Canadian SIGINT Agency Illegally Tracks Nationals

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Courtesy: Edward Snowden via Glenn Greenwald

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 19 July 2014

On the 30 January 2014, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) had been tracking users of the free Wi-Fi services at a major airport for days after they had left the terminal building.

CSEC's remit, as defined in their charter, is to protect the Canadian governments' electronic information and communication networks and to collect foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT). It is forbidden, by law, to intercept domestic communications.

In response to the report, John Forster, the current Chief of CSEC said:

I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada. In fact, it's prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle.

CSEC also followed up with a written statement saying:

(CSEC) is mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians. And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata. No Canadian communications were (or are) targeted, collected or used.

Apart from the glaringly obvious fact that CSEC did target Canadian nationals for the purposes of the two-week test of its 'IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts' programme, as the CSEC document clearly states, and tracked their movements both nationally and internationally, they were careful not to acknowledge it.

Interestingly, what was not mentioned in the CBC report, nor the CSEC document, was how they were technically able to achieve this, given that mobile phone users may use a different SIM card,or even a different instrument when travelling nationally and internationally. Similarly, tablets, notebooks and laptops would invariably acquire a different IP address each and every time it connected to a new Wi-Fi node.

Thus, for the benefit of the uninitiated:

Mobile phones have two unique identifiers: one is the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number stored in the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card and the other is built into the hardware of the instrument, an International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. Both are required to identify and authenticate subscribers to a mobile phone network.

Given that most subscribers tend to leave a 'footprint' of numbers called or messaged, the task of tracking someone who uses different SIM cards or even a different instrument simply becomes one of 'what numbers were called or messaged' with a SIM or instrument and then 'what numbers have also called or messaged those numbers'.

Tablets, notebooks, laptops and other 'network' enabled equipments have a number of unique identifiers, the most commonly known and accessible are the devices MAC Address and its 'digital signature': a combination of its Extended System Configuration Data (ESCD) plus other hardware and software information that can be acquired using a network probe, regardless of it being connected to a network or not.

Similar to mobile phones, most network enabled equipments tend to leave a 'footprint' of where they have been even though they may not have actually connected to any network. Furthermore, while equipment users may use MAC Spoofing to hide their real MAC address, the device can still be probed for its 'digital signature' by Wi-Fi nodes when in range.

Returning to CSEC.

The fact that CSEC are in violation of their charter is nothing new, they have accrued a litany of challenges since Mike Frost's book Spyworld in 1994. More recently, in October 2013, the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) launched a legal challenge to their nefarious activities. The Canadian regime responded in early January 2014 in an attempt to defend itself, only for the CBC to file a report later that month proving their illegal behaviour. The debacle has since widened as a Vancouver based civil liberties group, BC Civil Liberties Association, filed a class action lawsuit in April 2014. As of May 2014, there are now three legal campaigns against CSEC's interception of metadata.

While the legal battle ensues it is worth noting that the real target of CSEC's IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts' programme is Canadian nationals, not foreign targets. That is, to track or trace a target that goes beyond the Canadian border would require the complicity of its SIGINT partners who may, or most certainly would not in the case of non-allied countries, have the capacity, the ability or the interest to mount an operation of this nature. The fact that the CSEC document focuses on national events, i.e. the word 'domestic' is used 6 times in the presentation while 'international' is used just once. Further, the document uses the pretext of 'kidnapper' as a target, mentioning it 5 times, but goes on to say on Page 26:

beyond kidnapping, tradecraft could also be used for any target that makes occasional forays into other cities/regions

That this programme has been incorporated in CSEC's tradecraft is not in question. The reason for the addition of this tool in their already burgeoning toolkit is not one of it being technically possible and so they should do it but one of acquiring the metadata to build a panoptical system of total mass surveillance. The fact that their partner agencies in ECHELON are able to do this in other spheres of SIGINT merely demonstrates that ideological psychopaths are contagious.

Unsurprisingly then, the irony of CSEC's motto is telling. In Latin it reads:

nuntium comparat et custodit

which translates as:

Providing and Protecting Information

Clearly, a more apt motto would be:

indicium furtum et abusus

that is:

Theft and Misuse of Information

There is no doubt whatsoever that CSEC, akin to its ECHELON partners, ASD, GCHQ, GCSB and the NSA, are intent on achieving total mass surveillance of not just foreign nationals but also of their own people. Their vacuous rebuttals, akin to the recent protestations of GCHQ and NSA, demonstrates a level of pathological psychosis similar to that of a psychopath.

Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.
Friedrich Nietzsche