Canadians will be Shocked by the Snowden Allegations about NSA and CSEC Spying (but not really…)

With apologies to Captain Renault of Casablanca fame, Canadians will be shocked, (shocked!) to find out that spying is going on in here!  Most of the statements that will soon emerge from pundits, the government and the media will offer  fake surprise and outrage.  But most of the statements will be simply hollow cries for attention to matters that have been long known, if not discussed.  (See the Captain Renault clip on Youtube at:

Mr Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has released a wide range of documents received from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has stated to the CBC that documents outlining Canadian surveillance practices will be published.  He points out:

 “There are many, many, many more significant documents about Canadian surveillance and partnership with the NSA that will be reported and, I think, will be quite enlightening for the people of Canada.”  “The documents are quite complex. There are a lot of them. There is enormous amounts of reporting to do in Canada, one of the most active surveillance agencies in the world, because of how closely they work with the NSA. (

Before the false outrage and political spin starts, let us look at what is already known. Then we can compare after the events to see if anything new has actually been revealed.   Among the most likely ‘shockers’ to be revealed are:

1.  The American NSA and its Canadian equivalent CSEC are hardwired into each other.  This is not just a sharing relationship, but a form of co-dependency.  (Canada has been in the spy bed with the USA since WWII and we are charter members of the 2-eyes, 3-eyes, 4-eyes and 5-eyes spying club. Anyone who thinks there has not been some fooling around underneath the covers after that long in the same bed is either naïve or stupid.)  

2.  The American NSA uses Canada and Canadian installations to spy on third parties when a status-of-forces agreement or some other diplomatic nicety forbids direct American spying. (Again, we are charter members of the post-WWII spy club and we contribute little in membership fees.  What we do contribute is allowing the other members of the club access to our party rooms.  This can be our listening posts in the high Arctic, or countries where we have embassies and access where the US or UK might find similar operations difficult or politically awkward.  On other occasions, Canadians can do intelligence collection almost in the open due to our low profile and perceived irrelevance in many countries.)

3.  Canada cooperates with the USA when spying on events such as the G20 or at the UN or the IMF. (See 1 and 2 above.)

4.  The American NSA is spying on Canada!  This means all of us and includes shared metadata!    (Really, are you surprised? Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the USA, one of its largest trading partners in both imports and exports and we at least nominally control part of the Arctic which is of considerable security and economic interest to the US government.  On top of that, we have the occasional political fit up here and threaten to break up the country now and again. Of course they spy on us, we are foreigners and what we do causes them actually concern now and again.)

5.  Americans say bad things about us.  (Again, hard to be surprised after all the bad things we say about our closest neighbour and best ally.)

6.  The NSA and CSEC are spying for economic reasons.  (Once again, give your head a good shake if you are surprised by this.  Money makes the world go around and Canada is more dependent on trade that most.  As well, many of our industries attract the attention of foreign powers which have interests in our resources.  Think potash, uranium and oil.  Think China and Russia.  Think Keystone pipeline.  France is also complaining about being spied on by the NSA, yet Air France in cooperation with the French government used to wire up business class seats in Air France aircraft to hear the conversations of their customers.  Captain Renault would be shocked!)

7.  The Snowden documents will reveal statements by Canadian politicians or about them.  (Excellent! This will be the fun stuff.  Various Canadians or those who work for and against us will be caught saying silly things.  But let us be clear.  Most of this will be valuable only for its gossip value or pure entertainment.  Embarrassing, but not damaging to national security.)

As for Canadian politicians, especially those in the opposition, please do not say how shocked you are about this when you used to be in power and had access to all of the material produced in Canada through this relationship.

If you want to raise questions about the morality, ethics and costs, then by all means please do so.  But it is hard to believe that Canadians will be aroused to activity now given that most of this has been known or assumed for years. 

Do we want our governments to actually spend this kind of money on spying on ourselves and helping our allies spy on us?  This is the question, but it will likely not be addressed in all the blather about being “shocked” to find out that spying is going on in here.  We are all Captain Renault!

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