Friday, August 30, 2013

Does CSE receive cash from NSA?

Among the recent Edward Snowden revelations was the news that Britain's SIGINT agency, GCHQ, has received approximately £100 million ($150 million U.S.) from the NSA over the last three years (W.M.N.A. Greenwood, "US paid £15.5m for upgrade at Cornwall spy base," West Morning News, 2 August 2013).

The cash payments were intended at least in part to support GCHQ's recent cable-tapping operations, through which the UKUSA allies gain access to major sources of Internet and telephone traffic, but such subsidies have long been alleged within the UKUSA community.

Desmond Ball and Jeffrey Richelson's groundbreaking book The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation Between the UKUSA Countries (Allen & Unwin, 1985), for instance, reported that "the US subsidizes, to a great extent, both British and Australian signals intelligence activities and, presumably, those of Canada as well" (p. 8).

Canada's geographic location makes it much less important than the U.K. as a possible location for intercepting cable traffic (although presumably some such interception is done). But it is possible that some CSE activities are receiving or have received support from the NSA in return for meeting various U.S. needs.

The Canadian government has never acknowledged receiving such support, but it may be significant that a specific account exists within the government's Financial Reporting Accounts to record payments that CSE receives from foreign governments. According to Public Works and Government Services Canada, this account, no. 23415, "is used by Communications Security Establishment to record funds received from foreign governments, to cover expenditures to be made on their behalf, in accordance with the provisions of agreements with the Government of Canada."

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