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US Spied During G20 Toronto Summit Based on Snowden Docs

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US Spied During G20 Toronto Summit Based on Snowden Docs

world leaders at g20 summit toronto

Just when we thought there could not possibly be any more revelations in 2013 related to NSA snooping, fresh reports about US government surveillance on foreign soil have emerged. The story that the National Security Agency was spying on the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010 has renewed calls for greater scrutiny of the NSA’s domestic counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

The revelations have been leaked by, you guessed it, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) cited secret documents released by Snowden, which revealed that the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government allowed the NSA to conduct a six-day operation. The report alleges that the NSA turned the American embassy in Ottawa into a security command post to spy on dozens of delegates that congregated at the 2010 summit.

According to the report, the NSA’s operations during the Ottawa summit were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner”.

Canada’s Role

Both the US federal government and the CSEC are refusing to explain the role Canada played in the monitoring of communications at the summit. The agencies are also refusing to explain whether the targets of the operation were the world leaders attending, anti-globalization demonstrators, or anyone else involved in the G20 Toronto summit.

“We do not comment on operational matters related to national security,” Jason MacDonald, Harper’s director of communications, told the Star. He added:

“Our security organisations have independent oversight mechanisms to ensure that they fulfil their mandate in accordance with the law.”

Lauri Sullivan, a spokesperson for the CSEC said that the agency does not spy on Canadians, stating: “Under law, CSEC does not target Canadians anywhere or any person in Canada through its foreign intelligence activities.”

The documents are stamped “Top Secret”. While little detail has been released about the wording of the documents, it is reported that they provide proof that Canada allowed the NSA to conduct widespread surveillance during the 2010 summit.

It is important to note that the CBC report was partly written by the former Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald was the journalist responsible for breaking the Snowden leaks earlier this year. The report claims that the operation was no secret to Canadian authorities. The story said that the documents did not reveal the targets of the operation. It did, however, describe part of the NSA’s mandate at the 2010 summit as “providing support to policymakers”.

The CSEC is Canada’s equivalent to the United State’s NSA. It was established in 1941 as a civilian organization. The agency operates within all Canadian laws, including the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act and the Criminal Code.

In 2001, the CSEC’s existence was, according to its website, “enshrined in legislation” with the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The mission of the agency is:

“To provide and protect information of national interest, through leading-edge technology, in synergy with our Government of Canada partners in the security and intelligence community.”

The official CSEC website also states that its vision is to “safeguard Canada’s security through information superiority”.

g20 toronto

CSEC’s Public Profile

Unlike the NSA, which thanks to a string of controversial surveillance leaks is now a household name throughout the world, CSEC has a very low public profile. The Canadian intelligence agency only employs approximately 2,000 employees. This also contrasts to the NSA. Although its number of employees is official classified information, there are a number of sources providing estimates. For example, in 2012, John Inglis, NSA’s deputy director said jokingly, the number of NSA employees is “somewhere between 37,000 and one billion” and that the agency is “probably the biggest employer of introverts”.

It is also important to note that CSEC is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, an exclusive intelligence sharing alliance between the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Top Secret Writers wrote about Five Eyes Intelligence earlier this month.

The CBC report is certainly the latest embarrassment for the NSA as a result of Snowden’s leaks. It does, however, remain unclear what information the agency was looking for during the summit. The head of the CSEC is John Forster. Forster’s rather nonchalant and non-committal comments when he was pressed about the CBC report have been criticized for attempting to downplay the suggestion that his agency played an active role in the G20 surveillance.

“Under law, GSEC cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anywhere in Canada, including visitors. I cannot ask my international partners to do anything that I am not allowed by law to do,” Forster told legislators.

The non-committal response that did not state that Canada did not aid or enable NSA spying does leave open the possibility that the NSA had requested help from CSEC. It has also initiated criticism that this latest government spying scandal is using sleazy answers to cover up the truth.

Image Credits:
(1) The Prime Minister’s Office via photopin cc
(2) The Prime Minister’s Office via photopin cc

Originally published on

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Top Secret Editors

Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

Top Secret Writers

Gabrielle is a journalist who finds strange stories the media misses, and enlightens readers about news they never knew existed.
Sally is TSW’s health/environmental expert. As a blogger/organic gardener, she’s investigates critical environmental issues.
Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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