In December, we caught Chicago Police illegally snooping on Black Lives Matter organizers with a Stingray. Now, we turn our attention to Toronto where we once again have recorded proof that Toronto Police spy on activists’ cell phones. Once again, a particular, very high ranking officer can be named.
A recording by independent journalist Kenneth Lipp at a conference of Police Chiefs in Philadelphia in 2013 has Chief Bill Blair bragging about how Toronto Police spies on activists in precisely this kind of way. Blair describes spying and attempting to control a Palestinian demonstration at the same time a celebration was happening for Toronto’s 2012 Canadian Football League championship win.
Chief Blair: “Social media was being monitored within the command centre by some of our [???] people . And they came to us and said, ‘there’s something going on here.’ And well they were using a thing called geofencing to determine the location of where these discussions were taking place and who was involved in the discussion. And they determined that 100s of people were now merging on a particular area for the demonstration, which was then morphing into what was going to become a protest and a march, that would have interfered with the sports celebration that was taking place.”
Chief Blair: “But we were very fortunate because there was also an individual in that demonstration who was the primary organizer. But he was using social media very effectively to organize that demonstration. He was sending out tweets. He was giving his location. He had not turned off geofencing capability of his own device. So we were able to monitor his location and confirm it’s truthfulness. But he was also uploading in real time, videos of the crowd as it gathered, and messaging that he was sharing with his other organizers for this event. He’d in fact, became our very best intelligence officer on the scene. He was organizing the event, but he was the best informer to what was going on.” *
On November fifth, 2014, 200 Anons in Toronto joined the global Million Mask March. Around 9pm, with just a handful of Anons left at Queen’s Park, one of our most reliable Anons heard Toronto Police say into a phone or radio, we cannot do anything with it, his phone’s geo location data is switched off. We recently obtained that evening’s Toronto Police dispatch tapes. They confirm that Toronto Police were targeting organizers’ cell phones.
Female Dispatcher: “I can try getting her cell phone trace, if you need it. In the meantime [??put in a mother..?” <~~LOLWUT Less than two minutes later, one of the same voices comes back on the air: Female Voice “And 5135 getting an update saying that the male is on his cell.” “Yeah[completely unintelligible] 2103.” (or 9:03pm) Again, within a few minutes, the dispatch tapes prove it's our Million Mask March demo, they are monitoring: Male Officer: “I have a group of about 20 left at Queens Park. [We're leaving em here] in the hands of Queen's Park security.” There's also this lovely bit from earlier in the evening when we marched down to the Eaton Centre: FEMALE Dispatch: “Is it the one from the text or is it a different one?” MALE Officer: “That number is 416-93[redacted by Anonymous] FEMALE Dispatch: “Do you know who the provider is?” MALE Officer: “Well, let me see what I can find out. Uh, PC van [____ ?? Sabilia?] on the air” In 2013, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner made it very clear that police use of surreptitious geo locational monitoring requires a specific judicial warrant according to the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in R versus Wise. Chief Blair also discusses spying on lawyers earlier in his Toronto Policing career. Chief Blair: “Back in the early eighties, I was working organized crime. And I remember when video cameras first became readily available, and affordable, to the police. I put cameras up everywhere. I had cameras in lawyers' offices. I put them in interview rooms at the jail. As Chief Blair continues to refuse to answer for his actions at the G 20 five years ago, both the Liberal and Conservative parties in Canada are courting him for a chance to run for a place in federal parliament. It is well beyond disturbing that Justin Trudeau thinks it okay to include in his caucus a man who trammels the rights of activists and lawyers. This is not to mention that Blair presided over a racist stop and frisk program, a program documented to be even worse for black people in Toronto than New York City's stop and frisk program was for African Americans. Let us be completely clear, if Chief Blair is made one of their federal candidates, the Liberal Party of Canada, like the Toronto Police already, should very much: EXPECT Us! *[Blair continues: “And he shared his planning with those who he was trying to attract to his demonstration, but he was also sharing it with us. And his information that he provided to us was the best intelligence that we were receiving about that demonstration on that day. And it enabled us to determine the number of people we would send to that, the response that we would be able to provide, and it also created a [ ] for us to communicate with him and his followers about our expectations about their behaviour [ coughing ]. And it changed the whole nature of it, quite frankly; it made it a manageable event. What we have also seen in other large demonstrations is that type of analysis can be tremendously important.”]