Canadian coppers start spying on journalists

mountiemaintainThe Canadian press is rather miffed that one of its number is being spied upon by Montreal’s coppers.

Patrick Lagacé’s iPhone was tracked by Montreal police even though many people believe that the Apple’s flagship phone is safe.

La Presse reported Monday at least 24 surveillance warrants were issued for this year at the request of the police special investigations unit. That section looks into crime within the police force.

Lagacé’s doings were tracked using the GPS chip in his iPhone. The warrants used to obtain the identities of everyone he spoke to or exchanged text messages with during that time.

Tom Henheffer, executive director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression said that the new powers that the police have to spy on Canadians were absolutely horrifying.

“They’re basically limitless, there’s very little oversight, and when that happens the system will be ripe for abuse, and this is just an example of how it’s abused. What’s even more worrying about it is the fact that this is a justice of the peace who actually authorised this.”

Lagacé thinks he was put under police surveillance as part of an ‘attempt to intimidate’. It’s part of a “culture shift” among law enforcement and judges that began with the passing of Bill C-51 under the previous Conservative government, he said. ​

The idea is to scare the hacks into turning over their secret sauce recipes.  Apparently it is getting worse. In September, the Sûreté du Québec seized Journal de Montréal reporter Michael Nguyen’s computer because they believed he illegally obtained information cited in a story he wrote.

Meanwhile the Mounties are trying to get a reporter from Vice News to hand over background materials used for stories on a suspected terrorist and spied on two hacks for more than a week without any authorisation.

The government has promised to change “problematic” parts of bill C-51 in the 2015 election, but have not done anything yet.

Lagacé said police told him they obtained the court-authorised warrants because they believed the target of one of their investigations was feeding him information. However, the story was not broken by Lagacé but one of his rivals.  This makes him think that the investigation was a thinly veiled attempt to learn the identity of his sources within the police department.