Snowden files show Canadian digital spy agency just as prolific as NSA

28 Jan 2015

New documents released with the help of Edward Snowden suggest the Canadian digital spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), is quite prolific when it comes to snooping on the world.

Under the codename ‘Levitation’, the documents appear to show that the organisation is not just limiting its net to the digital actions of those within its borders, but to as many as 15m uploads and downloads from free websites, according to the Canadian news outlet, CBC.

As part of the Five Eyes Aliance, Canada is privy to the goings-on of its four colleagues – the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand – but is rarely mentioned in the same breath as it’s the US or the UK.

The document obtained by Snowden appeared as a PowerPoint presentation in 2012 written by a CSE employee who appears to joke about the vast quantities of material they have to go through, including torrent files relating to everything including episodes of the TV series, Glee.

A slide from the leaked CSE presentation. Image via

 The document goes on to explain that at their disposal, the CSE could target as many as 120 websites, including the new defunct Megaupload, Rapidshare and Sendspace.

Once an IP address has been obtained, the CSE would then turn their UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to use the British software to allow the Canadians access to the digital footprint of five-hours-worth either side of their downloading of the file in question.

This information can then be used to track a Facebook profile which can give them a name and location of the suspect.

Speaking of the leaked document, Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto-based internet security think-tank Citizen Lab said of its implications, “”The mission is appropriate, but is engaging in wholesale mass surveillance the appropriate means to that end? Especially in the context where, in this country, you have very little oversight in any meaningful sense.”

Digital Canada image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic