Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spies need review

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Canadians have been told their government's telecommunications spies have broken into the computers of Brazil's mining and energy ministry. The revelation, on Brazilian TV, at least temporarily cooled the South American country's interest in forging closer trade ties to Canada, which has dozens of mining companies invested there.

Canadians have been told that the Communications Security Establishment of Canada's actions all have been legal, but hacking into Brazil's servers looks suspiciously like economic espionage, not counterterrorism meant to protect national security.

The revelations came in a documentary by a Rio-based journalist who was fed documents by Edward Snowden, a former contractor who stole secrets from America's National Security Agency. The NSA was shown to have amassed citizens' private communications. The NSA exchanges intelligence with other nations, which is how the Snowden files have pulled agencies in Britain and Canada into controversy.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has assured Canadians the CSEC does not target Canadians, in accordance with law, but when the CSEC's watchdog commissioner tried to investigate just that, he was thwarted by unclear or incomplete files. The agency's former boss, John Adams, says the CSEC should be subject to review by an all-party parliamentary committee. Sworn to secrecy but with powers to call evidence and question officials, it could operate like Britain's Intelligence and Security Committee, which recently said the legislation of its domestic telecommunications spy agency could use some work. Canadians need greater assurance, beyond "trust me," that its security agency respects the law. Prime Minister Stephen Harper should give Mr. Adams' advice serious thought.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 A12

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