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Snowden Docs Reveal Canada a Major Player in Global Spy Operations

Documents show Communication Security Establishment boasts vast array of cyber warfare capabilities, works hand-in-hand with NSA

The Tilley Building, headquarters of Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo:P199/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Tilley Building, headquarters of Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo:P199/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Canada's spy agency, the Communication Security Establishment (CSE), is a major player in global hacking operations and boasts a vast array of cyberwarfare tools, revealed in news reports on Monday, that rivals that of the United States' National Security Agency.

Documents initially leaked to the Intercept by Edward Snowden and now reported on in collaboration with the CBC show that the NSA and its northern counterpart "cooperate closely" in "computer network access and exploitation" of certain international targets. According to one document, an April 2013 briefing note for the NSA, targets are located in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and Mexico, in addition to unnamed countries allegedly connected to the two agencies' counterterrorism goals.

Another document, a 2011 presentation by a CSE analyst, outlines the vast array of Canadian cyber-spy capabilities. According to the CBC, many of these tactics go beyond hacking for intelligence, including: "destroying infrastructure, which could include electricity, transportation or banking systems; creating unrest by using false-flag —ie. making a target think another country conducted the operation; disrupting online traffic by such techniques as deleting emails, freezing internet connections, blocking websites and redirecting wire money transfers."

Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, told CBC that these revelations should serve as a "major wakeup call for all Canadians," especially as the country's parliament weighs a sweeping and controversial new counter-terrorism bill, C-51.

"These are awesome powers that should only be granted to the government with enormous trepidation and only with a correspondingly massive investment in equally powerful systems of oversight, review and public accountability," says Deibert.

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