The Beginning: The Communications Branch of the National Research Council

Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) comes from the interception of signals that are often encrypted to protect the secrecy of the information they carry. Although enciphering and deciphering information has been around as far back as recorded history, the cryptologic history of signals is relatively new, beginning with the latter part of the industrial age.

The interception of signals and the protection of government telecommunications has been the Communications Security Establishment’s mission focus since it was first established in 1946 as the Communications Branch of the National Research Council of Canada (CBNRC).

The CBNRC was formed at the end of the Second World War by combining the two wartime cryptologic offices; the civilian Examination Unit (XU) and the military Joint Discrimination Unit (JDU). After much political debate over the need for a national peacetime cryptologic agency, an Order in Council was signed in April 1946, effectively creating the Communications Branch of the NRC. On September 3, 1946, the 179 former employees of the XU and JDU came back to work together at their new jobs in the CBNRC under the direction of retired Lt. Col. Edward Drake.

Their mission was to continue the work they were doing during the war with as little disruption as possible to the collaboration that had developed between Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom on the sharing of Signals Intelligence.