Court says Canada spy agency illegally kept data

AP News
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Posted: Nov 03, 2016 7:59 PM

TORONTO (AP) — A Canadian court ruled Thursday that Canada's spy agency illegally kept phone numbers and email addresses of people they were not directly investigating over a 10-year period and wasn't forthright with judges who authorized the intelligence gathering.

Federal Court Justice Simon Noel said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service should not have kept the information since it was not directly related to threats to Canada's security. The data involves the phone numbers, email address or IP addresses of family members or friends of those the spy agency investigates. The spy agency called it "associated data."

CSIS said it used metadata — information associated with a communication, such as a telephone number or email address — but not the message itself. It said the program has been in place since 2006.

Spy Service director Michel Coulombe said they have halted logging, storing, and analyzing the data in question and said he "deeply" regretted the judge's findings about breach of "duty of candor." Coulombe stressed all data collection was done under warrant. He noted the issue is the retention of non-threat related data.

Canadian Public Safety Minster Ralph Goodale said he takes it seriously the spy agency was not forthright with the courts and said he would talk to senior executives of the spy agency. Goodale noted the laws that govern the spy agency are 30 years old and need to be updated to reflect new technologies.

"Justice Noel did not dispute the potential value of "associated data" to the important work CSIS does in this challenging world, but he could not find existing legislative authority permitting its retention and use," Goodale said in a statement.

News of the spy agency program comes as the provincial Quebec government announced they are calling a public inquiry into police surveillance of journalists amid revelations various forces in the province monitored reporters' phones. The province's two largest police forces said earlier this week that they had monitored the phones of six prominent journalists in 2013.