Monday, May 28, 2012

New array at Leitrim?

DigitalGlobe imagery of Leitrim taken last February (see low-resolution sample at right) shows that a 600-metre-diameter circle has been cleared at the northern end of the station, presumably to host a new antenna array.

The new cleared space overlaps but is not quite concentric with a large circular area that hosted a small direction-finding array in the mid-1960s. That array can be seen in the 1965 air photo of the station viewable on the City of Ottawa's geoOttawa site. The 1965 system looks like the high-band part of a GRD-6 array, but it is not immediately obvious what a U.S. Navy system was doing at a Canadian Army SIGINT site. The Canadian Navy began operating a modified GRD-6 system at its new Bermuda site in 1965, and it is possible that the Leitrim site had something to do with that (although one might have expected the system to be built at HMCS Gloucester if that were the reason).

Whatever the explanation for the earlier array, a more modern Pusher CDAA was built nearby at the station in the early 1970s, and the large graded area then fell into disuse.

Large CDAAs have gone almost completely out of style in the intervening years. Canada operates the only two FRD-10 arrays remaining in the world. The U.S. still operates two even larger CDAAs called FLR-9s, and a third may still be in service with the German BND. And the Russians still operate a half dozen or so large Krug arrays, with Ukraine and perhaps one or two other former Soviet countries possibly also keeping a few in service.

But the days when more than 50 large CDAAs were in operation around the world are long gone.

We can be quite confident, therefore, that whatever system is built in the new circle at Leitrim, it won't be one of the classic "Elephant Cages" of the Cold War.

One possibility is that the new space is intended simply to host the beverage rosette array already at the station. That array was built around 1998 in two distinct sections: a 180-degree fan to the north of the main station buildings and a second 180-degree fan on the south side of Leitrim Road.

The Department of National Defence has been working on a plan to re-route Leitrim Road further south of the main station buildings, and it may be that the location of the southern fan conflicted with that plan, leading to a desire to move the array to a new location.

Presumably time will tell.

Which is good, because DND generally doesn't.

[Update 24 July 2012: It's the beverage array. More details here.]
[Update 8 September 2013: Added information about the earlier array at Leitrim in the mid-1960s.]

Friday, May 25, 2012

CSE collective agreements

People sometimes come to this blog looking for the collective agreement between CSE and its employees, who are represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

This agreement, dated 10 February 2009, seems to be the most recent one available. That agreement expired on 9 February 2012, however, so either there is a new agreement already in place or negotiations must be currently underway.

Older agreements can be found here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Second Party relations

Some interesting, if brief, comments on the NSA-CSE relationship in this 2003 document on "Six Decades of Second Party Relations":
(S//SI) The terrorist events of 11 September 2001 dramatically illustrated the importance of SIGINT relationships with our Second Parties (the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). Although we have tracked and reported worldwide terrorism for decades, its intelligence magnitude flared to an unprecedented brilliance within hours. New initiatives with our Second Parties, such as biweekly video teleconferences between both seniors and analysts, frequent TDYs focused on counter-terrorism, and more vigorous daily interaction highlight the accelerated cooperation.

(S//SI) When it comes to NSA and its Second Party partners pitching in during a crisis, it's what we've come to expect from each other. This tradition of intelligence sharing has deep and widespread roots that have been cultivated for more than half a century. During World War II, the U.S. Army and Navy each developed independent foreign SIGINT relationships with the British and their Dominions of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These relations evolved and continued across the decades, making critical contributions to our SIGINT successes throughout the Cold War. In late 1991 the dissolution of the Soviet Union forced a hesitant reevaluation and reshuffling of intelligence requirements. Relationships were less focused as targets became harder to identify, muddling attempts to articulate goals and directions. Despite this uncertain environment, the foundation of Second Party arrangements remained solid.



(U) Both the U.S. Army and Navy were working with the Canadian COMINT organization by 1942. As a point of historical interest, Herbert Yardley, who led the U.S. COMINT effort in the 1920s, assisted in the creation of Canada's COMINT entity. Like their American and British counterparts, the Canadians enjoyed much success during World War II.

(C) Canada had been mentioned in the BRUSA Agreement of 1946 as a secondary player, but by the next year, Canada was lobbying to have her own SIGINT agreement with the U.S. within the existing framework of the North American defense treaties. Her perseverance paid off two years later when the U.S. and Canada signed the CANUSA Agreement of 1949. The essence was much like the earlier BRUSA Agreement. The first liaison exchanges between the two countries actually began in 1950, but NSA and Canada's COMINT organization swapped representatives in 1954, when SUSLO Ottawa (SUSLOO) and CANSLO Washington (CANSLOW) came into existence. The Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC), Canada's SIGINT functionary, was created in May 1964. The CBNRC became the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) under the Department of National Defence in 1975.



(S) As we've experienced, the world can change quickly. This requires greater flexibility and foresight with our Second Parties. These relationships have not only survived, but have strengthened in spite of national policy shifts, the occasional security concern and international crises. During the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the Falklands War in 1982, the SIGINT liaison continued unabated even though the intelligence sometimes conflicted with U.S. and U.K. government policy. Past prohibitions, such as limiting classification, can now be less restrictive when weighed against unique technical capabilities or superior access to signals. These bonds, forged in the heat of a world war and tempered by decades of trust and teamwork, remain essential to our future intelligence successes.
The sections on the other Second Parties also make interesting reading.
The highly redacted 1987 document on the right also expresses satisfaction with the "very cordial" NSA-CSE relationship.

A couple of comments on the first document:

CBNRC was, of course, not created in May 1964. The author probably transposed the last two digits of 1946, the actual year of CBNRC's creation. I'm not sure where the May comes from, however. CBNRC was authorized by an April 1946 Order-in-Council and began its formal existence in September 1946.

The document states that by 1947 "Canada was lobbying to have her own SIGINT agreement with the U.S. within the existing framework of the North American defense treaties." Canada may very well have been the suitor looking for a more direct relationship, but if Thomas Johnson's history of NSA is to be believed it was the United States that "wanted a formal document on COMINT cooperation," while the prickly and name-redacted Bill Crean, chair of Canada's Communications Research Committee, did not (Thomas R. Johnson, American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989: Book I: The Struggle for Centralization, 1945-1960, National Security Agency: Center for Cryptologic History, 1995, p. 18).

The document states that SIGINT liaison officer exchanges between the two countries began in 1950. This accords well with the Public Accounts, which show that Canada's first liaison officer to the U.S., Robert S. McLaren, received his first travel and representation allowance during fiscal year 1949-50. But the document also suggests that the formal positions of Senior U.S. Liaison Officer/Ottawa (SUSLO/O) and Canadian Special Liaison Officer/Washington (CANSLO/W) were not created until 1954.

[Update 29 December 2014: According to CSE, via Canadian Press, the liaison position in Washington began in February 1950.]

The SUSLO/O office had 12 people working in it in 2008. Information about one former SUSLO/O, Velva Klaessy, is available at the NSA website.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Get the stretcher!

The 1950s might be called the "Duck and Cover" decade.

The first Soviet atomic test took place in August 1949, years earlier than Western intelligence agencies had expected, and Soviet acquisition of the Bomb made the prospect of a global atomic war suddenly seem shockingly real.

Urged on by the movie "Duck and Cover" (released in January 1952) and other efforts to encourage preparations for atomic attack, concerned citizens turned their minds to the question of civil defence from nuclear war.

As I documented earlier here, volunteer civil defence enthusiasts at CBNRC responded by carrying out at least one evacuation exercise at the agency's Rideau Annex headquarters, although with somewhat farcical results:
Some of the entertainment [at the Rideau Annex] was unscheduled, like the evacuation demonstration of the building on behalf of the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), when the demonstration smoke bombs were found to be toxic and inextinguishable too late, as the entire building was filled with smoke that would not go away and the entire staff choked and gasped their way outside. Fortunately, there were no real casualties except for a few inhalers who felt they needed oxygen at a local hospital, and the hapless and luckless demonstration casualty who had been strapped to a stretcher preparatory to being lowered from the fifth floor by ropes, and couldn’t escape the toxic smoke. Next day it was business as usual, even if your clothes smelled funny for the next few days and fellow passengers in buses eyed you oddly. (Tom Chadsey, Tillian, Spring 1980, p. 24.)
But this was not the only civil defence exercise carried out by the Rideau Annex crew.

On at least one occasion they took part in an exercise in downtown Ottawa (“Roof-Top Rescue By Civil Defence Team,” Ottawa Citizen, 17 March 1953):
“Wounded” in a “bombing attack” on Ottawa, a “victim” was removed from the roof of the Rideau Theater last night on a stretcher.

Of course it was all make-believe, but a Civil Defence team from Rideau Annex made it look real.

The rof-top [sic] rescue was the feature of a CD exercise held late last night on Rideau Street.

Maj.-Gen. F. F. Worthington, federal co-ordinator of Civil Defence, Maj. Robert Bingham, Ottawa CD director and Col. Percy Cawdron, chief administrative officer of CD were present at the exercise.

Operation A Success

General Worthington told The Citizen after the simulated rescue that he felt the affair was successful.

He pointed out that all personnel involved in the operation were volunteers, not fully trained CD members.

Leader of the rescue team was Bud Mayhew. Laird Lawton was deputy leader.

The operation attracted the attention of hundreds of Ottawans, who stood by to see the roof-top rescue of a real-looking “victim,” complete with a nasty head wound.

A team of five policemen directed traffic during the rescue, but there was no hold-up of cars travelling along the downtown streets.

A CD truck with twin searchlights provided illumination for the lowering of the “victim” strapped in the tightly-blanketed stretcher. He was lowered by ropes, held by men on the roof and other held [sic] by men on the street.

Second “Victim”

A second “victim” was rushed from inside the Rideau Theater and treated outside before being rushed away in a St. John Ambulance vehicle, as was the roof-top “victim.”

Following the exercise, members of the Civil Service CD corps attended a complimentary showing of the film “Invasion USA” by courtesy of Don Watts, manager of the Rideau Theater.

General Worthington spoke briefly in the theater on the subject of the importance of civil defence training.
Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but my immediate response to these two anecdotes is to ask, "What the [redacted] is the deal with the stretchers?! Ottawa is about to get nuked and your response is to train people to strap casualties to stretchers and lower them from tall buildings?!"

With the assistance of a searchlight truck?

By coincidence, or perhaps not, on the day after the downtown Ottawa exercise, the U.S. civil defence authorities conducted a major civil defence test of their own, Operation Doorstep, in conjunction with the "Annie" nuclear test at the Nevada Test Site.

Annie was a 15-16 kiloton nuclear test, about the same size as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, but it was puny by the standards of the weapons then under development. The U.S. had already tested an experimental (non-deliverable) thermonuclear device with a yield of 10 megatons in 1952, and it was just a year away from testing a deliverable 15-megaton bomb one thousand times as powerful as the Annie device.

Operation Doorstep produced some of the most famous images of the entire nuclear era of houses, cars, and other things being demolished by a nuclear blast (see image above or view the footage here).

Maybe it's just me, but when I see those images I think, "And that was a small nuclear bomb."

I do not think, "Get the stretcher!"

It was a very different time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Transparency fail II

Unlike the other transparency fail, this one is presumably just a mistaken link:

CSE's section of the 2012-13 Report on Plans and Priorities is, according to this contents page, located here.

But, as anyone who clicks through on the latter link can plainly see, you do not get CSE's budget and other plans and priorities data at that location.

You get the data for the Office of the CSE Commissioner.

This is not right.

A look at last year's report demonstrates that the comparable link on last year's contents page takes you to the actual data for CSE for that year.

A week has gone by since the Report on Plans and Priorities was made public and this error has not spontaneously corrected itself. Let us all hope that someone is issued a clue sometime soon and fixes this problem.

I suppose that it does makes sense that CSE's data is still reported in the National Defence Report on Plans and Priorities since, although CSE is now a separate agency and is no longer a part of the Department of National Defence, it still falls within the portfolio of the Minister of National Defence, and other agencies in a similar position, such as the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, are also reported in this manner.

But is it not possible for CSE to put a separate link to this information on its own website?

Maybe the people who work there would care enough to actually get it right.


[Update 1 June 2012: Transparency fail II, part B]

[Update 12 June 2012: Transparency fail II, part C]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sir Samuel Tilley Building

Here's a bit of (old) news.

The Sir Leonard Tilley Building was -- briefly -- the Sir Samuel Tilley Building.

CSE's home for the last half century was, as we all know, named after one of Canada's Fathers of Confederation, Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley.

Tilley went by his middle name, Leonard, not by his first name. But that little detail was apparently unknown to the Minister of Public Works when he announced the name of the new building in 1962 ("Federal Project 'Tilley Building'," Ottawa Citizen, 10 January 1962):
The new $3,000,000 National Research Council "hush hush" communications research branch, Confederation Heights, has been named by the government "the Sir Samuel Tilley Building."

The government's action, announced by Public Works Minister David J. Walker, is in line with its policy of naming the present and future $32,000,000 cluster of government buildings on Riverside Drive as "Confederation Heights."
Now, I know what you're all thinking -- a minister of the government who doesn't know what he's talking about? Impossible!

But that's only half the story. Minister Walker wanted the blessing of Tilley's only living grandson for the naming of the building. So he contacted Leonard Tilley, a Toronto janitor, who, although previously unaware of his famous ancestry, delightedly agreed.

All of which would have made for a fine ceremony except that Tilley's actual descendant, Toronto advertising executive S. Leonard Tilley, then decided to speak up.

The Calgary Herald picks up the tale ("Minister names wrong man as 'heir' to political honor," Calgary Herald, 6 March 1962):
The bona fide grandson can trace his family back to the first United Empire Loyalists to arrive in Canada. His given names are Samuel Leonard and he is the only living direct male descendant of the eminent politician.

As did his famous ancestor, Mr. Tilley uses his second name.

And that brings up another point he wants to discuss with the works minister. He understands the building is going to be called the Sir Samuel Tilley Building rather than the Sir Leonard Tilley Building.

"It's as bad as calling Sir John A. Macdonald Sir Alexander," he said.

Mr. Walker replied he had been told by authorities in the Maritimes that Sir Leonard was known as Samuel.
He then announced a seven-point plan to relaunch the naming process from scratch.

Or something like that.

In any case, as we all know, the building has ever after been known as the Sir Leonard Tilley Building.

The Calgary Herald story had some inaccuracies of its own. It placed the Tilley Building in Confederation Square rather than Confederation Heights. And, more intriguingly, it said the building belonged to the Defence Research Board.

The latter is a very interesting error, as CBNRC's at-the-time highly secret mission was a lot more closely related to the DRB's than it was to the NRC's, and it has been claimed elsewhere that much of CBNRC's budget was hidden within the DRB budget.

Did the media know more than it let on at the time?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

April 2012 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.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Government "disappears" CSIS IG

Our current government wants to know a whole lot more about what you're up to — whom you e-mail, what you're buying online, what websites you visit, the location of your cellphone, pretty much everything except of course whether you own a long gun (that would be intrusive!).

But it doesn't seem to care nearly as much about what the agencies that would get access to that information are up to. At least, that seems to be the message in its recent quiet decision to eliminate the position of CSIS Inspector General.

I don't normally do CSIS issues on this blog, so I'll farm this one out to intelligence historian Wesley Wark ("Don’t cut off the minister’s eyes and ears on CSIS," Ottawa Citizen, 1 May 2012):
The Conservative government has decided that less review of its intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, is more, or at least that less review is not less.

This was the strange message that emerged from a minuscule section of last week’s mammoth Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-38). At p. 280 (of 420) the government took an axe to the Office of the Inspector General of CSIS. The Inspector General was established 28 years ago alongside the creation of CSIS and has performed a valuable, if largely silent, function ever since. For the Inspector General was meant to be the eyes and ears of the minister himself, ensuring that the minister in charge of CSIS (nowadays the Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews) would have a dedicated but independent office reporting to him to ensure that CSIS operated within the law, in compliance with ministerial directives, and with good effect. The Inspector General’s office was meant to resolve a dilemma for all cabinet ministers charged with responsibility for CSIS — the dilemma being that they could neither afford to be too involved in the operational activities of the service, nor kept too much in the dark.

Being accountable to Parliament and to the Canadian people for a secret agency with intrusive powers and a significant mandate to protect Canadian national security is a tricky business.

The Conservative government appears to disagree. It has decided to do away with the IG’s office and have another body created at the time of the CSIS Act in 1984 — the Security Intelligence Review Committee — take on the responsibility. On the surface this is being done in accord with the government’s efforts to greatly reduce the federal bureaucracy.

But what are the real savings? The Inspector General’s Office does not post its annual budget, but it has a small staff of eight officials and has not increased its establishment since 1996. As Paul Kennedy, the former senior bureaucrat and public complaints commissioner for the RCMP remarked to the CBC — “penny wise, pound-foolish.”

There is a real downside to the closure of the Inspector General’s office, which far outweighs any microscopic savings. That downside is the decline in ministerial accountability. The minister will lose a small but experienced office that reported directly to him in conditions of secrecy on all matters having to do with the conduct of CSIS. The Security Intelligence Review Committee cannot, and should not, take over such a role. SIRC was established back in 1984, that Orwellian year, to be an independent body that would report to Parliament on the lawfulness of CSIS. It’s not the minister’s agency.

Moreover, SIRC itself is small and is promised no new resources to enhance its reporting. The degree to which the Conservative government takes SIRC seriously is placed in doubt by its failure to replace the SIRC chair, a part-time position, following the departure last year of Arthur Porter for alleged improprieties. Not only is SIRC headless for the moment, but the other Privy Councillors appointed to the committee do not have inspiring backgrounds in federal politics, decision-making or in terms of their knowledge of intelligence and national security issues.

Against the larger picture of Canadian government budgetary cuts, maybe the loss of the Inspector General’s Office will occasion little notice or concern. But it is part of a worrisome trend by the Conservative government to disengage itself from the operations of CSIS, illustrated earlier in the year when ministerial directives on how CSIS should handle intelligence possibly derived from torture came to light.
It seems to me that rather than eliminating the position of CSIS Inspector General, the government should consider creating a parallel position for CSE, which as far as I know has never had its own Inspector General.

CSE does have the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, who plays a role somewhat similar to that of the SIRC, but his office is even less capable than SIRC of serving as an Inspector General surrogate.

Unfortunately, there is simply no prospect that the current government will act to expand CSE's oversight/accountability framework, despite the massive growth in the agency's surveillance powers.

In fact, we can't even take the continuing existence of the Office of the CSE Commissioner for granted.

It is worth remembering that the CSE Commissioner began in 1996 as a one-time appointment with no guarantee that a second appointment would ever be made. The position is now enshrined in legislation, but not as securely as you might imagine. The National Defence Act sets out the role and powers of the office, but nothing in that act actually obliges the government to appoint a Commissioner. Note the language used: "The Governor in Council may" — not shall — "appoint a supernumerary judge or a retired judge of a superior court as Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment".

Moreover, as the fate of the CSIS Inspector General demonstrates, even that optional procedure could easily be deleted by a minor provision in the government's next 420-page omnibus bill if the Prime Minister were to decide that he'd rather not pay the $1.6-million annual cost of the CSE Commissioner.

Our only real assurance against such a step is that no one but a fool would even consider it. Surely this government would never do such a thing.

[Update 2 May 2012:
More on the government's decision to liquidate the CSIS IG:
Bruce Cheadle, "Conservatives use budget bill to cut spy agency inspector general's office," Canadian Press, 26 April 2012
Andrew Mitrovica, "CSIS freed from final shreds of oversight," Toronto Star, 30 April 2012]

[Update 9 May 2012:
Craig Forcese, "Fewer Eyes on the Spies: Going Backwards on Accountability," Cente for International Policy Studies blog, 8 May 2012]

[Update 11 May 2012:
Paul Kennedy, "Budget bill undermines oversight of CSIS," iPolitics, 11 May 2012]

[Update 1 June 2012:
Brian Stewart, "Brian Stewart: Why are we eliminating the CSIS watchers?" CBC News, 31 May 2012]