Sunday, December 11, 2016

CSE and ELINT support to Canadian Forces

David Pugliese has written an article on ELINT support by CSE to the Canadian Forces ("Ottawa’s electronic spy agency helping military track someone in Canada, censored documents reveal," Ottawa Citizen, 11 December 2016). ELINT, or electronic intelligence, is SIGINT collected from non-communications electronic transmissions such as radar signals.

The article reports that
Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has been brought in to support the Canadian military for an operation within the country, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

The Department of National Defence confirms it has requested such assistance but is tight-lipped about the details, adding that it conducts its intelligence activities within existing laws or directives from the government.

The request for an intelligence-gathering operation by the Communications Security Establishment was for the period starting Jan. 1, 2016 and ending on Dec. 31, the heavily censored briefing note said. The request was filed last year with DND deputy minister John Forster, the former head of the CSE.

The request was made by then Maj.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk, who was commander of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.

“I formally request the support of the Communications Security Establishment in the ongoing provision of domestic operational Electronics Intelligence support to DND/CAF,” wrote Wynnyk, who has been since promoted and appointed commander of the Canadian Army.

The document was obtained by the Citizen using the Access to Information law.

In making his request, Wynnyk cited a ministerial directive on electronic intelligence assistance in support of law enforcement and security agencies as well as the National Defence Act.

I'm quoted extensively in the article, but I don't think the issue is actually as mysterious as I thought when I was discussing it with Pugliese.

Another document recently released under the Access to Information Act, the CSE Commissioner's 19 March 2015 report on Canadian Armed Forces Cyber Support Detachments, contains some useful background information on CSE's ELINT support activities.

According to that report, DND and the Canadian Forces "require the use of ELINT information to monitor air, ground and maritime activity in and around Canadian territory for various national defence, security, and sovereignty purposes." The primary use of the information is probably to assist in the detection and identification of unknown aircraft and ships in or around Canadian territory.

The report goes on to note that "CSE provides ELINT associated with foreign entities outside the 12-nautical mile limit", i.e. outside Canadian territory, under its foreign-intelligence mandate (Mandate A). But "ELINT coverage within the 12-nautical mile limit", because it involves persons in Canada, can only be collected by CSE under its assistance to federal law enforcement or security agencies mandate (Mandate C), which requires a formal request from the agency seeking the information.

"For some time, CSE did not provide ELINT access to the military within the Canadian borders because of CSE's interpretation of Part V.1 of the [National Defence Act]" (the act spelling out CSE's mandate).

However, in October 2009 the Minister of National Defence signed a Ministerial Directive on Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Assistance in Support of Law Enforcement and Security Agencies directing CSE to provide ELINT support under Mandate C when formally requested to do so.

As a result, every year the Commander of the Canadian Armed Forces Intelligence Command submits
an annual request on the first day of December to CSE for the provision of ELINT pertaining specifically to the Canadian territory. The annual request is intended to broadly cover routine activities such as [redacted.] The request should identify all standing CAF Contingency Operations on, or contiguous to, Canadian territory, as well as anticipated annual events.
So there you have it.


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