by: Obert Madondo
On Wednesday, ShitHarperDid activists plan to execute a “creative action” targeting the $1.2 billion “spy castle” the Harper government is building for the secretive military spy agency Communications Security Establishment Canada or CSEC, right here in Ottawa.
The action is being coordinated by SHD founder Sean Devlin and Brigette DePape – the former Senate page who held up a “Stop Harper” sign in the House of Commons soon after the 2011 federal election.
As if the dictatorship-style climate of fear, silence and secrecy currently pervading Canada under the Conservatives wasn’t enough, the top secret complex will boost the agency’s ability to hack into computers, read emails and intercept phone calls.
“We are planning a ShitHarperDid creative action for here in Ottawa to shine light on Conservative creeping which will be featured in ShitHarperDid’s newest film. It’s part of our latest campaign: http://www.shd.ca/creep,” DePage told me in an email. “Conservatives are Facebook and email spying on First Nations advocates, land defenders, opposition groups, migrants, and others opposing the Conservative agenda. We will be taking action to oppose this spying and the new billion dollar Spy Castle for Internet spying.”
A lawsuit filed by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) in the B.C. Supreme Court challenges legality of CSEC’s spying activities against Canadians. The lawsuit argues that two aspects of CSEC’s operations violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ protections against unreasonable search and seizure and infringe on free expression:
1) The interception of the private communications of Canadians;
2) The sweeping collection of metadata information produced by Canadians in their everyday activities online and through phone conversations.
For SHD, the group behind these smart viral Shit Harper Did videos, the CSEC project is also a taxpayer-funded effort to expand the government’s ability to spy on groups opposed to the Conservative agenda while “systematically dismantling our ability to access information on what they do with our money.”
“Invading our privacy while telling us less and less about what they do with our money,” SHD says on this page on its website. “Let’s drag this creepy Conservative behaviour out of the shadows and into the light. Help SHD.ca produce a documentary and direct action campaign.”
The page also gives “7 reasons why the Harper Conservatives are creepier than you think”.
Documents released by whistle-blower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden confirm that CSEC also works closely with foreign intelligence agencies in the so-called “Five Eyes” program involving Canada, Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the U.S. These agencies share intelligence on each other’s citizens.
The CBC has called the new CSEC complex “the most expensive Canadian government building ever constructed.” As the national broadcaster reported in October:
CSEC officially estimates the complex will cost $880 million. But sources close to the project say it will be closer to $1.2 billion by the time all the associated costs are tallied.The new CSEC headquarters will have more floor space than the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and its cost would build several big city hospitals…
The nerve centre of the agency is a separate concrete bunker the size of a football field, home to what is being touted as the most powerful super-computer in the country, along with its mammoth electrical power generators and cooling systems.
When fully operational, the data centre alone will apparently suck up enough electricity to light much of the nation’s capital…
When Canada’s eavesdropping spooks aren’t at their desks, they will be able to enjoy the expansive grounds around the CSEC complex now being fully landscaped with lawns, gardens, trees, nature trails and a couple of duck ponds.
Finally, a large glass walkway will ultimately connect the new CSEC headquarters to its next-door neighbour, Canada’s better-known and more traditional spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS.
By comparison with the current CSEC project, the CSIS headquarters complex houses more spooks at about a quarter of the price.
Wednesday’s action is part of SHD’s planned documentary which the collective explains on its website as follows:
Together if we raise $12,000, we will create a groundbreaking short documentary that will:
- Do our best to get answers from Canada’s controversial CSEC spy agency. They’ve already told us that we were the first people to ever ask them for an on camera interview!
- Give a national stage to the important stories of the victims of surveillance like Cindy Blackstock.
- Talk to Canada’s leading expert on Access to Information and Privacy law, reflecting back government transparency and accountability issues in vivid and memorable ways.
- Feature innovative creative action organized by SHD action coordinator Brigette DePape and Yes Men co-conspirator Sean Devlin.
SHD launched just before the 2011 federal elections with a serious humorous takes Harper’s worst policy decisions meant to inspire young Canadians to become politically active citizens. Earlier this year, SHD relaunched its website with – emphasis on political organization and action.