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article imageMontreal police spying "radical attack" on journalists

By Ken Hanly     Nov 5, 2016 in World
Montreal - Whistle blower Edward Snowden said that the Montreal chief of police should resign after it was revealed that the police had been tracking the phone of a prominent journalist for five months in order to identify his sources.
Edward Snowden, is an American computer professional born in 1983. He worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and also as a former contractor for the U.S. government. In 2013 he copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency. His leaks exposed many secret surveillance programs. Many were run by the NSA but also by the Five Eyes Alliance with the cooperation of many telecommunication companies and European governments. In spite of pressure from a number of organizations, there is no sign that Snowden will be granted a pardon.
Snowden spoke via a video link to a packed auditorium at McGill university in Montreal. The scandal widened when it was revealed that provincial police in 2013 took out warrants to keep tabs on six journalists. They were attempting to find out who leaked information about a criminal probe into a prominent labor leader.
Snowden wondered whether the law was beginning to fail as a guarantor of rights. For their part, the Montreal police have defended their actions as the surveillance was part of their investigation into allegations that police officers within the drugs and street gangs unit had fabricated evidence. Five officers were arrested in connection with the allegations during this summer. The police had detected contact between one of the officers who was under investigation and journalist Patrick Lagace of La Presse. They had obtained warrants to track Lagace's cell phone. Police Chief Philippe Pichet said that the police actions were not aimed at Lagace but at the officer under investigation. Pichet said: “We are very aware of the importance of freedom of the press. But on the other hand, there were criminal allegations against a police officer … and we have a job to do.”
However, Snowden suggested the police chief should resign a position also taken by some Montreal city councillors. Snowden said: “Rather than the police chief saying ‘all right this was clearly something that went too far and regardless of whether or not I authorised this operation, I recognise that to restore trust I need to re-establish the basis of accountability … for that reason I have chosen to resign.’ We don’t see the mayor calling for that, we don’t see the local premier calling for that.”
The Quebec government said it would launch a full inquiry into the affair. Stephanie Vallee, Quebec Justice Minister said: “We consider that it’s important for the public of Québec to trust their public institutions." Philippe Couillard, Quebec premier, also announced that the government would be examining procedures at Quebec's three major police forces and seek to make it more difficult to obtain search warrants to spy on journalists.
When Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was asked about the Quebec incidents he said that the troubling stories out of Quebec would "lead to reflection on how we must and can continue to ensure protection of the press and their rights." He also claimed that the government had contacted the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to confirm that nothing similar was happening at the federal level. Trudeau claimed: " We have actually strong safeguards and protections in place to protect the freedom of the press in the course of business conducted by CSIS and the RCMP. And I can confirm those safeguards are still very much in place and consistent with the values and concerns this government has and that Canadians have.”
Tom Henheffer of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression noted that the police had broken no law in tracking the journalists as they had proper warrants to do so. He said this is the way that the system is supposed to work. He said this just showed that it was the system itself that was broken.
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