Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A very Canadian Glomar

Back in the 1970s, the United States pioneered the "Glomar response"—neither confirming nor denying a fact or the existence of certain information—in response to enquiries about this very interesting operation. Canadian authorities also routinely use the Glomar response on intelligence-related and other sensitive matters.

But the CBC's recent reporting on CSE plans and capabilities has elicited a uniquely Canadian variation on the Glomar response: "Not necessarily".

As in this statement:
The leaked materials are dated documents, and some explored possible ideas to better protect the Government of Canada’s information systems while also seeking cost efficiencies. As a result, information in these documents does not necessarily reflect current CSE practices or programs, or the degree to which CSE has visibility into global or Canadian infrastructures.
Maybe it does reflect current CSE practices and maybe it doesn't. Who can say?

I like this approach. It has a very Canadian ring to it, redolent of a former prime minister's historic pledge: "Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary."

It works a lot better, in my opinion, than then-National Security Advisor Stephen Rigby's attempt last year to establish the "I [Stephen Rigby] am not persuaded" response, which was put on full display here:
I would say in responding to some of the media reports that I am not totally persuaded that CSEC has tapped into airport Wi-Fi. ...

The controls, checks and accountabilities that are currently present for both CSIS and CSEC are reasonably robust. To a certain extent, there's been a lot of public debate about some of the actions of our security agencies as a result of Mr. Snowden's disclosures. I'm not persuaded at the end of the day that all of them are 100 per cent accurate.
Lest readers think that Mr. Rigby is entirely unpersuadable, it should be noted that during the same hearing he did declare himself "persuaded" by the government's reasons for appealing Justice Richard Mosley's damning 2013 ruling on CSIS 30-08 warrants—which was eventually upheld.


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