Thursday, May 30, 2013

Media irony watch

Oh, the irony.

The Globe and Mail published an article yesterday with the title "Communications Security Establishment's activities kept well under wraps".

But then they made it available only to their subscribers.

What's in the piece? I don't know. It's under wraps.

[Update 2 June 2013: Well, I've had a look at the piece, which is really quite interesting. Reporter Colin Freeze explains his recent efforts to learn how much support CSE is providing to other government departments under Part C of its mandate and whether that support has been increasing in recent years. Part C is the part of CSE's mandate that enables it to spy on Canadians as long as it is done in response to a request from a Canadian agency with the legal authority to do so.

The upshot: CSE responded to his Access to Information request with a selection of charts from which almost all useful information had been redacted. Mr. Freeze helpfully shared the response here. CSE's response did, however, include a couple of interesting snippets of information. The charts show that CSE is currently providing "Support to Lawful Access" to only four agencies: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian Border Services Agency. Also, the unredacted axis of one of the charts shows that no agency has made more than 60 requests in a single year in recent years. This fairly low number may be, as Freeze suggests, "somewhat reassuring", although I'd like to know whether such requests always relate to a single individual or could include a group or even class of individuals before I'll be entirely reassured.]

[Update 26 November 2013: Colin Freeze, "CSIS not being forthcoming with court, federal judge says," Globe and Mail, 25 November 2013: "Records this week released to The Globe under Access to Information laws show that CSEC receives a total of between 70 and 80 such “support to lawful access requests,” each year from CSIS, the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and National Defence."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

LTAP in the news

Huguette Young of the QMI Agency profiles the new CSE headquarters ("Our federal information spies are getting new $880M digs, being built at a time of austerity with little public knowledge," Toronto Sun, 26 May 2013).

For some reason, the article is illustrated with a photo of the CSIS headquarters, as the Toronto Sun itself notes in its photo caption, so I suggest readers look at this recent photomontage by Chuck Clark (which shows both headquarters buildings) to get a better idea of the place the article is actually talking about:

The main point of Young's article seems to be to question whether the new CSE headquarters will be worth the money being spent on it, a question on which I have no strong opinion except to note that getting the price tag right would help the discussion.

Young's article uses the $880-million figure that CSE and others have been quoting since the Long-Term Accommodation Project (LTAP) was first announced, but that is not the full number. The actual cost of the new headquarters complex includes both the cost of the LTAP and the cost of the Mid-Term Accommodation Project (MTAP), now known as Pod 1 of the LTAP. The most recent figures that I've seen for the cost of those two projects can be found here, and simple addition puts the combined cost (as estimated at that time) at $1.065 billion. That guess, however, is two years old. Whether the price has risen or fallen since then I can't say, because the new stand-alone CSE doesn't seem to want to report that kind of information any more. In that respect, the concerns expressed in the article about the lack of information available to Parliament and the public are spot on.

A few quotes and comments:
  • "The Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) is the federal intelligence centre for the protection of electronic information and communication."

    Well, that's about 34% of its role (by budget). Its main job, accounting for about 66% of its budget, concerns the acquisition of other people's information and communications, otherwise known as signals intelligence.

  • "...the department's new 72,0000-square-metre building..."

    That's the "rentable space" in the LTAP. Take the total space in the LTAP and add the MTAP and you get about 88,700 square metres at the new complex.

  • "Current CSEC infrastructure dates from the 1950s...".


  • "The new CSEC building will house the entire department -- including the country's five most powerful computers -- under one roof."

    Now that's an interesting bit of information! Last year, reportedly, CSE had the top three computers in the country. None of these statistics ever gets formal, on-the-record confirmation by a named source, but personally I find the claims quite believable.

  • "Canada is a member of the "Five Eyes" alliance -- five countries that share intelligence to combat those looking to steal it."

    Because we're against the idea of stealing information...

  • "Its operations are so opaque that the Canadian government only acknowledged its existence in 2002."

    Or, to be more precise, 1983. (See page 4 of this document.) And, actually, it was the signals intelligence role of the agency that was newly acknowledged. Official mentions of the agency by name can be found in public documents at least as far back as the 1950s.

  • "The CSEC has an annual budget of $350 million..."

    Currently $422.2 million.

  • "It is only permitted to intercept communications from foreign targets and cannot spy on Canadian citizens at home or abroad."

    Except when operating under Part C of its three-part mandate. If, say, CSIS or the RCMP have legal authorization to spy on you, it is perfectly legal for them to enlist the help of CSE in collecting that information.

  • "The CSEC has a program that targets Quebec separatists, called "The French Problem," which allegedly exists to this day. The program was revealed in a 1994 book by former CSEC spy Mike Frost."

    Frost's book is not entirely reliable, but then again it is not entirely unreliable. With respect to the "French problem", Frost was referring to activities that he had heard of in the 1970s, and he was either unwilling or unable to provide many details about those activities. The Quebec separatist movement was certainly a major target of the RCMP Security Service (CSIS's predecessor) at that time, and although CSE had essentially no domestic monitoring infrastructure it may well have collected some relevant international communications as part of that effort. If such monitoring was going on, however, it did not constitute a large part of the agency's activities: it is worth noting that the federal government was implementing bilingualism within the public service at that time, and CSE employees complained bitterly about what they saw as an unnecessary imposition, arguing that they had no need for French in their work. As to whether such activities continue today, well, if CSIS, the RCMP, or other domestic law enforcement or intelligence agencies are authorized to spy on individuals associated with the movement, then CSE would certainly be able to help them. But I really doubt it's very high on the Canadian intelligence community's list of priorities these days.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Photos of new CSE headquarters under construction

Over the past two years, amateur photographer Chuck Clark has taken a series of photos of CSE's new headquarters, the Long Term Accommodation Project (LTAP), as it has been under construction, creating a fascinating public record of the complex's development.

The first photo shows the construction site on 1 August 2011, a couple of months after work began at the site. The nearly complete building in the middle is CSE's high performance computing centre, constructed under the Mid-Term Accommodation Project and now called Pod 1 of the LTAP. Built ahead of the rest of the LTAP, this building was fully occupied by November 2011. CSE's parking garage can be seen at the bottom of the image. The white buildings at the right are temporary structures for the construction project. Construction has only just begun on the LTAP proper in this image. The office building at the top right is the neighbouring Canadian Security Intelligence Service headquarters.

Another photo taken on 1 August 2011. Early work on the foundations of CSE's data warehouse is clearly visible at top right.

The next photo was taken on 9 October 2011, around the time Pod 1 was occupied. Construction is now well underway on the rest of the LTAP, with multiple storeys starting to rise in some spots. A small supply warehouse can be seen under construction at the top left.

By 19 November 2011, major progress has been made on the main office buildings of the LTAP, most of which are now three storeys high.

The next image was taken on 7 January 2012. By this date, the main office buildings have mostly reached their final height. The data warehouse at the left is taking shape, and the supply warehouse already has a roof on it.

This image, taken on 23 June 2012, clearly shows Pod 1, the 6000-square-metre high performance computing centre. Two large backup power generators can be seen beside the building, with what may be space for another one in the future. (The space available for expansion is limited by the need to keep the loading dock door on the back wall of the building accessible to vehicle traffic.) To the right of Pod 1, the large roof that connects the LTAP office buildings and covers a large atrium area can be seen taking shape.

This view was also taken on 23 June 2012. The supply warehouse at the left appears to be complete, and the outer shell of the data warehouse (bottom centre) also appears to be largely complete. This suggests that some delays have occurred in the project's construction, as the original plan called for the data warehouse to be finished by May 2012. At top right can be seen the initial elements of the building that will control entry to the complex (and perhaps house other low-sensitivity conference and work spaces), which will eventually be connected to the other buildings in the complex by an enclosed walkway.

Taken two days later, on 25 June 2012, this photo also shows the progress that has been made on construction of the complex.

1 July 2012. The main roof continues to take shape, and roofing work is also underway on the data warehouse. Note the five large dual-cell cooling towers located to the right of the data warehouse.

Taken on 20 October 2012, this image shows the outside of the complex nearly complete. The building entrance is now connected to the rest of the LTAP.

18 November 2012. Another view of the nearly complete complex. The supply warehouse is clearly visible in the right foreground. This building may also have other functions.

This photo, taken on 5 January 2013, shows the outer cladding of the LTAP almost complete. Steam can be seen emanating from one of the cooling units on the roof of the high performance computing centre, which has been operational for more than a year by this date. The data warehouse (seen in foreground), originally scheduled for completion in May 2012, may also be operational by this time, although work on the roof appears still unfinished.

One of the cooling units on the roof of the high performance computing centre is also in operation in this photo, taken 21 April 2013. As can be seen, there appears to be room for a third unit in the rooftop enclosure, presumably to allow for future expansion. Meanwhile work continues on the main roof on the complex, which is shaped to resemble a maple key -- a reference to Canada's national tree and possibly also to the key as a symbol of cryptology. (CSE's badge features both a key and a maple leaf.)

Finally, this picture, also taken on 21 April 2013, clearly shows the large glass wall enclosing the atrium under the main roof. Although a great deal of interior work remains to be done to fit-up the building for occupation, it is now easy to imagine the complex as it will appear when complete, with the main roof finished, the temporary construction buildings removed, and the landscaping done. According to the original construction schedule, the main building exterior envelope is to be finished by August 2013, and all work, including final landscaping, is to be done by November 2014. CSE's move into the LTAP presumably will be completed sometime in 2014.

The actual complex has some minor variations in shape and appearance, but this architect's rendering of the LTAP shows approximately how the buildings will look when finished.

My sincere thanks to Chuck Clark for his gracious permission to reproduce his photographs on this blog.

[Update 20 May 2013: Added another photo taken 21 April 2013 and noted that the space for generators behind Pod 1 is more limited than I realized at first.]

Saturday, May 18, 2013

American Cryptology During the Cold War, Part IV

The fourth and final part of Thomas Johnson's classified history of American SIGINT during the Cold War is available online (heavily redacted of course) on the website of the National Security Archive: American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989: Book IV: Cryptologic Rebirth, 1981-1989 was formerly classified TOP SECRET//COMINT-UMBRA/TALENT KEYHOLE.

The earlier volumes of the history are here. You can also find all of the volumes on the National Security Agency's website.

The history documents the dramatic growth that NSA underwent in the 1980s, increasing from roughly 15,000 full-time civilians in 1982 to roughly 22,000 in 1989. The number of military personnel working at NSA also rose during the decade (the combined military and civilian total was nearly 27,000 in 1990, compared to 19,000 in 1983).

The document also features some interesting and not entirely redacted discussion of the Reagan Administration's use of SIGINT for propaganda purposes, sometimes at risk to SIGINT sources and methods, and retells some of the spy episodes of the 1980s, among other topics covered.

The 1980s were also a good period for Canada's SIGINT agency. CSE's staff grew by 50% during the decade, and the agency obtained its first supercomputers, started monitoring satellite communications, began operating intercept sites in Canadian diplomatic establishments in a serious way, and revitalized its cryptanalytic capabilities. But as far as I know, there is no equivalent Canadian history of SIGINT during the last years of the Cold War -- certainly nothing in the public domain.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Canadian SIGINT sites past and present 3.1

Here's another update of my list of the main Canadian SIGINT operating sites past and present and their years of operation (previous version here). The major change is the addition of the RCN HFDF site that operated in Lambeth, Ontario from 1943 until ca. 1945. Thanks to Jerry Proc for tipping me off to its existence and to the Westminster Historical Society for providing further information about the station! As noted on earlier versions, available information on the Second World War sites still tends to be somewhat spotty, so a lot of the dates associated with those remain uncertain. Also, my guesswork still differs in a few places from the estimates made by Jerry and others (and maybe all of us are wrong on some dates), so further refinement is undoubtedly needed.

Canadian SIGINT sites past and present

Location Years of operation
Aklavik, Northwest Territories (RCN) 1949 - 1961
Alert, Nunavut (RCAF/RCCS/SRS/CFIOG) - experimental ops began in 1956 1958 - present
Alliford Bay, British Columbia (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1943
Amherst, Nova Scotia (RCCS) 1941 - 1942
Anchorage, Alaska, USA (CFIOG det @ Elmendorf AFB) 2009? - present?
Augsburg, Germany (SRS det) 1989 - 1993
Aurora, Colorado, USA (CFIOG det @ Buckley AFB) 2009? - present?
Bermuda (RCN/SRS) 1963 - 1993
Botwood, Newfoundland (DOT) 1939 - 1946
Cap D’Espoir, Quebec (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1946?
Cheltenham, UK (CANSLO @ GCHQ + SRS/CFIOG det from 1953?) 1953 - present
Churchill, Manitoba (RCN/SRS) 1948 - 1968
Coal Harbour, British Columbia (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1942
Coverdale, New Brunswick (RCN/SRS) 1944 - 1971
Darwin, Australia: McMillan’s Road Camp (RCCS) 1945 - 1945
Digby, United Kingdom (CFIOG det @ RAF Digby) 2011? - present?
Eastcote (London), UK (CANSLO @ GCHQ) 1949 - 1953
Esquimalt, British Columbia (RCN intercept for RN) 1925 - 1940?
Esquimalt, British Columbia (MARPAC support element) ? - present?
Flin Flon, Manitoba (AFTAC only) 1959? - ?
Forrest, Manitoba (DOT) 1940 - 1942
Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq), Quebec (RCN) 1949 - 1952
Fort Gordon, Georgia, USA (CFIOG det @ Gordon RSOC) 2003 - present?
Fort Meade, Maryland, USA (CANSLO @ NSA HQ + SRS/CFIOG det from 1993) 1956 - present
Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit), Nunavut (RCN) 1953 - 1967
Gander, Newfoundland (RCN/SRS/CFIOG) 1942 - present
Gloucester, Ontario (RCN HF-DF/training/admin site) 1943 - 1972
Gordon Head, British Columbia (RCN) 1940 - 1945
Grande Prairie, Alberta (RCCS) 1942 - 1947
Halifax, Nova Scotia (MARLANT support element) ? - present?
Harbour Grace, Newfoundland (RCN) 1940 - 1946?
Hartlen Point, Nova Scotia (DOT) 1941 - 1946
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA (CFIOG det @ NSA Hawaii) 2009? - present?
Inuvik, NWT (RCN/SRS) 1961 - 1986
Kingston, Ontario (SRS/CFIOG training) 1972 - present
Kingston, Ontario (21 EW Regt/2 EW Sqn of 1 CSR/1CDHSR/CFJSR) ? - present
Kingston, Ontario (Res EW Sqn/772 EW Sqn) - merged with 21 EW Regt in 2010 1986 - 2010
Ladner, British Columbia (RCCS/SRS) 1949 - 1971
Lambeth, Ontario (RCN) 1943 - 1945?
Leitrim, Ontario (RCCS/SRS/CFIOG) 1942 - present
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia (DOT) 1939 - 1946
Lulu Island, British Columbia (DOT) (AKA Steveston) 1944? - 1945
Masset, British Columbia (RCN/SRS/CFIOG) 1942 - 1945 and 1949 - present
Nanaimo, British Columbia (DF outstation for Victoria) 1942? - ?
Norfolk, Virgina, USA (CFIOG det @ NIOC Norfolk) 2009? - present?
Northwest, Virginia, USA (SRS/CFIOG det @ NSGA Northwest) 1997 - 2001
Ottawa, Ontario (various headquarters) 1939 - present
Ottawa, Ontario (DOT) 1940 - 1945
Ottawa, Ontario (RCN Stn CFF) 1940 - 1947
Ottawa, Ontario (771 CRS) 1987 - 2002
Pennfield, New Brunswick (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1945?
Point Grey, British Columbia (DOT) 1940 - 1945?
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1945?
Prince Rupert, British Columbia (RCN) 1946 - 1948?
Resolute, Nunavut (RCAF) - experimental site only 1956 - 1956?
Riske Creek, British Columbia (RCCS; never operational) 1944 - 1946
Rivers, Manitoba (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1945?
Rockcliffe, Ontario (RCCS) 1939 – 1942
San Antonio, Texas, USA (SRS/CFIOG det @ Medina RSOC) 1995 - present?
Shediac, New Brunswick (DOT) 1939 - 1946
St. Hubert, Quebec (DOT) 1939 - 1946
Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec (training) 1944 - 1945?
Strathburn, Ontario (DOT) 1939 - 1945?
Sydney, Nova Scotia (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1945?
Ucluelet, British Columbia (RCN @ RCAF) 1941 - 1942
Victoria, British Columbia (RCCS) 1942 - 1949
Washington, DC, USA (CANSLO @ AFSA/NSA) 1949 - 1956
Whidbey Island, Washington, USA (SRS/CFIOG det @ NSGA Whidbey Island) 1997 - 2002
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory (RCAF/SRS) 1948- 1968
Winnipeg, Manitoba (DOT) 1942 - 1945
Winnipeg, Manitoba (1 Cdn Air Div support element) ? - present?

The list does not include the various operating sites of the Special Wireless Sections Type “A” and Type “B” in Britain, Italy, and North-West Europe from 1941 to 1945 or similar operations that may have taken place in the years since the Second World War when Canadian forces have been operationally deployed. Also not included are the covert intercept sites reported to operate in some Canadian embassies and consulates.

In addition to the personnel posted to the Canadian Special Liaison Offices (CANSLO) at NSA and GCHQ, a number of CSE personnel are posted to exchange positions inside the agencies of Canada's UKUSA partners. Canadian military personnel are also posted to a number of U.S. sites under the CF-USN Personnel Exchange Program (PEP). The History of Canadian Signals Intelligence and Direction Finding (p. 18) listed the following PEP locations as of 2005: Naval Security Group Headquarters (now the Naval Network Warfare Command Information Operations Directorate, Fort Meade, Maryland); NSGA Norfolk (now Naval Information Operations Command Norfolk), Virginia; Kunia RSOC, Hawaii; and Gordon RSOC, Georgia. The Gordon RSOC is also listed as the location of a CFIOG detachment (p. 133); these listings may refer to the same personnel. In the list above "det" is used to refer both to detachment locations and to sites where exchange personnel have been posted. Sites reported in 2009 are listed here. At various times, Canadians have also been posted to other U.S. sites under the PEP program, including Homestead, FL; Skaggs Island, CA; Imperial Beach, CA; and Wahiawa, HI. There was also at one point during the Cold War a personnel exchange program with the British Army that saw Canadian personnel serving with the 13th Signal Regiment at Birgelen, West Germany.

Update 12 March 2015: Changed dates on the Ottawa DOT station and added RCN station CFF based on information here.

SIGINT: Origins

Jerry Proc has added a new document on The Beginnings of Canadian Signal Intelligence to his resources on Canadian signals intelligence sites.

The page covers the period from 1925 to the end of the Second World War, summarizing S.A. Gray's 1993 paper "Getting to the Roots of a 291er" (released by DND under the Access to Information Act).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

April 2013 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.)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

I can call badges from the vasty web

Way back in my pre-blogging days I used to have a website dedicated to CSE, which I decorated with what I considered to be a slightly cheeky reworked version of the CSE badge that depicted its middle section swinging open like a door to allow access to the secrets within (see below).

(Compare to the actual badge here.)

That ancient website long ago lapsed, and I thought that my reworked badge had slipped from all human ken along with it. But no.

You never know what will emerge when you launch something into the Intertubez, and in the case of my badge, it appears that a real, bona fide cloth version has somehow been called into existence (see below).

Found the badge here, but where you can obtain your own copy I do not know. I'd love to get one!