Trudeau Airport spy: RCMP use of secretive cellphone surveillance technology

RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam confirmed Wednesday that the national police force is using cellphone-tracking devices known as IMSI catchers. (Patrick Doyle/The Toronto Star)
RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam confirmed Wednesday that the national police force is using cellphone-tracking devices known as IMSI catchers. (Patrick Doyle/The Toronto Star)

The RCMP admitted on Wednesday that it used cellphone surveillance devices during 19 of its criminal investigations last year, according media reports Tuweday.

Unusual in the very discreet police spinning environment, Chief Superintendent Jeff Adam, Director General of Technical Investigations Services at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), admitted to the CBC and the Toronto Star  and The Globe And Mail , on Wednesday, that the federal police had 10 of these mobile devices that can harvest so-called “high-level” data on the location of a cell phone.

It appears that the RCMP had never previously admitted that it used such devices, which could collect metadata on citizens’ cell phones.

According to Mr. Adams, the RCMP does not listen to the content of private communications, as directed by federal police and government. The officer recalls, however, that these devices are very useful in identifying and locating suspects who are the subject of a criminal investigation.

Radio-Canada learned that an “IMSI sensor” (“International Mobile Subscriber Identity”) had recently been used in downtown Ottawa – hence near Parliament Hill and the American and Israeli embassies , especially. The device acts as a cellular antenna and diverts the signal to it to obtain the IMSI, a unique identifier that can then be used to track a phone and identify its owner.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday that he had received assurances from the RCMP General Staff and the Canadian Spy Service that the two agencies were not involved in these wiretaps In Ottawa. He also indicated that the federal police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service are now conducting their own investigations into this issue.

Minister Goodale admitted that this technology is being used by police and espionage agencies in Canada and around the world. It submits, however, that in Canada, these devices must be used in compliance with laws, including those that protect personal information and the privacy of citizens.

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