- Anonymous: what is it and how serious are its threats?
- Masked man killed by police refused to throw away weapon, witness claims
Cybercrime investigators with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) are looking into how the online international activist group Anonymous obtained the classified document and then leaked it to the media.
The probe comes after the National Post on Tuesday published a Treasury Board document supplied by Anonymous that reveals CSIS operates 25 foreign stations around the globe.
Etienne Rainville, a spokesman for the public safety minister, said little about the apparent breach or the document's authenticity.
"We do not comment on leaked documents and we continue to monitor this situation closely," he said in an email.
Anonymous demands action
In an accompanying video, Anonymous is threatening to release more sensitive government documents unless police in British Columbia do more to investigate the fatal RCMP shooting of Anonymous activist James McIntyre earlier this month in Dawson Creek.
Police at the time said the 48-year-old approached them in an aggressive manner and ignored commands from officers outside a public hearing for a dam project proposed by BC Hydro. A witness said he was also displaying a knife. At the time he was shot, McIntyre, a dishwasher, was wearing a mask — an Anonymous trademark.
The shadowy, loosely knit collective is demanding the immediate arrest of the RCMP officers involved.
"Unless and until that happens, we will be releasing stunning secrets at irregular intervals," the group said.
The video harshly criticizes the Harper government, police, security agencies and corporations, saying they have branded "anyone opposing their fossil-fuel agenda to be a terrorist."
Anonymous also denounces "covert, warrantless surveillance" and the government's recently passed omnibus security bill, known as C-51.
"Anonymous has been collecting bits of evidence and making plans for many months," the video says.
Tuesday's leak is unusual, says McGill University professor Gabriella Coleman, because it melds two of the hacktivist group's tactics — public shaming for a police incident and releasing documents.
She says she referred a member of the group to The National Post, the newspaper that reported on the leaked document.
"They already had that leak, that information and they were planning on at some point releasing it," says Coleman, who is the author of Hacker Hoaxer Whistleblower Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous.
"But with the shooting in Dawson Creek, it kind of accelerated that process and they decided to use the document and the leak in a way to kind of register protest against the shooting."
'You left many doors open for us'
The group seems to have selected the initial document for posting because — if genuine — it shows federal ministers made decisions over at least a four-year period to update security systems domestically and internationally.
"Congratulations, you left many doors open for us," the group says. "We are now privy to many of Stephen Harper's cherished secrets."
Coleman, however, believes the threat from this alleged leak is not very significant.
"The information that there are foreign stations in more locations than was earlier revealed is not so much of a threat," she says. "In some ways it just confirms what people likely knew and confirms the fact that there are these kinds of secrets held by the government, and now we have a little window into the Canadian reach and presence of intelligence services."
Anonymous has also claimed responsibility for a June attack that shut down several federal websites and wreaked havoc with email, billing it as a protest against the federal security legislation that broadened CSIS's mandate, boosted information-sharing and expanded no-fly list powers.
No personal information was compromised during the cyber attack, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said at the time.
Last week, Blaney's department announced $142 million in new digital security spending, which will fund initiatives including an RCMP investigative team to combat high-priority cybercrime.
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