CSIS gathered info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: Watchdog

Demonstrators protest Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to the now-defunct project. (Reuters)

Demonstrators protest Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver. (Reuters)

Committee concluded fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified

Canada’s spy service collected some information about peaceful anti-petroleum groups, but only incidentally in the process of investigating legitimate threats to projects such as oil pipelines, says a long-secret federal watchdog report.

The newly disclosed report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee acknowledges concerns about a “chilling effect,” stemming from a belief that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was spying on environmental organizations.

Advocacy and environmental groups Leadnow, the Dogwood Initiative and the Council of Canadians are mentioned in the thousands of pages of CSIS operational reports examined by the review committee.

But after analyzing evidence and testimony, the committee concluded the fears of CSIS surveillance were unjustified.

The heavily censored review committee report, completed last year and kept under wraps, is only now being made public because of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s challenge of the findings in the Federal Court of Canada.

In its February 2014 complaint to the CSIS watchdog, the association alleged the spy service had overstepped its legal authority by monitoring environmentalists opposed to Enbridge’s now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

It also accused CSIS of sharing this information with the National Energy Board and petroleum industry companies, deterring people from expressing their opinions and associating with environmental groups.

The review committee’s dismissal of the complaint has been known since September 2017, but a confidentiality order by the committee prevented the civil liberties association from releasing the report. As the association fights to overturn the dismissal, redacted versions of the detailed findings and related documents are being added to the public court record.

Info collected fell within CSIS mandate: review

The association, which became concerned about CSIS activities through media reports, told the committee of a chilling effect for civil society groups from the spy service’s information-gathering as well as comments by then-national resources minister Joe Oliver denouncing “environmental and other radical groups.”

A CSIS witness testified the spy service “is not in the business of investigating environmentalists because they are advocating for an environmental cause, period.”

Still, another CSIS witness spoke of the need for “domain awareness” to identify “potential triggers and flashpoints” — in part to ensure the service is aware of what is happening should a threat arise, the report says.

Ultimately, the review committee concluded CSIS’s information collection fell within its mandate, and that the service did not investigate activities involving lawful advocacy, protest or dissent. The report indicates that any information on peaceful groups was gathered “in an ancillary manner, in the context of other lawful investigations.”

The report also says there was no “direct link” between CSIS and the chilling effect groups mentioned in testimony before the committee.

The civil liberties association considers some of the findings contradictory, pointing to the 441 CSIS operational reports deemed relevant to the committee’s inquiry, totalling over 2,200 pages.

For instance, one of the largely censored CSIS records, now disclosed through the court, says the reporting was further to “the Service’s efforts in assessing the threat environment and the potential for threat-related violence stemming from (redacted) protests/demonstrations.”

Another refers to the Dogwood Initiative as a “non-profit, Canadian environmental organization that was established in 1999 ‘to help communities and First Nations gain more control of the land and resources around them so they can be managed in a way that does not rob future generations for short-term corporate gain.”‘

The passages before and after the description are blacked out.

“It’s our view that these documents demonstrate that CSIS was keeping tabs on these groups, even if they weren’t formal targets,” said Paul Champ, a lawyer for the civil liberties association.

“But we maintain it’s unlawful to keep information on these groups in CSIS databanks when they are only guilty of exercising their democratic rights.”

The committee report says CSIS should review its holdings to ensure it is keeping only information that is strictly necessary, as spelled out in the law governing the spy service.

The report cites “clear evidence” CSIS took part in meetings with Natural Resources Canada and the private sector, including the petroleum industry, at the spy service’s headquarters, but says these briefings involved “national security matters.”

The committee also concludes CSIS did not share information concerning the environmental groups in question with the National Energy Board or non-governmental members of the petroleum business.

Even so, the perception of CSIS discussing security issues with the oil industry can “give rise to legitimate concern,” the committee report adds. “This needs to be addressed.”

The committee urges CSIS to widen the circle of its public security discussions to include environmental and other civil society groups.

By Jim Bronskill · The Canadian Press 

[SOURCE]

Spy Agency says federal Trans Mountain pipeline purchase seen as ‘Betrayal’ by many opponents

An Indigenous man raises his drum above his head as he and others are silhouetted while singing during a protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in Vancouver on Tuesday May 29, 2018. (CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s spy agency says many members of the environmental and Indigenous communities see the federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline as a betrayal, and suggests that could intensify opposition to expanding the project.

A Canadian Security Intelligence Service assessment highlights a renewed sense of indignation among protesters and clearly indicates the spy service’s ongoing interest in anti-petroleum activism.

The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act to obtain a heavily censored copy of the June CSIS brief, originally classified top secret.

Civil liberties and environmental activists questioned the rationale for CSIS’s interest, given that opposition to the pipeline project has been peaceful.

CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti stressed the spy service is committed to following the governing legislation that forbids it to probe lawful protest and dissent.

“While we cannot publicly disclose our investigative interests, we can say that it is important for the service to pose important analytical questions on these types of issues, such as the question of whether developments such as the purchase of a pipeline could give rise to a national-security threat to Canada’s critical infrastructure.”

Earlier this year, Kinder Morgan dropped plans to twin an existing pipeline that carries about 300,000 barrels of bitumen daily from Alberta to British Columbia. The federal government announced in late May it would buy the pipeline and related components for $4.5 billion.

The government intends to finance and manage construction of the second pipeline — which would increase the overall flow of bitumen to 890,000 barrels a day — and ultimately try to find a buyer.

The CSIS brief characterizes resistance to the pipeline project as a “developing intelligence issue.”

“Indigenous and non-Indigenous opponents of the project continue to highlight the increasing threats to the planet as a result of climate change and the incompatibility of new pipeline and oil sands projects with Canada’s 2015 commitment under the Paris Climate Accord,” the brief says. “At the same time, many within the broader Indigenous community view the federal government’s purchase and possible financing, construction and operation of an expanded bitumen pipeline as wholly incompatible with its attempts at Crown-Indigenous reconciliation.”

The pipeline acquisition and commitment to complete the project is therefore “viewed as a betrayal” by many within both the environmental and Indigenous communities, CSIS says.

“Indigenous opposition at the grassroots level remains strong. In response to the federal purchase, numerous Indigenous and environmental organizations have restated their commitment to prevent construction.”

The brief singles out the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, noting it has signatories from over 50 North American First Nations in its bid to halt the project. It also features a May quote from Canadian environmental organization Stand.earth that the decision “will haunt the Trudeau government.”

The intelligence brief was completed a little more than two months before the Federal Court of Appeal quashed government approval of the pipeline project due to inadequate consultation with Indigenous groups and failure to properly assess the effect of increased tanker traffic in the waters off British Columbia.

In the wake of the court ruling, the federal government ordered the National Energy Board to reassess the tanker issue and asked a former Supreme Court justice to oversee fresh consultations with Indigenous communities.

The CSIS brief notes there had been “no acts of serious violence” stemming from peaceful demonstrations and blockades at Trans Mountain facilities in British Columbia that resulted in the arrest of more than 200 people, or at smaller protests across the country.

However, the document includes a section titled “Violent Confrontations and Resource Development” that mentions past conflicts over shale-gas development in New Brunswick and a high-profile pipeline in North Dakota.

It is unclear, because of the redactions to the document, exactly what CSIS was looking at, said Josh Paterson, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which has expressed strong concern about the spy service’s monitoring of activists.

In the information that has been released, there is no suggestion of a threat to national security or critical infrastructure, of clandestine activities or of violence in relation to the Trans Mountain project, Paterson said.

“While some opponents of the pipeline were arrested during protest for breaching a court order, that was a matter for police and the courts, and was done out in the open — it should not be a matter for our spy agency.”

Given past interest on the part of security and police officials, the CSIS brief is not surprising, said Tegan Hansen, a spokeswoman for Protect the Inlet, an Indigenous-led effort against the pipeline and tanker project.

But she is curious as to why the spy service document makes reference to sabotage and violent physical confrontations.

“I’m not sure why they’re trying to draw that connection with violence,” Hansen said. “I’d be interested to know. But it’s certainly not our intention to ever pursue violence.”

The Canadian Press, Nov 6. 2018

[SOURCE]

RCMP Intelligence Centre Compiled List Of 89 Indigenous Rights Activists Considered “Threats”

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

(A line of Mi’kmaq demonstrators and their supporters confront a line of RCMP officers on Hwy 11 on Nov 18, 2013, near Elsipogtog First Nation. APTN/File)

Rattled by Idle No More and Mi’kmaq-led anti-shale gas demonstrations, the RCMP compiled a list of 89 individuals considered “threats” as part of an operation aimed at improving the federal police force’s intelligence capacity when facing Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to an internal intelligence report.

The operation, dubbed Project SITKA, was launched in early 2014 to identify key individuals “willing and capable of utilizing unlawful tactics” during Indigenous rights demonstrations, according to the RCMP report, obtained under the Access to Information Act by two researchers working on a book about state surveillance of Indigenous peoples. The intelligence report was to provide a “snapshot of individual threats associated to Aboriginal public order events” for that year.

The report, completed in 2015 by the Mounties’ National Intelligence Coordination Centre, recommended the RCMP remove Indigenous rights activism from the terrorism-extremism umbrella and instead create a new category for intelligence gathering on the issue. The report also recommended the RCMP maintain updated profiles on identified Indigenous rights activists in police databases.

“I think that this is coming out of the fallout in 2013 with the Idle No More uprising and what happened at the end of the year with Elsipogtog,” said Andy Crosby, the Ottawa-based researcher who obtained the document along with Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant criminology professor at Carleton University. “This really had an impact on the psyche of the settler state.”

The researchers obtained the RCMP report in an Access to Information request package from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The RCMP did not provide comment on the report as of this article’s posting.

CSIS did not respond to a request for comment.

RCMP template for Indigenous rights demonstrator profiles

_rcmpthreats

Download (PDF, 96KB)

The RCMP intelligence report concluded there was no central organizing individual or group directing Indigenous demonstrations, but found instead a “loose network of protestors with affiliated organizations” that often reacted to local grassroots grievances.

The report noted there were “several influential individuals within the network, a core group that demonstrated a level of stability in their networks, attendance and organization of events.”

The intelligence officers who compiled the report found no “intentional criminal nexus” or “indication of organized crime exploiting the loose network associated to Aboriginal protests to pursue a criminal agenda.”

The RCMP’s National Intelligence Coordination Centre was designated to lead Project SITKA in conjunction with Community and Aboriginal Policing, according to the report which was finalized in March 2015.

SITKA was launched “as part of the response to reducing the threat, incidence and prevalence of serious criminality associated to Aboriginal public order, events as well as to protect and facilitate the right to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent,” said the report.

The beginning of 2013 saw the tail-end of the Idle No More movement’s most spectacular demonstrations and ended with a major flare-up near the Mi’kmaq First Nation of Elsipogtog in New Brunswick over shale gas exploration in the region. The anti-shale gas demonstrations culminated in a heavily armed RCMP raid on Oct. 17, 2013, of a protest camp near Rexton, NB. The demonstrations, which lasted several months, saw dozens of arrests and a highway blocked with burning tires.

The main motive behind the anti-shale gas demonstrations—fears hydraulic fracturing threatened the region’s water—is essentially the same as those of the current ongoing demonstrations in North Dakota. There, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fears an oil pipeline threatens its water supply because it will run beneath the Missouri River.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

Idle No More march on Dec. 21, 2012 in Ottawa.

In January 2014 the RCMP designated Indigenous rights demonstrations as a National Tactical Intelligence Priority.

Using internal files from its divisions across the country, information from other law enforcement agencies and publicly available data, the National Intelligence Coordination Centre created a list of 313 individuals who posed a potential “criminal threat to Aboriginal public order events.” The list was reduced to 89 individuals, both non-Indigenous and Indigenous, who met the RCMP’s criteria. The criteria was based on background, motivation and rhetoric “to have committed or commit criminal activities” in connection with Indigenous rights demonstrations.

It’s apparent the events of Elsipogtog weighed on the minds of the intelligence officers compiling the report. Thirty-five of the 89 individuals on the list were from New Brunswick. British Columbia was next with 16 people on the list, followed by Ontario with 15, Manitoba with 11, Nova Scotia with 10, one from Saskatchewan and one from Prince Edward Island.

The report also linked the majority of the individuals on the list with the Unist’ot’en camp in British Columbia, which is anchored by the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation. The camp has dug in over the past six years in an area along the routes of two proposed natural gas pipelines and a proposed oil pipeline. The camp sits about 66 km south of Houston, B.C., and about 1,000 km north of Vancouver.

The other groups linked by the RCMP to the 89 include the Defenders of the Land, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, Idle No More, No One is Illegal, the Manitoba Warriors gang and the Council of Canadians, among others.

The RCMP intelligence officers spent six months, from April to September 2014, creating “protestor profiles” for each of the individuals on the final list. The profiles included each individual’s name, photograph, alias, date of birth, age, height, weight, phone number, email address, affiliations, vehicles, history of demonstrations, ability to move across the country and “category of protestor.”

The RCMP has three categories for demonstrators: passive, meaning law abiding; disruptive, meaning willing to employ non-violent tactics; and volatile, meaning willing to provoke police reaction.

The profiles were filed into two databases—the Automated Intelligence Information System and the Police Reporting and Occurrence System—accessible to front-line RCMP police officers, analysts and other law enforcement agencies.

The intelligence report also analyzed the last five years of protest history for those on the list and found they were involved in 69 events, including demonstrations against the G8 and G20 and oil pipelines along with involvement in campaigns calling for a national inquiry into the disproportionate number of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

The intelligence report recommended the RCMP stop employing the language of terrorism and extremism to describe tactics used in Indigenous rights demonstrations that are “specifically criminal in nature.” The report recommended the RCMP develop a specific category for these types of demonstrations and targeted individuals to ensure “that peaceful and law-abiding individuals engaged in acts of legitimate dissent will not be investigated or analyzed for the purpose of identifying serious criminality.”

The report also recommended law enforcement brush up on the systemic issues that often trigger Indigenous rights demonstrations.

“Currently assumptions can be made for the causal root of protests; however, without a clear holistic analysis of root causes within a community, this will remain unknown,” said the report. “(It) is recommended that a holistic community analysis methodology be implemented in Aboriginal communities where the RCMP has a policing presence. This community analysis will not only provide information on where the next potential protest would occur….It also enables communities to actively engage, communicate and cooperate with police on a spectrum of topics and issues that have the potential to lead to grievances or miscommunication.”

Crosby and Monaghan’s book will be published by Fernwood Publishing.

By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News

[SOURCE]

Hearing Into Allegations That CSIS Spied On Pipeline Opponents Set To Begin

People gather during a demonstration against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2013. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

People gather during a demonstration against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline in Vancouver, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2013. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Globe and Mail

A hearing into allegations the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spied on people opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project will begin Wednesday in downtown Vancouver – and two of the people who will testify say the allegations have had a chilling effect on environmental advocates.

The BC Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees CSIS, in February of last year. The civil liberties association alleged that CSIS spied on community groups and First Nations opposed to the pipeline, and that CSIS then shared at least some of that information with the National Energy Board and the oil industry.

Josh Paterson, the civil liberties association’s executive director, in an interview Tuesday said it is illegal for CSIS to gather intelligence on law-abiding groups. He said documents released through Freedom of Information indicate CSIS was spying on people who were acting in an entirely peaceful manner – such as those who met in a church basement to paint signs and even a First Nations basketball tournament.

“What we’re going to see through the evidence in the next few days is that the effect of finding out that you’re being spied on, and that others are being spied on, is to turn people off from being engaged,” he said. “There are literally people who decided not to get involved, not to volunteer, not to come out to a meeting because they were concerned about being watched. That is a huge problem. We think it’s a violation of people’s freedom.”

The hearing is expected to run for three days and is not open to the public. Mr. Paterson will testify, as will Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC’s campaigns director.

Sierra Club BC was one of the organizations alleged in media reports to have been spied on during meetings and other events. Dogwood Initiative and ForestEthics Advocacy were among the others.

Ms. Vernon, in an interview, asked how speaking out for the environment could brand a person an enemy of the state.

She said the spying allegations were a serious concern and Sierra Club BC secured its online server as best it could. Ms. Vernon said fear they were being monitored also caused staff, at times, to lose their focus.

“The question being asked organizationally changed from ‘What’s the best thing for the environment?’ to ‘Will this make us vulnerable in the eyes of the federal government?’” she said.

Ms. Vernon said staff would at times grow paranoid, such as when a new volunteer came through.

She, like Mr. Paterson, said the allegations turned some people off from participating altogether.

“Some people, not everybody, are perhaps more reluctant to sign a petition or to go to a rally or to get involved in something, for fear of being put on some unknown list and being monitored,” she said. “There’s definitely a lot of talk out there. That seems like it’s potentially making it harder for us to do our work of raising awareness of these important environmental issues.”

The Security Intelligence Review Committee did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

CSIS also did not respond. When the complaint was first filed, a CSIS spokesperson said the agency does not comment on specific complaints. However, the spokesperson added that “CSIS investigates – and advises government on – threats to national security, and that does not include peaceful protest and dissent.”

The BC Civil Liberties Association has also filed a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP and alleged it, too, was involved in spying on environmental advocates.

Source: http://fw.to/YwyHzXC