Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper responds to questions as German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during a joint news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday August 16, 2012.
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Canadian embassies have been used to house equipment that collected signals intelligence as part of a U.S.-led spying effort, according to documents reportedly leaked by whisteblower Edward Snowden.
German news magazine Der Spiegel published a series of documents provided by Snowden, a former contractor of the National Security Agency (NSA), that detail a surveillance program codenamed “Stateroom.” According to Der Spiegel, the NSA together with the CIA placed secretive eavesdropping stations at diplomatic outposts to collect signals intelligence, also known as SigInt, on the host countries.
At U.S.-owned facilities, this was known as the “Special Collection Service,” according to the documents. However, one leaked page also indicates that Canadian diplomatic facilities were used and suggests that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) took part in the project.
The document also mentions the use of British and Australian diplomatic facilities. These monitoring stations, according to Der Spiegel, are concealed and typically placed on the upper floors or rooftops of embassies or consulates. The equipment is used to intercept communications, Der Spiegel reported.
“These sites are small in size and in number of personnel staffing them,” the document says. “They are covert, and their true mission is not know by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”
Der Spiegel notes: “The presence of these spying units ranks among the agency’s best-guarded secrets. After all, they are politically precarious: There are very few cases in which their use has been authorized by the local host countries.”
The documents were published along with stories looking at how the U.S. spies on European countries and specifically Germany. Last week, Der Spiegel reported they had documents showing the U.S. was monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.
The report caused a diplomatic rift and Merkel’s government summoned the U.S. ambassador seeking answers. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he didn’t know the NSA was monitoring the communications of allied world leaders.
The document mentioning Canadian facilities is a glossary accompanying a Stateroom guide. Canada and CSEC are listed in the definition for “Stateroom sites,” which are “covert SIGINT collection sites located in diplomatic facilities abroad.”
Canada is part of Five Eyes, the name of a sort of allied club of Western countries that has pledged not to spy on one another. Australia and the U.K. — the two other countries named in the document — are also members along with the U.S. and New Zealand. There’s speculation that in the wake of Snowden’s leaks, some countries — like Germany — are going to want to join the club.
As Canadian intelligence blog Lux Ex Umbra points out, a book written by former CSEC employee Mike Frost in 1994 alleged that surveys were done in the 1980s by CSEC to find Canadian embassies suitable for monitoring stations. CSEC has never confirmed that allegation and according to the Canadian Press, will not comment on the latest report in Der Spiegel.
Published: October 29, 2013, 4:16 pm
Updated: 2 weeks ago
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