Friday, January 06, 2017

ATIpper #6: 1957 Division of Effort

More from the Access to Information (ATI) files:

Some nice information here from the Isbister Report (Intelligence Operations in the Canadian Government, 9 November 1970) about how CBNRC (now CSE) set its intelligence processing tasks and priorities at that time:

Note especially the revelation that "the division of main responsibilities for SIGINT tasks [was] reached at a Tripartite (US-UK-Canada) SIGINT Conference in 1957 in the interests of avoiding unnecessary duplication. A working arrangement for the allocation of tasks was proposed by CBNRC/GCHQ/NSA. It was approved by [the Director of Communications Security] and reported in October 1957 to [the Communications Security Board] which exercised policy control before [the Intelligence Policy Committee] was formed."

A 1990 document (The Canadian Intelligence Community, 16 March 1990; discussed here earlier) adds the further detail that "Canada undertook to bear the main responsibility for the collection and analysis of SIGINT on the Soviet Arctic."

The passage also suggests that the 1957 division of effort may have been part of a larger Canada-United Kingdom-United States CANUKUS Agreement, the exact date of which has never been clear to me. (Tripartite COMINT conferences were already being held by the three countries by 1950.)

The allied division of effort was subsequently expanded to all of the Five Eyes members and covered "not only the exchange and exploitation of intelligence on Communist countries, but also on the most important strategic areas of the world."

Canada's decision to largely abandon its cryptanalysis program in 1957 was probably related to the task-allocation decisions made by the three partners that year. (CSE's cryptanalytic capabilities were revived in the 1980s.)

The end of the Cold War may well have spelled the end to any formal division of effort among the Five Eyes allies.

CSE's statutory mandate, added to the National Defence Act in 2001, specifies that CSE foreign intelligence collection must be done "in accordance with government of Canada intelligence priorities", and CSE Chief John Adams, testifying in 2007, denied that any sort of formal division of effort then existed among the allies:
The Chairman: Do protocols exist where you have divided up the spectrum, as it were?

Mr. Adams: No, they do not, senator. It is based purely on our priorities as defined by the government.

The Chairman: Allied countries do not get together and say, ``You seem to be doing fairly well in this area, but we have a bit of a gap over here; any chance of you moving into it?''

Mr. Adams: No, we do not. If it is important to Canada, we will be there, if we can get there, obviously.

In discussions, as I said earlier, knowing the priorities that we have, we would share if there are mutual priorities and mutual national interests.
That being said, I rather suspect that, formally or informally, one of our national intelligence priorities is to make sure that we continue to collect enough intelligence of sufficient interest to our Five Eyes allies to ensure that they continue to see value in sharing the intelligence they collect with us.


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