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Welcome to the Official Schedule for RightsCon Toronto 2018. This year’s program, built by our global community, is our most ambitious one yet. Within the program, you will find 18 thematic tracks to help you navigate our 450+ sessions

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Last updated: Version 2.3 (Updated May 15, 2018).

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Wednesday, May 16 • 14:30 - 15:45
Unravelling the cloak of secrecy: Oversight and accountability of intelligence

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In this session, we will bring together panellists from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Review Committee, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, each of whom is an expert in issues relating to privacy, digital rights and oversight of intelligence services. The discussion will be moderated by Amie Stepanovich, U.S. Policy Manager at Access Now.

The panellists, briefly drawing upon their experiences from Canada and the United States will discuss the importance of effective oversight as an indispensable safeguard for reviewing the activities of the intelligence services and upholding the rule of law. Following a presentation on the critical comparative EU research findings of the recently published (October 2017) second surveillance report (Surveillance by intelligence services: fundamental rights safeguards and remedies in the EU), which will bring an European Union comparative perspective to the debate, emphasis will be placed on the institutional guarantees that oversight mechanisms need to incorporate in order to be independent, efficient and transparent. Contemporary challenges for oversight bodies, which arise from a field traditionally shrouded in secrecy, such as limited powers, access to intelligence files, resources and expertise, will be thoroughly discussed. Finally, the debate will touch upon oversight bodies’ competence over international intelligence sharing, as a means of tackling gaps of accountability and ensuring robust supervision throughout the whole spectrum of the intelligence process.

Panellists will exchange ideas, share empirical findings and, in collaboration with active participants in the audience, work toward articulating innovative approaches as well as new collaborations and strategies for responding to challenges faced by many states. The panellists will launch the discussion, but the substantive session is designed to be very interactive, and will solicit engagement and concrete, solutions-­oriented feedback from key participants in the audience. This will include, among others, human rights lawyers, NGO activists, technologists, privacy commission experts, or government officials.

In light of the recently published (October 2017) second volume of the FRA Report on surveillance (Surveillance by intelligence services: fundamental rights safeguards and remedies in the EU), which provides critical comparative research findings from the surveillance fieldwork and will be disseminated to participants, various examples from Europe, Canada and New Zealand will be thoroughly examined. Through an interactive discussion, participants will be sensitised to the challenges rooted in the habitual practice of the intelligence services and will investigate, together with panellists, good practices and concrete solutions for achieving robustness without compromising national security or circumventing human rights.

avatar for Amie Stepanovich

Amie Stepanovich

U.S. Policy Manager, Access Now

avatar for Pierre Blais

Pierre Blais

Pierre Blais was appointed on May 1, 2015, as Chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). Mr. Blais was born in Berthier-sur-Mer, on December 30, 1948. He is the son of Edmond Blais and Marguerite Mercier. He attended Collège Ste-Anne-de-la-Pocatière and... Read More →
avatar for Alexander Joel

Alexander Joel

Chief, Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Alex Joel is the Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency (CLPT) for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). CLPT works to ensure that the U.S. Intelligence Community carries out its national security mission in a manner that protects privacy... Read More →
avatar for Mario Oetheimer

Mario Oetheimer


Wednesday May 16, 2018 14:30 - 15:45 EDT