CSE statement re: January 30 CBC story

In light of CBC’s coverage of the most recent unauthorized disclosure of classified information, CSE wishes to clarify the following:

CSE is mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians, and by law, only directs its foreign intelligence activities at foreign entities.

In order to fulfill this key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSE is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata. In simple terms, metadata is technical information used to route communications, and not the contents of a communication.

The classified document in question is a technical presentation between specialists exploring mathematical models built on everyday scenarios to identify and locate foreign terrorist threats. The unauthorized disclosure of tradecraft puts our techniques at risk of being less effective when addressing threats to Canada and Canadians.

It is important to note that no Canadian or foreign travellers were tracked. No Canadian communications were, or are, targeted, collected or used. And all CSE activities include measures to protect the privacy of Canadians.

CSE's activities, including the collection and analysis of metadata, are authorized under the National Defence Act, under section 273.64. Our activities are further guided by a robust framework of Ministerial Directives and operational policies. CSE’s activities, as well as its operational directives, policies and procedures, are reviewed by the CSE Commissioner, to ensure they are lawful.

The role of the independent CSE Commissioner as an external review body is critical, as he reviews our activities, assesses our lawfulness, and reports on his findings to the Minister and Parliament. The CSE Commissioner has never found CSE to have acted unlawfully. In fact, he has specifically noted CSE’s culture of lawful compliance and genuine concern for protecting the privacy of Canadians.

In 2011, the Commissioner completed a review specifically focused on CSE’s metadata activities, finding them to be lawful. The CSE Commissioner is currently conducting another review of CSE’s metadata activities. We welcome that review.