Monday, October 31, 2005

Spooks "out of the closet"?

Hugh Winsor has a commentary piece in today's Globe and Mail heralding a new spirit of openness within Canada's intelligence agencies ("Our spooks come out of the closet: It's about time Canada's security agencies brought the public in on what they're up to, says national affairs writer HUGH WINSOR," 31 October 2005, p. A13; Google link here).

Citing recent instances of glasnost on the part of CSIS, the RCMP, JTF2, and CSE, Winsor says the new approach represents "part of a carefully co-ordinated if unannounced shift in government policy aimed at demystifying the shadowy world of security and intelligence. One objective is to improve the tainted image of the security services, and offset criticism from immigrant communities and civil-rights groups."

In the case of CSE, Winsor says "John Adams, the recently appointed chief of the Communications Security Establishment (the highly secretive agency that intercepts foreign communications) gave his first media interview" last week. (See Michelle Shephard, "Web snooping vital, spy agency boss says," Toronto Star, 22 October 2005).

He also notes that "Both Mr. Adams and [CSIS Director] Mr. Judd participated openly in the annual convention of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, and the CSE even had a display of some of the historic tools of its trade."

Adams's predecessor, Keith Coulter, already attended CASIS conferences, so there's not much new about that, but CSE does seem to have a very gradually growing public profile.

Resources available on CSE's website include a nine-page PDF "Media Kit" posted about a year ago and a recently updated version of the document that (inexplicably) is only available as a Powerpoint file.

The documents in question are marred by annoying little errors*, but at least they're a start.

* Some examples:
  • "Established in 1940 as a civilian organization under the National Research Council, the Examination Unit...": 1941. But, heck, there was a war on. Things get confused.

  • "In 1974 the television program “The Fifth Estate” broadcast an exposé of Canadian involvement in signals intelligence.": The CBC broadcast a documentary entitled "The Fifth Estate: The Espionage Establishment" in 1974. The televison program "The Fifth Estate" did not exist at the time.

  • "In 1974, it was renamed the Communications Security Establishment and moved to the National Defence portfolio.": 1 April 1975. Things apparently still confused.

  • "Canadian Armed Forces Supplementary Radio Service": Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System.

[Update 18 February 2008: The first two mistakes have been corrected. Why not the others? Are we to conclude that CSE thinks its name change and transfer really did take place in 1974? Maybe word of the impending switch came down in 1974, but the Order in Council that actually made the changes specifies that they took effect on 1 April 1975. The Order in Council itself is dated 16 January 1975.]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Still growing...

The latest staff figures published by the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency indicate that CSE now has 1,475 staff members, up 31 from the 1,444 reported in July. CSE is currently undergoing the largest expansion in its history, with the target staffing figure of 1,650 "full-time equivalents" scheduled to be achieved in 2007. (More about the expansion here.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

NSG 73

The US Navy's Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU) has been disestablished. On 30 September 2005, the NSG's personnel and assets were "aligned" under Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM). The former NAVSECGRU is now NETWARCOM’s Information Operations Directorate.

As part of the realignment, NSG’s subordinate commands and detachments worldwide will be renamed either Navy Information Operations Commands (NIOC) or Navy Information Operations Detachments (NIOD).

Of the four Service Cryptologic Elements, NSG was for many years the organization with which Canada's SIGINT organizations worked the most closely. Many NSG personnel (typically 25 at a time) have served at Canadian SIGINT stations and a comparable number of Canadian personnel have served at NSG stations through the CF/USN Personnel Exchange Program.

According to Naval Network Warfare Command Public Affairs, "Through the alignment, NETWARCOM will now be able to provide an integrated and responsive team of IO and network professionals to deliver information-age solutions for the fleet and joint commander in the maritime domain." Maybe the NSG's codebreakers will let us know what that's supposed to mean.