When you think of the @rcmpgrcpolice, you probably imagine the romantic sight of guys in archaic red brocaded uniforms doing close-order drill on horses while waving Canadian flags.

The RCMP lie about this. It's not just the official lie of good-guy Mounties patrolling the hinterlands for bandits and American gunrunners - it's a string of ongoing, highly specific, contemporary lies about the force's illegal conduct.

In 2019, @TheTyee broke the story of "Project Wide Awake," the Mounties' social media surveillance op. On the record, the Mounties denied it, saying they were only using off-the-shelf commercial analytics tools, not spy gear.


The RCMP isn't using off-the-shelf commercial analytics tools to watch social media. They're using Babel X, a tool marketed for law-enforcement, the use of which requires judicial authorisation under Canadian law.

The contracts for Babel X and other spy tools were issued without competitive bidding, on the grounds that the existence of these procurements could compromise the surveillance op.

That may seem anodyne, but consider: the reason the RCMP says it doesn't need a warrant to spy on all Canadians is that it is doing something "ordinary" - that Canadians have no expectation of privacy or due process on social media.

But (as @CitizenLab's @KateRobertson_ points out) its argument for handing out these fat, no-bid contracts to cybermercenaries in secret is that Canadians DON'T know this stuff is in use, and if they did, they wouldn't like it and would change their behaviour.

When it comes to warrants in other words, this stuff is ordinary. When it comes to transparency, this stuff is completely extraordinary. You'd think they'd have to pick one, but this is the Mounties. They always get their self-serving rationalisation.

Project Wide Awake encompasses both social media and "darknet" surveillance and casts a wide net; according to the RCMP's docs, they're looking to scoop up "private communications" including those related to "political protests."

The docs reveal that the Mounties bought a Facebook-hacking tool that lets them uncover the identities of private friends' lists. The ability to enumerate the private friends of FB users puts Canadians in jeopardy.

For example, the women who are private friends of a shelter can be unmasked by their violent intimate partners. Once the RCMP learned that a tool exists that puts Canadians' safety at risk, they had a duty to report it and help FB close the hole.

Instead, they bought a license from the tool's developer and used it to hack Facebook.

The Mounties knew they were committing crimes. To hide their operations from social media companies, they used global proxies to disguise the origin of their hacking activities.

They also created social media accounts under false identities, acting in secret, without warrants, and against the policies of the social media platforms.

All of this appears to have been controversial within the RCMP. When it was first under discussion, the RCMP's CIO Pierre Perron blasted it, prompting a flurry of memos about his outrage over the program's goals and methods.

Shortly thereafter, Perron quit and went to Huawei (!), bringing with all his proprietary national security knowledge; @caparsons from @citizenlab speculates that hiring a top Mountie might have been part of Huawei's charm offensive to win Canadian 5G infrastructure bids.

The controversy didn't end with Perron: in the training docs, Mounties who may have questions about the legality of all this off-the-books spying are advised, "You have zero privacy anyways, get over it."

The Mounties have a long history of authoritarian policing of democratic dissent. During the period of martial law in 1970, the Mounties used the cover of the October Crisis in Quebec to engage in a nationwide wave of burglaries of antiwar, labour and racial justice groups.

The goal of these burglaries was to steal membership lists so that people could be put under surveillance on the basis of their political beliefs.

With that in mind, it can't be a coincidence that the current surveillance op is called Project Wide Awake.

The name comes from an X-Men story arc in which a fascistic police force hunts down mutants and puts them in concentration camps, denying them the most basic of human and civil rights.

Sometimes, it's hard not to say the quiet part out loud, huh?

The Tyee's story by @bpcarney is a bombshell. For more context, don't miss @Cyn_K's thread breaking it down.


You can follow @doctorow.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: