CSE operates under a robust system of independent oversight.
- Intelligence Commissioner
- National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)
- National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP)
Several external oversight and review bodies make sure CSE’s activities comply with our mandate and legal responsibilities. They also make recommendations for improvement. Once completed, they publish unclassified summaries of their reports.
On this page
The Intelligence Commissioner is a retired superior court judge. They are independent of CSE. The Intelligence Commissioner is responsible for reviewing and approving Ministerial Authorizations before they take effect, making sure they are reasonable and that they comply with the CSE Act.
This work is important because CSE seeks Ministerial Authorizations when our activities may contravene an Act of Parliament or infringe on a Canadian’s reasonable expectation of privacy. For instance, when a foreign intelligence activity might result in the incidental gathering of a Canadian’s private communication, a Ministerial Authorization would be required.
The Intelligence Commissioner decides whether or not the action is reasonable and if the Authorization can take effect.
The Intelligence Commissioner submits an annual report to the Prime Minister who, in turn, tables it in Parliament.
National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) is responsible for reviewing national security and intelligence activities across the Government of Canada, including CSE’s.
It is fully independent of government and of CSE.
NSIRA reviews our activities to ensure they are lawful, reasonable and necessary.
In addition, it reviews any complaints submitted against CSE actvities.
NSIRA has the right to access any information it needs to complete its reviews. The only exception is information covered by Cabinet confidentiality.
NSIRA is led by a committee of up to seven members, appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, in consultation with the leaders in the House of Commons and Senate.
NSIRA provides classified reports of its findings and recommendations to relevant ministers. It also produces an annual unclassified public report to Parliament summarizing these findings and recommendations.
Before the creation of NSIRA in 2019, CSE’s activities were reviewed by the Office of the CSE Commissioner.
National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP)
The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) is a committee of Parliamentarians that have the security clearances to review and report on any aspect of CSE’s activities. The committee is mandated to review:
- the legislative, regulatory, policy, administrative and financial framework for national security and intelligence
- any activity carried out by a department that relates to national security or intelligence, unless the activity is an ongoing operation and the appropriate Minister determines that the review would be injurious to national security
- any matter relating to national security or intelligence that a Minister of the Crown refers to the Committee
Other accountability mechanisms
As with any other federal department or agency, CSE’s activities are also subject to review by various federal bodies. These include:
- the Privacy Commissioner
- the Information Commissioner
- the Auditor General
- the Canadian Human Rights Commission
- the Commissioner of Official Languages
Making a complaint
You may submit a complaint in writing to the Chief of CSE about any activity carried out by CSE. In your letter, please include the following:
- your contact information (i.e., your full name, mailing address, phone numbers, and email address)
- a concise, clear, and detailed description of the nature and circumstances of your complaint. Please include the names or positions of all individuals involved in the matter, the dates and locations of relevant events, and any other factors that you deem to be relevant
- a description of your desired positive outcome (i.e., what you would like CSE to do to resolve the concerns that you have raised)
- any relevant documents including any correspondence that you have had with CSE regarding this matter
- your signature and the date of signature
Please send your written complaint to the Chief of CSE at the following address:
Communications Security Establishment
P.O. Box 9703,
CSE is committed to providing a response to a written complaint within 60 days of the receipt of the complaint.
Some complaints may be resolved quickly; however, the degree of complexity of an investigation into a complaint may require a longer period for a response. In cases that are not resolved quickly, we will keep you informed of our progress.
Privacy notice statement
We are committed to protecting the privacy rights of individuals, which includes safeguarding the personal information that you provide to CSE. The personal information that you provide is collected to process and investigate your complaint under the authority of the CSE Act and/or other legislative authorities related to your complaint.
If you do not provide some of the personal information we request, we may not be able to process your complaint. Personal information will be collected, used and retained in accordance with the Privacy Act. Personal information collected may be used and/or disclosed for the purpose for which the information was obtained or is consistent with that purpose.
Protecting your personal information involves the use of appropriate administrative, technical, and physical security safeguards. These measures are employed by CSE to protect your personal information against loss or theft; unauthorized access, use, or disclosure; as well as unauthorized modification or destruction. The personal information that you provide is retained in the Executive Correspondence – CSE PSU 902. You have a right of access to, correction and protection of, your personal information under the Privacy Act. You may avail yourself of these rights by contacting CSE’s Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also entitled to contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada concerning the handling of your personal information.