Sunday, April 30, 2006

Masset and other sites

Jerry Proc has added a new page about CFS Masset to his collection of pages on radio communications and signals intelligence in the RCN. Lots of good stuff on the Masset page, including some excellent detail on the evolution and operation of the Pacific HFDF nets. (I need to update my post on the FRD-10 arrays to incorporate some the new information he's uncovered.)

The page also mentions in passing the Soviet KRUG antenna arrays, which are similar to the FRD-10s. You can see one of those stations here (more information here).

Jerry has also added a summary list of current and former Canadian SIGINT sites to his website. The list is based (as he graciously notes) on my list here, but it also contains information from George Fraser and Lynn Wortman's recent book, from Douglas Stewart, and from research that Jerry did himself. So now I have to update my post on that subject too! Together I think the group of us are closing in on the definitive list of sites.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bio: Geoffrey H. Evans

From 1942 until 1949, Canada benefited from the assistance of three British experts lent by the UK's Government Code and Cipher School (GC&CS)/Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to help set up and run the fledgling Canadian signals intelligence effort.

The first was Oliver Strachey, who came to Canada in January 1942 to replace the fired Herbert O. Yardley and get the Canada's original cryptanalytic organization, the Examination Unit, up and running (more here and here). Strachey was a veteran cryptanalyst, one of the "original key men" recruited into GC&CS at its inception in 1919. The second was A. F. (Tony) Kendrick, "a younger and more energetic cryptanalyst", who replaced Strachey as Director of the XU in July 1942. Kendrick remained at the XU until April 1945, when, "badly needed at G.C. & C.S.", he returned to the UK.

The third expert, whose work the Canadian government has not yet publicly acknowledged, was Geoffrey H. Evans.

Geoffrey Evans; photo courtesy of Adrian EvansEvans served as "Assistant Technical Director" at Canada's post-war SIGINT organization, the Communications Branch, National Research Council (CBNRC), from its inception in September 1946 until his departure in March 1949. Originally a German scholar, Evans had spent the Second World War working at Bletchley Park, probably in Hut 3, the location of German Army and Air Force translation and processing work. He and his young family arrived in Canada in May or June of 1946, having crossed the Atlantic with returning Canadian troops on the RMS Aquitania.

As Assistant Technical Director at CBNRC, Evans was second in rank only to CBNRC Director Edward M. Drake. As the History of CBNRC explains,
When CBNRC officially opened for business at the beginning of September 1946, it was in effect run by a triumvirate of officers with previous experience in the Joint Discrimination Unit (JDU) and the Examination Unit (XU). Ed Drake as Director concentrated on Administration and Security, leaving Operations and Plans to [Geoffrey Evans] as “Assistant Technical Director”; the third member of the triumvirate, Mrs. Mary Oliver, was principally concerned with Personnel matters, though her official title was “Administrative Assistant”. [N.K. O’Neill, History of CBNRC, Communications Security Establishment, August 1987, paragraph 27.2. A heavily censored version of this document was publicly released following a request under the Access to Information Act. Mr. Evans' name was among the deletions made in the document; however, one instance of his name survived.]
Evans ran the Plans and Operations end of the organization, served as Acting Director when Drake was absent [para 27.3], and attended (with Drake) meetings of the Communications Research Committee [para 2.4], the interdepartmental body established to "control all SIGINT activities, including policy control of CBNRC and Canadian intercept stations." [para 2.2]. During his first year at CBNRC he was even paid more than Drake, earning an annual salary of $6,000 a year compared to Drake's $5,400 [Public Accounts, 1946-47].

The organization grew from an initial establishment of 179 (with 62 people actually on staff) to an establishment of 227 with about 120 people on staff during Evans' time at CBNRC. In addition to overseeing the set up and initial operations of Canada's SIGINT organization, he may also have played a role in negotiating Canada's post-war SIGINT relationship with its US partner the Armed Forces Security Agency (later the National Security Agency). The Canada-US CANUSA agreement was negotiated during Evans' tenure and was finalized shortly after his March 1949 departure.

Evans continued working at GCHQ for twenty years after his return to the UK, retiring in 1969. He died in the mid-1980s.

Back in the days when the SIGINT agencies were pretending they didn't exist it probably made some sense not to talk about Mr. G.H. Evans. But those days are long past. With the 60th anniversary of CSE's birth coming up in September, maybe it's time that the Canadian government publicly acknowledged the contribution that Geoffrey Evans made to CSE's development during the early years of the organization.

(Photo of Geoffrey Evans courtesy of Adrian Evans)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

In the news: Canada's master eavesdroppers

National Post reporter Stewart Bell has managed to get himself a tour of CSE's secret lair (Stewart Bell, "Listening in on the enemy: Canada's master eavesdroppers," National Post, 15 April 2006), evidently as part of CSE's recent openness offensive.

"The chief feels very strongly that the Canadian taxpayer has a right to know what we're doing here and why it's so very important," CSE's Adrian Simpson is quoted as saying. And so we are treated to earth-shattering revelations such as this:
During a tour of a CSE building that cannot be identified, there were long pauses as an official who cannot be identified was asked for examples of what the agency does. He could not get into details, he resolved.
I guess openness has its limits.

Still, the article gives a much better overview of CSE than most media reports do, and it does contain a few tidbits of new information, notably that CSE still occupies only "three buildings at its headquarters complex and has space in a fourth" (the Tilley Building, the Drake Building, the Insurance Building, and, presumably, the space it has long occupied in the SBI Building at 2323 Riverside Drive) and that the two planned temporary buildings have now been constructed.

[Update 9 April 2012: The fourth building was not the SBI Building (more recently known as the Billings Bridge Tower), which CSE probably vacated around the year 2000. To the best of my knowledge the actual building remains unidentified; possible candidates include the Sir Charles Tupper Building and the Canada Post Building, both in Confederation Heights. More detail on CSE's Confederation Heights campus here.]

[Update 12 November 2013: It was Canada Post Place.]

It also provides a few intriguing details on recent operations:
Signals teams deployed in Baghdad played a role in the March 23 rescue of one British and two Canadian hostages in Iraq, for example. The agency has also saved the lives of Canadian troops in Afghanistan by intercepting details on enemy attack plans.
I have not seen the suggestion that actual CSE signals teams were deployed in Baghdad before. Unfortunately, the source of these claims is not made clear. Possibly they were made in other media reports.

[Update 14 December 2006: The Baghdad claim appears to have originated in an article by Michelle Sheppard ("How 200 soldiers saved 3 pacifists," Toronto Star, 25 March 2006), which reported that "analysts with the Canadian Security Establishment [sic], the secretive electronic eavesdropping agency, rotated through Baghdad's Green Zone during the four months the hostages were held captive."]

The graphic accompanying the article, a map showing how a terrorist's cell phone call might be intercepted, also leaves a bit to be desired, since it seems to imply that "CSE Gander" might do the listening in.