RCMP (courtesy copblock.org)

An eagle-eyed reader found this little gem at rcmp-grc.gc.ca: “The Firearms Internet Investigations Support (FIIS) Unit provides a range of Internet support services, both in the firearm applicant screening process and directly to front-line police officers. The CFP FIIS gathers information from a variety of open sources and, when potentially criminal activities involving firearms are detected, the information is forwarded to the police of jurisdiction for further investigation. In 2012, the CFP FIIS unit screened 2,793 firearms licence applicants and forwarded 55 follow-up reports, regarding high-risk applicants, to CFOs. In addition, the FIIS unit generated a number of files for police investigation and identified potential school firearm threats within Canada and within the United States.” Wait. Within the U.S.? What are the odds that the ATF, DHS, CA DOJ and/or some other American LEO has a similar unit surfing the net for firearms-related material? Better than the odds of ending this post with a preposition (up with which I will not put).

 

39 Responses to Canada Has a Firearms Internet Investigations Support Unit. What About U.S.?

  1. Yep, the RCMP would rather spend billions monitoring one of the statistically most law abiding segments of our society than spend it on dealing with the actual gang problems in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

    • You have no expectation of privacy on the internet. If you don’t want to be monitored don’t post on blogs, don’t have a Facebook or other social media page and don’t use Twitter. They might record your phone calls but don’t worry you are not of interest to anybody nor will you ever be.

      • I never thought I had privacy while on the internet but I went many years without any social media and I can continue to do so.

      • Also don’t use email or a telephone. But don’t worry they have no interest in you.
        They just vacuum all this data up as a hobby.

        • I did some quick math on how many phone calls and E-mails, let alone texts are put out every day.

          There are 3 Billion phone call in the US to look at.

          There are 294 billion E-mails sent per day. (Not sure if this is worldwide or the just the US.)

          If the NSA looked at 1 in 1000 phone calls it would take the entire agency just to look at US calls. No time for overseas calls or E-mails let alone normal military related signals intelligence collection..

          Back in the 1980’s NSA was rumored to have a system called Echelon which supposedly used keyword searches to find calls of interest. NSA is faced with a nearly insurmountable data analysis problem and they developed PRISM to deal with it. It sounds to me that PRISM is nothing more than Echelon for the digital age. I have no idea whether PRISM is effective or not but when viewed in these terms it looks a lot less sinister. You could argue that it enhances your privacy rather than violate it. Instead of having to look at everybody’s content they only look at people of interest. PRISM is no different than any big data program used by someone like Google.

          Jeff:

          Good for you on the social media. I experimented with it for a little bit when it first came out and it is a total waste of time. My life, as interesting as it may to me and back in the day to my three letter agency employer, is a total bore as anybody reading my posts would have to agree.

        • “You could argue that it enhances your privacy rather than violate it.”

          …and if you can argue that, you can argue anything.

        • I’m not buying that argument. It’s all data. The quantity of data is an obstacle that is easily shrunk with sufficient funding to buy more hardware, and I have no doubt that the software end of things is within the capabilities of their coders. The privacy part of your argument depends on the idea that one person could be lost in the crowd of billions or trillions of data points, but supercomputers eat that kind of data for a snack.

        • @tdiinva

          Lookup BigData and see what is being done. The NSA has the data scientists (yep, that is a real profession) that are looking at all this information. Disk space is cheap, computing power is cheap, in short it is possible.

          IBM has been doing a ton of work in this space. They can even search images and you can see a less powerful similar searching using Google’s image search. There are plenty of ways to crunch billions of pieces of information and do in hours not days.

          I would not be surprised if the ATF or some state or local police are looking for gun related activity online. They look for child porn this way, many states like CT have a gun task force so you know somebody is looking at the local forums if not trying to setup stings that way.

          Nobody should believe that law enforcement is not using any means possible even if it generates few convictions because when it is time for budgets, they will just justify everything as being “for the children”

          I sure there are more effective means and more effective crimes to go after, but Bureaucrats need to justify the budgets — and if they can catch just one person even though it has cost billions, in someone’s mind it was all worth it.

          Many times, things are done simply to justify a budget and to keep jobs but have little effect otherwise

        • If anyone thinks the large amount of data is an obstacle the should realize how googling a tiny phrase or fact yields tremendous results. Now multiply that ability with billions of dollars of funding.
          The Canadian connection allows U S residents to be observed without the US gov doing it themselves. The Echelon program 60minutes profiled years ago used this trick as well.

        • Collecting and storing the data is not a problem, looking at the content is. Just screening for keywords only gives you potential information.. For example AQ often uses the word “wedding” for an operation. Just think of how many E-mails and phone calls have the word wedding in it. You actually have to listen each conversation to find out if it’s AQ message. There is no machine that has yet been produced that can interpret meaning. Whether it is Google or NSA ultimately a human must screen the data. Prism isn’t content. It is a relational database made up of phone and E-mail headers. The objective is find connections between entities.and then go back through the data and to target specific individuals for collection. Just remember you don’t own that header data, the provider does. Is some cases you might not even own the content the provider does but you have unlimited use of it. You really ought to check your terms of service.

          If you think that you couldn’t become an inadvertent target of interest by conventional means you are very naive. Suppose you are seen in regular periodic conversation about baseball with Ahmed the convenience store owner who happens to a Hezbollah facilitator. Do you think that the FBI is just going to give a you a pass because you are a white guy? If it goes on long enough they are going get a FISA warrant with probable cause to check you out. They might find out all sort things about you, like you are cheating on your wife with transvestite. before they discover that all you talk about is baseball. They might even decide to have a nice chat with you.down at the office. It happens all the time.

          Just keep telling yourself how much so very interesting your life is to the Feds. Everybody has delusions.

    • That’s a bit of an overstatement.

      Technically yes, firearms are blanket illegal to possess. There is however a licence, called the Possession and Aquisition Licence (PAL) that grants immunity from being charged for possession offences for certain classes of firearms. There are three basic classes of PAL, the non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited (a class which is further broken down into a number of classifications generally referred to as 12.X). It is possible for any person to get both the non-restricted and restricted PALs, but prohibited PALs require grandfathering. Getting a PAL requires a safety course and a background check. A restricted PAL (RPAL) requires an additional safety course, as well as two references.

      If a firearm has an over all length (OAL) greater than 660mm (~26 inches), is not named in the law as either restricted or prohibited or a variant of such a firearm, was never at any point in it’s life a full-auto or a handgun and, if semi-automatic and centrefire, has a barrel greater than 470mm (~18.5″) it is considered non-restricted. Non-restricted firearms can be used just about anywhere, and as of 2012 are no longer required to be registered. There are however safe storage and transport regulations that apply

      If it has an overall length less than 660mm or is a semi-auto centrefire with a barrel less than 470mm or is a handgun with a barrel length greater than 105mm (~4 inches), is not specifically named prohibited in law or a variant of a named prohibited and was never at any point a full-auto it is considered to be restricted. The AR15 and all variants are also named by law as restricted firearms. Restricted firearms are required to be registered. They also require an authorization to transport (ATT) to take them off of your property. ATTs are handled by provincial chief firearms officers (CFOs). The current policy of the CFOs is not to grant an ATT to anywhere that is not a licensed range, gunsmith, or border crossing. The storage and transport regulations for restricted firearms are more stringent than those for non-restricted.

      Everything else is considered prohibited. If you do not have a prohibited license you have near zero chance of ever getting one. The AK47 and all it’s variants, as well as a number of other firearms including the FAL, the MP5, G3, and a whole host of others are named prohibited by law. Prohibited firearms cannot be imported or manufactured, save for use by police or military. The CFOs no longer give ATTs for prohibited firearms, and as such they are safe queens for those who own them.

      Additionally there are magazine limits, any magazine for a centrefire semi-automatic rifle cannot contain more than 5 rounds. Any magazine for a handgun cannot contain more than 10. Thankfully there’s nothing against using handgun magazines in rifles, or using magazines with calibres they’re not designed for. So thanks for making AR15 pistols and the .50 Beowulf, thanks to that we can get 10 round AR15 magazines, and a 5 round .50 Beo mag will fit 15-17 rounds of 5.56.

      There are no import regulations aside from those against the importation of prohibited firearms. We are able to get firearms that are unavailable in the US, Chinese firearms like the Norinco Type 97 and Type 88, the Swiss Sig 540 Classic series, the Brugger and Thormet TP9, as well as a number of others. Additionally, there is no classification for SBRs, SBSs, AOWs, or destructive devices. Many firearms that would be classified as such in the US are considered non-restricted in Canada. The Dominion Arms line of shotguns are quite popular, they’re 870 clones made by Norinco with 14″ 12″ and 8.5″ barrels, with box magazine fed versions as well. All are classified non-restricted. .50 BMG rifles and even 20mm rifles like the Lahti are non-restricted. Even artillery pieces and 40mm grenade launchers are considered non-restricted, though explosive projectiles are illegal.

      Our laws are not the greatest, but we’re working on fixing them.

      Sorry for the essay if it’s a bit much, our laws are kinda hard to explain 0.o

      • Just a note to your excellent summary. Americans can apply and be approved for Canadian license. Application, a course and bingo yo are good to go for up North. Makes border crossing easier on hunts too.

      • I’d also note that the “Restricted” list does not have a features test, and thus newer guns like the Tavor are Unrestricted because they didn’t exist when the list was put together. So a Canadian can guy a Tavor (imported from Israel, not from Pennsylvania), and use it to hunt, etc., and I cannot. Goddammit.

        • To be fair we have our own set of rather vexing laws as well. Any new firearms entering the country must be screened by the RCMP firearms lab for classification. More than once people have been burned on this as some firearms have been found to be manufactured on modified full-auto receivers rather than brand new semi-auto receivers rendering them prohibited. As well, the RCMP tries very hard to classify firearms as prohibited and restricted whenever possible. We are unable to import the FN SCAR series as the RCMP deemed that it would be too easily converted to full auto since the lower receivers of the semi and full auto variants are interchangeable. Never mind that no Canadian civilians will ever get their hands on a functional full-auto SCAR lower receiver, and that even if they could, possession of such a receiver would be a crime in and of itself. Firearms like the Akdal m1919 “AR-style” shotgun and M&P 15-22 have been declared to be variants of the AR-15 despite not sharing any parts. There have also been a number of cases where the RCMP lab has reclassified firearms and proceeded to confiscate them without any form of compensation. While ostensibly the RCMP classification procedure must follow the standards in the law WRT barrel length, variant determination, OAL etc. there is no appeal process if you disagree with the RCMP classification. While the list of prohibited firearms has not been altered since the law first received royal assent in the ’90s the prime minister’s cabinet can add more firearms to the list via an order in council which does not require a majority vote from the parliament. There is a strong push from the RCMP to restrict or prohibit any semi-automatic firearm with military features. Furthermore, the original basis of the prohibited list has no basis in features or function whatsoever. They litterally looked through a Soldier of Fortune mag and banned all the guns that “looked scary”. Heck, the HK G11 is on the list despite the fact that it never even went into production.

          Then there is the additional issue that the CFOs are nigh on being a bureaucratic law in and of themselves. They have quite a large degree of discretion under the law and most use it to further restrict Canadians, and to raise the cost and legal risk of firearms ownership. In some provinces the CFOs refuse to grant any ATTs to anyone who is not a member of an approved shooting club, and will not grant ATTs to anywhere other than the shooting club the applicant is a member of without a written invitation. Quite frankly it irks me that I have to go ask big brother for a hall pass so I can take my own firearms to the range. That they are attempting to use their authority over this hall pass to blackmail firearms owners just enrages me.

          And Quebec is still fighting to maintain their long-gun registry in spite of a parliamental order requiring that all copies of the information be destroyed. The Canadian Constitution is pretty clear on the separation of powers, so Quebec has no real authority to do what they are doing, but the Quebecois have always been a bit… loopy.

  2. A US equivalent agency?

    No.

    For one,it’s too politically risky to set up an Internet Gun Division in the US.That sort of disclosure can damage careers.

    No , I’m of the opinion , based partly on Snowdens disclosures, that a comprehensive database on US gun owners down to the last serial number DOES exist.Just not here.Congress doesn’t have jurisdiction over a computer server maintained in Great Britian or Canada.GCHQ in London could maintain a US gun registry and Washington would be insulated from negative PR or scandal .

    Oh, and don’t think your homebuilt collection of 80% ARs isn’t registered.Even if you never post a photo or discuss directly owning a gun online, your bank account history and Google records would be enough to ID you as a gun owner and probably what you own to a T.

    After all, you won’t Google “Glock 17 holster ” unless you own a G17,yes?

    • It exists, its just not comprehensive. The Feds don’t have budget to fully ingest everything from background checks (paper doc conversion to a DB entry). Its quite normal for BATFE to stop in on FFL’s and copy everything they have; why would that be needed if there *wasn’t* a database?

      • Federal law prohibits the creation of a US gun registry.The Etrace system is probably too convoluted for effective use by the authorities.

        IMO, the BATFE probably takes every serial number they can and wires it across the pond to some English server farm somewhere.That way, no pesky Congressmen can call up an embarrassing hearing on an illegal gun registry, and when Hillary Clinton gets to the oval office and forces national weapons registration, all she need do is call England and download the already collected records .

        • Federal law prohibits the creation of a US gun registry.

          I’ve heard rumors that federal law also prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but that provision is honored more in the breach than in the observance.

    • ST you might want to worry about black helicopters flying overhead. I understand your theory but that would take too much planning and organization. I am sure we are monitored and I’m very sure there is lists but no where near complete as you may believe. That’s just giving the government too much credit.

      • It doesn’t take the whole government to do this. All it takes is a handful of agencies cherry-picking the most talented and enthusiastic, but naive, new computer science graduates to build and operate a system which will have consequences that none of them understands because they are so narrowly focused on what they are doing that they never question why. In other words, exactly what the NSA and other top intelligence agencies have been doing for decades.

        And then, along come the vain and aspiring politicians and bureaucrats who are not intelligent enough to understand or build such a system, but are cunning and ambitious enough to abuse any means of gaining power.

      • Milton Friedman came up with the concept of bureaucratic entrepreneurialism. Any sort of government program means jobs, and well-paying ones at that. And, of course, contracts for various companies (IT, etc.). When the non-restricted registry was being shut down, IT contractor CGI Group (of Obamacare infamy) paid the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to lobby for keeping it. And the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC, “pee-sack”) fought to preserve the jobs associated with it. Public safety is peripheral to jobs and contract money, and this is probably also true with your country’s NSA snoop program.

    • There are plenty of people who buy 80% lowers without a credit card, often as a secondary buyer (I know a bunch of people who ordered a bunch during the gun crunch and then sold them to other buyers for cash). There are plenty of people who buy holsters as gifts for others. While lists of such credit transactions could exist, they would be so full of chaff\static that they’d be largely useless.

      • I had a similar thought. All citizens who own firearms should frequently search for firearms, ammunition, and accessories for just about every kind/caliber of firearm that exists. Inundate Big Brother with all sorts of useless information.

        Of course Big Brother can also implement algorithms to sort through all that information for the most pertinent details. For example, let’s say I frequently search for rifles in various calibers along with ammunition and accessories. However, the only thing I purchased over the last three years was ammunition for .32 caliber handgun. Big Brother would conclude with the highest confidence level that I only own a .32 caliber handgun. In other words all Big Brother has to do to figure out who owns what is follow the money.

    • I agree. From a logical viewpoint, businesses have been “offshoring” their data for decades. Do you think the Intelligence Community (which is anything but stupid at below the Executive level) wouldn’t do that, since “Black” cash is available?

  3. I am absolutely certain that law enforcement agencies regularly peruse social media and other internet resources. Many criminals have been caught through twitter updates, facebook posts, etc. Hell, even university admissions offices scour facebook.

    I suspect that multiple law enforcement agencies here have various lists and stored data. It is just too tempting to not do it. I do not think it likely that any single agency has some master list of firearms related info, matched to people, places, etc. because the data is too fragmented and I just don’t think the alphabet soup wants to give up their little bit of it to the others. Way too much infighting. Way too much segmentation of responsibilities. Hardball in the bureaucratic maelstrom. If such a list existed, we would have seen the results of it in prosecutions.

    That said, I suspect in a time of civil unrest or impending open conflict, the FBI and ATF and Secret Service and all the others could build such a list to use against gun owners. The data is out there. Just the people who own the various bits of it don’t have any bureaucratic rationale for sharing it in a meaningful way.

  4. Diminishing returns. Spending millions on catching a small minority of potential criminals. Idiocy at its finest.

  5. Listen folks, if you don’t already have a clue, you haven’t been paying attention. It’s called the NSA and “parallel construction.” The Patriot Act had nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with building the infrastructure to fence us all in. Now the NSA is passing it juiciest bits and most useful targets to the FBI, DEA, and other police agencies. See https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/dea-and-nsa-team-intelligence-laundering.

    They gather all communications and pass on whatever info they need to make busts and/or arrests down to the other agencies. Now that those agencies know the deal, all they have to do is gather circumstantial evidence to build probable cause and “Voila!”, they’ve got their perp. How do you think those Occupy kids were rounded up and snatched up ahead of the G8 last year?

    The next stage for the NSA’s infrastructure will be to use it to hunt down every single taxable dollar once the sovereign debt problem really starts getting out of hand. They are going to chase capital out of this country in one nasty downward spiral. They know who we are. It’s just that they don’t have the boots on the ground to enforce their vision of the world. We should do well to always remember that dynamic. Smoke mirrors is all they really have going for them.

  6. I just assumed they did. Every lawyer I know, across several specialties such as divorce, labor law, corporate and criminal law, all have someone in their office whose job it is to surf the net and find what’s out there either on their guy or the other guy. Many HR departments do the same thing with both applicants and current employees, with some going as far as demanding to be friended and others demanding the password.

    This is why it’s so important to control your online presence, ideally by not being a lunatic in the first place. Remember, too, that it’s not just your own pages and posts you have to control. Other people’s pages, with your name or photo, can trip you up, too, as searchers use facial recognition software to find you online. It’s scary out there, folks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *