Friday, January 01, 2016

CANUSA Agreement, Appendix B

Among the 52,000 pages of material released by NSA as part of the Friedman collection is this document, which is the 27 March 1953 version of Appendix B of the CANUSA Agreement, the foundational agreement governing Canada-U.S. communications intelligence (COMINT) cooperation. The existence of the CANUSA Agreement has been well known for many years, but to the best of my knowledge no part of this Top Secret Codeword classified agreement has ever been released before.

The CANUSA Agreement was modeled very closely on the UKUSA Agreement, and the Appendix B's of the two agreements are virtually identical. You can see the 19 March 1953 version of Appendix B of the UKUSA (or BRUSA as it was then called) Agreement here (pages 4-31). Bonus: By cross-ruffing between the two documents you can fill in most of the redactions made in them.

The 1956 and earlier versions of the UKUSA/BRUSA Agreement were largely declassified in 2010. The CANUSA Agreement, by contrast, has not been released.

Which raises the question, what is Appendix B of the CANUSA Agreement doing on the NSA website?

My guess is that, because the two Appendix B's were so similar, NSA's redactors did not realize that the CANUSA document was actually part of that agreement rather than UKUSA.

What distinguishes the two most clearly is that the CANUSA appendix refers to the U.S. Communications Intelligence Board (USCIB) and the Communications Research Committee (CRC)—the interdepartmental committees that governed the NSA and Canada's CBNRC respectively—while the UKUSA appendix refers to USCIB and the London Signals Intelligence Board (LSIB), the latter being the equivalent body for GCHQ.

The fact that the redactors removed one of the few explicit references to Canada (see para. 37b on p. 9) in the CANUSA appendix would seem to confirm that they didn't realize the entire appendix related to Canada. They failed, however, to remove the references to Canada in Annexure B3 (see especially para. 1d on p. 20).

There is a lot of interesting detail in the appendix about the nitty-gritty of access to COMINT, COMINT dissemination and security rules, limitations on the travel and activities of indoctrinated personnel, and the categorization of various types of COMINT.

There is also an important paragraph on the subject of economic intelligence (para. 39, p. 9):
Category III and II COMINT shall never under any circumstances or in any form be disseminated to any Ministry, Department, Agency, Organization, Office, or individual from which or from whom it might reasonably be expected to find its way, officially or extra-officially, into the possession of any person or group who could use it for commercial competition or commercial gain or advantage.
The same paragraph is also in the UKUSA appendix.

It's worth noting, however, that the UKUSA Agreement itself required only that there be "no dissemination of information derived from COMINT sources to any individual or agency, governmental or otherwise, that will exploit it for commercial purposes" without the "prior notification and consent of the other party" (see para. 10 here); the same provision may well have also been in the CANUSA Agreement.

Whether these or similar provisions survive in the current CANUSA and UKUSA Agreements and their associated documents has not been made public, but it is notable that recent CSE statements do use similar language. I'm a little skeptical about how such principles get applied in practice (note that the UKUSA Agreement provision allows for cases of such use where both parties agree), but in my humble opinion the sentiment is a good one.

We do know that Appendix B of the UKUSA Agreement was modified slightly in 1956 as part of a wider process of updating and reorganizing the agreement's appendices (see pp. 3 and 12-13 here). For consistency's sake, the CANUSA Appendix B probably underwent the same changes. What may have happened since 1956, however, has not been made public.

And, until the Friedman release, no part of the CANUSA Agreement or its appendices, past or present, had ever been made public.

To my mind, the release of Appendix B is a positive step forward, even if (as is probably the case) it was done by mistake.

Is there any reason why the rest of the CANUSA Agreement can't be released?

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