Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A year of Canadian SIGINT history posts

2021 was the Communications Security Establishment's 75th anniversary year. Every day during that year, I posted a Tweet highlighting an item related to Canada's SIGINT activities that had taken place on that date, using the hashtag #CSE75. Most of the items related directly to CSE (or to CBNRC, the Communications Branch of the National Research Council, as CSE was known until 1 April 1975), but there were also a lot about Canada's broader SIGINT history, including many related to the Second World War and even earlier.

It was my hope that, in addition to being interesting in themselves, these Tweets might encourage, or maybe shame, CSE itself to be more open about its past. 

The agency did add a small amount of material about its history to its website during the year, making related Twitter posts using the bilingual hashtag #CSE75CST. But I'm quite sure my efforts had nothing to do with any of that (except for the fact that a number of CSE's items clearly drew in part from information previously published on this blog).

You can still find my #CSE75 posts on Twitter, but I thought it might be interesting and maybe in some way useful to compile them in one place here. They're pretty much as I originally posted them, but I have taken advantage of the blog format to spell out some of the acronyms, correct a couple of typos, and add a bit more explanatory text in a few places.

My plan with #CSE75 was to post something interesting about Canada's SIGINT history for each day of the year. The result is not a comprehensive list of the most important developments in that history. In many cases multiple important events have occurred on the same day of the year, and in other cases the month or year of an event may be publicly known but the exact date is not. Many key developments are more in the nature of processes, to which it is difficult or perhaps meaningless to assign a date. And of course many of the most important events are probably ones of which we in the public are not even aware. 

In some cases I had to stretch a bit to find something interesting to report for a specific date, resorting, e.g., to examples of routine activities by or related to the agency that occurred on that date. But I think those items also help illuminate Canada's SIGINT history.

With those caveats in place, here's the list:


1 January 1917: "[T]he earliest record of Canadian Corps intercept of German communications ... occurred about 1 January 1917, at “No 6 Post”, Neuville St. Vaast." (The RCN began intercepting German wireless messages in 1914, however.)

2 January 1946: According to External Affairs officer Bill Crean, Canada would suggest at the upcoming Commonwealth SIGINT conference that its post-war SIGINT agency "take assignments concerned with Chinese, Spanish and French traffic providing the latter does not involve dealing with material between Ottawa and Paris."  

3 January 1956: Scheduled start date for trial operations of the new Canadian Indications Centre set up by the Joint Intelligence Committee to provide warning of Soviet war preparations using SIGINT intercepts and other intelligence sources.  

4 January 1971: The headquarters of the Supplementary Radio System, Canada's radio intercept service, moves from HMCS Gloucester to "A" Building in downtown Ottawa.

5 January 1945: The Y Committee endorses a suggestion by Herbert Norman for the creation of a postwar "Canadian Signal Intelligence Centre", but External Affairs is not in favour at this time.  

6 January 1947: Bill Crean, the External Affairs officer in charge of SIGINT policy, informs the US that "while offhand he had no specific objection to [a Canada-US communications intelligence (COMINT)] agreement, he did not quite see the need for it."  

7 January 1953: Communications Research Committee report SC/26, covering SIGINT activities during 1952, states that "COMINT is far and away the main source of intelligence available in Canada at present."

8 January 1947: The US Communications Intelligence Board agrees to draft a negotiating text for a Canada-U.S. COMINT agreement covering "security, dissemination, and restrictions on the use of communication intelligence for commercial advantage."   

9 January 1974: CBC airs the documentary The Fifth Estate: The Espionage Establishment, revealing CBNRC's SIGINT role to the Canadian public and leading to probing questions in parliament.

10 January 1942: The Canadian Army's #3 Special Wireless Station, located near Victoria, BC, begins operations. The station monitors Japanese, and later Soviet, radio traffic.

11 January 1978: The Intelligence Advisory Committee concludes "the present atmosphere associated with the McDonald Commission and the Keable Inquiry is not conducive at this time for government approval" of the CSE Special Collection Project.  

12 January 1944: The Canadian Cabinet War Committee approves a UK proposal that Canada intercept and process Japanese meteorological messages. (However, the US Navy later decides to do the job alone.)  

13 January 1945: No. 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group departs Canada for service in Australia, where it will remain until the end of the war, intercepting Japanese radio traffic for Central Bureau.

14 January 1955: The Cipher Policy Committee agrees to appoint a liaison officer to represent Canada in the US on communications security (COMSEC) matters; Art Browness subsequently becomes CBNRC's first COMSEC Liaison Officer.  

15 January 1942: Veteran GC&CS cryptanalyst Oliver Strachey takes over as director of Canada's nascent cryptanalytic organization, the Examination Unit (XU), replacing Herbert Yardley.

16 January 1975: Order-in-Council PC 1975-95 directs the transfer of CBNRC from the National Research Council to the Department of National Defence as of 1 April 1975. CBNRC is renamed the Communications Security Establishment on the same day.

17 January 1991: Coalition combat operations begin in the Gulf War. A Canadian cryptologic direct support element accompanies the Canadian naval task force to provide SIGINT support during the mission.

18 January 1986: CSE advertises for Transcriber Analysts with proficiency in "a Slavic, Oriental, Middle Eastern or Romance language". The ad reflects the growing range of CSE's SIGINT targets as it transitions from a near-exclusive focus on the USSR.

19 January 2010: CSE's Joint Research Office calls for "a next-generation collaborative analytics capability". "Thanks to technological and economic forces like the Internet, commoditization, and globalization, CSE is now awash in an ocean of data."  

20 January 2017: A planning document lays out the purpose of the first public opinion research project ever undertaken by CSE: to determine Canadians' views "both in terms of [CSE's] mandate and activities, and in terms of recruitment initiatives."

21 January 2020: Consortium News reports that it sent libel notices to CSE and Global News. The letters demand a retraction and apology for suggesting that the site was "part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia."  

22 January 1944: The GRU rezident in Ottawa sends an encrypted telegram to Moscow. Due to Soviet reuse of one-time pads, the message later becomes one of at least 23 Ottawa–Moscow telegrams partially decrypted during the VENONA project.

23 January 1987: The Marchand Report comments on CSE's new program for delivering SIGINT to clients: "A growing number of senior readers are getting hooked on the Customer Relations Officers' services provided to them on site by clever and aggressive CSE staffers."  

24 January 2006: Five Eyes partner agencies meet at CFS Leitrim to plan SIGINT support to the countries participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.  

25 January 1955: CPC Paper 14/55 concludes that establishment of a crypto evaluation unit in CBNRC is a "feasible and worthwhile undertaking". But little progress is made in the next few years "because of the inability to recruit staff with the appropriate qualifications."  

26 January 1942: A memo for the Cabinet War Committee recommends that the NRC's Examination Unit (XU), the cryptanalytic unit set up on a trial basis in June 1941, be made a "permanent war agency", with an annual appropriation of $100,000.  

27 January 1943: The Examination Unit drops work on German clandestine material and switches to Japanese military (i.e. army, army air force, and army troopship) communications.  

28 January 2016: CSE Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe declares that CSE did not comply with the law when it failed to ensure that Canadian identity information was properly removed or masked in metadata shared with partner countries.  

29 January 1964: A new low-frequency radio to troposcatter to microwave to landline communications link from the intercept station at Alert to CBNRC in Ottawa enters service, supplementing the poorly performing HF radio links.  

30 January 2012: John Forster, formerly Associate Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, becomes the eighth Chief of CSE, replacing John Adams.

31 January 2011: The contract to design, build, finance, and maintain CSE's new headquarters building, subsequently named the Edward Drake Building, is awarded to Plenary Properties LTAP.

1 February 2017: Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould asks CSE "to analyze risks to Canada’s political and electoral activities from hackers, and to release this assessment publicly." The report was released in June 2017.  

2 February 2011: CSE is called in to help investigate and mitigate a compromise discovered in Privy Council Office computers.   

3 February 2014: CSE Chief John Forster testifies, "One of the challenges I have as chief... is for us to be far more transparent and open as far as we can be within the confines of national security about what we do."  

4 February 2005: Former NSA Senior US Liaison Officer/Ottawa (SUSLO/O) Cindy Farkus comments on NSA relations with CSE: "It was a real eye-opener for the State Department personnel in Ottawa to see how well we interact with the Canadians."  

5 February 1942: Gilbert deB Robinson writes to Lester Pearson arguing against excessively limiting Examination Unit tasks: if the XU staff "is to have the requisite experience in various fields it is essential that the material on which we are to work be correspondingly varied."  

6 February 1946: The Canadian Joint Intelligence Committee recommends that Canada maintain "post-war intercept facilities on a scale sufficient to ensure a fair Canadian contribution to the general pool of wireless intelligence set up between Canada and other Empire countries and the United States."  

7 February 2018: CSE's Blueprint 2020 @ CSE report states that 88% of CSE employees believe the agency "works hard to create a workplace that prevents harassment", while 12% report "being victims of harassment".   

8 February 1971: Edward M. Drake, CBNRC's first director, dies at the age of 59. Drake had been a key player in Canadian SIGINT since 1940. Kevin O'Neill was subsequently appointed the agency's second director.

9 February 2015: Greta Bossenmaier, formerly Senior Associate Deputy Minister for International Development, becomes the ninth Chief of CSE, replacing John Forster. Bossenmaier was the first woman appointed to the job.

10 February 1951: The Ottawa Journal reports that "E. Drake rolled a cross of 706 with a string of 304 to set the pace in the CB-NRC Bowling League". (Unlike its role, CBNRC's existence was never secret, and in the 1940s-1950s its bowling results were often reported.) Chuck Hellyer, who came second, was head of the machine processing section.

11 February 1947: Opening day of the CANUKUS Technical Conference held in Ottawa to consider locations of future Canadian intercept stations: "the experts ... concluded that Whitehorse and Churchill were suitable sites".  

12 February 2008: CSE and Health Canada sign a memorandum of understanding on the provision of SIGINT support to the department: Among other roles the MOU notes, "A key focus of HC is to maintain a pandemic preparedness plan".

13 February 2018: Testifying on Bill C-59, CSE Director General of Strategic Policy, Planning and Partnerships Scott Millar confirms that "the capability [to conduct active, i.e., offensive, cyber operations] exists with CSE now."   

14 February 2014: CSE's 2013-14 Corporate Risk Profile notes, "CSE has entered an era in which it is paramount to persistently demonstrate lawfulness in order to maintain public, partner and parliamentary confidence as a means to securing CSE's reputation and future."  

15 February 2018: CSE publicly attributes the NotPetya malware to "actors in Russia", adding "there is no indication that Government of Canada systems were negatively impacted or that any [Canadian] information – personal or otherwise – was compromised."   

16 February 1945: No. 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group arrives in Australia, having left Canada on January 13th.

17 February 1944: The RCMP declines at this time to appoint a member to serve on the XU Committee, suggesting that "whenever any matter of interest to this Force is brought up, it be dealt with by correspondence ... or by personal interview".

18 February 2015: Canadian Forces Information Operations Group (CFIOG) commander Col. Steven Moritsugu explains the SIGINT role of CFS Alert: "Our main reason for having the station there would be the defence of Canada, the defence of the homeland, and the defence of North America. Our primary sharing is with NORAD."  

19 February 1945: Norman Robertson and George Glazebrook meet with NRC head Dr. C.J. Mackenzie about the future of the Examination Unit. "We had a very general discussion," Mackenzie noted, "and probably will cut down the size of this commitment later on."  

20 February 1990: Former Intelligence and Security Coordinator Blair Seaborn comments on CSE: "Because it is involved in an extremely sensitive area, both the protection of Canadian government communications and the interception of foreign communications,... it is an ultra-secret organization".

21 February 1991: The Cabinet Committee on Security and Intelligence agrees that Canada should "adjust its foreign intelligence collection efforts to collect more economic and diplomatic intelligence, both to serve its own needs better and to have more to exchange".  

22 February 1946: Canada and other Dominions begin a two-week Commonwealth Signals Intelligence Conference in London to discuss post-war SIGINT cooperation with Britain and, through Britain, the United States.   

23 February 1996: CSE's 1996-97 SIGINT Program Business Plan reports the agency's "expectation that demands for our SIGINT services will continue to escalate, particularly in the areas of economic and political intelligence and support to the Canadian Forces."  

24 February 1994: The Department of National Defence announces that the intercept stations at CFS Alert, CFB Gander and CFS Masset will be converted for remote operation from CFS Leitrim.

25 February 1977: CSE's Management Committee agrees to appoint a Special Advisor on Equal Opportunities for Women (Edwina Slattery).  

26 February 2015: CSE's new headquarters on Ogilvie Road is officially named the Edward Drake Building. The former CBC headquarters on Bronson Avenue, purchased for CSE in 1997, also carried Drake's name while CSE occupied the building.  

27 February 2014: CSE temporarily disables sharing of telephone metadata with Five Eyes partners due to multiple failures to "minimize" Canadian identity information contained in the data.  

28 February 2005: CSE Commissioner Antonio Lamer recommends that CSE "seek agreement among the second party partners [NSA, GCHQ, ASD and GCSB] on ... the use and retention of recognized [Canadian] private communications intercepted through collection."  

1 March 1988: The Interdepartmental Committee on Security and Intelligence discusses CSE's plans for "Intelsat Collection" (i.e., participation in the UKUSA ECHELON program, monitoring traffic on international communications satellites). The photograph below shows satellite dishes in place at CFS Leitrim in 1988.

2 March 1960: The Radiation Working Party, an interdepartmental committee set up to coordinate TEMPEST testing of Canadian government communications installations by CBNRC, holds its first meeting.  

3 March 1997: Claude Bisson, the first CSE Commissioner, submits his first classified report to the Minister of National Defence. (The report looks at "certain CSE activities in support of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.")

4 March 1944: A memo for Prime Minister King explains that SIGINT collaboration among the US, UK and Canada is "much closer than during the last war."  

5 March 1946: The BRUSA, later renamed UKUSA, Agreement is signed by the UK and US. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were not signatories but did agree to abide by its provisions and were accepted as partners. (Canada was even cited by name.)  

6 March 1951: The Senior Committee begins discussion of paper SC/12, "Expansion of CB", which proposes a staff increase of 222 "to cope with a large-scale extension of CB's SIGINT responsibilities, bringing the approved establishment to 449." The plan was approved later that month.  

7 March 1947: The US Communications Intelligence Board discusses the "proposed U.S.-Canadian Communication Intelligence Agreement". The US Navy considers an agreement "absolutely necessary"; other agencies are not opposed to one.  

8 March 2019: CSE publishes a description of its "Equities Management Framework", the process by which it decides whether to publicize software vulnerabilities so they can be fixed or to remain silent so they can be exploited for spying or other purposes.  

9 March 2005: Defence Minister Bill Graham signs the first Ministerial Directive on use of metadata by CSE.  

10 March 1954: NSA proposes to the US COMINT Board that codeword Far East Special Weather Intelligence be made available to Canada under the regular procedures already established for access to other types of COMINT codeword material.   

11 March 1946: MI6 head Stewart Menzies reports the results of the recent Commonwealth SIGINT conference, noting that the provisions of the BRUSA Agreement had been explained to the Dominions "in so far as they were affected" and "had been accepted by them."  

12 March 1988: A sea-going Cryptologic Direct Support Element is established at 770 Communications Research Squadron, Gander. "Prior to this, ad hoc groups were employed on an 'as required' basis."  

13 March 1944: Canadian, US, UK and Australian cryptologic personnel meet for the 2nd Japanese Army Cypher conference at Arlington Hall Station.

14 March 1960: Canada and the NATO Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) agree that "if the Canadian Army were to earmark a small "Y" unit for use in wartime under SHAPE", SHAPE would seek "the early admission of Canada to participation in planning for tactical "Y" and related SIGINT services".  

15 March 2004: A Ministerial Directive is issued instructing CSE to "establish a [redacted] Program," possibly the beginning of the EONBLUE program. More on EONBLUE here.  

16 March 1984: Former Solicitor General Allan Lawrence, at that time one of the few ministers ever to visit CSE, warns in a speech to parliament that "There is a terrible potential for abuse in the CSE and its allied and international agencies in other countries."  

17 March 1960: A CBNRC memo recommends that the Director of Communications Security, the External Affairs officer in charge of SIGINT policy, succeed the directors of military and naval intelligence as Executive Agent for arrangements with SHAPE and SACLANT.   

18 March 2015: CSE states, "There is no information in corporate records to suggest that Second Parties have ever requested that CSE un-minimize shared [word(s) redacted] metadata." ("Minimize" means to remove Canadian identity information.)  

19 March 2015: CSE Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe reports to the Defence Minister that his review of CF Cyber Support Detachments was delayed by a six-month refusal to cooperate that ended only when the Commissioner "exercised his [statutory] authority".   

20 March 1953: A CANUKUS Conference addressing "lesser" matters such as "SACLANT, Wartime Collaboration and Counter-Clandestine SIGINT" begins in Washington, following an earlier US/UK-only conference. (Discussed here.)

21 March 2017: CSE Commissioner Plouffe calls for much greater transparency by CSE: "There is all kinds of information that could be released. It could be statistics. It could be all kinds of things."  

22 March 1995: The Chrétien government announces that it supports, in principle, the creation of "an oversight mechanism for the CSE". The first CSE Commissioner was appointed to review the agency in 1996.  

23 March 2004: In the agency's second major post-9/11 boost, CSE’s budget is increased by 25% and its authorized number of employees is increased by 25%, from about 1300 to about 1650. (CSE now has as many as 3000 employees.)  

24 March 1975: Minister of State for Science and Technology Bud Drury admits that CBNRC's budget estimates are hidden among those of a number of departments for reasons of security. MPs are not pleased.  

25 March 2015: The National Defence committee reports that it "has examined the qualifications and competence of Greta Bossenmaier to [hold] the position of chief of the Communications Security Establishment and finds her competent".  

26 March 1975: Pierre Trudeau reveals that "the Department of National Defence is the main user of the kind of intelligence which might be gathered by [CSE]." CSE comments, "Luckily, neither the Commons nor the media pursued the matter much further at this time."  

27 March 1941: NRC Acting President C.J. Mackenzie recommends creation of a cryptographic bureau (Project G-1003). The NRC Examination Unit (XU), Canada's first cryptanalytic agency, began operations in June 1941.  

28 March 1946: The Chiefs of Staff Committee approves continuation of Service intercept stations in peacetime, authorizing "a complement of 450 operating staff, to be divided between Navy, Army and Air Force on the basis of 180, 200, and 70 respectively."  

29 March 1946: The senior interdepartmental SIGINT group proposes creation of the Communications Research Centre (later called CBNRC) "for Y policy, discrimination and traffic analysis, cryptanalysis, code and cipher making, and cipher security".  

30 March 1953: A memo by External Affairs officer George Glazebrook on the "Organization of Intelligence and Security" identifies three principal weaknesses in Canadian intelligence, the first of which is inadequate resourcing of SIGINT.   

31 March 1954: The US accepts Canada's request that the CANUSA Agreement and any specific references to it be treated as TOP SECRET codeword information.  

1 April 1975: The Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC) is transferred to the Department of National Defence and renamed the Communications Security Establishment.   

2 April 1942: To expedite decryption, External Affairs arranges with the Chief Postal Censor to have copies of "communications in code and cypher to and from the [Vichy] French Legation" sent direct to the Examination Unit.  

3 April 2013: An NSA memo on the agency's intelligence relationship with CSE reports that “NSA has a close, cooperative relationship with [CSE] that both sides would like to see expanded and strengthened.”

4 April 1997: Its conversion to remote operations complete, Canadian Forces Station Masset is stood down as a separate station and re-established as CFS Leitrim Detachment Masset.

5 April 2012: CSE is exempted from the government-wide requirement to produce quarterly public financial reports.  

6 April 1942: A CANUKUS radio intelligence conference begins in Washington: "From the point of view of later US authorities, this conference represented the beginning of SIGINT collaboration with Canada, as an 'adjunct' of US-British collaboration."   

7 April 1949: The Communications Research Committee (which ran Canadian SIGINT policy) agrees to send the draft CANUSA Agreement to the London Signals Intelligence Board for comments prior to finalization of the agreement.  

8 April 1975: MP Joe Clark asks whether CBNRC/CSE has been "monitor[ing] in any way whatsoever long distance telephone calls placed in Canada to points in Canada or abroad. A simple yes or no would be fine, and I would prefer not to have both." Minister Bud Drury replies: "Mr. Speaker, I would make that, on choice, a simple no."  

9 April 2014: CSE memo states, "While under no legal obligation to do so, the Five-Eyes partners have agreed, as a matter of policy, to take measures to protect information relating to each other's nationals"  

10 April 2019: CSE Chief Shelly Bruce testifies, "CSE has been under review since 1996... . I believe that, as an organization, we have come to appreciate just how much better that makes us as an organization."  

11 April 2005: CSE Chief Keith Coulter testifies on CSE priorities: "Currently, we are highly focused on the security dimension. More than 80 per cent of our efforts are related to security or support to military operations."  

12 April 1988: An Interdepartmental Committee on Security and Intelligence report states, "While NSA and GCHQ have a number of third party relationships..., CSE's involvement with third parties has been limited to joint CANUKUS initiatives in support of shared NATO commitments."  

13 April 1946: Ministers St Laurent, Howe and Abbott propose the creation of a post-war Canadian SIGINT organization, with 179 positions, through Order-in-Council P.C. 54/3535. (The order itself is dated 21 August 1946.)

14 April 1951: Final day of the CANUSA Technical Conference on expansion of COMINT during wartime, which drafted "tediously detailed" Annexures to Appendix C (Emergency Planning) and Appendix G (Combined Communications).  

15 April 1951: The first edition of the Canadian COMINT Security Regulations, modeled on the UK equivalent but "in a less voluminous form", is approved.  

16 April 1987: The Intelligence Advisory Committee asks CSE and External Affairs to check whether the US and Australia are withholding certain Japan-related intelligence and agrees that Canada "should be chary in sharing economic assessments with the Allies in future, especially when related to Japan."  

17 April 1985: The Department of National Defence announces that the intercept station at Inuvik, NWT, will be closed in 1986.

18 April 1957: An exchange of letters is initiated with the US and UK "on the provision of what was called Indications Intelligence," culminating in the Tripartite Intelligence Alerts Agreement.  

19 April 1956: Undersecretary of State for External Affairs Jules Leger, chair of the Communications Security Board, argues that "the larger the Canadian effort on COMINT, the better placed Canada would be to create independent intelligence assessments".   

20 April 1972: Memo to Cabinet reports that CBNRC is conducting a survey to check the intelligence value of cross-border communications carried by the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation. (This may have been the activity Joe Clark asked questions about on 8 April 1975.)

21 April 1947: The first meeting of the Technical Steering Group takes place. Set up to deal with equipment issues related to intercept stations, the committee has members from CBNRC and the three armed services.   

22 April 1998: Telesat Canada receives a contract to quadruple the capacity of the High Arctic Data Communications System, which connects the intercept station at Alert with processing personnel at Leitrim and, ultimately, CSE.

23 April 2015: Bill C-44 receives Royal Assent, re-opening the way for CSE to call on the assistance of Five Eyes allies to help CSIS monitor Canadian targets traveling abroad.  

24 April 1997: The first Annual Report of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner is released. The first CSE Commissioner was Claude Bisson, who was appointed in 1996 to provide outside review of the activities of CSE.  

25 April 2014: CSE briefing on DNI Metadata Sharing Discrepancies states, "it is not possible to determine whether [redacted foreign partner] has forwarded any selection criteria that were directed at Canadians or persons in Canada, and if CSE has forwarded any data in response."  

26 April 1954: Howie M. Harris replaces T. Jaffray Wilkins as Communications Branch Senior Liaison Officer (CBSLO) at NSA. Harris was previously the head of R1, the section of CBNRC's Reporting Group responsible for naval intelligence.  

27 April 2004: The Martin government's "Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy" promises that Canadian "intelligence collection and assessment capabilities will be increased." CSE receives approval to grow by 25% around the same time.  

28 April 1986: CSE and NSA conclude an umbrella memorandum of understanding establishing a "cooperative program on joint information security endeavours".  

29 April 1980: CSE's "Strategic Overview" of its COMSEC program proposes that Canada buy secure telephones: "Efforts to educate users to the dangers inherent in the use of unprotected telephones for classified conversations are known to have been largely unsuccessful."  

30 April 2007: CSE Chief John Adams tells members of parliament, "The volume and type of communications is literally endless.... Our vision is security through information superiority. We want to master the Internet."

1 May 2014: The Globe and Mail reports that NSA Director Michael Hayden "envied his Canadian counterparts for a singular advantage they held on him – their ability to push through secret surveillance programs without generating any pushback from politicians or judges."  

2 May 1941: US General Joseph Mauborgne suggests that Canada hire Herbert O. Yardley to head its new codebreaking agency, the Examination Unit (XU). Later, however, the US and UK both refuse to work with the XU until Yardley is removed.

3 May 2005: The Reserve Communicator Research (R291) military occupation is created to complement and augment Regular Force operations in tactical electronic warfare, strategic signals intelligence and linguistic support.  

4 May 2005: CSE Chief Keith Coulter testifies, "over 75% of our business is in the security domain, and that's a little broader than terrorism. That's proliferation... It is counter-intelligence... It's cyber-threats... And these days it is hugely a support to military operations"  

5 May 1942: The first meeting of the Canadian "Y Committee", established by the army, navy, air force and External Affairs to co-ordinate Canadian intercept operations, takes place.  

6 May 2008: CSE's Deputy Chief ITS Peter Laneville lays out the basic tenets of information superiority as Exploitation, Defence, and Offence, arguing that we "Need to master all three".   

7 May 1998: Former intercept operator Rudi Saueracker describes his work to the National Defence and Veterans Affairs committee: "I typed for a living. I copied Morse code. I punched out traffic analysis reports. I sent documentation via teletype to CSE".  

8 May 1938: The Minister of National Defence approves the creation of a tri-service "Wireless Intelligence Service". This date is considered the birth date of the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System, which later became the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group.  

9 May 2005: The Privacy Commissioner recommends that the National Defence Act be amended to require judicial rather than ministerial authorizations for CSE interception of private communications. A "quasi-judicial" system was implemented in 2019.  

10 May 2018: Testifying to the Senate Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee, CSE Deputy Chief IT Security Scott Jones asserts, "certainly amongst my Five Eyes allies, we’re looked on with envy in terms of the investments we’ve made and the progress we’ve made"  

11 May 1950: The Communications Research Committee has "a long and acrimonious discussion about CB's hiring procedures." Frequent hires from the UK had led to angry complaints that CBNRC stood for "Communications Branch - No Room for Canadians".  

12 May 1949: Invited to comment on the draft Canada–US CANUSA communications intelligence agreement, the London Signal Intelligence Board decides that "there were no points in the draft on which it wished to remark".  

13 May 1941: The Interdepartmental Committee on Cryptography approves six-month trial operation of Canada's first dedicated codebreaking organization, the Examination Unit (XU), under the direction of Herbert Yardley.  

14 May 2009: CSE announces plans to construct a new $880-million headquarters complex, later named the Edward Drake Building, next to CSIS HQ.  

15 May 1952: The US begins sending CBNRC copies of intercepted Soviet Far East plain language and low-grade cipher traffic. (North-east Siberia was one of the areas CBNRC worked on at the time.) Before this date the copies had been provided to GCHQ.  

16 May 1972: Cabinet limits FY73/74 funding for the Canadian Intelligence Program to its existing level, preventing CSE's experimental cable-monitoring program in Montreal from going fully operational.  

17 May 1945: Gilbert Robinson visits Washington to discuss the future of the Examination Unit. "These discussions included the setting of Canadian signals intelligence collection targets, including targeting communications in France and Northern China."  

18 May 1956: SHAPE turns down Canada's application for admission to NATO "Y" planning, writing that, "while Canadian participation was greatly to be desired, Canada could not be permitted to participate in 'Y' planning without contributing a 'Y' unit."  

19 May 2005: The CSE Commissioner’s annual report comments, "For jurists who are accustomed to dealing with warrants issued by judges, a foreign intelligence MA [a Ministerial Authorization enabling CSE to intercept private communications] is a strange sort of creature."  

20 May 1976: Deputy Minister of National Defence C.R. ("Buzz") Nixon confirms to MPs that National Defence "is the major user of Communications Security Establishment services."  

21 May 1993: CSE contracts with Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montréal to develop "a noise-robust, vocabulary-independent topic spotting system" to assist in processing the growing volume of voice communications.  

22 May 2008: Defence Minister Peter MacKay announces approval of the Mid-Term Accommodation Project, designed to house CSE's high-performance computers. The MTAP is later incorporated into the agency's new headquarters building as Pod 1.  

23 May 1941: External Affairs officer Thomas Stone writes to the RCMP Commissioner to confirm tentative plans for creation of the Examination Unit, including assignment of Constable Robert S. McLaren to the unit. McLaren spent the rest of his career in SIGINT, retiring around 1970.   

24 May 1955: CBNRC's communications security (COMSEC) role is expanded from the security of ciphers to include transmission security and the physical security of classified communications equipment and material.  

25 May 1959: A SIGINT Cell designated the Canadian Communications Centre is established at Canadian Air Division, Metz, to provide Category III COMINT to RCAF units in Europe.  

26 May 2010: Deputy Chief SIGINT Shelly Bruce comments on post-9/11 challenges: "the combination of the Internet revolution and the security agenda together comprised the biggest challenge ever faced by the SIGINT world". 

27 May 1991: Former Solicitor-General Bob Kaplan tells the Globe and Mail that "the CSE's technology and its arrangements with allied signals-intelligence organizations have outstripped the ability of Canadian laws to protect citizens from the CSE's intrusive technology."  

28 May 2001: CSE Commissioner Claude Bisson reports that CSE defined a new vision for itself during the year 2000: "to be the agency that masters the global information network to enhance Canada’s safety and prosperity".  

29 May 1943: The XU Committee approves the hiring of Sonia Morawetz to work on French communications. The XU's final director, Gilbert Robinson, later recommended that Morawetz run the French cryptanalysis section in the post-war organization, but she did not stay on after the war.  

30 May 1966: The Supplementary Radio Activities Consolidation Plan, designed to improve Canadian intercept stations' access to low-echelon circuits and address the "rapidly increasing volume" of target signals, is presented to the Defence Council.  

31 May 1988: Options listed in a Privy Council foreign intelligence review include participation in the ECHELON satellite monitoring program in order to yield more Canada-specific information while contributing to the allied SIGINT effort. Canada does join the program.  

1 June 1998: CSE Commissioner Claude Bisson affirms that assurances that CSE does not target Canadians apply equally to people in Quebec: "CSE does not target Quebec communications, or the Quebec sovereignty movement, and it does not have a 'French section.'"  

2 June 1947: External Affairs asks the US for a copy of the BRUSA (later renamed UKUSA) Agreement, stating that Canada "had never officially received a copy..., though they were aware of the clauses concerning Canada."  

3 June 1991: The Globe and Mail quotes Jean-Jacques Blais: "My knowledge of [CSE] was very superficial indeed when I was minister of defence." Blais also "doubts whether subsequent ministers of defence have been better informed".  

4 June 1987: The Privy Council Office notes that "CSE has a number of policy aspirations largely relating to certain overseas operations [i.e. intercept sites in embassies] and the use of Section 16 of the CSIS Act which would require further diversion of Defence resources..."  

5 June 1989: The CF Supplementary Radio System and CSE establish a detachment at the large US Army SIGINT site at Augsburg, West Germany. The end of the Cold War led to the closing of the detachment in 1993.  

6 June 1944: Allied troops land in Normandy. Earlier, the Examination Unit had been "horrified" when they decrypted a diplomatic message that indicated Norman Robertson had let slip the date and location of the invasion at a cocktail party.

7 June 1948: The USAF seeks to limit information exchange under the proposed CANUSA Agreement: "Not only is it considered that the Canadians will reap all the benefits of complete exchange but the wider dissemination of the information could jeopardize the security of the information."  

8 June 2016: Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien warns Canadians that when CSE and the Defence Minister say "'Don’t worry, the risk is low,' in part because 'it's only metadata, it's not content' – take that with a big grain of salt."  

9 June 1941: Canada's original cryptanalytic agency, the National Research Council's "Examination Unit" (XU), begins operations, using two rooms at the NRC Montreal Road campus.

10 June 2009: CSE members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada picket outside the CSE buildings to protest plans to privatize as many as 130 jobs once the agency's new headquarters complex is constructed.

11 June 2007: Former CSE Deputy Chief SIGINT Bob Brûlé testifies, "organizations such as the CSE desperately require a [human] foreign intelligence service for them to continue to be successful in the future."  

12 June 1942: The Canadian Army Discrimination Unit (DU) is established. "This Unit started discriminating and doing traffic analysis (T/A) on Japanese military and air traffic in the same building as the [Examination Unit]".  

13 June 2016: CSE and CSIS sign a memorandum of understanding on CSE assistance to CSIS threat reduction activities.  

14 June 1956: The RCAF establishes a one-hut experimental intercept site at Alert on Ellesmere Island. The station was enlarged and made permanent in 1958 and continues to operate today.  

15 June 1954: The CBNRC representatives at NSA and GCHQ, then known as CBSLOs (Communications Branch Senior Liaison Officer), are renamed CANSLOs (Canadian Senior Liaison Officer).  

16 June 1941: The Examination Unit begins receiving encrypted material for solution. The first intercepts received (and decrypted) are messages from Brazil-based Abwehr spy Friedrich Kempter.  

17 June 1957: Start of the Tripartite Arctic Conference, at which the US, UK and Canada agree to assign CBNRC "the main responsibility for SIGINT production concerning the Soviet Arctic."  

18 June 1985: According to James Bartleman, SIGINT from CSE warns of a threat to Air India five days before flight 182 is destroyed by a bomb, killing 329 passengers and crew. CSE officials later deny there was ever such a report.  

19 June 1996: Defence Minister David Collenette announces that the government has appointed Claude Bisson, former chief justice of Quebec, as the first CSE Commissioner, mandated to review the agency's compliance with the law.

20 June 1946: The Communications Research Committee, the interdepartmental body responsible for Canadian post-war SIGINT policy, holds its first meeting.  

21 June 2019: Bill C-59, the National Security Act 2017, receives Royal Assent. Included in the bill is the Communications Security Establishment Act, which updates the agency's statutory mandate and grants it the power to conduct computer network attack operations.  

22 June 2006: CSE Commissioner Antonio Lamer reports, "My one regret will be if I leave this position without a resolution of the legal interpretation issues that have bedevilled this office since December 2001." (It took until 21 June 2019.)  

23 June 2003: CSE and the other Five Eyes SIGINT agencies agree on a Five Eyes SIGINT Partnership Business Vision and statement of principles for the Five Eyes SIGINT Enterprise at the Palliser Conference, held in Calgary.

24 June 1953: The Communications Operations Policy Committee, chaired by the Director of Communications Security (the External Affairs officer in charge of SIGINT policy), is established to oversee the provision and staffing of intercept facilities.  

25 June 1944: Prime Minister Mackenzie King receives a copy of a telegram from Japanese PM Tojo to Hitler with a note that "It was intercepted and decyphered by our Examination Unit."  

26 June 2017: Five Eyes Interior Ministers, Immigration Ministers, and Attorneys General declare, "Our five country partnership, founded after the Second World War and strengthened during the Cold War, is more relevant today than ever."  

27 June 2018: Associate Chief Shelly Bruce is appointed Chief of CSE. Bruce is the 10th Chief, and the first appointed from within the organization since Stewart Woolner, who was Chief from 1989 to 1999.  

28 June 2000: The former CBC headquarters building at 1500 Bronson, bought by CSE to help house its growing staff, is renamed the Edward Drake Building after the agency's first Director. In 2015 the name was reused at CSE's new headquarters complex.  

29 June 1949: The Chairman of the US Communications Intelligence Board, Major General Charles Cabell, sends a letter to the Chairman of the Communications Research Committee, Bill Crean, finalizing the CANUSA Agreement on COMINT cooperation.  

30 June 1946: The Joint Discrimination Unit formally lapses, "with the JDU staff and individual members of the old Examination Unit assimilated into the [Communications Research Centre, the new organization that became CBNRC in September 1946] over the summer."  

1 July 1989: Stewart Woolner becomes Chief of CSE, replacing Peter Hunt. Woolner was the 4th Chief of the agency, and the last to be drawn from within its ranks until the appointment of Shelly Bruce, the 10th Chief, in June 2018.  

2 July 2015: CSE denies that its website was hit by a cyberattack, describing it as "functional and accessible all day". According to a CTV source, a hacker had gone after "a 'dead end' web address that the CSE owns but does not use".  

3 July 1963: The RCN begins direction-finding operations at Naval Radio Station Bermuda. The station is especially useful for locating Soviet ballistic missile submarines operating off the east coast of North America.

4 July 1993: Canadian Forces Station Bermuda ceases operations. The radio direction-finding site was primarily used to monitor Cold War-era Soviet air and sea activities off the east coast of North America.  

5 July 2014: A Washington Post study of roughly 170,000 e-mails, instant messages and documents acquired by NSA from on-line accounts finds many cases of "incidental collection" related to Five Eyes countries, including more than 19,000 Canadian identifiers.  

6 July 1977: The McDonald Commission is created to examine wrongdoing by the RCMP. The Commission recommends creation of a parliamentary committee and a watchdog body to monitor all security and intelligence agencies, including CSE, but neither idea is accepted at that time.  

7 July 1949: CRC/105 "Review of Canadian Peacetime SIGINT Effort" reports that Canada's intercept program is based on three factors: integration with the US effort, meeting the needs of CBNRC cryptanalytic tasks, and training of intercept operators.   

8 July 1942: The RCN reports it is increasing interception of French diplomatic and colonial traffic in the Far East by "dispensing with some unnecessary duplication in the interception of commercial traffic."  

9 July 1944: The US Army's Signal Security Agency complains to GC&CS about plans to send a Canadian Special Wireless Group to India: "this will reduce effectiveness of Canadian coverage & US will have to back them up to a greater extent."   

10 July 1970: External Affairs asserts re SIGINT, "The fact that Canada ... is largely privy to what the USA regards as one of its own key sources of information is an important factor in the degree of frankness which U.S. officials feel they can or must adopt with us".

11 July 1946: The Communications Research Committee approves "a paper saying that the Intelligence Section of CBNRC was to 'provide' Signals Intelligence, but the Directors of Intelligence were to 'evaluate' it."  

12 July 1999: Ian Glen becomes Chief of CSE, replacing Stewart Woolner. Glen was the first Chief drawn from outside the ranks of the agency or its predecessors.  

13 July 1999: CNEWS reports that CSE representatives at a recent Ottawa security technology fair "got desperate and passed out free beer, with their own temporary CSE label stuck on it, something that happens to be totally illegal under Ontario liquor laws."  

14 July 1943: The Examination Unit Committee agrees to suggest that GC&CS move its Japanese Military Section to Canada. (The UK politely declines.)  

15 July 1994: The CSE badge is approved by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

16 July 2020: CSE and its partners in the UK and US condemn "Russian cyber threat activity directed at Canadian, United Kingdom and United States organizations, including vaccine research entities, involved in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts."   

17 July 1995: CSE and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) jointly announce establishment of the Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP).  

18 July 2007: The Harper government promises to address legal concerns raised by successive CSE Commissioners by "bringing forward proposed legislative amendments in due course." The CSE Act (part of Bill C-59) was finally introduced by the Trudeau government on 20 June 2017.  

19 July 1966: The Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System is created, merging the intercept stations and organizations of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. In 1998 the CFSRS became the Canadian Forces Information Operations Group.  

20 July 1955: The Joint Intelligence Committee decides to seek Canadian participation in the joint NSA–GCHQ Naval Working Party and to ask the US to provide access to raw SIGINT collected by Norway.  

21 July 2002: Former CSE analyst Allen Macartney asserts that 1990s cutbacks hobbled intelligence agencies: "In some cases the number of intelligence targets monitored ... increased after the Cold War, despite drops in collection budgets and analyst numbers."  

22 July 2009: CSE Commissioner Charles Gonthier's 2008-09 report, released posthumously, declares that "the length of time that has passed without producing amended [CSE] legislation puts at risk the integrity of the review process."

23 July 1952: Responding to a request from NSA-forerunner the Armed Forces Security Agency to review its requirement for AFSA COMINT publications, CBNRC provides a list of items sought by External Affairs extending over 4 pages, plus an additional 1-page list of items sought by CBNRC.  

24 July 1942: Having reviewed Canada's radio intercept program, Royal Navy Captain Humphrey R. Sandwith describes Canadian "Y" capabilities as "in embryo. They need a great deal of advice and assistance."  

25 July 1997: 770 Communications Research Squadron at CFB Gander is stood down and re-established as CFS Leitrim Detachment Gander.

26 July 1945: The Examination Unit ends work on Free French traffic: “By the time the last Free French message was read on July 26, 1945, more than 6,500 decrypts had been solved.”    

27 July 2015: A video released by "Anonymous" claims CSE was caught by NSA attempting to spy on the US shortly after the 2011 election. The claim is later retracted, saying it was CSIS, not CSE, but no evidence is ever provided for either claim.  

28 July 2013: Road work is completed to reroute Leitrim Road around the Leitrim intercept station. The once-quiet country road formerly passed directly through CFS Leitrim and was considered a security risk (and also a good place to take photos).

29 July 1996: The Privacy Commissioner reports on the commission's first audit of CSE: "investigators... found no evidence to support any allegations that CSE 'targets Canadians' or monitors their communications."  

30 July 1962: Treasury Board calls for a 15% cut in CBNRC staff, but the Intelligence Policy Committee manages to fend off the cuts, arguing 80% of CB is "engaged on priority SIGINT tasks as agreed with the US and UK in 1957, and the other 20% on COMSEC tasks vital to Canadian security".  

31 July 1945: Gilbert deB Robinson writes of the Examination Unit, "From practically nothing in 1941, Ottawa grew ... to the stature of London and Washington in those two fields (French and Japanese) on which we have worked."   

1 August 1945: The Japanese section of the Examination Unit, the Joint Machine Unit, and the Army and RCAF Discrimination Units are combined into a single Joint Discrimination Unit under Lieutenant Colonel Ed Drake. The JDU later evolves into the civilian CBNRC (CSE).  

2 August 1971: The new intercept and direction-finding station at Gander becomes operational, replacing the site at Coverdale, New Brunswick. Like the new site at Masset, Gander features an enormous FRD-10 circularly disposed antenna array.

3 August 1950: The members of the Technical Steering Group consider the question of unspent money for intercept equipment: "They solved this problem neatly by concocting immediate expenditures of $197k, leaving $2,992 as a 'cushion' balance for anything they might think of later."  

4 August 1954: Policy paper CSB/39 formalizes the position of Director of Communications Security, always filled by an External Affairs officer, as the locus of policy control over Canadian SIGINT activities.  

5 August 1941: Examination Unit Director Herbert Yardley requests "some pressure be put on London" to send "via bomber" copies of missing intercepts of German spy communications between Hamburg and Rio that the XU is trying to decipher.  

6 August 2015: The Chief of CSE and the Director of CSIS write to National Security Advisor Richard Fadden proposing closer CSE–CSIS collaboration in four areas, "ranging from high-level organizational cohesion to operational, analytical and corporate initiatives."  

7 August 2003: Canadian Senior Liaison Officer Toni Moffa writes in SIDToday (an in-house NSA publication) that "CSE plans to dedicate 40 percent of its SIGINT resources to security initiatives."  

8 August 1941: The Japanese Diplomatic Section of the Examination Unit begins work following the hiring of Thomas and Nellie Colton. Nellie Colton was the daughter of a Canadian father and a Japanese mother. She grew up in Japan and understood written Japanese, but her English fluency was more limited. Her husband, a Canadian who had spent 37 years in Japan, translated for her.

9 August 2001: Keith Coulter becomes Chief of CSE five weeks before 9/11. In October 2001 he testifies, "the amount of data processed by the organization—which is working seven days a week now, rather than five—has more than doubled."  

10 August 1954: The NRC stops paying for CBNRC's entire $1.9M budget. Under the new plan, "NRC would contribute a fixed amount of $500k annually towards CB's costs, the remainder to be divided between DND and External Affairs on a 4/5 to 1/5 ratio".  

11 August 1954: Prince Philip inspects the Churchill intercept station while on a solo Royal Visit to Canada: "For five days every shift didn't do any work — all we did was polish the operations floor.... And then he came in and went 'Very nice,' and walked out the door."

12 August 1988: Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell reveals the existence of the UKUSA ECHELON satellite-monitoring program. CSE participation in the program was approved that same year.

13 August 1954: NSA Director Ralph Canine defends the release of information about NSA difficulties to CBNRC: "These matters ... are well known to Canadian COMINT officials owing to the competence of their previous liaison officer" (Jaff Wilkins).  

14 August 1984: The Report on Management of the Canadian Intelligence Program calls for a new Foreign Intelligence Coordinator position in the PCO that would, among other duties, maintain "an overview of the operations of CSE".  

15 August 2007: The 1987 memorandum of understanding that governed foreign intelligence collection within Canada under the CSIS Act is replaced by a new process that, among other changes, no longer requires the signatures of both the Defence and the Foreign Affairs ministers.  

16 August 1995: Military police begin an 11-month investigation of suspected drug use at CFS Leitrim. Ultimately no charges are laid.  

17 August 1977: The Intelligence Advisory Committee discusses a news report that the Soviets monitor US microwave traffic. CSE Chief Kevin O'Neill comments that the Soviets also monitor microwave traffic into and out of Ottawa.

18 August 1945: On this date, five members of No. 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group (1 officer, 4 enlisted) are working at Central Bureau in Brisbane, Australia, and the remaining 333 (19 officers, 314 enlisted) are working at the field intercept site at Darwin.

19 August 1941: The Examination Unit makes its first break into the diplomatic communications of a friendly country, breaking the Colombian substitution cipher used for London–Bogotá diplomatic traffic.  

20 August 2014: The CSE Commissioner reports for the first time the number of "private communications" intercepted and used or retained by CSE under Part A of its mandate (66 in 2013-14). NSIRA, the watchdog agency that replaced OCSEC, discontinued this reporting.

21 August 1987: The Solicitor General and the ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defence sign a Tri-Ministerial Memorandum of Understanding governing foreign intelligence collection in Canada under s.16 of the CSIS Act.

22 August 1955: Canada pledges at a SACLANT conference to modernize direction-finding (D/F) facilities on RCN ships and provide four D/F stations for naval purposes, plus another to be shared with national SIGINT requirements.

23 August 2004: With its existing headquarters buildings over capacity due to post-9/11 hiring, CSE receives approval to construct two "temporary" modular buildings at its Confederation Heights campus. The agency moved away in 2014, but the buildings remain.  

24 August 1977: IAC SIGINT Memo #1 explains CSE's "interrelationship with the SIGINT centres of the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Intelligence and technical information are freely exchanged among them, and while each national SIGINT centre allocates some of its collection and processing resources in accordance with "Division of Effort" arrangements, each draws on the common pool of SIGINT product to meet the requirements of its national intelligence authorities."

25 August 2014: The Globe and Mail quotes former CSE Chief John Adams: "We’ve got some bright young kids... Virtually everything – 90 per cent of what they do – is [computer network operations] now. It opens it up to where they can literally go out and target the world."  

26 August 2013: Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley orders counsel for CSE and CSIS to appear before the court to explain their failure to inform the court about the use of SIGINT partners when monitoring Canadians abroad under court-issued Domestic Interception of Foreign Telecommunications and Search (DIFTS) warrants.  

27 August 1945: The Canadian Joint Intelligence Committee recommends continuation of Canada's SIGINT partnership with its allies in peacetime: "If we contribute to the pool we shall draw something from it in the form of finished products; if we fail to contribute, we shall receive nothing."  

28 August 2011: The Ottawa Sun reports that urban sprawl is affecting CFS Leitrim: "According to Lt.-Col. Mark Lilienthal, ... there has been some very preliminary talk of building a new facility somewhere else — from scratch. For now, they're just going to move the road."  

29 August 1973: CBNRC updates its cover story to state that it "carries out research, development and production in the field of communications security for federal government departments. It also provides advice for departments in this field as required."  

30 August 1937: The UK Dominions Office writes to Dominion High Commissioners asking them to name a national authority for wireless interception. Canada nominates a representative of the Ministry of Transportation.  

31 August 1945: Noting that "the atomic bomb has ushered in a new era", Gilbert Robinson writes: "Suffice it to say that both London and Washington seem to be anxious that [Canadian cryptanalytic] work should continue in Ottawa."  

1 September 1946: The Communications Research Centre is reconstituted as the Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC) and all staff are transferred to NRC, marking the formal beginning of Canada's post-war SIGINT agency. (But see 3 September 1946.)

2 September 1942: After visiting Ottawa, Captain Geoffrey Stevens, GC&CS liaison to the US Army's Signal Intelligence Service, reports to GC&CS: "Canadians feel they are being treated rather as a younger brother."  

3 September 1946: Canada's post-war SIGINT agency, the Communications Branch of the National Research Council, begins work (the 1st of September 1946 was a Sunday and the 2nd was Labour Day). 

4 September 1953: Director of Communications Security George Glazebrook recommends that staff be allocated by the services to all intercept stations to perform preliminary processing, "both traffic analysis and low grade cipher", on a day to day basis and to scan traffic for unusual items.  

5 September 1945: GRU code clerk Igor Gouzenko defects, revealing the existence of a Soviet spy ring in Canada. Gouzenko also provides information on Soviet cryptologic procedures. More info here.

6 September 1960: NSA defectors William Martin and Bernon Mitchell reveal that Canada has a COMINT agency during a press conference in Moscow. CBNRC's Security Officer issues a warning to staff "pointing out that the mere existence of COMINT in Canada was still classified SECRET".  

7 September 1954: NSA's COMINT-sharing policy states: "While the Canadians are aware that some material cannot be made available to them, the criteria for establishing restrictions should not be revealed. It is enough to say merely that we regret the material is not releasable."  

8 September 1943: A report on the Examination Unit's operations notes that "The work of the Unit falls into two main classes, diplomatic and military, most of our resources being devoted to the former."  

9 September 2011: CSE's Cryptologic Research Institute is officially named the Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing, and its new facility is officially opened.  

10 September 1939: The RCN Foreign Intelligence Section is created to "undertake Operational SIGINT ("Y"), HF/DF and the plotting of the positions of submarines and surface vessels."  

11 September 2001: The 9/11 terrorist attacks lead to major changes at CSE. After the attacks, CSE "radically refocused its activities toward security and anti-terrorism." The agency was also granted a statutory mandate, new intercept powers, and large budget increases.  

12 September 1941: The first Vichy diplomatic message to be decrypted by the Examination Unit is intercepted. (Decryption of the message was completed on October 1st.)

13 September 1949: The Senior Committee approves the SIGINT Estimates for Fiscal Year 1950/51, "subject to some further investigation into the amount of money being poured into the construction of the RCN intercept station at Churchill".   

14 September 2004: Representatives of CSE and the other Five Eyes agencies meet to plan cooperation on the FOSSWAY research project, which is "dedicated to the development of massive analytic attacks against global metadata supported by extensive automation."  

15 September 1953: George Glazebrook, the External Affairs officer in charge of SIGINT policy, writes approvingly of NSA Director Ralph Canine: "General Canine is a virtual dictator and an admirable person to deal with."

16 September 2008: CSE Commissioner Charles Gonthier writes to Defence Minister Peter MacKay to reiterate that he and CSE disagree over the part of CSE's mandate that certain contact chaining activities belong under, affecting how those activities are approved and the results used.

17 September 2012: Asked if CSE has received intercepts of communications with both ends in Canada from Five Eyes partners, National Defence responds with a classic non-denial: CSE "does not pursue the receipt of such intelligence and has clearly expressed its expectations to partner agencies."  

18 September 1986: Official birthday of the Reserve Electronic Warfare Squadron. (The squadron was renamed 772 Electronic Warfare Squadron in 2005 and merged with the regular force 2 EW Squadron to create 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment in 2010.)

19 September 1949: A special meeting of the Communications Research Committee is held to discuss CRC/105, "Review of Canadian Peacetime SIGINT Effort", which reports that only about 32 of 100 planned intercept positions are operational at that time.  

20 September 1944: The directors of Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence call for continuation of the Examination Unit after the war, arguing that "Canada’s position in world affairs requires the existence of a cryptographic organization."  

21 September 1994: CSE’s Cryptologic Program Strategic Plan laments, “The effect of budgetary constraints pervades and dominates all corporate activity from long-term, strategic planning to daily operational tasks.”  

22 September 1983: Minister of State for External Relations Jean-Luc Pepin officially avows CSE's signals intelligence role. The statement is the first formal ministerial-level confirmation of the agency's SIGINT activities. (It is not, as is sometimes reported, the first time that the actual existence of the agency is acknowledged.)

23 September 2016: CSE Chief Greta Bossenmaier warns, "unless we collectively get ahead of the quantum challenge and rethink encryption, the systems and information of companies, of governments, of organizations, of citizens — potentially every Canadian citizen — could be vulnerable."  

24 September 1990: The Special Committee on Review of the CSIS Act and Security Offences Act recommends that the Solicitor General "study the matter of CSIS and the CSE obtaining judicial authorization before using electromagnetic eavesdropping technology for investigative purposes."  

25 September 1945: US cryptanalyst Frank Rowlett begins a five-day debrief of Igor Gouzenko: "The Rowlett party included Professor Gilbert Robinson, a wartime Canadian Sigint officer.... Robinson had conducted the preliminary questioning of Gouzenko on cryptologic matters".  

26 September 1946: External Affairs officer Bill Crean asks US authorities for wide-ranging Canadian access to US communications intelligence reporting, pointing to the comparable access already provided to Canada by the UK.  

27 September 2007: CSE's "applied title" is changed to Communications Security Establishment Canada to comply with the Federal Identity Program. (Routine use of the new name was quietly dropped in 2014.)  

28 September 1945: The Chiefs of Staff Committee, in discussions with four senior External Affairs officers (Norman Robertson, Hume Wrong, George Glazebrook, and Arnold Heeney), agrees to continue Canadian SIGINT activities in peacetime.  

29 September 2017: CSE Deputy Chief Dominic Rochon comments internally about stakeholder briefings the agency is holding on Bill C-59: "the goal is really to simply attend, make sure nothing blows up, and (provided nothing blows up) immediately forget the event ever happened..."

30 September 1999: The Canadian Press reports that the plan to consolidate CSE staff at two sites, the Sir Leonard Tilley Building and the former CBC headquarters, "has gone slightly awry", as the agency now needs more space than the two buildings can provide.

1 October 1998: Industry Minister John Manley rejects backdoors in public encryption products: "First, the Government affirms the freedom of Canadians to develop, import and use whatever cryptography products they wish.... Second, the Government will not implement mandatory key recovery requirements".

2 October 2018: Canadian Centre for Cyber Security head Scott Jones states, "nothing spurs innovation as much as sitting in a room with all of your highly skilled cyber defenders... and saying, 'Anybody disagree that if we don't do something very different, we're about to lose, and lose really badly.'"  

3 October 2010: Canada's Cyber Security Strategy pledges that CSE "will enhance its capacity to detect and discover threats, provide foreign intelligence and cyber security services, and respond to cyber threats and attacks against Government networks and IT systems".  

4 October 1983: Public Service Alliance of Canada head Daryl Bean faces criticism when he reveals in testimony that CSE has 587 unionized employees. MPs and the media appear unaware that the Public Service Staff Relations Board had been publishing annual figures since 1975. (And Statistics Canada began publishing monthly figures that included non-union staff in 1979.) 

5 October 2015: The Liberal Party election platform pledges, "We will introduce new legislation that will, among other measures:... limit Communications Security Establishment’s powers by requiring a warrant to engage in the surveillance of Canadians".  

6 October 2009: The Public Service Labour Relations Board orders CSE to pay “market allowance to [all] incumbents of positions whose primary duties require the performance of computer science administration functions and/or engineering functions”.  

7 October 2013: CSE confirms that it sometimes receives money "from the Five Eyes partnership" (presumably NSA) to support "cryptologic research and development that will enhance Canada's national security."

8 October 2013: Former CSE Chief John Adams reveals that “there are more transactions at [CSE] on a daily basis than all of our banks combined.”   

9 October 2013: CSE Chief John Forster reports that "Last year, the number of detected cyber incidents on government of Canada networks tripled in one year. Part of that is due to much better detection."   

10 October 1944: GC&CS Director Edward Travis suggests the "Travis Plan", under which Canada would not set up its own post-war SIGINT agency but would simply supply intercepts to the UK, which would provide any relevant SIGINT to Canada.  

11 October 1945: No. 1 Canadian Special Wireless Group closes down operations at its intercept station near Darwin, Australia and prepares to return to Canada.  

12 October 1945: Lt Col Drake appeals to the Canadian Joint Intelligence Committee for decisions on a range of issues, including "an interim policy on manpower, on the duties of the JDU, and on the future of Naval intercept stations. The CJIC could not answer any of Drake's questions in detail".  

13 October 1959: CBNRC's communications security (COMSEC) mandate is revised to include responsibility for providing technical advice and support on electronic emission security (ELSEC) matters.  

14 October 1987: 771 Communications Research Squadron is created. The unit is located at CSE headquarters and works alongside CSE staff until shut down in 2002.

15 October 2013: Former CSE Chief John Adams defends economic intelligence-gathering by the government: "Mr. Adams said [CSE] has been used both offensively and defensively to drive the government’s economic priorities."  

16 October 1957: Canada turns down NSA's suggestion to declassify the NSA–CBNRC relationship, "largely on the grounds that CB's cover under the umbrella of NRC would be blown".  

17 October 2013: CSE media lines note that CSE's "power requirements [at the Sir Leonard Tilley building] will soon exceed current capacity to supply high-performance, critical to the mission supercomputers required to store data and defend against sophisticated cyber threats."  

18 October 2001: CSE Chief Keith Coulter visits NSA in the wake of 9/11. According to Coulter, Bill C-36, which gave CSE its first statutory mandate, "was extremely well received south of the border. In fact, they look at it as a signal of our seriousness".  

19 October 1994: Doubleday Canada releases Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments, Mike Frost's sensationalistic but revealing account of his career at CSE "as told to Michel Gratton."

20 October 1952: UK, US, and Canada hold a COMINT Communications Conference at the Rideau Annex, CBNRC's headquarters, to consider existing, future, and wartime requirements for SIGINT communications.  

21 October 1946: Bill Crean writes to the Chiefs of Staff "pointing out that only the equivalent of 15 or 16 full-time intercept positions were being provided out of the 100 committed" by Canada and recommends that "very high priority" be placed on the requirement.  

22 October 1945: GC&CS Director Edward Travis informs Canada that the US and UK are negotiating joint post-war SIGINT activities and "would like [Canada] to fit into [the] general plan by accepting defined responsibilities in all aspects of [the] work."  

23 October 2001: Defence Minister Art Eggleton calls for new CSE powers: "If we are to make a meaningful contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, we must ensure that our own legal framework is aligned with [those of our UKUSA partners]."

24 October 2013: Senator Wilfred Moore asks why no company from the Five Eyes countries bid on rights to a new Brazilian oil field: "Was it because of information gained by the cyberhacking of [CSE] and shared with companies in Canada's energy sector?"  

25 October 1958: The downtown Ottawa building that stores CBNRC COMSEC key material is severely damaged by a gas explosion in a neighbouring building, leading to construction of a new storage facility on the NRC campus.  

26 October 1982: Former intercept operator Larry Clark reveals details of Canada's SIGINT activities to the Edmonton Journal: "We monitor all Communist bloc nations but we are primarily tasked with monitoring the USSR—and within that we focus on the northern part."

27 October 2014: Introduction of Bill C-44, which amends the CSIS Act to enable collection of security intelligence outside Canada even when those activities violate foreign laws, clearing the way for CSE and Five Eyes assistance in monitoring Canadians outside Canada.  

28 October 1941: GC&CS Director Alastair Denniston reports that Canada will fire XU head Herbert Yardley, "now regarded as persona non-grata and handicap to Canadian Sigint relations with US". Oliver Strachey is subsequently lent by GC&CS to be the new XU head.  

29 October 1948: Soviet improvements in communications security systems and procedures culminate in "Black Friday", ending UKUSA access to almost all Soviet high-level communications for three decades.  

30 October 1991: Hercules resupply flight Boxtop 22 crashes while on approach to Canadian Forces Station Alert, resulting in the loss of five lives.  

31 October 1995: The CSE Information Technology Security (ITS) FY 95-96 Business Plan states, "ITS must seek ways to distance itself from the SIGINT mission and yet maintain the benefits derived from being part of the Cryptologic Program." On 1 October 2018, ITS became the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

1 November 1943: The Joint Machine Unit, established for the joint use of the three armed services SIGINT units and the Examination Unit, commences operations using IBM punched-card machinery. As part of the later Joint Discrimination Unit, the JMU ultimately was absorbed into CBNRC.  

2 November 2017: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan signs a new Ministerial Direction for CSE on "Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities". Provisions include release of an annual public report on the direction's application.

3 November 2017: The new military Cyber Operator occupation gets its first members. "Cyber Operators conduct defensive cyber operations [for the Canadian Forces], and when required and where feasible, active cyber operations."  

4 November 2019: Edward M. Drake, who served as CBNRC's first Director from the agency's creation in 1946 until his death in 1971, is inducted into NSA's Cryptologic Hall of Honor.

5 November 1970: NSA proposes that CBNRC be authorized to process Soviet troposcatter communications collected by the RHYOLITE SIGINT satellites to "take up the slack" resulting from declining Soviet HF communications.  

6 November 2017: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces establishment of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. MPs and Senators on NSICOP are able for the first time to receive classified information about CSE and other agencies.  

7 November 1949: The CANUSA Implementation Conference opens in Washington. The purpose of the nine-day conference is to draft the technical appendices that spell out the details of Canada–US communications intelligence cooperation.  

8 November 1944: The Examination Unit Committee discusses the future of the unit. XU Director Tony Kendrick suggests that External Affairs send a representative to England to consult with Bletchley Park and the Foreign Office on the value of peacetime SIGINT.  

9 November 1970: The Isbister Report on the Canadian intelligence program recommends that "the Director of CBNRC be made the manager of CBNRC by terminating the special management responsibilities now exercised in External Affairs [i.e., the Director of Communications Security role]."

10 November 1947: The US Communications Intelligence Board (USCIB) informs Canada that it considers a written agreement on Canada-US SIGINT cooperation "indispensible".  

11 November 1942: The "Y" building at the Cap d'Espoir intercept station, one of several stations monitoring U-boat communications, is destroyed in a fire.  

12 November 1995: Former CSE analyst Jane Shorten reveals that CSE has been monitoring calls into and out of many embassies in Canada, including those of friendly countries such as Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.  

13 November 1957: Canadian liaison officer at the CIA Philip Uren reports to the Joint Intelligence Committee that, in the CIA director's view, "liaison between Canada and the US on intelligence [is] closer than that with any other country."  

14 November 1939: The Royal Canadian Signals Experimental Station, later called 1 Special Wireless Station, begins wireless intercept operations at Rockcliffe. 1 SWS moved to Leitrim in 1942.

15 November 2016: CSE Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe states, "one of the principal challenges to restore and enhance public trust will be transparency. ...I've been pushing this concept of transparency for the last 3 years and trying to convince [CSE] to release more and more information".  

16 November 2011: CSE becomes a stand-alone agency, continuing to report to the Minister of National Defence but no longer a part of the Department of National Defence.  

17 November 1958: NSA, GCHQ and CBNRC meet in Washington to plan Alert and Watch Procedures for indications and warning intelligence concerning possible hostile action. 

18 November 1987: CSE Chief Peter Hunt meets with NSA and consults on how to handle New Zealand integrees serving at CSE following the imposition of US restrictions on intelligence-sharing with New Zealand as a result of the US–NZ dispute on nuclear ship visits.  

19 November 1940: US Army Chief Signal Officer Major General Joseph Mauborgne comments to Captain Ed Drake that, "Eventually, if the United States were involved in the war, a three-corner co-operation (Canada-United States-England) [in SIGINT] would be essential."  

20 November 2012: CSE Commissioner Robert Décary recommends that CSE advise CSIS to tell the Federal Court that CSE assistance in CSIS DIFTS warrants may include Five Eyes help, which leads to a very surprised Justice Richard Mosley when he reads the Commissioner's later public report. See 25 November 2013.

21 November 1950: The USN and RCN establish the Personnel Exchange Program, through which naval personnel working in radio intercept and direction-finding positions are posted to partner installations and vessels.  

22 November 1977: DND Deputy Minister Buzz Nixon provides the first on the record confirmation of CSE's COMINT role, testifying that CSE "is involved in two programs, communications security and also communications intelligence."  

23 November 1989: Security Intelligence Review Committee Chair Ron Atkey calls for creation of an equivalent CSE watchdog agency: "we think Parliament should be concerned about the rights and liberties of individual Canadians vis-a-vis CSE".  

24 November 1949: CBNRC Director Ed Drake becomes a formal member of the Communications Research Committee, the interdepartmental committee overseeing SIGINT policy.  

25 November 2013: Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley releases the public version of his classified decision berating CSIS for failing to inform the court that CSE assistance with DIFTS warrants would normally also entail Five Eyes participation.  

26 November 1992: Award of the Special Service Medal is authorized for 180 days of honourable service at CFS Alert.  

27 November 1984: Cabinet Secretary Gordon Osbaldeston lays out the mandate for the newly created position of Intelligence and Security Coordinator (which eventually evolved into National Security and Intelligence Advisor). Until 2011, this position served as Deputy Minister for CSE policy matters.  

28 November 2013: CSE Chief John Forster, testifying to the National Defence committee, refuses to answer questions about spying on the 2010 G8/G20 summits: "I can't comment on the specifics of our intelligence operations or capability... as the information is classified".

29 November 2017: CSE's Bill C-59 Briefing Book confirms that, in addition to existing SIGINT methods, the proposed CSE Act would enable the agency "to use a broader range of advanced capabilities to acquire foreign intelligence from foreign targets outside of Canada."  

30 November 2002: The Globe and Mail reports that CSE received more than 13,000 job applications after three days of advertising in Canadian newspapers in the wake of 9/11: "Sources say the volume has overwhelmed the CSE's human resources department."  

1 December 2012: Responding to a recommendation by CSE Commissioner Robert Décary to collect and report more complete privacy-related statistics, CSE begins adding an "accountability marking" to one-end-Canadian e-mails acquired through computer network exploitation and found to contain foreign intelligence.  

2 December 2008: Brigadier General John Turnbull explains that the position of Director General Military SIGINT at CSE was "created to meet an identified need for a closer CSE relationship with the military ... to ensure effective CSE support to the military in theatre."  

3 December 1970: Wideband collection of Soviet traffic begins at CFS Alert. The resulting tapes were processed at Leitrim and led to "a large increase in useful SIGINT." (The grey rectangle in the photo below is the new operations building built at Leitrim for this purpose.)

4 December 1947: The US and UK add Appendix J to the BRUSA (later renamed UKUSA) Agreement concerning rules for collaboration with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, including the need for formal assurances by those countries of their willingness to comply with BRUSA paragraphs 5, 8 and 9.  

5 December 1968: The HYDRA transatlantic radio link for SIGINT (and diplomatic) communications, first established for US–Canadian–UK SIGINT traffic during the Second World War, is deactivated, having been replaced by undersea cable links.  

6 December 2007: Former CSE employees Bill Sheahan and Pierre LaCompte tell the Air India Inquiry that no CSE intercept provided warning of the 1985 attack. (Commissioner Major ultimately sided with James Bartleman, who had testified there was a warning.)  

7 December 2007: CSIS agrees to blanket disclosure of s.16 metadata to CSE "to further CSE's [foreign intelligence] mandate."  

8 December 1939: The Department of Transport begins intercepting German naval cipher traffic for the RCN at the DOT station at Strathburn, Ontario. (Other DOT stations had begun direction-finding but not intercept operations in September 1939.)  

9 December 2005: NSA SIGINT Deputy Director Charlie Meals rates the performance of NSA (and by extension CSE and other Five Eyes partners): "We are absolutely at the top of our game. Never before in our history have we produced such timely, relevant intelligence."  

10 December 2001: The post-9/11 budget boosts CSE’s funding by 25% and its authorized establishment by 35% to approximately 1300. (The agency has since grown to about 3000 employees.)  

11 December 1940: The Canadian Chiefs of Staff decide "they were unable to recommend the institution of a Cryptographic Branch in Canada, and felt that we should continue to use the United Kingdom facilities for this work. In the event of these being seriously interfered with by enemy action, a similar organization exists in the U.S.A. which would be available to assist in the event of the United States' entry into the war."

12 December 1978: The Chair of the Intelligence Advisory Committee laments that CSE is "dependent for two-thirds of its operation" (i.e., the intercept stations) on Communications Command, which is "subject to budgeting on the basis of Command priorities rather than intelligence priorities."

13 December 2001: CSE is exempted from s.9(1)(c) of the Radiocommunication Act so it can legally decrypt encrypted subscription programming not available in Canada.  

14 December 2011: CSE and CSIS sign a general framework memorandum of understanding on "ongoing cooperation on information and intelligence collection, information sharing and operational support".  

15 December 1982: A memo on the government's planned CSIS Act lists "electronic surveillance and surreptitious entry" used against foreign intelligence targets in Canada as CSIS "techniques which CSE considers necessary for its purposes".  

16 December 1944: The XU Committee is asked to decide future XU tasks, including those for the section working on the Japanese military: "Should we receive another assignment from Washington, presumably we would work on it, but the alternatives must be considered".

17 December 1987: External Affairs notes that CSE participation in the ECHELON satellite monitoring program "has been stopped by a legal opinion from Justice which states that such collection activity would be, if not illegal, at least 'imprudent'." (It ultimately goes ahead.)

18 December 2001: The Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-36) receives Royal Assent, giving CSE a statutory mandate for the first time and enabling the agency to collect private communications incidentally when operating under ministerial authorization.  

19 December 2017: CSE attributes the WannaCry malware to North Korea: "We are aware of the statements made by our allies and partners concerning the role of actors in North Korea in the development of the malware known as WannaCry. This assessment is consistent with our analysis."  

20 December 2004: CANSLO/W Michael Doucet, CSE's senior liaison officer at NSA, writes that he's "working with CSE HQ to develop a partnership framework which will entrench a corporate culture of always seeking opportunities to make valuable, tangible contributions to NSA."  

21 December 1941: His initial contract with the Examination Unit having expired, Herbert Yardley offers his services to the Canadian Army as "the only white man who is thoroughly conversant with every type of Japanese Battle Communications."  

22 December 1994: CSE Chief Stewart Woolner proposes that efficiencies and resource savings could result if the Canadian intercept service, the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio System, were brought under "closer and more direct CSE management." The CFSRS interprets this proposal as a resource grab.

23 December 1941: Lester Pearson comments on Japanese telegrams showing pre-Pearl Harbor planning to repatriate their diplomats: If received and decrypted by the XU earlier, the messages would have been "a clear indication that something was going to happen."  

24 December 1941: The UK asks Canada to intercept Japanese communications with their agents in the Western Hemisphere as a "first priority", promising "any help which the United Kingdom authorities can give in regard to Japanese technique or other matters".

25 December 1949: "The last TYPEX [cipher machine] message received at CBNRC was deciphered at the Guigues Street location in December 1949, and contained Christmas Greetings from the Director and Staff of GCHQ."

26 December 1991: The Soviet Union, CSE's primary SIGINT target since the early Cold War, is dissolved.  

27 December 1945: Col. Pat Bayley advises External Affairs that Canada should combine its cryptanalytic and code-making activities, "since nothing [is] more dangerous than the making of cyphers by persons with no knowledge of the methods employed in breaking them."  

28 December 1995: The New York Times consults the man on the street concerning recent controversial CSE activities: "'I think they're overstepping their authority,' [Bill Seward, 50, the mechanic at Petro-Canada's Hoggs Back Service Center] said".

29 December 1945: Top officials from External Affairs, National Defence and the National Research Council meet and agree that Canada should create a peacetime civilian SIGINT agency.  

30 December 1952: Order-in-Council P.C. 4704 authorizes CBNRC to produce cryptographic material to help NATO secure its communications.  

31 December 1942: The Examination Unit's Japanese Diplomatic section reports it is "swamped by a peak of traffic". (Not the last time Canada's SIGINT agency would be "awash in an ocean of data".)  


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