Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.
I am pleased to speak on the unique history of the Communications Security Establishment Canada and the vital role it has played in working with its partners to help keep Canada safe. Over the course of its existence, CSEC has grown from a small unit to a vital organization at the heart of Canada's security and intelligence community.
To achieve the important work it undertakes, CSEC has a staff of approximately 2,100 employees. Let me say that again. It has 2,100 employees. They do not have the capability to sit there and listen to every phone call and every email that is going over the airwaves, through Wi-Fi, on broadband, and across cyberspace every single second. CSEC does have sophisticated computers and tools that it employs in doing its work. It also has a staff with specialized skill sets, including engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, and linguists.
However, as the House may know, Communications Security Establishment Canada's beginnings stretch back to World War II. Its forerunner, the Examination Unit, was Canada's first civilian office solely dedicated to the encryption and decryption of communication signals. Prior to 1941, signals intelligence, or SIGINT, as it was known then, was entirely within the purview of the military.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the Canadian Armed Forces were already collecting ciphered signals from enemy military and foreign mission communications traffic. Canadian military intercepts of enemy signals were used mostly to locate enemy positions and movements. Such information was shared with our British and American allies.
It was with the Nazi occupation of France that Canada was encouraged by its allies to put together a civilian office that would decrypt signals traffic content, such as messages from the Vichy government and other military and diplomatic communications. On occasion, depending on the type of communications, some content would be analysed by specialized military SIGINT units. However, it was the newly created civilian Examination Unit that would regularly decipher content and disseminate intelligence to Canadian Foreign Affairs as well as to the allies.
By 1945 the disparate SIGINT collection units of the navy, army, and air force were co-located with the Examination Unit. By the end of the war, these military and civilian units were able to coordinate signals intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination so efficiently that their success was a primary justification for the establishment of a new peacetime Canadian cryptologic agency, known as the Communications Branch of the National Research Council of Canada.
The creation of a peacetime civilian organization allowed for 180 individuals, with highly developed and virtually irreplaceable skills and expertise, to continue the work they were doing during the war, under the direction of the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Edward Drake. This was done with as little disruption as possible to the collaboration that had developed between Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom in sharing signals intelligence.
The CBNRC was renamed the Communications Security Establishment in 1975, and the organization was given its first legislative mandate in 2001, which was contained within the National Defence Act. Of course, in 2001 there was a Liberal government.
The legislative mandate is threefold. First, CSEC collects foreign communication signals intelligence to support government decision-making for national security, defence, and foreign policy. Second, CSEC provides IT security advice, guidance, and services that help secure systems and networks of importance to the government and the information they contain. Finally, it provides technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies under their respective mandates. Here CSEC acts under the legal authority of the requesting agency it is assisting, and it is subject to any restrictions on or conditions of that authority. That includes any applicable warrant issued by the court, and it needs a court warrant.
It is important to note that all of CSEC's activities under this mandate are reviewed by the independent Communications Security Establishment Commissioner.
CSEC's place in government was changed in 2011 to that of a stand-alone agency within the National Defence portfolio. This was to reflect the fact that CSEC evolved into a full member of Canada's security and intelligence community with its security and intelligence role codified in legislation.
I note that prior to becoming a stand-alone agency, information regarding CSEC was included in broader reporting to Parliament through the Department of National Defence. Since becoming a stand-alone agency, CSEC now appears in the main and supplementary estimates as well as in the public accounts, making its financial information more available to parliamentary scrutiny then ever before.
I have given a bit of a history lesson on CSEC. Now I would like to say a few words about how it works with its domestic and international partners.
I can assure my colleagues that despite the civilianization of Canada's cryptological capabilities following the Second World War and CSEC's change to a stand-alone agency, it has and continues to support Canada's armed forces and our troops on the ground.
As mentioned, the Canadian Armed Forces has been involved with CSEC and its predecessors doing signals intelligence since 1941. This is a unique partnership based on a history of trust and mutually compatible objectives.
Operating under its foreign signals intelligence collection mandate, CSEC supported Canadian military operations throughout and long after the end of the Cold War. This was indeed the case when it came to supporting our troops during our mission in Afghanistan. CSEC has provided intelligence support for the Afghanistan mission to meet a broad array of Government of Canada and military requirements, ranging from force protection to governance. I note with pride that CSEC played a critical role in helping to protect the men and women of our armed forces against threats from insurgents.
CSEC has continued to support the forces in the post-2011 Canadian mission in Afghanistan. Following the November 2010 announcement of a continuing training mission in Afghanistan, CSEC's efforts have been directed to ensuring sustained intelligence support throughout the combat withdrawal period. Of course, CSEC has also provided support to military operations in regions other than Afghanistan, and it will continue to do so whenever our troops may be at risk in the performance of their duties.
Beyond its relationship with the military, as a member of Canada's security intelligence community, CSEC also works closely with a number of other domestic partners, such as the RCMP and CSIS, consistent with its legislative mandate to provide assistance to law enforcement and security agencies. These relationships are vital to CSEC's success and can take the form of intelligence sharing, technical advice, and where appropriate, lawful operational collaboration.
That being said, in all of its activities, CSEC is prohibited from targeting the communications of persons in Canada or of Canadians anywhere in the world under its foreign intelligence and cyberprotection mandates.
Turning now to the international stage, CSEC's closest partnership is multilateral and is referred to as the Five Eyes. This partnership is rooted in our World War II alliance and includes the U.S. National Security Agency, the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters, the Australian Signals Directorate, and New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau.
CSEC receives and shares intelligence with the Five Eyes and when doing so must comply with Canadian law. CSEC cannot ask its international partners to act in a way that circumvents Canadian laws. In turn, its partners cannot ask CSEC to do anything on their behalf that they cannot do on their own under their legal frameworks.
I am pleased to note that in his 2012-13 annual report, the CSEC Commissioner noted that CSEC does take measures to protect the privacy of Canadians in what it shares with our international partners. In fact, the commissioner praised CSEC's chief:
...[they] have spared no effort to instill within CSEC a culture of respect for the law and for the privacy of Canadians.... I can say with pride and confidence that CSEC is truly being watched.
CSEC provides valuable foreign intelligence that protects and promotes Canadian interests while also safeguarding the security of Canada from foreign threats and cyberattacks. Throughout its long history, CSEC has contributed significantly to Canada's own security and to that of our allies and has done so in accordance with Canadian laws, including the Privacy Act.
Again, protecting the privacy of Canadians is law, and CSEC follows the letter and the spirit of that law. It has helped to keep Canada safe from foreign threats, has provided lawful assistance to law enforcement and security agencies, and has helped to protect our troops, all the while making the protection and the privacy of Canadians a priority.