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.]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

James Dubro
256 Jarvis St, Apt 5c
Toronto, Ontario
home phone=416-597-6676
Web page:

22 july 2009

good research! as the researcher on the fifth estate:the espionage establishment I appreciate the correction of the error. Bill Kelly who just died is the one who on camera verified that the CBNRC was Canada's secret signals spy agency. cheers..james dubro

July 22, 2009 12:07 pm  
Blogger Bill Robinson said...

Thanks for the comment, James!



September 05, 2009 9:04 pm  

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