 March 2016.

- Emma Loop, "The Drone And The Damage Done: How Canada’s UAV Operation Wounded Its Own," Buzzfeed, 16 March 2016.

- Karen DeYoung, "Canada to boost its advise-and-train mission, intelligence capabilities in Iraq," Washington Post, 11 March 2016.

- B.C. Civil Liberties Association et al., "The necessary components of an effective and integrated national security accountability framework for Canada," 9 March 2016.

- Susan Lunn, "Ralph Goodale says Ukraine cyberattack caused 'international anxiety'," CBC News, 8 March 2016.

- Alex Boutilier, "Cyber security review still in early days, Public Security officials tell Senate," Toronto Star, 7 March 2016.

- Peter Zimonjic, "CSIS head says new powers to disrupt plots used almost 2 dozen times," CBC News, 7 March 2016.

- Colin Freeze, "Documents reveal CSIS wary of Bill C-51 reforms," Globe and Mail, 3 March 2016. The documents.

- David Christopher, "Adopting the UK model won't be enough for Ralph Goodale to address Canada's spy oversight woes," OpenMedia, 26 February 2016.

- Editorial, "Give Parliament the power to scrutinize spy agencies," Toronto Star, 24 February 2016. Response from CSE Chief Greta Bossenmaier.

- Matthew Braga, "Why Canada isn’t having a policy debate over encryption," Globe and Mail, 23 February 2016.

- Alex Boutilier, "Canada’s spies expecting a budget boost," Toronto Star, 23 February 2016. More on CSE's budget here.

- Amanda Connolly, "‘It’s impossible’ to know impact of CSE metadata glitch: commissioner," iPolitics, 22 February 2016. More here.

- Alex Boutilier, "CSE can assist in ‘threat reduction’ without a warrant, documents show," Toronto Star, 20 February 2016.

- Daniel Lang, "Why don't we charge more people with terrorism?" Toronto Sun, 19 February 2016.

- Lucas Powers, "Apple's encryption battle with the FBI could spill into Canada," CBC News, 19 February 2016.

- Bruce Campion-Smith, "Canada’s spy agency CSIS gears up for expanded role in Islamic State fight," Toronto Star, 18 February 2016.

- Luc Portelance & Ray Boisvert, "It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security," National Post, 16 February 2016. See also Stewart Bell, "Canadian security agencies under strain while threats have ‘seldom been so high,’ former senior officials say," National Post, 16 February 2016.


Also of interest: CSE now has a twitter feed. Maybe this is what the Minister had in mind when he said he has "directed CSE to find new opportunities to communicate with the public more openly about their activities." I can't say it has done much to demystify the place so far. I have a suggestion that I've made in the past, but which I think bears repeating. How about reinstating the degree of public reporting that existed prior to November 2011, when CSE became a stand-alone agency?

Do "old" opportunities not count?


SIGINT history:

The word on the grapevine is that CSE, in a fit of brainlessness some time ago, destroyed the only copies of A History of the Examination Unit: 1941-1945, Gilbert Robinson's July 1945 history of Canada's first cryptanalytic organization. If true, the significantly redacted but still somewhat useful version released many years ago under the Access to Information Act, preserved by me and presumably some other folks, may be all we have left. I'd be very pleased to report that this is not true and the document does still exist in its complete form.

[Update 11 November 2016: I'm happy to say that apparently it isn't true: the history does still exist in intact form. Thank goodness! It would be nice to see a more complete version made public.]

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