Socratic Form Microscopy

Public Safety Green Paper Comments (Part 3)

by Zach Jacobi in Politics

The Canadian government is currently reviewing the national security framework and is soliciting public comment. I’ve decided to post my comments publicly, in the hopes of spurring discussion and providing model comments for others to riff off of.

If you care about limiting government spy powers and government accountability, I urge you to read the Green Papers and comment yourself.

In Part 3, I cover Procedures for Listing Terrorist Entities and Terrorist Financing.

Procedures for Listing Terrorist Entities

Does listing meet our domestic needs and international obligations?

I noticed that the listing process doesn’t officially include an arms embargo, which seems to be required under UNSC Resolution 2253. I assume that the legislation listed as stemming from UNSC Resolution 2253 included an arms embargo, but it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to automatically forbid Canadian companies and citizens from selling any arms or military equipment to any entity listed through the criminal code.

In addition, I notice that there seems to be no provision for listing state sponsors of terrorism. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran do funnel money to various terrorist groups. While it would obviously be implausible to expect the Government of Canada to freeze and seize the assets of a foreign government, it may make sense to apply some of the penalties that are applied to other entities that support terrorist groups to state sponsors of terrorism, especially my proposed arms embargo.

The Criminal Code allows the Government to list groups and individuals in Canada and abroad. Most listed entities are groups based overseas. On which types of individuals and groups should Canada focus its listing efforts in the future?

There seems currently to be little effort put into listing state sponsors of terrorism, which seems like it could be a fruitful place to focus more attention. Beyond that, I would suggest that the government should focus on groups have some presence, be it recruitment or fundraising in Canada. If insurgent group Y in country Z has no connection to Canada, reviewing it should be given lower priority than insurgent group A in country B that raises $50 million from Canada each year.

What could be done to improve the efficiency of the listing processes and how can listing be used more effectively to reduce terrorism?

Applying penalties to state sponsors of terrorism sends a clear message that their behaviour will have consequences on the international stage and might be effective in reducing terrorism, especially if Canada engaged with our allies and raised a united front.

Do current safeguards provide an appropriate balance to adequately protect the rights of Canadians? If not, what should be done?

As I’ve said in some of my other feedback, I’m sceptical of any legal system that doesn’t allow the accused to see the full evidence against them. I think this is tolerable insofar as it affects organizations, but if individuals are charged due to their involvement with an organization that has been listed as terrorist under the criminal code, then they (and their lawyers) must be allowed to see all evidence collected against them.

Terrorist Financing

What additional measures could the Government undertake with the private sector and international partners to address terrorist financing?

Manual review is tedious, time consuming, and exposes personal information. On the other hand, deploying sophisticated machine learning algorithms that have been trained to flag suspicious patterns and trends allows for more terrorist activity to be caught, while, if done properly, actually enhancing privacy for almost all Canadians.

The government should partner with industry leading machine learning companies (such as Google) to develop algorithms that can track terrorist financing, whether or not the transactions are below $10,000.

What measures might strengthen cooperation between the Government and the private sector?

Ensuring that all measures taken are cost effective and don’t add undue burden to financial institutions will make them much more willing partners. It is much easier to stomach a secure government server on premise, running software developed by Google or a similarly trusted vendor with an excellent security record than it is to hire and train additional staff to conduct manual reviews of information that isn’t related to what the bank wants to be doing (namely, making money).

Are the safeguards in the regime sufficient to protect individual rights and the interests of Canadian businesses?

The current safeguards seem adequate for protecting individual Canadian rights. If more elaborate technologies are used to detect suspicious activity, any suspicious activity found should be only admissible in court for terrorism related offences. Bulk data collection for the purpose of terrorism reduction is acceptable. Bulk data collection in case someone somewhere may have committed a crime probably violates Charter Rights.

What changes could make counter-terrorist financing measures more effective, yet ensure respect for individual rights and minimize the impact on Canadian businesses?

Moving as much of the review process away from humans as is possible. It’s much better (from a privacy standpoint) to have a machine briefly review your data than have another human do it. Since machines are cheaper and don’t make as many mistakes as humans, this is a win for everyone.

Tags: canada, public safety green papers