Surveillance: Snowden NSA Controversy

The Snowden Disclosures, Glenn Greenwald and Canada

By Paul Rosenzweig
Thursday, December 5, 2013, 3:05 PM

In another forum, my colleague, Rafal Rohozinski, made some interesting observations about the Greenwald/Snowden disclosures as they relate to Canada.  Rohozinski was formerly a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center and is now a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK).  He is also the Founder of Sec Dev, one of the leading information security companies in North America.  In other words, he's worth listening to.  His views were sufficiently informative that, with his permission, I have reprinted them (grammar corrections are by me and noted with brackets and ellipsis, made at Rafal's request) for Lawfare readers:

Like most people on this list I've been following the unfolding disclosures by Glenn Greenwald from the massive trawl of documents pilfered by Edward Snowden.

Whatever you may think of Snowden, he made his cause and secured history.  Consequently, whether you think he's a traitor or not, he certainly someone who . . . followed his ideals and was prepared to sacrifice everything for [a] cause he believed in.

Glenn Greenwald is another story. At the very least, I would've expected someone entrusted with such an archive to ensure that the way it's . . . reported . . . is direct, honest, and used to serve the public good - a position that Mr. Greenwald fiercely espouses as a former constitutional lawyer. And yet in the case of the two disclosures that pertain to [the] Canada[ian] signals intelligence agency, CSEC, [I] found the reporting overstated, and wildly misleading.

For example, [consider] the disclosure th[at] Canada spied on Brazil's Ministry of [M]ining. The story was published alleging an active spying operation. Supporting evidence, the actual material obtained by Snowden, did not come out until much later. The "evidence" that it contains is circumstantial [at] best. It represents an analysis of how a collection/fusion platform could be used to map out the typography of a IP-based network. This is not 007 stuff, it is routinely done by companies, including ours, when we carry [out] threat/risk assessments [for] clients, which in our case include two of the largest human rights groups in the USA. There's one slide, at the end of this presentation, which incidentally was presented at an internal conference, which says that next steps may be working TAO and sniffing MX records - nothing, nothing here substantiates that Canada is *actually* carrying out an active collection.

The same thing applies to the recent story alleging that Canada was complicit with the NSA in spying against delegations attending the G 20 summit. The story was written and broadcast before any evidence was produced. When the evidence was produced, the letter clearly states that the NSA was acting in support of executive protection and situational awareness, and there was no physical presence in Canada. Moreover, the letter indicates close cooperation with Canadian authorities on the matter. It was routine, mundane and, [is] the kind of thing that happens every time the President travels overseas.

I find all of this very disheartening. I think there's a need [f]or [a] long-overdue debate that seeks to redefine the relationship between citizens and states in the information age. It's clear, that some fundamental rights such as privacy, and collective security need to be redefined for an age where many of the things that touch our everyday lives are now mediated in and through an environment that did not exist 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, Mister Greenwald is doing all of us a great disservice. Good or bad the Snowden archive is out there. The damage or liability to national security is done. There could be a positive spin to the story, allowing us to intelligently and more openly discuss how the state should adjust to the realities of the information age. Instead, opportunistic and misleading journalism polarizes views, and ultimately leaves us all less informed and hardened in our positions.

[UPDATE:  The post has been corrected to reflect accurately Rafal's past and present affiliations.]