Letter to the Editor re: Globe and Mail editorial - January 29, 2014

The Communications Security Establishment would like to correct the inaccurate statement in your January 29 editorial suggesting that the Minister of National Defence can authorize CSE to engage in the surveillance of Canadians. This is incorrect. Under the law, CSE’s foreign intelligence mandate specifically dictates that our activities be directed only at foreign entities, and not at Canadians or anyone in Canada. That is the law and we fully respect that.

When targeting a foreign entity outside Canada, there is a risk that CSE could incidentally intercept a Canadian communication, since it is not possible to know ahead of time if a foreign entity will communicate with a Canadian or person in Canada. The law recognizes that where such risk occurs, the Minister may authorize CSE activities that risk intercepting private communications under certain criteria. Where such incidental interceptions happen, CSE has strict measures in place to protect private communications and the privacy of Canadians.

Under the National Defence Act, CSE may only target Canadians when providing technical assistance to federal security and law enforcement agencies. When providing this assistance, CSE is operating under the legal authority of the requesting agency, such as a warrant.

Again, under no circumstance can the Minister of National Defence authorize CSE to direct its surveillance activities towards Canadians. CSE is a foreign intelligence agency, and our work helps protect Canada and Canadians.

John Forster, Chief CSE