Liberal MP tables bill to tighten spy agency's powers


Credits: Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


OTTAWA -- A Liberal MP has introduced a bill that would rein in Canada's secretive spy agency by giving more oversight power to politicians and judges.

Joyce Murray said Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which is mandated to collect foreign intelligence and protect the government's computer networks, operates under rules that are too loose.

She said the agency engages in the "widespread collection" of digital information "at home and abroad," and suggested CSEC is also catching Canadians in its net, despite federal rules limiting the agency's scope to foreign targets only.

"This loss of control violates our fundamental rights. (CSEC) operates too much in the dark," she said.

Politicians and privacy groups criticized CSEC in January when documents released by US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a CSEC pilot project that collected IP addresses of cellphones at a Canadian airport.

The agency defended itself at the time saying it "only directs its foreign intelligence activities at foreign entities" and that "no Canadian or foreign travellers were tracked."

Murray said the rules under which CSEC operates were created in 2001 and need to be updated given the advances in technology.

Her bill proposes that the head of CSEC submit an annual report that would detail the agency's activities.

The bill also requires that a record be kept of every request by a federal agency for CSEC's services, and CSEC would have to get a warrant before conducting any foreign intelligence gathering.

Murray's bill would also create a special parliamentary committee overseeing CSEC, and its multi-party members would require top security clearance and be bound to secrecy.

It is unclear if either the NDP or Conservatives intend to support the bill, which will only be considered in the House in the fall.

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