A new Snowden leak reveals that the NSA worked with the Canadian spy agency CSEC to illegally spy on diplomats attending the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010 (an earlier leak revealed that the NSA also spied on the 2009 G20 summit in London).
The leak is significant for many reasons, but especially because it adds to the evidence that the NSA's's bulk surveillance capabilities are an instrument of US trade policy, used to spy on diplomats from friendly countries in order to cheat on trade negotiations, winning tactical advantages through unethical and illegal means. It's the sort of state-sponsored industrial espionage that the US and Canada frequently accuse China of -- takes one to know one, I suppose.
Also noteworthy is the fact that CSEC is not allowed to spy on Canadians, nor on visitors to Canada. It may be that they circumvented the law by assisting the NSA to spy in Canada. Similar allegations have been made about the NSA and the British spy agency GCHQ; they are rumored to have an established process of asking one-another to spy on their own citizens in order to stay in technical compliance with the rules that prohibit domestic spying: "We didn't spy on our own people; we asked these foreign spooks to spy on them and give the information to us. It's totally different."
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On the eve of the G8 summit (taking place in a specially prepared Potemkin village in N. Ireland), the Guardian has published another Edward Snowden leak, this one describing how the UK spying agency GCHQ aggressively spied upon delegates to the G20 summit in 2009. According to the documents, UK spies attacked foreign delegates by "reading their email before they do" intercepting their BlackBerry messages and calls in real-time; capturing logins at special Internet cafes so as to spy on delegations after the event; getting NSA reports on attempts to crack Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev's satellite calls; and continuously logging and analyzing who was calling whom.
The report suggests that British delegation was briefed throughout, and that the operation was "sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown.
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A briefing paper dated 20 January 2009 records advice given by GCHQ officials to their director, Sir Iain Lobban, who was planning to meet the then foreign secretary, David Miliband. The officials summarised Brown's aims for the meeting of G20 heads of state due to begin on 2 April, which was attempting to deal with the economic aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis. The briefing paper added: "The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG's desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it." Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to "ministers".
Yesterday, Byron Sonne was acquitted of all charges against him. Sonne is the Toronto-area security researcher who pointedly demonstrated the inadequacy and incoherence of the heavy-handed, $1.2B security arrangements for the G20 summit in 2010. Denise Balkissoon has done some of the best reporting on the bizarre trial that followed (after Sonne spent nearly a year in jail), and now she's got good commentary on the acquittal:
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“Byron Sonne, you’re a free man,” said one of his lawyers, Joe DiLuca, as Sonne stood outside the courthouse.
“I can be a moron again on the internet,” Sonne said, as he ripped up court documents that listed the bail conditions—including a curfew and not using a cellphone—that he has lived with since May 2011...
Later on the day of the verdict, in Kensington Market, Sonne stood having a cigarette and discussing Anonymous and Gandhi with Alex Hundert, who pled guilty to counselling to commit mischief during the G20. “They took a somewhat radical person like me and said, ‘Let’s put the guy in jail with real radicals,'” said Sonne, who was not involved with organized activists in advance of the summit. “I’m not interested in playing by the rules anymore.”
Sonne said he intends to help non-technologically savvy activists learn to encrypt their computers and online communications. Police were unable to unencrypt one of Sonne’s hard drives, which led the Crown to argue that it must contain nefarious plans. “There’s nothing on there that wasn’t on my other computers,” said Sonne, who said he encrypted it for travelling over the U.S.
Twitter's #freebyron hashtag is alive with the news that Byron Sonne, the Toronto-area security expert who was incarcerated and treated as a terrorist for pointing out and making fun of the security flaws in the $1.2B security scheme for the Toronto G20 summit, has been found Not Guilty on all counts.
A moment of sanity from the Canadian judicial system, and all it cost was Sonne's marriage, house, and freedom.
Here's our earlier Sonne pieces.
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Denise Balkissoon reports on a new twist in the trial of Byron Sonne, the Toronto security researcher who's been trapped in a kafkaesque nightmare ever since he was arrested on a raft of stupid "terrorism"-charges related to his efforts to point out that the billion-plus-dollar G20 security emperor had no clothes. Denise writes:
Byron Sonne (G20 Hacker) case got reopened for 60 minutes this week, so the Crown could terrify us with the knowledge that he had more potassium chlorate than they thought. It was dug up out of his old backyard during a media circus last week. They said they were going to explode it, but it didn't explode, so instead they made a boring fire.
Crown Attorney petitions to re-open Byron Sonne trial
(Image: cropped, downsized thumbnail from a larger image by Tyler Anderson/National Post)
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Denise Balkissoon writes, "This is the last week of the trial of Byron Sonne, computer security consultant charged with explosives after the G20. This week, his defence called Fryderyk Supinski, who was a member of a hackerspace with Sonne. The two had planned on building model rockets together. Sonne is charged with four counts of possessing explosives. His defence is that he had the stuff to make rocket fuel. The Crown says that was a ruse."
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Sonne is charged with four counts of possessing explosive materials, which the Crown Attorney contends he was going to use to make the explosives TATP, HMTD, HDN and ANFO. On the witness stand, Supinski spoke about Sonne’s various scientific hobbies, including one that the two planned to take up together—building high-powered model rockets. The defence contends that many of the chemicals in Sonne’s home were purchased with rocket fuel in mind, and that Sonne stopped his experiments with them when he realized he first needed government certification.
Both Sonne’s defence lawyers and Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau zeroed in on logs of chats from May 2010 that Sonne and Supinski had on the internet relay channel maintained by Hacklab. In one, Supinski warned Sonne of the dangers of explosions when experimenting with engines. “Yep, that’s why I’m going so slow,” Sonne had replied.
Nadeau made much out of Sonne’s discussions about explosions in the public chat room. Sonne and other chatters shared videos of explosions at industrial plants—“around 35 there’s a great shot of workers in a nearby business catching the shockwave,” wrote Sonne about one—and Sonne linked to a clip from David Cronenberg’s Scanners, a science fiction with a famous exploding head scene.
The strange, farcical trial of Byron Sonne continues (here are earlier installments). Sonne is a Toronto hacker and security researcher who was arrested during the G20, with much attendant press about the "fact" that he had been planning to make bombs in connection with the event.
Sonne was left in jail for nearly a year before his hearings began, and his charges were recharacterised as "possessing explosive materials" and "counseling the indictable offense of mischief not committed."
Now the "explosive materials" question is being addressed in court. Sonne had a lab in his basement, and he was a gardener. He possessed many substances that a "bomb expert" from Defence Research and Development Canada called "precursors" to making explosives. They are also normal gardening substances, and/or the sort of thing that a model rocketry hobbyist (as Sonne was -- he'd been a member of the Canadian Association of Rocketry) would keep in neatly labelled vessels in his basement.
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No one disputes that Sonne had a lab in his basement, stocked with glassware and neatly labelled containers (see photos here). There was potassium permanganate, potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, iron oxide and zinc oxide. There was stearine, copper sulfate, urea, hydrogen peroxide and aluminum powder, as well as dextrin, sulfamic acid, hexachloroethane, charcoal, potassium silicate and sodium bicarbonate. Sonne had plastic bags full of wax shavings and PVC shavings, and a container of hexamine tablets next to his camp stove. There was acetone, methyl hydrate and hydrochloric acid in his garage. In his furnace room, he had an electrochemical setup where he seemed to be turning potassium chloride into potassium chlorate, a shiny white crystal that is, Anderson said, a well-known ingredient in improvised explosives like TATP (triacetone triperoxide) and HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamlene).
A civil charge brought by a man who was arrested on his way to church during the Toronto G20 has revealed that senior officers ordered Toronto's police to make illegal arrests during the event. The man was held for 28 hours, 20 of them in handcuffs. He was arrested by as many as 20 officers, who believed him to be suspicious because he was wearing a bandanna. He was also subjected to a strip search.
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The final report said that an unnamed officer with the Toronto Police Service wrote: “…we were given specific direction in regards to people that were wearing banners [sic], gasmask, goggles and that they were going to be arrestable or that they were to be arrested for Disguise with Intent, which is a Criminal Code Offense and as well anyone with a backpack was to be searched and if they refused to be search [sic] then they would be arrestable for obstructing police which is a Criminal Offence and as well as people, weapons including bottles and canisters of liquid were to be investigated and arrested for Possession of Weapons."
According to Wall's lawyer "the report shows that senior command directed officers to make unlawful arrests." “Wearing a bandana or refusing to allow police to look in your backpack are not criminal offences. We now have proof that many arrests were not the result of a few bad apples or overreaction by officers on the ground. The orders came from the top," lawyer Davin Charney said in a release to the media.
Here's a video of the interrogation of Byron Sonne (more on his case here) by Officer Tam Bui. Sonne is a Toronto hacker who was offended by the security theater associated with the Toronto G20, which involved $1.2 billion worth of "security" measures and thousands of illegal arrests and unprovoked beatings. Sonne is finally on trial, and this footage was released as part of the trial. In it, the officer spends an hour trying to get Sonne to admit to some "sinister plot" by telling him that his wife has been arrested and will not get bail if he isn't more forthcoming (Sonne and his wife later divorced).
VIDEO: How Byron Sonne Blinded Us With Science
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Denise Balkissoon continues her excellent coverage of the trial of Byron Sonne, the Toronto security researcher who was arrested and prosecuted (persecuted, even) after publishing material about the security theater entailed by the G20's $1.2B, draconian policing plan. As Sonne's trial progresses, the absurdity of the case against him becomes clearer and clearer.
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For those interested in the spirit of the law, the trial ranges from farcical to frustrating. Section 11 of the Charter guarantees the right to a speedy trial, and it’s already been 18 months since Sonne was first arrested. On November 17, Crown Attorney Elizabeth Nadeau requested permission to re-interview an explosions expert from Defence Research and Development Canada who testified during the preliminary trial in February. Nadeau wanted to ask questions about Sonne’s model rocketry hobby, based on a piece in Toronto Life (full disclosure: written by this same reporter). Spies became annoyed, asking why the Crown was mentioning this now when the article was published in the spring. She then sighed and began looking at her calendar. The criminal trial could be delayed until February, possibly later.
That model rocketry might explain the chemicals in Sonne’s house isn’t a new idea to the Crown: it’s what Sonne has been saying ever since his arrest. Most of the week was spent discussing when the accused first spoke with his lawyer. On the stand this past week, a number of police officers testified that Sonne was denied a phone call for hours because they didn’t want him to call an accomplice who would set off an explosion.
Back in May, I linked to the perverse tale of Byron Sonne, a Toronto hacker and security researcher who was caught up in the G20 dragnet, part of the overall campaign of illegal harassment, arrest and violence against protesters in the city.
Sonne's trial is underway now, and Denise Balkissoon is covering it in depth for OpenFile.ca. Balkissoon's coverage cuts through the legal complexities and tedium and gets right to the point, and is as good as courtroom reporting gets.
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This week, the Crown conceded that Toronto Police used a ruse in order to get Byron Sonne to hand over his ID on June 15, 2010. Sonne—otherwise known as the G20 Hacker, or the Anarchist of Forest Hill—had been filming the $9.4 million security fence that went up before the international summit. A security guard called the police, and three officers stopped Sonne as he walked along Temperance St.
One asked for his identification. Sonne refused, stating that he knew it was his right not to identify himself unless he was being detained for a specific crime. So, bicycle officer Michael Wong told Sonne that he was being investigated for jaywalking under the Highway Traffic Act. “This was simply a ruse employed to obtain the Applicant’s identification,” reads the statement of fact submitted by the Crown Attorney. “It worked.”
In Sonne’s preliminary trial last winter, all three officers agreed that none of them had actually seen him cross the street illegally. On November 10, Superior Court Justice Nancy Spies decided this ruse meant Sonne was unlawfully detained, and that his rights were violated under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.