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The threat of an informed public

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Greta Bossenmaier, the head of Canada's digital spying agency, recently appeared before the House of Commons committee on national defence. According to her newly released briefing notes, Edward Snowden's leaks about the Communications Security Establishment's (CSE) operations have "diminished the advantage" it has over its targets.

But thanks to his leaks, we know that those targets include totally innocent Canadians, and that's supposed to be illegal. So if the leaks "diminished the advantage" the CSE had over innocent people, laws and democracy, then… good.

The CSE claimed they've observed "foreign targets discussing changes to their communications security as a result of the disclosures." Unfortunately, Bossenmaier couldn't -- or wouldn't -- provide any evidence of that. I guess to be fair there were two pieces of evidence: Exhibit A -- shouting the word "terrorism," and Exhibit B -- several exclamation marks.

The briefing notes said that if MPs pressed Bossenmaier for actual evidence, she should say nothing. And she's allowed to say nothing, because parliament only has access to the information our security agencies want them to have. Our elected officials' relationship with our spies is basically a perpetual first date.

So because of Edward Snowden's revelations, we found out our spies were acting illegally which, in a healthy democracy, would result in punishing those spies. Instead, the spies are complaining that exposing their illegal activity was a grave injustice because, in their words "terrorism terrorism terrorism."

The CSE seems to view an informed public as its adversary, and until that changes, we should probably view it as ours. 

This video originally appeared in the Toronto Star. 

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