Stephanie and Craig are very pleased to welcome to the show Jason Besner, Director for Threat Assessment and Planning at the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, part of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). Jason talks about the Centre’s December 2018 report “National Cyber Threat Assessment 2018”, available here: https://cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/national-cyber-threat-assessment-2018. This follows up from an earlier discussion of this report in Ep 67. On the agenda in this episode, the Centre’s assessment of: cyber crime; threats to Canadian businesses; cyber threats and critical infrastructure; cyber foreign influence activities and the issue of actual cyber attacks, with impacts in the real world. Lots of rich material in here — including advice on how to avoid cyber threats. Thanks to Jason for walking us through this topic, and for becoming an INTREPID alum.
Stephanie and Craig have a lot of news to catch up on. In this episode, they catch up on developments in the world of terrorism and hate crimes, with a focus on several recent sentences in such cases. First, though, they talk about the Kingston arrest and terror charges for a youth, something that happened in late January. They then talk about the appeal in the Hersi terrorism case, the sentence in the “Canadian Tire” terrorism case, the “Your Ward News” hate crime conviction and finally, a deep dive into the recent Bissonnette sentencing (the 2017 Mosque shooting). They talk about sentencing principles as they apply in terrorism cases, and generally. And then raise concerns (and disappointment) with the way the court in the Bissonnette approached sentencing and the question of terrorism and ideologically motivated violence.
House of Commons Ethics and Privacy Committee co-chair Nathaniel Erskine-Smith took time out of a jammed schedule to talk to Stephanie and Craig about the Committee’s December 2018 report: Democracy Under Threat: Risks and Solutions in the Era of Disinformation and Data Monopoly. We talk about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica and AIQ scandal, privacy and political parties, foreign electoral interference and the way forward in addressing social media companies and their effect on democracies. Thanks to Nate for coming on the show.
In this second episode in the INTREPID “foreign fighter” special series, Stephanie and Craig focus on the legal issues. First, friend of the podcast, MGen (ret) Blaise Cathcart, Canada’s former Judge Advocate General, returns to the podcast from Nova Scotia to talk about the detention of Daesh fighters (and others associated with Daesh) by the Kurdish forces in Syria, and the application of the “law of armed conflict” (or “international humanitarian law”). Then Michael Nesbitt, from the University of Calgary law school, walks us through the various terrorism offences in the Canadian Criminal Code and how they might apply to the Canadians who return from Daesh. Thanks to Blaise and Michael for coming on board!
Stephanie and Craig are joined by terrorism researcher extraordinaire Amar Amarsingam, the man with more data on Canadian foreign fighters than anyone else in the public space. In this, the first of a special series on “foreign terrorist fighters”, we look at who the people were who left Canada to join Daesh; what has happened to those extremist travelers in Syria and Iraq since and what we know about those who are currently being detained by the Kurds; and what patterns we have seen with returnees. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there, especially on the latter issue. We try to drill down into the details. [This episode was recorded on Thursday, Jan 25]
In this special deep dive into the law of “entrapment” and terrorism cases, Craig is joined by his uOttawa law school colleague Carissima Mathen. They talk about police “stings” and the difference between the Mr Big confessional sting and the sorts of stings that may raise concerns about entrapment. They then discuss the rules on entrapment — there are basically three types of entrapment that constitute an abuse of process and will cause a case to be tossed. Then they look at how entrapment issues have come up in terrorism cases like Hersi and the Via Rail prosecution, before turning to a detailed discussion of the case that was tossed for entrapment: Nuttall and Korody. (The decision of the BC Court of Appeal upholding a lower court finding of entrapment was released in December.) They end with some thoughts about the implications of this decision for police anti-terror investigations — and CSIS threat reduction.
Stephanie and Craig are back for a quick podcast as they develop big plans for the next couple of weeks. In this podcast, we walk through Minister Goodale’s speech this week…which has some pointers on a couple of issues we’ve been discussing: cyber attribution policies (the Minister called out the Chinese Ministry of State Security); the scope of an expected new bill on cyber standards; and who is going to be the honest broker when misinformation happens during an election. And then we get into our marquee issue, for the real aficionados of obscure international law out there: is the former Canadian diplomat being detained by China in apparent retaliation for the Meng extradition proceeding entitled to diplomatic immunities — the answer is yes, of a sort. Finally, a quick talk about a breaking story: a permanent resident given permanent residency status despite security concerns.
We’re back with the first episode of 2019. Thanks for sticking with us in a brand new year. We’re using this episode as a catch-up on issues and stories we’ve been following, and things that have come up since our last update podcast. Here, we talk briefly about planned reforms of RCMP oversight; updates in the Huawei saga; the fate of the Ford anti-terrorism bill; Ralph Goodale’s December speech and the prospect of a new law of some sort on cybersecurity; the first annual report of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (now with the Prime Minister); what we’re looking for in the Peshdary terrorism case and the Huang espionage case; and some future-casting on election-related issues, with a final comment about the death threats being uttered by supporters of “Yellow Vest Canada”. Lots of doom and foreboding in this episode, but all done in good cheer.
TS/SI/CEO – Top Secret/Santa Intelligence/Christmas Eve Only. [BEST NARRATOR VOICE:] At the top of the world, in the frozen Arctic wastes, an oasis of Christmas cheer in Santa’s Magical Kingdom stands threatened. Dark forces lurk, as a stellar cast of Christmas villains — and Bob from Mordor — plot a massive surveillance operation targeting those Canadians on Santa’s naughty list. Can the Canadian security and intelligence community foil this conspiracy, lawfully of course? Gather around your earpods this holiday season for the first ever INTREPID Christmas Caper. And we will see you again in the New Year. Thanks for being our listeners in 2018!
We spend our pre-holidays reading, so you do not. It’s terrorism report day on A Podcast Called INTREPID. We circle back to the CSIS director’s speech two weeks ago to tease out the discussion on terrorism issues. Then we do a diagnostic of the 2018 Terrorism Threat to Canada report. We argue about it a little, nitpicking all the way, before talking about the “45 Day Report” on foreign fighters tabled by the government in the House of Commons, also last week. Then to keep things jolly, we dive into the new Canada Centre (against a lot of bad radicalization to violence things — it’s a long title) report on countering violent radicalization, but end with a discussion with Jessica Davis about the new, and unprecedented FINTRAC report on threat financing. This is our penultimate podcast for 2018. But we’ll be back with our “Christmas special” next week.
And on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, our government gave to us…a whole whack of speeches, studies, reports, policy announcements in national security. In this episode we start plowing through them. Today, we talk about CSIS Director David Vigneault’s Toronto speech, https://www.canada.ca/en/security-intelligence-service/news/2018/12/remarks-by-director-david-vigneault-at-the-economic-club-of-canada.html. We also walk through some of the things we drew out of the CSE’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security first cyber security threat assessment, https://cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/national-cyber-threat-assessment-2018. Finally, we decided that while we’re on cyber, we’d go Down Under, for a first impression of the new Australian lawful access law, designed to compel some sort of solution to the communications encryption issue and the “Going Dark” dilemma.
First, let’s make clear, Stephanie is responsible for the title of today’s episode. But yes, it’s the Huawei special. We do a deep dive into the extradition proceedings at play now in Vancouver, brought against the CFO of Huawei for some sort of alleged US sanctions busting. We bring in the big guns: Alan Kashdan, an export controls, trade and sanctions law expert from Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in Washington DC, walks through what might be at issue with the US criminal investigation sparking the extradition process. And then Rob Currie from Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law guides us through the, yes, very political extradition process. (Extradition is the most political legal process we’re likely to ever talk about on this show). Thanks to both Alan and Rob on becoming INTREPID alums.
Sound the legal geekery klaxon! Craig and Stephanie are burning both ends of the candle trying to stay up with Canadian national security developments. Like batters in a batting cage, they swing away at three new cases implicating either CSIS warrants or police “production orders”. And they throw in a Canada Evidence Act decision by the Federal Court updating the Canadian approach to disclosure in court cases of intelligence over which a foreign state claims “originator control”. This is the nitty gritty of national security law practice. If you get through the whole thing without yawning, let Stephanie know.
Well, the first report of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians is out. It’s on the politically contentious issue of “how did a person with a serious Canadian criminal record of political violence get into a diplomatic reception during the PM’s Indian visit” earlier this year. And assorted other issues, including whether there was foreign interference and whether the National Security and Intelligence Advisor should have briefed the media on the latter. Stephanie and Craig agree that (1) the report exists and (2) it is fifty pages long. That’s about it. Proving why we will never do a live recording, we were able to edit out about 10 minutes of “yes”, “no”, and “what about para X”, and “but there is also para Y”. This redacted version of the podcast preserves, however, our essential differences. Also, Carvin is an easy grader (can you tell who handles the tech and posting?)
As promised, Stephanie and Craig circle back to the question of foreign interference, elections and the new electoral law, bill C-76, with Craig’s uOttawa law school colleague, Michael Pal. We get into the weeds on weaknesses in the current system of electoral regulation, and where foreign actors may exercise influence. We then walk through changes proposed in C-76, designed to minimize any foreign footprint in Canadian elections. Michael also lays out his wish list of further changes he believes will keep Canadian federal elections free and fair. (We will be doing a least one other podcast on election law and foreign influence in the led up to the 2019 foreign election, with a special INTREPID podsight, to be announced)
Stephanie and Craig are back with a brief update on bill C-59 and its trajectory through the Senate. We then update listeners on the appeal of a case we discussed in Ep 48, concerning whether CSIS may conduct foreign intelligence intercepts of some sort outside of Canada. Then we get to our headline topic: security screening and clearances, with an eye to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICoP). This discussion is sparked by the alleged extortion attempt against Tony Clement, a NSICoP member, over photos communicated via electronic means. There is no allegation this attempted crime was aimed at NSICoP information. But this development has sparked reporting and discussion of how NSICoP members are security screened. The government is holding that information close to chest, but we walk through how we think it should work, based on the NSICoP Act, the Security of Information Act and the Government Standard on Security Screening. We also debate whether screening of parliamentarians to Top Secret should be as thorough as it is for executive officials.
Stephanie and Craig return to their re-review of bill C-59, as it wends its way through Senate. Today, they address the CSIS Act changes — and bring back Bob from Mordor and his merry band of plotters to play a cameo role. First up: criminal law immunity for certain approved conduct that would otherwise constitute an offence, undertaken by CSIS employees or sources in the collection of intelligence. Then: CSIS’s powers of threat reduction were a controversial addition in bill C-51 (2015), and are renovated by C-59 in way that makes them more likely to be constitutional and certainly less unbounded. Finally: C-59 creates a new system for CSIS to collect, retain and query bulk datasets, an issue that has been controversial in the past (because CSIS was doing it when it should not have been). The C-59 dataset regime places this intelligence practice on a legal footing. The result is complicated — but it is complicated for a reason. Your INTREPID team does their best to walk through the “why” and the “what” of all these powers.
The headlines have kept Craig and Stephanie on their toes. In this episode, they catch up with things that have caught their eye in the world of national security law and policy. On deck, among other things: The Ford Government’s “Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act” (probably best called the “Populist Chest-Beating Act which Will Do the Opposite of What is Intended”); progress on bill C-76 (the amendments of the Canada Elections Act that, among other things, focuses on election security); the question of whether Canada should follow the US in charging state-actors for state-sponsored hacking; and a bevy of cyber-policy developments. This is a full episode with a treat for everyone (and a very old, stale Joe Louis we found in the attic for the Ford government’s first foray into national security-related law). (We’ve corrected a premature upload with a missing edit — sorry for the glitch in the first minute or so for those who downloaded this within 2 minutes of posting! Our technical team has been fired.)
Stephanie and Craig were very pleased to welcome Toronto Star journalist Alex Boutilier to the podcast. Alex has been reporting in the national security space for a number of years — and most recently on right-wing extremism in Canada. His stories can be found here: https://www.thestar.com/authors.boutilier_alex.html. Alex sat down with the INTREPID team to talk about these recent reports, and to walk through the right-wing extremism phenomenon in Canada. He also provided insight into the challenges and virtues of reporting on national security matters in Canada.
So Stephanie and Craig don’t have a Patreon fundraising account or commercial sponsors. We are, in fact, part of Big Academia. Our day jobs involve teaching in two academic programs we adore — the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law (Common Law Section) and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. And those two institutions offer a shared JD/MA degree. So let us tell you about it, because some of you may be interested in becoming students in it. Everyone else, well, your Big Academia-sponsored crack team at INTREPID is back in the trenches with a new guest and new topic next week.