August 2014 CSEC staff size
(If you click through on the link and get a different figure, it's probably because the Canada Public Service Agency has updated its website; they update the numbers once a month.)
Monitoring Canadian signals intelligence (SIGINT) activities past and present.
The number of people actually available at the start as opposed to the establishment figure was very small and only grew gradually. Mr. Drake's original recommendations of August 1946 were approved by NRC and formed the starting team of 62 civilians. One year appointments were given to 12 ex-Service people (all NCOs) and 7 civilians (including several ex-WRCNS (Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service) who had been released from the Navy earlier). Three year appointments, which were curiously called "permanent", were given to 20 ex-Service people and 23 civilians. To illustrate the modest speed of growth from the original staff of 62 toward the approved establishment of 179, some figures in 1947 were: March - 73, May - 80, and October - 95.[Update 14 September 2014: Kurt Jensen's book Cautious Beginnings: Canadian Foreign Intelligence, 1939-51 reports that "it was not until 1949 that the CBNRC... reached the original staffing level of 179 positions." (p. 160)]
Commissioner Décary was unable to assess the extent to which CSEC’s second party partners follow [existing] agreements and protect the private communications and information about Canadians in what CSEC shares with the partners. CSEC does not as a matter of general practice seek evidence to demonstrate that these principles are in fact being followed.This is not the first time that CSEC has told OCSEC what it can and cannot look at, which I find highly disturbing. I also find it a little strange that OCSEC didn't simply order CSEC to hand the information over. (We are constantly assured, and indeed the National Defence Act affirms, that the CSE commissioner has "all the powers of a commissioner under Part II of the Inquiries Act.")
While CSEC uses indicators that it believes provide sufficient assurance that the Second Parties are honouring their arrangements, it did not initially demonstrate knowledge or provide evidence of how its second party partners treat information relating to Canadians. During the conduct of this review, CSEC declined to provide the Commissioner’s office with a description of or a copy of relevant extracts of second party policies on the handling of this information. CSEC also declined at that time to identify for the Commissioner’s office any specific differences — large or small — between respective partners’ laws, policies and practices and how this may affect the partners’ protection of the privacy of Canadians. CSEC suggested at that time that review of second party authorities and activities pertain to the Second Parties and not to the lawfulness of CSEC activities and these questions were therefore outside of the Commissioner’s mandate.
Subsequent to Commissioner Décary sending his classified report to the Minister of National Defence, the new Chief of CSEC, Mr. John Forster, re-examined CSEC’s initial position, sought permission from second party partners, and provided the Commissioner’s office with detailed documentation relating to respective second party policies and procedures on the treatment of information about Canadians. This is one example of Chief Forster’s positive leadership to promote increased transparency of CSEC activities and to support review by my office.Is it churlish to note that it only took Mr. Forster a year and a half or so after becoming the new Chief to get around to demonstrating that "positive leadership"?
Some have suggested that this matter points to a failure of the review bodies to help control the intelligence agencies. On the contrary, these events demonstrate how review works, as Justice Mosley was alerted to this following Commissioner Décary’s recommendations. It also demonstrates how review bodies — in this case the Commissioner’s office and SIRC — can cooperate and share information within existing legislative mandates.OK. OCSEC recommends that CSEC advise CSIS to inform Justice Mosley that CSIS and CSEC have been eliciting the assistance of Second Parties to help monitor Canadians abroad, something they deliberately chose not to tell Mosley when CSIS applied for the warrants to do the monitoring in the first place. CSEC does as the commissioner recommends, and CSIS (as far as we can tell) then ignores the commissioner's suggestion entirely. Later on, Justice Mosley happens to read OCSEC's public report and decides to investigate on his own. Hilarity ensues.
In the coming months, I will explore options to cooperate with review bodies of second party countries to examine information sharing activities among respective intelligence agencies and to verify the application of respective policies. A number of Canadian and international academics have referred to an accountability gap concerning an absence of international cooperation among review bodies. These researchers suggest that growing international intelligence cooperation should be matched by growing international cooperation between review bodies. I will examine opportunities for cooperation.Sounds like a worthwhile Canadian initiative to me.
When the media suggested that CSEC had illegally tracked the movements and on-line activities of persons at a Canadian airport, we were briefed by CSEC. We questioned the CSEC employees involved and examined results of the activity. Based on our investigation and on our accumulated knowledge, I concluded that this CSEC activity did not involve “mass surveillance” or tracking of Canadians or persons in Canada; no CSEC activity was directed at Canadians or persons in Canada.And that's about as detailed as his explanation gets.
My review has identified some important questions, which I will continue to examine in the coming year, including: what are the vulnerabilities and risks to the privacy of Canadians imposed by new technologies that CSEC uses to collect and analyze metadata? How and to what extent can privacy protections be built directly into the technologies and processes used by CSEC for metadata collection and analysis? I will report on the results in my next public annual report.
In this, my first annual report, I want to set the record straight on what the Office of the CSE Commissioner does, how we do it and the way we develop reports.... I want to reassure Canadians, especially those who are skeptical about the effectiveness of review of intelligence agencies, that I am scrupulously investigating those CSEC activities that present the greatest risks to compliance with the law and to privacy. Rest assured that I will do so with the requisite vigour and all the powers of the Inquiries Act necessary to arrive at comprehensive conclusions. I will make public as much information as possible about these investigations, their resulting conclusions and any recommendations. Transparency is important to maintain public trust.Let's give the commissioners and OCSEC their due. A lot of the criticisms that have been made in recent years have been off-base or exaggerated. It is clear that successive CSE commissioners and their staff have worked hard to inculcate a culture of legal compliance at CSEC and to develop and implement systems to monitor and measure that compliance—and that those efforts have brought significant improvements to the way CSEC does business. Canadians are much better off, I think, for having had OCSEC watching over CSEC.
Each year, I provide an overall statement on my findings about the lawfulness of CSEC activities. All of the activities of CSEC reviewed in 2013–2014 complied with the law.With that on the record, the government can happily go back to ignoring the commissioner on things like the amendments to the National Defence Act that commissioners have been calling for since shortly after 2001 and which were actually promised by the government as long ago as 2007. (More here and here.)
Since the enactment of Part V.1 of the National Defence Act in December 2001, all CSE Commissioners have voiced concerns that certain fundamental provisions in the legislation lack clarity. In 2007, the government committed to amending the legislation to clarify these ambiguities. It is hoped that this can be resolved in the near future.
The results of several reviews currently under way are expected to be reported to the Minister of National Defence in the coming year and included in my 2014–2015 annual report. The subjects of these reviews include:... a review of CSEC assistance to CSIS under part (c) of CSEC’s mandate and sections 16 and 21 of the CSIS Act.I expect [redacted] will be [redacted] and [redacted] on that [redacted]. [Redacted]. But it could still be [redacted].
Overall, in 2012–2013, the volume of communications collected through CSEC’s foreign signals intelligence activities increased. However, the number of recognized private communications unintentionally intercepted and retained by CSEC was small enough that I could review each of them individually. At the end of the 2012–2013 ministerial authorization period, CSEC retained 66 of the recognized private communications that it collected. Of these, 41 private communications were used in CSEC reports (with any Canadian identities suppressed in the reports) and 25 were retained by CSEC for future use. All other recognized private communications unintentionally intercepted by CSEC were destroyed.Sixty-six is a reassuringly small number, and the number of Canadians or other persons in Canada (hereafter "Canadian persons") involved in those communications could be even smaller, as some may have participated in more than one communication. (On the other hand, in theory a single communication involving a foreign target could go to a mailing list with dozens of Canadian persons on it, so the total number of Canadian persons implicated could be much larger.)
“We’ve got some bright young kids,” retired spymaster John Adams once told The Globe in an interview. “Virtually everything – 90 per cent of what they do – is CNO [Computer Network Operations] now. It opens it up to where they can literally go out and target the world.”
Legal fixes for Communications Security Establishment Canada, Ottawa’s electronic intelligence agency, had been considered “a legislative priority” by the Tories five years ago, to the point that then-defence minister Peter MacKay was successfully pushing for a package of amendments at the cabinet table.So apparently Vic Toews killed the amendments.
These fixes were regarded as necessary because two former Supreme Court justices had highlighted the spy agency’s laws as flawed. So had other retired judges who had also left their courtrooms to serve as CSEC’s watchdog “commissioner.”
Yet the Conservatives’ years-earlier proposals for reform – which never materialized in Parliament – appear to have been moved back indefinitely.
“We are aware of recommendations to amend the National Defence Act but will not speculate on possible future legislative amendments,” wrote Julie Di Mambro, a spokeswoman for Mr. Nicholson, in reply to Globe questions. (The office of Mr. MacKay, now Justice Minister, declined comment.)
The bid to reform CSEC’s laws had been quietly building momentum within government, until an unrelated police-surveillance bill, C-30, was tabled and proved deeply unpopular. (Former public safety minister Vic Toews leached support away from that act with his polarizing remark that the Opposition “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”)