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Online hacker group Anonymous a threat to us all, Toews tells MPs

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews waits to testify before the procedure and House affairs committee in Ottawa on March 27, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

All parliamentarians should be concerned about being targeted in online videos that contain threats like he was, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says.

Mr. Toews testified Tuesday before the procedure and House affairs committee, which is investigating the YouTube video in which a group called Anonymous threatened to release personal information about the minister and his family if he didn't scrap Bill C-30, the Conservative government's controversial online surveillance legislation.

"This online group called Anonymous that posted the videos hides behind masks and their claim to anonymity, and it is their threats that clearly attempt to intimidate me, and in fact all parliamentarians, as we carry out our democratically elected responsibilities," Mr. Toews said.

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Several MPs on the committee repeatedly asked the Public Safety Minister how exactly he expected the House of Commons to be made safer from future threats of a similar nature. New Democrat Chris Charlton told Mr. Toews the YouTube video could have been posted anywhere as it "wasn't a hacking job," nor did it involve the infiltration of Parliament Hill Internet networks or the BlackBerry server.

Mr. Toews, however, was short on ideas, merely saying he couldn't direct the committee on what they should do and suggested they call in experts.

The minister also told the committee he has referred this "criminal matter" to the RCMP, adding that the threats go beyond the YouTube video but refusing to elaborate further.

Earlier, House of Commons staff cautioned the committee that tracking down the source of the YouTube videos would be a challenge. That's because Anonymous, by its very nature, has little organization and is open to all activists and hackers who have a message to spread. In spite of the challenge, Mr. Toews maintained the committee has an obligation to investigate.

Queen's University professor Ned Franks, who also testified before MPs, argued threats like the Public Safety Minister faces have always existed. "The unique thing is the anonymity," the constitutional scholar said.

He also mused that Anonymous made the video in response to Mr. Toews controversial statement that critics of Bill C-30 can either stand with the Conservative government or "with the child pornographers."

Prof. Franks said he would be "astonished" if Anonymous had even read the legislation "without the attention of the original comments made by the minister."

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Mr. Toews's personal life was also up for scrutiny when an anonymous Twitter user published details from divorce papers filed by his ex-wife. A separate committee has summoned Adam Carroll, the former Liberal staffer who was behind the Vikileaks30 account. He was initially expected to testify this month, but postponed due to unspecified health reasons.

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