Thursday, October 14, 2010

September 2010 CSE 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.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

LTAP update

The government has chosen the Plenary Properties consortium as the "preferred proponent" for the design, construction, and maintenance of CSE's Long-Term Accommodation Project:
The project, which has an estimated capital cost of $880 million, is expected to reach financial close by January 2011. This means that the project’s costs will have been finalized, a financing rate will have been set, expenditure authority will have been granted and the contract will have been awarded. Construction of the LTA project is planned to begin in spring 2011.
Government announcement here. My previous comments and speculations here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

MTAP artist's concept

The picture above is an artist's concept of CSE's new Mid-Term Accommodation Project building, which is currently under construction and due for completion in 2011.

The MTAP facility will house 200-250 personnel.

A Long-Term Accommodation Project is also underway to construct new facilities for the rest of CSE's staff at the same site in Ottawa's east end. (My previous comments here.)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Radio gear at HMCS Churchill

Jerry Proc, who created and maintains an excellent series of webpages on Radio Communications and Signals Intelligence in the Canadian Navy, has just added a great resource on the radio gear used at HMCS Churchill during its years of operation. Check it out. His main Churchill page is here.

The other Canadian sites his pages cover are listed in the sidebar on the right-hand side of this blog.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A tale of two frictions

Here's a little bombshell that was dropped back in June to the apparent notice of nobody around these parts. According to Richard Aldrich, professor of international studies at the University of Warwick and author of the recent GCHQ: The uncensored story of Britain's most secret intelligence agency, the United States has cut off Canada's access to U.S. intelligence twice in recent decades as a result of policy disputes between the U.S. and Canadian governments (Richard Aldrich, "Allied code-breakers cooperate -- but not always," Guardian, 24 June 2010).

The first incident reportedly took place during the run up to the 1991 Gulf War:
After Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Washington asked Ottawa to assist by sending naval ships to the Gulf. The Canadian fleet was out-dated and equipped for anti-submarine warfare. Fearing the threat from aircraft and Exocet missiles, the Canadians protested that their ships would be too vulnerable.

Washington signalled its intense displeasure by cutting off the intelligence flow and so the "screens went blank". Ottawa had a change of heart and three days later communications were restored. In honour of this memorable episode in allied relations, Ottawa's defence chiefs christened their Gulf naval deployment "Operation Friction".
The second incident he reports was sparked by the Canadian government's decision to establish the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar:
In 2005, the Americans shut off the flow of intelligence once more because Canada had set up an inquiry into the case of Maher Arar, a citizen who had been the victim of rendition to Jordan and Syria. The inquiry team had been allowed to look at classified American material – against Washington's wishes.
Whether or not these accounts, based on confidential interviews, are correct (and I have no reason to think that they aren't), they highlight a real trade-off that comes with Canada's participation in the UKUSA intelligence community.

Our intelligence-sharing arrangements give Canada access to an enormous range of information that it would not otherwise get (albeit not always accurate: see Mass Destruction, Weapons of), but our contribution to that sharing also advances foreign, defence, and security policy priorities that are not always our own, and fear that our access may be lost may lead us sometimes to bow to those priorities in our own actions.

Nicky Hager addresses these issues forcefully in Secret Power, his book about New Zealand's role in the UKUSA community. And James Littleton raised the same sorts of issues for Canada in his 1986 book Target Nation.

In the specific incidents that Aldrich mentions, it is difficult to know what effect the intelligence cut-offs may have had. Would the Mulroney government not have sent Canadian forces to participate in the Gulf War in the absence of a threat to our intelligence access? That doesn't seem likely, although the choice of forces or the timing of their dispatch might have been different. And the Arar Inquiry did go ahead, although of course we don't know what information may have been withheld from it.

Still, it is clear from similar incidents in the history of the UKUSA community that the threat of cut-offs and the fear of cut-offs do at least sometimes play a role in the decision-making surrounding contentious policy issues.

Aldrich's GCHQ deals with that question as it pertains to the U.K. very well, and I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the history of that agency and its role in British foreign and defence policy. (It might, however, be best to wait for an updated edition in paperback -- more about the book in a later post.)