Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Afghanistan SIGINT 2

More follow up to that National Post story (see Afghanistan SIGINT below).

The CSE Chief's 30 April 2007 speaking notes state that "a large majority of [CSE's] foreign intelligence reporting" is on security-related topics and that in the last year "over a quarter of our security reporting was related to Afghanistan".

This is quite a bit less than the National Post said ("more than a quarter of the intelligence reports produced by the agency in the past year were related to the mission."), but it still makes for a lot of reporting.

Let's try some back-of-the-envelope calculations. If we assume that Adams's statement that "a large majority" of reporting is dedicated to security-related topics means that something like 60-70% of reporting is on security topics and that 25-30% ("more than a quarter") of security reporting relates to Afghanistan, then something like 15-20% of CSE's SIGINT reports have apparently been dedicated to Afghanistan over the past year.

On to the next envelope: CSE probably has roughly 1000 people on the SIGINT side of the house, broadly defined (there being about 400 in INFOSEC and maybe 200 or so in administrative positions). But a large number of those function in support capacities (e.g., watch officers, cryptanalysts, transcriber/reporters, IT types, customer liaison officers). If we go way out on a limb and guess that one-third to one-half of the SIGINT side are actual analysts, then maybe 50 to 100 analysts are working full-time on Afghanistan. That's a whole lot of analysts (and remember that figure doesn't include either the transcribers, translators, and other support resources or the personnel who collect the SIGINT, who, notwithstanding the deployment of "several" CSE staff members to Afghanistan, are presumably mostly CFIOG personnel). Enough to have their own dedicated group in the CSE organization chart.

[Update 3 June 2007:
Adams's testimony is now online. In his oral remarks he specified that "about 80 per cent of the CSE's activities is focussed on security and support to military operations". That means about 20-25% of CSE's recent reporting has been on Afghanistan and, to go once more out on that limb, perhaps 70 to 150 dedicated analysts. There are also many other items of interest in the testimony, by the way.]

That's enough people to do a lot of monitoring and analysis. A lot of that presumably relates to direct tactical support to military operations, and a lot also would relate to broader strategic/operational intelligence about the Taliban. (See the National Post article for further speculation along these lines.)

However, Chief Adams's recent speech at Laval University (6 February 2007) suggests that a much broader range of targets is being covered:
Another way in which CSE is helping to combat terrorism and contribute to international peace, security and prosperity is by providing intelligence for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. It is important to emphasize that Canada’s mission in Afghanistan goes beyond military operations. This is because we know that success in Afghanistan cannot be assured by military means alone. That is why Canada has also deployed diplomats, development workers, civilian police, as well as experts in human rights, good governance and democracy-building. By providing intelligence in response to the government’s priorities, it is possible to analyse social networks so that the government can better reach its objectives of diplomacy and development.
Social networks? Okeydoak...

And how are we collecting all this material? Local radio monitoring, undoubtedly. Plus somebody (NSA?) is presumably monitoring satellite up- and downlinks to Afghanistan and remoting it back over here for a good close look. I also suspect we may be involved in processing the take from US SIGINT satellites, especially the TRUMPET satellites, or whatever they're called now, operated out of Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado. But that's just a guess.

You may be wondering, given the fact we're at war with the Taliban right now, why CSE would reveal the information that forms the basis of the above speculations. I don't think the agency is trying to get our soldiers killed, and neither am I in speculating about the information (for the record, I used to be in the infantry reserves, but I am not a supporter of this war). The answer, I think, is that the government has concluded the Taliban is already well aware that it is under intense SIGINT surveillance. The details of particular sources and methods used against the Taliban might matter a great deal, but very general information (and uninformed speculation like mine) does not.

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