NSA and Canadian spooks illegally spied on diplomats at Toronto G20 summit

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."

Read the rest

Snowden leak: How UK spies attacked delegations to the 2009 G20


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.


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".

According to the material seen by the Guardian, GCHQ generated this product by attacking both the computers and the telephones of delegates.

One document refers to a tactic which was "used a lot in recent UK conference, eg G20". The tactic, which is identified by an internal codeword which the Guardian is not revealing, is defined in an internal glossary as "active collection against an email account that acquires mail messages without removing them from the remote server". A PowerPoint slide explains that this means "reading people's email before/as they do".

The same document also refers to GCHQ, MI6 and others setting up internet cafes which "were able to extract key logging info, providing creds for delegates, meaning we have sustained intelligence options against them even after conference has finished". This appears to be a reference to acquiring delegates' online login details.

Another document summarises a sustained campaign to penetrate South African computers, recording that they gained access to the network of their foreign ministry, "investigated phone lines used by High Commission in London" and "retrieved documents including briefings for South African delegates to G20 and G8 meetings". (South Africa is a member of the G20 group and has observer status at G8 meetings.)

I love that BlackBerrys are singled out as especially easy to intercept, something that is widely rumored. The entire piece is amazing, with specific revelations of spying. I'd love to know what the G8 delegations are making of all this as they head to NI. Perhaps GCHQ could tell us?

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits [Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball/The Guardian]

Sealed evidence from the Byron Sonne trial

Denise Balkisoon, who did a great job covering the Byron Sonne trial writes, "If you're not tired of G20 hacker/accused bomber Byron Sonne yet, the details of his pre-trial are now no longer under publication ban. I'm doing two posts on Open File with details, this is the first. Includes the police statement as to why they lied about his jaywalking to get his ID: 'If he didn't do anything wrong, why wouldn't he give me his name?,' said officer Euane Simon. 'An ordinary person would not be that defensive.'

Sonne, of course, was Toronto's "G20 hacker," a security expert whose life was destroyed by Toronto cops and the Canadian prosecutor when he pointed out the stupidity of the $1.2B G20 security theater.

Witness: Officer Irvin Albrecht, forensic identification officer
Albrecht presented videos and photos from the search of Sonne’s then-home at 58 Elderwood Drive. He noted, among other things, “computer hacker convention passes” on lanyards. He also noted a “suspected homemade detonator,” a device that figured highly in Sonne’s two denials of bail.

“How was that identified as such?” asked Peter Copeland, another of Sonne’s lawyers.

Albrecht said that he identified the “detonator” during his initial walk through the scene with a Sergeant Gibson. He also “came across similar looking items” in his later reading.

Later, Gavin Edison of the Centre for Forensic Sciences identified the “suspected homemade detonator” as a thermocouple, otherwise known as a fancy thermometer.

Witness: Corporal Richard Plume, RCMP
Searched Sonne’s parents cottage in Midland. He turned the compressed air “potato cannons” that earned Sonne a dangerous weapons charge over to the Guns and Gangs task force. Plume and others shot wadded up paper towels out of the cannons in the Guns and Gangs parking lot.

What we couldn't say about the Byron Sonne trial, Part I (Thanks, Denise!)

Reflections on the acquittal of Byron Sonne

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:

“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. border. “But it’s good to know that the technology works.”

Sonne aims to get back the computer security certification that was suspended during his arrest, and wants to start rebuilding his professional network.

Sounds like he needs a job. Toronto-area readers, take note!

Here's our previous Sonne posts.

Byron Sonne, found not guilty on all charges, has plans for the future (Thanks, Denise!)

Police loom over Byron Sonne's victory party

Uh-oh. A tweet from Toronto notes that weirdly, there are 4 cop cars outside #hacklabto as they are having a party for #freebyron. HackLabTo is the Kensington Market hackerspace that Byron Sonne (who was acquitted yesterday on all counts related to his emperor-wears-no-clothesery of the Toronto G20 summit in 2010) is affiliated with. Update: they're gone now. Cory

Byron Sonne is an innocent man

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.

#freebyron

G20 hacker: cops dig up back yard in space-suits

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 (Thanks, Denise)

(Image: cropped, downsized thumbnail from a larger image by Tyler Anderson/National Post)

Closing week of Toronto's G20 hacker trial: hackers love explosions

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."

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. “Does everyone at Hacklab like explosions?” Nadeau asked Supinski. “Explosions are cool,” he replied, pointing to the explosion segments on the popular TV show Mythbusters. “I have an interest in explosions.”

With final submissions, end may be in sight for Byron Sonne trial (Thanks, Denise!)

(Image: Explosion, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 36158213@N07's photostream)

Byron Sonne quizzed over saved tweets, goat avatar


Denise sez, "Update on the trial of Byron Sonne, arrested in Toronto on explosives charges in advance of the G20 in June, 2010. This week, the Crown pulled up information off of Sonne's harddrives, including tweets from Clay Shirky and Oxblood Ruffin, 50-year-old U.S. military manuals and photos of goats. Much time was spent discussing why Sonne used a goat as his username/avatar."

On Monday, Nadeau also pressed Ouelette for his personal understanding of why there were photos of goats (one labeled “drunk goat”) on Sonne’s hard drive, and why the accused had used “Goatmaster” and “Toronto Goat” as his online usernames. Peter Copeland, one of Sonne’s lawyers, objected, saying that Ouelette wasn’t an expert on acronyms. Spies decided to hear the argument as “voir dire,” meaning she will decide later if it’s admissible as evidence. So, Ouelette opined that “Goat,” stood for “Greatest of All Time,” based on his knowledge of hockey, nicknames, and Wayne Gretzky.

Read more about Sonne's kafkaesque encounter with Canadian law.

Miles to go: Byron Sonne trial Continues (Thanks, Denise!)

Was the G20 hacker a mad bomber, or a model rocketry hobbyist with a nice garden?


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.

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).

Most of these chemicals have multiple uses. Urea and ammonium nitrate are fertilizers, and police photographed stacks of seeds from Martha Stewart Living. “That’s the difficulty with a lot of this,” Anderson said. “It can be done with ordinary kitchen stuff.” Some have no explosive properties at all. Copper sulfate can be used to grow “beautiful blue crystals,” beakers of which were found during the search.

Anderson said that none of the chemicals had been combined—what he saw were “precursors,” not a bomb. Still, the expert was sober, pointing out that there were enough precursors in the Forest Hill home to make eight to 10 kilos of explosives, enough to “blow apart the back of a bus.”

Byron Sonne: the thin line between terrorist and gardener (Thanks, Denise!)

Report: top Toronto police ordered campaign of illegal arrests during G20


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.

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.

Man arrested during G20 settles lawsuit against police (via Reddit)

(Image: G20 Toronto, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kowaleski's photostream)

Interrogation of Byron Sonne, Toronto G20 hacker on trumped up charges for mocking G20 security

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

More absurdity in the trial of G20 hacker, Byron Sonne

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.

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. All of them also said that he told them about his interest in building model rocket engines.

Perhaps that’s not a plausible answer. It certainly wasn’t for Detective Tam Bui, who questioned Sonne at length both before and after he had spoken with his lawyers. In two interrogation videos taken in June 2010 and shown in court this week (one you can see here), Bui doesn’t accept any of Sonne’s explanations for the contents of his house. Bui asks about a white powder in the fridge; Sonne says it’s almond flour. Bui asks about a tray full of rocks and crystals, “that’s kitty litter, officer,” Sonne says. Bui asks about various chemicals; Sonne tells him that he makes model rockets and is an "amateur farmer."

Lies and Videotape: Byron Sonne trial continues

Trial of Byron Sonne, security researcher jailed for publicizing flaws in Toronto G20 security

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.

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. Next week, Judge Spies will decide if the Toronto Police also violated his rights when searching his home, seizing his possessions, or questioning him for 12 hours without access to a lawyer. Then begins his trial for possessing explosive materials and “counseling the indictable offense of mischief not committed.” I’ll explain that one to you when the trial gets started.

The ruse that violated Byron Sonne's rights