What we do and why we do it

On August 1, 2019 the Communications Security Establishment Act (CSE Act) came into force. The CSE web site is being updated to reflect the changes in CSE’s authorities and the accompanying accountability and transparency measures.

What we do and why we do it

What we do

CSE is one of Canada’s key security and intelligence organizations, focused on collecting foreign signals intelligence in support of the Government of Canada’s priorities, and on helping protect the computer networks and information of greatest importance to Canada. We also provide assistance to federal law enforcement and security organizations in their legally authorized activities, when they may require our unique technical capabilities.

CSE’s mandate and authorities are defined in the National Defence Act, which requires CSE to do three things:

  1. to acquire and use information from the global information infrastructure for the purpose of providing foreign intelligence, in accordance with Government of Canada intelligence priorities;
  2. to provide advice, guidance and services to help ensure the protection of electronic information and of information infrastructures of importance to the Government of Canada;
  3. to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties.

We operate in accordance with all Canadian laws, including the Privacy Act, the Criminal Code, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Chief of CSE receives instructions on our activities from the Minister of National Defence through Ministerial Directives. CSE may only undertake activities that are within its mandate and consistent with those Directives. It is important to note that Ministerial Directives cannot grant CSE any power that doesn’t already exist in Canadian law, nor can these directives change or enhance any existing authority. Instead, these serve as additional direction or guidance, setting out the Minister’s expectations for CSE on a range of issues.

Why we do it

CSE collects foreign signals intelligence in order to inform and alert the Government of Canada to the activities of foreign entities outside Canada, including foreign intelligence services, who are actively undertaking activities which seek to damage our country’s - and our allies’ - prosperity and security.

We play an integral role in helping to protect Canada and Canadians against foreign-based terrorism, foreign espionage, cyber attacks, kidnappings of Canadians abroad, attacks on our embassies and other serious threats with a significant foreign element, helping to ensure our nation’s prosperity, security and stability.

Our foreign signals intelligence work also supports government decision-making in the fields of national defence and foreign policy, providing a better understanding of global events and crises and helping to further Canada’s national interests in the world. We also work to protect computer networks and electronic information of importance to the Government of Canada, helping to thwart state-sponsored or criminal cyber threat activity on our systems.