Tuesday, March 26, 2019

ATIPical story: U.S. releases partial CANUSA appendices

Another milestone has been reached in the effort to piece together the CANUSA agreement, the 1949 accord that spelled out the parameters of Canada–U.S. cooperation in communications intelligence collection and processing within the overall UKUSA relationship.

In April 2017 I got CSE to release the text of the CANUSA agreement via our Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) legislation. But our government refused to release a single word of the voluminous appendices that flesh out the details of the agreement.

Fortunately, not that long afterwards, in July 2017, Privacy International and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic filed a lawsuit in the United States seeking detailed information about the full range of intelligence-sharing arrangements among the UKUSA partners.

And, what do you know, among the hundreds of pages of documents now released as a result of that suit (see the documents available here and here) is the CANUSA agreement—including a significant portion of its appendices.

It's buried among the documents in this State Department release, but for your convenience I have extracted just the CANUSA portion and made it available here as a searchable PDF.

Whereas CSE released not a comma of the CANUSA appendices in response to my request, the State Department released some 45 pages either fully or partially. I guess it helps to have some high-powered lawyers on side when requesting information from government.

Not everything was better in the U.S. release, however. CSE to its credit was willing to release the entire text of the agreement itself, while the U.S. chose to wholly redact paragraphs 7 and 9 of it.

Which means if you want to read the full text of the exchange of letters that comprised the agreement itself, you have to go back to CSE's version here.

Don't these people ever talk to each other?

It's also worth noting that the version of Appendix B that has now been released by the U.S. is considerably less complete than the version that was already available on the NSA's own website, which as I noted here has been online since 2015. Still, the newly released Appendix B is a substantially revised version dating from 1 July 1959, whereas the online version is from 27 March 1953, so there's value in having both.

Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid.

Update 31 March 2019: As it turns out, the 1 July 1959 version of UKUSA Appendix B was also released recently, in only slightly redacted form. Since the CANUSA Appendix B was intended to be identical in all significant respects to the UKUSA version so that the procedures spelled out in the two documents would also be identical, it is possible to use the UKUSA text to reconstruct most of the redacted parts of the CANUSA appendix.

Which is what I have now done here.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

CSE budget authority rises to $708.1 million

The Supplementary Estimates (B) for FY 2018-19, tabled in Parliament at the end of January, show another significant proposed increase in CSE's spending authorities — to a new total of $708.1 million. The Main Estimates for FY 2018-19, tabled in April 2018, showed a budget of $624.9 million for the agency, later increased in the Supplementary Estimates (A) to $682.9 million.

The main cause of the latest increase was the transfer of $11.5 million in budget authority from the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Shared Services Canada "to establish the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security," presumably primarily to pay for the staff transferred to CSE from those departments when the Cyber Centre was created on October 1st last year. As a result of this transfer, CSE now has approximately 2500 employees.

Other than FY 2014-15, when a one-time $300-million payment for the agency's new headquarters bumped its budget up to just over $850 million, this marks the first time that CSE's budget authority has crossed the $700-million line.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether all that money actually will be spent by the end of the fiscal year.

Update 15 December 2019: It wasn't. According to the Public Accounts of Canada 2019 (Vol. 2, p. 345), CSE's actual 2018-19 expenditure was $681.7 million.

Friday, March 01, 2019

The Electronic Polar Watch

This month marks a minor milestone for me: 30 years of writing about Canada's signals intelligence program. The first article I wrote on the subject, "Canada and Signals Intelligence: The Electronic Polar Watch," was published in March 1989 in the Ploughshares Monitor, the quarterly publication of Canadian peace organization Project Ploughshares.

I was on the Ploughshares staff at the time (I was there from 1986 to 2001), responsible for research and advocacy on Canadian defence policy matters, nuclear arms control, and other issues.

Given 30 years of hindsight and the benefit of the vastly greater amount of information now available about the agency, I wouldn't write the piece exactly the same way today. But I think it stands up pretty well.

Its heavy emphasis on nuclear weapons issues was partly a function of the times and of Project Ploughshares' particular concerns, but it also reflected the overwhelming focus of CSE's activities during this period. The agency had begun widening its targeting at the beginning of the 1980s, establishing embassy intercept sites in non-Cold War-related locations such as New Delhi and joining the ECHELON satellite monitoring program, but the Soviet Union remained, as it had been since the 1950s, by far its most important target.

The article was the first to reveal the agency's significant growth during the 1980s, citing figures that I'd found in the annual reports of what was then called the Public Service Staff Relations Board. CSE was unwilling to release any staff figures in those days, and I suspect the PSSRB numbers came as a bit of a shock.

It may not be coincidental that 1990 was the last year that the PSSRB published those numbers. Fortunately, by that time I had already stumbled across the monthly CSE numbers that Statistics Canada had begun publishing in its Federal Government Employment series in 1979.

Later in 1989 I wrote an article for This Magazine ("Spies Without Scrutiny," September 1989) updating the staff numbers, speculating about CSE's widening range of targets, and decrying the lack of any public review mechanism for the agency. (The Office of the CSE Commissioner wasn't created until 1996.)

Fun times.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that 2019 also marks 45 years since I first rode past the Sir Leonard Tilley Building on an OC Transpo bus and wondered what exactly the spies inside were up to. CBNRC, as it was still called in 1974, was only 28 years old back then.

Little did I know that I'd still be wondering about it 45 years later.