A chapter of the hacktivist group Anonymous released a document they say exposes the Canadian government's signals intelligence infrastructure, and they're planning to continue leaking the memos until police arrest the officers responsible for the death of a protester in British Columbia.
The document details previously secret details of Canada's spying operations abroad and suggests its spy agency is active in many more foreign stations than it has publicly acknowledged, "many of which are located in developing countries and/or unstable environments."
VICE News was unable to independently verify the document, purportedly from the treasury board, but spoke to three government employees who, while raising questions about specific aspects of the document, acknowledged that it may very well be real.
A video statement released in conjunction with the secret document also claims the leakers have evidence that Ottawa spied on the American government and that Washington retaliated with a promise to kill the Keystone pipeline proposal — a dramatic revelation, if true.
The Anonymous pressure tactic began after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) killed James McIntyre at a demonstration regarding a proposed dam project earlier in July.
Video of the aftermath shows police standing several feet from McIntyre, still wearing Anonymous' signature Guy Fawkes mask, as he slumps over, blood pouring down the sidewalk.
"According to the police, officers were responding to a report of a male causing a disturbance at a public information session," reads a statement from the Independent Investigations Office of BC, which has been tasked with investigating the police shooting. "Upon arrival, police encountered a masked individual outside, believed to be connected to the complaint. A confrontation occurred and the male affected person was shot."
Officers said McIntyre approached them in an "aggressive manner," and that a knife was found in his possession after he was shot. They did not, however, confirm that he was the person responsible for the disturbance, nor that he was brandishing the knife at the time of the shooting.
"We repeat our insistence upon the immediate arrest of the RCMP killers of James McIntyre," an Anonymous video statement accompanying the newly released document demands. "Unless and until that happens, we will be releasing stunning secrets at irregular intervals."
The document posted by the group on Monday evening purports to show a funding request from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to upgrade its security technology at foreign bases.
The office of Steven Blaney, the minister of public safety, would not confirm one way or the other whether the documents are real.
"We do not comment on leaked documents and we continue to monitor this situation closely," said Jeremy Laurin, a spokesperson for the minister.
If they are genuine, however, this vigilante group just published classified details of how CSIS deals with data collected on its foreign bases. Prior to this week, the Canadian public only knew that there were four bases — located in London, Paris, Washington, and Afghanistan — but little else.
According to the February 2014 memo, there are actually more than 25 bureaus, staffed by 70 employees, who treat 22,500 "messages" per year, although "this figure does not included [sic] the high volume of extreme sensitive traffic from the Washington station."
It recommends a $20 million (CAD) investment in upgrading CSIS' infrastructure.
"Currently, the Service uses inefficient and labor-intensive data-processing and analysis systems to process and report intelligence information obtained at its foreign stations," the document reads. According to the memo, much of the infrastructure dates back to the 1980s and that its slow speed and outdated systems could "jeopardize the the security of its personnel collecting the intelligence."
After the upgrade, CSIS should be able to share intelligence in "real time," the memo predicts.
The upgrade project would begin at two of CSIS' foreign stations, the memo says, and would later be expanded to all 25 bureaus.
The memo also sheds some light on the type of data that is being transmitted. "The Service reports to and advises the government on national security issues and potential threats. To do this, the Service relies on intelligence reporting from a number of of foreign stations."
A part of the upgrade would be with an aim of "increased information security requirements to address recent unlawful disclosures of classified material (i.e. Delisle, Snowden)."
Snowden, of course, refers to whistleblower Edward Snowden, while the other name references Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer who was caught passing military intelligence to the Russian government who later pled guilty to espionage charges.
The memo concludes that if one member of the Five Eyes partnership (Canada, Great Britain, America, New Zealand and Australia) is the source of a leak, it would have "significant impacts on how sensitive material is handled and protected by all Five Eyes members."
Some details of CSIS' work in its foreign stations, and the challenges of its technology infrastructure, has already been made public.
According to a 2008-2009 report from the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which monitors the spy agency, "traditionally, the primary function of each [foreign] station was to liaise with CSIS's foreign partners and to conduct immigration screening….Today, however, CSIS stations take on larger roles in these operations."
A 2013/2014 report notes "a security concern with respect to the protection of a communications network" during its review of one of its stations, recommending that the hardware be upgraded to address the security flaw.
If CSIS is, in fact, upgrading hardware capacity at these foreign stations, it would coincide with a massive new expansion in the spy agency's mandate. Until this year, the service was primarily a domestic surveillance body, with only a small amount of its work occurring overseas — at least, so far as they would acknowledge publicly.
Last year, Stephen Harper's government introduced bill C-44, which changed the agency's mandate to authorize it to work internationally, even if it ignores the laws of the country it is operating within.
Months later, Harper's government introduced bill C-51, the controversial anti-terrorism bill that would facilitate mass-information sharing amongst agencies — specifically, between CSIS and its signals intelligence counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).
The Anonymous video released on Monday also identified that surveillance legislation as a motivator for its campaign.
While the subject matter included in the memo appears legitimate, the appearance of the document led to some skepticism.
VICE News reached out to an employee of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the department responsible for receiving funding applications such as this one, and he had misgivings about the appearance of the document. The bureaucrat spoke on a condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
He noted minor discrepancies — the use of "Treasury Board of Canada" and "Public Safety Canada" in the memo, as opposed to the departments' official titles of "Treasury Board Secretariat" and "Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness," and a lack of French translation included in the document. But, he admitted that it could simply be that the document was a draft, and had not been formally edited.
Other government employees who spoke to VICE News indicated that, generally, the memo appears legitimate.
Strangely, a paragraph and a footnote in the document are redacted and marked "not applicable." It's unclear what reason Anonymous would have to withhold anything from the leaked documents.
In the video released with the document, a screenshot of the document flashes on-screen, except the document is almost entirely redacted. That raises the possibility that the leaker may have obtained the document under the Access to Information Act, and subsequently managed to remove the black bars that obscured the memo. That would explain why Anonymous was only able to obtain a draft version of the memo — any final recommendation sent to cabinet would be completely exempt from the access to information law.
In style and tactics, the faction leading the #CCleaks blackmailing campaign appears different than the main Anonymous chapter that has run several other high-profile campaigns in Canada.
Most recently, #OpCyberPrivacy was created to launch DDOS attacks on government systems to raise awareness about C-51 and to publicly disclose significant security flaws in the Canadian government's web services.
When questioned about the difference in tactics, one Anonymous member representing #OpCyberPrivacy, who operates under the pseudonym Bio, told VICE News that: "the only difference between us is methodology, leaking databases we access is non conducive to the end result of respected privacy in this nation and abroad."
Bio, however, indicated that these tactics were a meaningful form of civil disobedience. "Both #OpCyberPrivacy and #CCLeaks are involved in direct digital actions as activism", adding "as far as I can tell these secrets need to be told, and for that I salute them."
Even amongst the Anonymous activists seeking justice for McIntyre, there appears to be multiple factions at work on this issue. One OpAnonDown Twitter account, and its corresponding website, initially made no mention of the leak.
The documents were released by @OpAnonDown, which vowed to keep publishing documents later this week.
"Day off tomorrow. See you around on Wednesday," the account tweeted.
The video released with the document makes more claims about records that have yet to be released.
"[Harper] and the Canadian Security Establishment were attempting to spy on their Five Eyes partners in the US," the video statement released with the document says. "Obama's top intelligence officials were furious when they caught CSE in the act. They vowed to kill off Harper's number one priority, the KXL pipeline."
Alleging that it actively spied on the American government — something generally forbidden by the Five Eyes spying partnership — would be a significant revelation, if it turns out to be true.
Alex Cybulski contributed reporting.
Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @justin_ling