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CSEC tracked travellers using Wi-Fi at major Canadian airport: report

WATCH: A leaked document reveals CSECs plan to track the cellphone and computers of thousands of people passing through Canadian airports. Mike Le Couteur reports.

TORONTO – Government officials reportedly tracked the wireless devices of travellers who used free wireless service provided at a major Canadian airport.

The revelations are allegedly contained within top-secret documents whistleblower Edward Snowden released to reporter Glenn Greenwald.

Ronald Deibert, the director of Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, looked at the documents for a CBC report and suggests government tracking of data at a major Canadian airport may violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The other Canadian revelations from Edward Snowden that have come out so far were interesting and remarkable in many ways, but they didn’t rise to the level of issues around lawfulness; however, this one clearly does,” he said in an interview with Global News on Friday. “What’s presented in [the] document[s] is hard to look at it and not see how it wouldn’t be a violation CSEC’s mandates and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
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The documents allege that the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) was given information retrieved from wireless devices using an airport’s wireless network over a two-week period. The specific airport however is not named.

The CSEC’s mandate includes monitoring foreign computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic of people, states, organizations and terrorist groups for information of interest to Canada. The agency is not supposed to be spying on Canadians.

Read More: Advocacy group says Stephen Harper must address online surveillance

The documents further claims CSEC was able track those same travellers for over a week as they popped up on wireless networks across Canada.


Watch the video above: Opposition MPs grill Minister of Defence over CSEC allegations.

But Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, whose portfolio includes CSEC, said it was made clear to CBC that the Canadians’ communications were not targeted, collected or used as part of the project.

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A statement from CSEC provided to Global News Friday said the document provided to CBC was a technical presentation on mathematical models used to track and locate “foreign terrorist threats.” But at no time, CSEC said in a statement, were “Canadian or foreign travelers tracked.”

“No Canadian communications were, or are, targeted, collected or used. All CSE activities include measures to protect the privacy of Canadians,” the statement read.

“CSE’s activities, including the collection and analysis of metadata, are authorized under the National Defence Act, section 273.64. Our activities are further guided by a robust framework of Ministerial Directives and operational policies.”

The information was tracked as part of a pilot project done with the American National Security Agency (NSA), according to the document. CSEC reportedly tracked metadata such as the location and telephone numbers of calls made and received, but not the content of those calls.

A CSEC statement provided to CBC would not confirm nor deny the report.

Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian told the CBC that CSEC’s alleged activity “resembles the activities of a totalitarian state.”

Read More: Canada played central role in NSA attempt to crack secure web data

And Deibert said it’s not realistic to think you “can ever escape from this ecosystem that we live in.”

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“The fact of the matter is that wherever we go we leave a digital trail behind us – from our mobile phones, this telephone call that we are engaged in right now is using metadata that the phone numbers on either end, the length of the call once it’s done, and the geolocation of where you are and where I am as we engage in this conversation,” he said in a telephone interview Friday.

Read More: Obama orders changes to NSA programs

The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), which oversees operations at Pearson international Airport, declined an interview request by Global News but did say in a written statement that the GTAA “does not collect information or data transmitted” and that its free wireless service is provided by a third-party, Boingo.

“The only data the GTAA receives from Boingo is aggregate information about bandwidth usage at our facility for billing purposes,” the statement reads. “We are not aware of any requests to the GTAA from any Canadian intelligence agencies for specific data related to wireless.”

With files from Nicole Bogart and The Canadian Press

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