National Security Consultations or Playing cards with a very stacked deck
June 23, 2017
To me the 'National Security Consultation' is a non-event. The average Canadian seems to have little or no interest in security issues, unless it directly affects them and the government is hell-bent and determined to keep those attitudes in place. From my perspective the deck in the National Security Consultation process was stacked long before the 'consultation' was started.
The difference between what happens (security events), what the government admits and what the media reports is vast. Some Canadians don’t understand why Canada in particular and the west in general could not be friends with Russia. There are more than sixty years of ‘security events’ between our countries that are almost completely unreported to the public. No wonder some people think its possible to be friends with Russia.
Canadian government oversight of the Canadian military is strict. Peacekeepers on duty with the United Nations were required to sign a ‘gag order’ preventing them from speaking publicly about their service for seven years after they returned to Canada. Conflicts such as the Medac pocket are barely known to the public. The federal government exercises media control over every event from wars such as Gulf War I (Operation Friction) to domestic operations such as the SwissAir crash and flooding in southern Manitoba.
Even ‘good news’ was subject to tight media control. Domestic Operations training (support in emergencies and disasters) included Media officers reporting directly to Ottawa. From my perspective this should have been a ‘good news story’. Instead there were no reporters and I don’t recall any substantive media coverage.
Canadian media does not help the cause. Their political orientation is heavily biased towards left of center politics, normally associated with Liberals, New Democrats and the Green Party. Security is an unpopular topic with media. Few media organizations have a journalist who could be considered knowledgeable in security affairs. To use another military example, many of the military abbreviations used on air or in print for rank and position are wrong. Descriptions of ships and aircraft are wrong. The result is Canadian military operations are effectively ‘masked’ from public knowledge and understanding.
Ottawa politicians are just as aggressive controlling the RCMP’s media feeds. For example marijuana grow operations are often protected by weapons and/or improvised explosive devices such as pipe bombs. The RCMP has never raised this as a public security issue, nor can I see them ever being allowed to. Instead of being a national voice on policing and security like the FBI in the United States, the RCMP is highly restrained.
Local police endure as much as the RCMP. When there is a ‘police involved shooting’ most provinces require an investigation of the police – even when the bad guys fired first and fired on the police. Canadian media report on these events as appropriate, a necessary process.
Border security is another area where remarkably little information is reported. Despite the appearance of disclosure in reality television shows, very few border security events are reported. Most of: human smuggling, weapons smuggling and mass drug smuggling goes unreported. Some events go unreported so the bad guys will not learn how they got caught. This means some events are deliberately not reported. Unfortunately the effect is that average Canadians remains blissfully unaware of most border security incidents.
Canadians know cyber attacks take place because they see coverage from foreign, mostly American media. The Canadian media provides limited coverage of cyber security events. There have been reports of cyber attacks on Canadian government organizations including Revenue Canada and the National Research Council. The coverage lacked detail and there was limited follow-up.
Canadian computer security attacks have gone largely unreported. The reasons behind the demise of NORTEL were best covered by CNBC not Canadian media. Chinese attacks on the potash industry and supporting organizations were briefly covered by the ‘Globe and Mail’ but otherwise ignored by most media. There is limited or no media coverage of cyber espionage despite some venture capital organizations warning start-ups not to talk to Chinese entities or “your product will be in production in China in six months and you will see nothing in return.”
How can you have a consultation if the government refuses to talk about security issues and the media refuses to report them? The press release mentions updates dates to the Criminal Code and three acts including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. Intelligence gets less public exposure than any other national security issue.
Its hard to judge the intentions of Canadian politicians when it comes to national security. Their words sound reasonable, their actions not so much. Are they disinterested, or do they have other priorities? What is certain is that there was no ‘National Security Consultation’. That deck of cards was rigged and frozen brick hard long before the ‘consultation’ process started.
Director, Cyber Intelligence Defence Centre