Thursday, February 18, 2016

CSE/CFIOG to become Helpful Finder/Fixers?

The Canadian Press is reporting that Canada's revised contribution in the war against the "Islamic State" will include a greater role for Canadian intelligence agencies (Murray Brewster, "Canada’s electronic spies at the centre of beefed-up ISIL intelligence effort," Canadian Press, 18 February 2016):
The Communications Security Establishment, Canada's electronic spy service, is set to play a more prominent role in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, The Canadian Press has learned. [...]

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has for weeks been signalling that the military will introduce a "more robust" intelligence-gathering regime, one that allies — chastened by the withdrawal of the six CF-18s — are happy to be bring [sic] to the fight.

Separately, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed Thursday that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will also play a stepped-up role in the fight against the Islamic State, but he also refused to be specific.

"We are providing new and additional intelligence capabilities in the region and while by its very nature I cannot elaborate, CSIS will have a role to play," Goodale said.

"It will certainly be an increased role to accomplish larger objectives."

The defence conference where Goodale and Sajjan were speaking heard Thursday about how CSIS agents cultivated human sources in Afghanistan.

But CSE played a pivotal role alongside the Canadian Army during the Afghan war, providing by its own admission half of the crucial battlefield intelligence on Taliban militants, their movements and the locations of key commanders.

The information was used to plan military operations and for targeted capture or kill missions by special forces. But one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Canadians would provide targeting only and not take part in any "direct action."

Although he's been eager to trumpet the "doubling" of the intelligence effort, Sajjan has been decidedly opaque about what that means, even last week when he announced the retooled mission.

"Enhanced intelligence capability will help protect our forces in theatre as well as those of our coalition and host nation partners," Sajjan said.

"Therefore, we will significantly increase the resources we dedicate to intelligence, both in northern Iraq and theatre-wide. Our intelligence capabilities will help the coalition and Iraqi security forces develop a more sophisticated picture of the threat and improve our ability to target, degrade and defeat ISIL."

What that likely means in practical terms, according to sources and intelligence experts, is the involvement of the secretive CSE and specialists from the 21st Electronic Warfare Regiment.

It also means deploying Canadian intelligence officers into the highly secure all-source intelligence centre in Kuwait, and potentially hacking ISIL computers and smartphones.
Various comments and speculations by me follow.


Update 3 March 2016: See here for confirmation from CSE that it is participating in Operation Impact, the mission against ISIS, with respect to force protection at least.

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