Canadian cops spied on journalist's phone for months

The Montreal police chief said they did it to investigate some of their own.

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Mariella Moon
November 1st, 2016
Canadian cops spied on journalist's phone for months

The Montreal police tapped the iPhone of a columnist writing for Canadian French-language newspaper La Presse, according to the publication itself. La Presse said it discovered 24 surveillance warrants granted by Montreal Judge Josée De Carufel giving the cops' special investigations unit the legal right to spy on Patrick Lagace's incoming and outgoing texts and calls. That's not all they did, though -- they also tracked his whereabouts through his iPhone's GPS.

Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet argued that they had to do it in order to investigate one of their own officers. In a meeting with Lagace on Friday -- something, he stressed, the cops were "not legally obliged to" do -- he explained that they spied on his phone to investigate allegations that some anti-gang officers fabricated evidence. They believed there was a possibility that some those officers were feeding Lagace information on the side, as well. The Montreal cops began monitoring Lagace's phone calls and location in December 2015, and their investigation ultimately led to the arrest of five officers in July.

Pichet said in a statement:

"The City of Montreal Police Force recognizes freedom of the press. But on the other hand, there were criminal allegations against a police officer... and we have a job to do."

Lagace, however, remains unconvinced. He believes the cops weren't happy with a few pieces he wrote over the years and that the move was actually a ploy to identify his sources and to scare cops away from talking to journalists in general. He told AP:

"I was living in the fiction that police officers wouldn't dare do that, and in the fiction that judges were protecting journalists -- and hence the public -- against this type of police intrusion. Clearly, I was naive."

The story blew up as soon as details came out, especially since Pichet admitted that he couldn't guarantee whether authorities spied on (or are spying on) other journalists besides Lagace. Even famed whistleblower Edward Snowden took to Twitter to air his thoughts:

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