Saturday, June 8, 2013

E-mail from Toronto transits to Chicago before being routed back to T.O....expert

“There is no border. The way telecommunication traffic is routed in North America, the fact of the matter is about 90 per cent of Canadian traffic — no one really knows the exact number — is routed through the United States,” Deibert told the Toronto Star.

“Internet exchange points are critical — this is where traffic is passed between companies — and we have only two Internet exchange points in Canada . . . As a consequence, even an email sent within the city of Toronto most likely would transit to Chicago before being routed back to Toronto.”
Along the way, your Canadian data is subsumed through “filters and checkpoints, shared with third parties, with law enforcement and of course intelligence agencies that operate in the shadows,” he said. (from "Canadians not safe from U.S. online surveillance, expert says" by Mitch Potter and Michelle Shephard,Toronto Star, June 7, 2013, below)
In many senses, the globe is becoming more porous, with respect to national boundaries, and thereby subject to abuse by those out front of the political systems' capacity to keep pace with technology, as 'globalization' in the markets renders workers vulnerable in too many countries, while governments paradoxically, over-reach in their attempt to "protect" their citizens from terrorism.
Privacy, traditionally linked to inividual freedom and human rights, is a very abstract notion, especially when meta-data becomes the mine from which "intelligence" as defence is obtained. And of course, individual privacy is not considered by most citizens in "liberal democracies" where governments have traditionally accepted the legal principal that caution and oversight were required to 'invade' an individual's privacym for example, where criminal activity was suspected by law enforcement and a judge concurred, and a search warrant was issued.
It is not only what the U.S. and other governments are doing to "protect" their citizens, it is also the degree to which those governments go to educate their respective public's about the oversights that are embedded in their "intelligence surveillance" operations that matters.
At a time when trust in all instiutions, especially governments, is at an all-time low, (in Canada the secrecy of the Harper government would likely upstage the FBI, if we were to learn the full extent of their muzzle on information) governments in the U.S., U.K. Australia, New Zealand and Canada (the Five Eyes referred to in the Potter/Hepburn story) have to accept a higher standard of transparency and accountability given the history and tradition of all five of those countries to protect individual liberty and privacy.
Huxley's "Brave New World" where Big Brother is watching, is already here in terms of available technology for snooping on individuals...yet the protective shield that is needed for individuals to live their lives in some tranquillity without fear  of their own government either is not yet established or is already too late to provide the degree of protection that most would consider appropriate.
Abuses by law enforcement and by the military in liberal democracies are not only growing in frequency, but also in complexity. Why would a normal citizen not suspect that similar "government agencies" like those in national security would not also over-step in their exuberance to perform their assigned duties, and thereby cast a long shadow of suspicion on the extent to which national security would, on the ground, trump individual privacy and personal freedom?
We all know that those making the laws are in the dark about these matters to at least the same degree as their public, and therefore have to rely on their experts, like Professor Deibert. The difference between the U.S. and Canada, on this score, however, is that Deibert teaches at the University of Toronto and is not a full-time employee of the national security establishment of Canada. It is from those duly employed experts that the U.S. government will be seeking a securing input, and the presentation of such professional advice and guidance will, necessarily, be shifted in favour of the national security apparatus...there is no lobby inside the government for the ordinary people....that is why elections are coming to matter more now than in the past.
And it is also why ordinary people are no longer 'merely voters' who can be ignored for a government's term and then pandered to at election time. Ordinary people are the leaven that keeps the bread of the body public alive, and the only way that such leaven can ensure that its legitimate boundaries, including the trade-offs in the invasion of privacy for protection against domestic and foreign enemies,
is for an active and informed citizenry to be educated, nurtured and sustained by such public and private institutions as schools, both elementary and secondary, colleges and universities, a vibrant and courageous press and an even more vibrant and "edgy" internet.
While there are many abuses of the digital media, there are also increasing instances in which the digital media can and does serve as the canary in the coalmine, by warning of the real and potential government over-reach, as well as corporate over-reach...as well as digital providers' excessive greed and over-reach of a different  kind.
Eventually we can probably predict that those digital sources that are without credibility will atrophy through lack of support, and others will find readers in many corners they would previously never have penetrated...and our hope is that such legitimate citizen probings will inform those responsible for legislation that preserves a healthy balance between individual privacy and freedom and national security intelligence.

Canadians not safe from U.S. online surveillance, expert says


Canadians' digital fingerprints are every bit as exposed to the watchful eyes of Big American Brother as those of our stateside neighbours, according to one of Canada’s leading cyber-researchers.
By Mitch Potter and Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star, June 7, 2013


Think there’s a Canadian border between you and the U.S. government when it comes to online surveillance?
Think again, Canada. All your digital fingerprints are every bit as exposed to the watchful eyes of Big American Brother as those of our stateside neighbours — and even more vulnerable, according to one of Canada’s leading cyber-researchers.
At least 90 per cent of Canada’s digital activity, from Facebook to Foursquare to basic email and beyond, is routed through exchange points in the United States, says Ronald Deibert, director of University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.
The borderless nature of North America’s online architecture means the vast majority of Canadian metadata is filtered into the same U.S. National Security Agency surveillance systems exposed in blockbuster stories this week by The Guardian and The Washington Post.
“There is no border. The way telecommunication traffic is routed in North America, the fact of the matter is about 90 per cent of Canadian traffic — no one really knows the exact number — is routed through the United States,” Deibert told the Toronto Star.
“Internet exchange points are critical — this is where traffic is passed between companies — and we have only two Internet exchange points in Canada . . . As a consequence, even an email sent within the city of Toronto most likely would transit to Chicago before being routed back to Toronto.”
Along the way, your Canadian data is subsumed through “filters and checkpoints, shared with third parties, with law enforcement and of course intelligence agencies that operate in the shadows,” he said.
Those filters include the NSA’s previously undisclosed PRISM program, which operates with direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. Internet giants, according to top-secret documents obtained and published by The Guardian.
The major companies named in the document all denied or downplayed involvement in PRISM, saying customer data is not provided to the U.S. government without legally binding court orders.
President Barack Obama also moved to tamp down public concerns, calling the uproar “hype” and stressing that the surveillance programs do not target U.S. citizens. Obama acknowledged “modest encroachment’s on privacy” but added, “You can’t have 100 per cent security and then have 100 per cent privacy.”
But Obama’s assurances do not extend to Canadians, Deibert said, because they simply hold the wrong passports.
“Let’s not forget, Canadians are ‘foreign citizens’ by the American definition. So we’re fair game when it comes to eavesdropping, should they want to do so,” he said.
Deibert, also director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies, lays his concerns bare in his new book Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace. And for all his criticisms of the secretive American National Security Agency, he is even more concerned about its counterpart in Ottawa, the rapidly expanding Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).
Formerly a branch of Canada’s Department of Defence, CSEC now stands as its own federal agency, replete with a new $900-million headquarters under construction next door to CSIS, Canada’s intelligence agency.
“Oversight of CSEC is really thin, compared to even the oversight that takes place at the (U.S.) National Security Agency,” Deibert said. “There’s one retired judge with staff that issue an annual review — and in all the years they’ve been doing reviews, they’ve never once found a single problem with CSEC.”
But the NSA and CSEC have a “long-standing historical relationship,” said Deibert, and operate today as “essentially twinned agencies.”
The two agencies belong to what is widely known in national security circles as the “Five Eyes” — the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada — all of which, said Deibert, function in “conjunction and co-ordination with the National Security Agency.”
Some speculate that Five Eyes was created with the very purpose of evading domestic laws that prohibit the agencies from collecting communications on their own citizens.
That tight relationship was recently strained with the case of Canadian naval intelligence officer Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle, who was convicted last year of selling Canadian intelligence secrets to Russia.
The Toronto Star contacted CSEC for comment Friday about its own metadata collection program, but received a boilerplate statement stressing that the agency is “prohibited by law from directing its activities at Canadians anywhere in the world or at any person in Canada” and “operates within all Canadian laws.”
“The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) cannot comment on its methods, operations and capabilities. To do so would undermine CSEC’s ability to carry out its mandate. It would also be inappropriate to comment on the activities or capabilities of our allies,” the statement said.
But Deibert argues that is simply not good enough, in light of this week’s revelations. “Canadians should know that we live in a borderless environment when it comes to North America,” he said.
The latest news about the NSA, Deibert says, will ultimately shine a much more intense light on how the Canadian agency interacts with Canada’s major service provides, from RIM to Rogers to Bell and beyond.
“The budget for CSEC has doubled since 9/11. And this has come at a time when the Canadian government is cutting back agencies,” he said.
“The key thing here is, Canadians should demand greater accountability. To be absolutely clear, we need defence and intelligence agencies . . . It’s not a question of that. It’s a question of basic checks and balances in a liberal democracy. It’s a question of preventing the abuse and concentration of power.
“And we’re losing sight of that in the headlong rush to secure cyberspace.”

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