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OPINION: Five eyes

Did you ever get the feeling you were being watched? I was chatting with my fellow conspiracy theorists the other day about something called Prism.

Did you ever get the feeling you were being watched?

I was chatting with my fellow conspiracy theorists the other day about something called Prism.

Prism is the name of the American data harvesting program that is used in the name of global security to spy on Internet users.

The U.S. surveillance program, established by George W. Bush in 2007, operated secretly until last week when leaked documents exposed its covert activity.

The program has been expanded and embraced by Barack Obama.  He reassures critics that people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from some “modest encroachments on privacy.”

The National Security Agency (NSA) used Prism and its data mining tool “Boundless Informant” to collect almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from American computers over a 30-day period earlier this year.

This was in addition to 97 billion intelligence tidbits lifted from international computer networks.  What was taken and how it was used are closely guarded secrets.

The U.S. government has launched a criminal investigation to discover how the classified information was leaked to the press.

Nobody seems at all concerned about the spying or the invasion of privacy but they really want to know who let the dogs out. 

It’s a matter of national security for the country and pride for the National Security Agency.

That’s why the NSA, in the name of global security, organized the Five Eyes – a group of nations (U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada) to keep an electronic eye on things.

Some say this relationship was created with the idea of evading domestic laws that prohibit national governments from spying on their own citizens. 

But since the Internet respects no international boundaries, information travels in a borderless, virtual world.

Member countries can ask one of the other four “Eyes” to do their covert surveillance for them. It’s highly questionable, but probably legal.

It would be harder to accomplish without the cooperation of the ­In­ter­net service providers – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, ­Pal­Talk, Yahoo and others.

The tech giants as you might expect, denied any knowledge of Prism.

However, the leaked NSA documents say this program operates with the “assistance of communications providers in the U.S.”

Clearly, somebody is lying.

You may wonder why Canada belongs in this exclusive group. Is Stephen Harper somehow involved in this scheme? 

Well, we don’t know because that’s a secret, too. However, here’s what we do know.

Canada accomplishes its Five Eyes objectives (secretly) through something called Communications Security Establishment Canada.  This agency has a long-standing relationship with the NSA.

CSEC is a rapidly expanding federal agency.  Its budget has doubled since 9/11. A new $900 million headquarters is under construction.

This agency doesn’t comment on its methods, operations or capabilities. It also remains silent about the activities of the other Eyes.

Some Canadians are nervous about an agency like this with very little oversight and no public accountability. My fellow conspiracy theorists and I are alarmed.

Right now 90 per cent of Canadian digital information is routed through exchange points in the U.S. For example, even email sent within Toronto is likely going through Chicago first.

Along the way it passes many checkpoints and electronic filters operated by a shadowy group of American spies.

As far as the U.S. is concerned, Canadians are as foreign and subversive as anybody. Anything we do on the Internet requires constant, covert surveillance.

But maybe, like many other bloggers and googlers worldwide, you just don’t worry about the Five Eyes or invasion of privacy or rights and freedoms.

You may prefer to let Harper’s government handle those for you.

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