Foreign intelligence

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Services and information

CSE is the Government of Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency.

We alert the government to the activities of foreign entities that seek to undermine Canada’s national prosperity and security. These activities could be:

  • foreign-based cyber threats
  • espionage
  • terrorism
  • kidnappings of Canadians abroad

Our information helps inform Government of Canada actions and decisions to combat these threats.

Our foreign intelligence also supports government decision-making and policy-making in defence, security and international affairs by providing important insights into global events.

Why CSE gathers foreign intelligence

Our foreign intelligence plays a vital role in:

  • thwarting foreign cyber threats to critical Canadian information and networks
  • supporting Canadian military operations and protecting our forces
  • uncovering foreign-based extremists’ efforts to carry out attacks in Canada and abroad
  • helping to defend the country against the actions of hostile foreign intelligence agencies
  • informing the government’s foreign policy by providing strategic insights

How CSE gathers foreign intelligence

We acquire foreign intelligence through our signals intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities.

SIGINT is the interception, decoding and analysis of communications and other electronic signals.

The practice of intercepting electronic signals began in the early 1900s when transmissions from radios and telegraphs were captured, decoded, and used to inform military strategy.

Today, signals intelligence includes any form of electronic communication, such as telephone calls, text messages, computer and internet communications, satellite signals and more.

CSE uses a broad range of advanced capabilities to acquire intelligence from foreign targets outside of Canada.

Under the CSE Act, we can also interact with foreign targets operating on cyber networks and systems outside Canada.

We are prohibited by law from targeting the communications of Canadians or anyone in Canada.

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