Tuesday, August 05, 2014

List of law enforcement and security agencies includes some surprises

The third element of CSEC's three-part mandate authorizes it to provide operational and technical assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies (LESAs).

The primary LESAs are CSIS and the RCMP, but a CSEC document recently released in highly redacted form to Globe and Mail reporter Colin Freeze and placed online by him contains a surprisingly extensive list of departments and agencies that the government considers to be LESAs.

According to OPS-1-11: Retention Schedules for SIGINT Data (see document page 17),
Federal law enforcement and security agencies include, in the first instance, the RCMP and CSIS, and, second, the other federal government departments and agencies with law and regulatory enforcement functions, including Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Health Canada, Environment Canada, Industry Canada, Transport Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
And that's not an all-inclusive list, as it doesn't include the Department of National Defence, which is known to receive Mandate C support from CSEC.

Are there any other departments and agencies that are considered to be LESAs because they have regulatory enforcement or security intelligence functions?

Because CSEC's Mandate C operations can involve the specific targeting of Canadians and other persons in Canada, those operations are potentially the most intrusive of all of CSEC's activities.

It is a bit of a shock, therefore, to discover that the list of departments and agencies that can call on CSEC's services in this way is so extensive.

A oouple of caveats are in order, however, before anyone gets too freaked out.

First of all, CSEC can only provide support that is consistent with the legal authorities available to the LESA in question. CSEC cannot intercept the private communications of a Canadian for Health Canada, for example, unless Health Canada has first gone before a judge and obtained a warrant authorizing such interception. As far as I know (please let me know if I'm wrong!), most of these agencies are not empowered to seek such warrants, so the only forms of support that CSEC will be able to provide to most of them are those forms that do not require a warrant.

Still, it is possible that CSEC support could include a search of CSEC's existing SIGINT databases, and possibly some of the databases of its Five Eyes allies, even without a warrant. The FBI can "query" certain NSA databases for information about Americans without obtaining judicial warrants, for example. Can CSIS or the RCMP do the same in Canada? Could the Canada Revenue Agency, or some of the other LESAs on the list?

Second, statistics obtained earlier by Freeze demonstrate that only four Canadian LESAs—CSIS, the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency, and the Department of National Defence—have actually received "Support for Lawful Access" from CSEC in recent years (2009 to 2012).

Assuming these statistics cover all forms of Mandate C assistance (which they appear to do), the possibility of CSEC support to most of the departments/agencies on the LESA list would appear to be more theoretical than real, at least for now.

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