THE BLOG

Harper Is Willing and Able to Keep Canada Under Surveillance

05/27/2014 12:13 EDT | Updated 07/27/2014 05:59 EDT
Daniel Grizelj via Getty Images

Do me a favour before you start reading this and grab your phone, the one bristling with all those programs and promise. Toss it in the freezer.

I just wanted you to practice some fascinating tradecraft which you can learn all about in Glenn Greenwald's new book No Place to Hide. The rest of the book is more terrifying than fascinating, however, as Greenwald lays bare the booming business of spying as masterminded by the United States and emulated, to a fault, by Canada.

In the fast paced opening pages, Greenwald recounts how he would hide his phone in the freezer to prevent the government from turning it into a listening device as he sought to bring Edward Snowden in from the cold with his trove of U.S. spy secrets.

You too may want to use this trick because it looks like we must all learn to hide from our government and largest corporations.

Yes, there have always been spies and espionage, all with the aim of stopping some calamity, the existential threats. But thanks to Snowden, the computer geek with the highest levels of clearance, we now know the U.S. has turned its giant spying apparatus on its own people.

We also know, thanks to Snowden, that the Harper government is a willing participant and keen to add to our rapidly ballooning surveillance state.

"Technology has now enabled a type of ubiquitous surveillance that had previously been the province of only the most imaginative science fiction writer," Greenwald writes in the book.

And future consequences may be dire: "To permit surveillance to take root on the Internet would mean subjecting virtually all forms of human interaction, planning, and even thought itself to comprehensive state examination."

There is the sentiment that these revelations merely show the government is collecting a lot of unusable data and, if you are not doing anything "wrong," you don't have anything to worry about.

That kind of thinking will only lead to more control and I don't understand why we should bay like sheep and accept it. It seems there is now a higher caste, formerly known as "public servants," that is suddenly allowed thought control over the rest of us schmucks, previously known as "private citizens."

Why do these Brahmins of the digital world get to decide, outside of the legal system, when people are doing "wrong?" And why are people doing "right," such as exercising their legal rights of dissent, being spied upon?

Emma Gilchrist recounted in a recent DeSmogBlog post how a "Victoria day like any other" radically changed when she found that she had been "vigorously" spied upon by Ottawa at her place of work, an environmental organization.

She found out that her organization, along with many others, where targeted because of opposition to the Alberta tar sands. "What kind of country spies on environmental organizations in the name of the oil industry?" she wrote. "It seems more Nigerian than Canadian."

We now know Ottawa works in lockstep with telecom companies to get information about the rest of us. But if you ask your Internet provider about this they won't tell you a damn thing.

Huffpost Canada News Editor Michael Bolen asked in a recent post why we weren't more angry. "The public response was positively sedate when news broke last month that Canada's telecom companies are handing over an avalanche of our personal information to the government without warrants. Within a week, the story was dead."

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, rightly, is challenging the constitutionality of the federal privacy law that allows this horrific snooping. They want parts of the law struck down as "an unconstitutional violation of the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure."

In the U.S. anger is rising, so much so that a rare bipartisan bill just passed the House of Representatives to limit spying on American citizens. The bill falls short but there is hope it can be toughened in the Senate.

Are we getting similar relief in Canada? Well, no, the Harper government is pushing through a new bill that seeks to add a sneaky legal sheen to all this spying. It's so bad even Stockwell Day, a former conservative leader, is speaking out against it.

What to do? Here is an idea. Remember your phone in the freezer? Grab it, search for the coordinates of your member of parliament. Call or write but tell your "public" representative that you ain't going to take this anymore. Canada -- it's time.

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