11/28/2013 01:57 EST | Updated 01/28/2014 05:59 EST

Canada's Top Spy Won't Answer Questions About G20 Surveillance

News that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits isn't drawing a response from the defence minister or the head of Canada's surveillance agency.

John Forster, chief of the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC), and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson both pointed to international security and said they couldn't answer questions about top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents show Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government allowed the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S.'s largest spy agency, to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 summits.

The documents are being reported exclusively by CBC News.

"I can't comment in detail on the intelligence operations or capabilities of ourselves or our allies. What I can tell you is that CSEC, under its legislation, cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors to Canada," Forster said Thursday morning outside the House defence committee.

"We would only do so if we were assisting a law enforcement agency in Canada under a warrant, etc. To do otherwise would be against the law. Further, we cannot ask our allies to do any kind of operations that we ourselves are not permitted to do under law," he said, adding that the commissioner who reviews CSEC has found the agency acts "within the law."

'Required to follow law'

Forster wouldn't answer repeated questions about whether Canada would let its allies perform those activities inside Canadian borders.

"I do partnerships with the Five Eyes allies but I do not ask them to perform actions that is against the law for me to perform in Canada."

The Five Eyes is the name given to the intelligence-sharing partnership between U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson also refused to say whether Canada let the NSA spy during the 2010 G8 and G20.

"I don't comment on an international security operation but under the law, CSEC cannot target Canadians. They are required to follow the law of this country," he said.

"I look at the independent audit of this organization and they have come up with positive results in the sense that they comply with Canadian law and by law they can not target Canadians."

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