The Anti-terrorism Act and CSE's Evolution

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is an integral part of Canada's security and intelligence community. It relies on leading-edge expertise and technology to provide foreign intelligence and protect electronic information in support of key Government priorities. CSE is currently playing a vital role in implementing Canada's National Security Policy by enhancing intelligence collection capability, focusing increasing attention on security intelligence, and helping to strengthen national capacity to predict and prevent cyber attacks.

Together with substantial new investments arising from Budgets 2001 and 2004, the Anti-Terrorism Act has provided CSE with the building blocks necessary to meet these commitments. Essentially, the Act continued CSE's three-fold mandate - to provide foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT), help protect Government computer systems and networks (IT Security), and assist federal law enforcement and security agencies.

Equally important, the Act established CSE's Ministerial Authorization regime whereby CSE may now intercept private communications, subject to strict conditions, for the sole purpose of either obtaining foreign intelligence or protecting Government computer systems and networks. CSE has used these Authorizations since early 2002 to conduct essential SIGINT and IT Security operations. Without them, CSE would be unable to meaningfully support new and existing Government objectives, most notably in the area of national security.

Impact on CSE Operations

CSE operations have evolved significantly in the three years since the promulgation of the Act. CSE fulfills its SIGINT mandate by analyzing and reporting intelligence gathered through a number of collection programs. These programs use very advanced technologies to selectively hunt for information of interest within a vast and complex communications environment. Over the last three years, CSE has significantly increased its ability to identify and collect communications and, under the authority of several Ministerial Authorizations, has strengthened its most promising and technologically advanced collection activities.

Consistent with the priorities set forth in the National Security Policy, CSE has greatly increased its focus on security issues. CSE now devotes over half its SIGINT resources to gathering and reporting intelligence on issues such as terrorism and proliferation. Moreover, CSE has hired more than one hundred new SIGINT personnel in this period, many of whom possess rare technology and language skills essential to supporting the Government's national security objectives.

The past three years have also seen CSE satisfy a wide range of IT Security commitments. Specifically, CSE has used its unique technical expertise, authorities and international partnerships to help protect the Government's critical information and systems - a vital part of Canada's overall security posture. Following the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, CSE worked to supply and support expanded Government demand for secure communications. At the same time, CSE has taken the lead in developing and deploying the next generation of these devices, and continues to accredit IT security products for use throughout the Government.

Since passage of the Act, CSE has enhanced its ability to predict and prevent cyber attacks by improving the quality of its threat and vulnerability analysis. Under Ministerial Authorization, CSE has conducted assessments of various Government departments to improve the security and reliability of their IT systems. CSE also works with its domestic partners to monitor and address cyber threats to Canada's critical infrastructure. These activities will be expanded in the coming years in line with the National Security Policy, which commits the Government to strengthening its capacity to secure Government networks.

Another aspect of CSE's mandate is to assist federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties. In the last three years, CSE has increased cooperation with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In addition to providing them with foreign intelligence on possible threats to Canadian security, CSE provides technical and operational support across a range of activities. Collaboration among the three agencies continues to deepen and will be essential to further strengthening Canadian security.


Partnerships are yet another essential component of CSE's success. In recent years, CSE has strengthened its relationships with Canada's key security and intelligence agencies, especially CSIS and the Canadian Forces (CF). Specifically, CSE and CSIS now share a much stronger focus on terrorism and related security challenges, resulting in enhanced information sharing, personnel exchanges and operational collaboration. In 2004, CSE and the CF jointly developed a new operational model that integrates national SIGINT operations under CSE management and direction. The model ensures that CSE can better support CF activities in the field and draw on CF capabilities for national collection purposes. Most recently, our close collaboration during the CF deployment to Afghanistan contributed to a number of significant operational successes and helped protect the lives of Canadian and allied forces. Finally, it is also important to note that the Department of Foreign Affairs remains a significant client of CSE and a major consumer of its intelligence reporting.

CSE's international relationships are also vital to its success. By cooperating with its four closest allies - the US, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand - CSE acquires information and technology that directly support Canadian intelligence and information protection priorities. This is especially true of CSE's American counterpart, the National Security Agency, which works closely with CSE on issues of mutual interest, including terrorism, border and maritime security, and secure communications.

Governance, Accountability and Review

CSE recognizes that with its new authorities and resources come substantial new responsibilities. As a result, CSE has made corporate governance and fiscal responsibility key components of its plan to implement the Anti-Terrorism Act. In the last three years, CSE strengthened systems and procedures for improved financial accountability, audit and evaluation, and management control and oversight of operations. It also introduced important reforms and improved management practices in the areas of strategic planning, human resources and corporate security, while continuing to apply robust measures to protect the privacy of Canadians. Finally, all CSE activities remain subject to external review by the CSE Commissioner and other relevant agencies.