Thursday, June 14, 2007

2006‑ 2007 Annual Report of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner

Earlier this week, the Minister of National Defence tabled the 2006‑ 2007 Annual Report of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner in the House of Commons.

The Establishment, or CSE, is Canada's national cryptologic agency working under the control of the Department of National Defence. Its code-breakers protect the Government of Canada's IT infrastructure from hostile attacks and provide foreign signals intelligence services. It also provides technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies.

The Commissioner, the Honourable Charles D. Gonthier, Q.C., is the official watchdog over the agency's activities, which include intercepting, decoding, and analyzing phone calls, e-mails and other electronic communications of Canada's international adversaries.

This is Gonthier's first annual report as Commissioner. He used to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the report, he states that the legal interpretation of the appropriate provisions of the National Defence Act that govern ministerial authorizations for private communications intercepts is unclear. This makes it difficult to determine whether the agency is always acting lawfully:

"I am able to report that, overall, the activities of CSE examined during this reporting period complied with the law, with one qualification. It concerned a condition of an information technology security ministerial authorization, which CSE has already undertaken to rectify. A report of CSE's assistance to the RCMP did not provide an assessment of the lawfulness of the activities reviewed, pending a re-examination by CSE of the legal issues raised".

"With respect to the review of CSE's signals intelligence collection activities conducted under ministerial authorization, I would highlight once again my disagreement with the Department of Justice's interpretation of the ministerial authorization provisions of the National Defence Act. When assessing the lawfulness of activities conducted under ministerial authorizations, I have agreed to use the Department of Justice's interpretation for the present pending amendments to the legislation, which I have already urged be made at the earliest opportunity".
Reviews currently underway include examinations of counter-terrorism activities, CSE support to the Canadian domestic counter-espionage and security agency CSIS, the protection of the private information about Canadians that is often collected inadvertently when the agency vacuums up intelligence information, and activities under various ministerial authorizations.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:41 pm


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