Oversight and review


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

Intelligence Commissioner

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.

Visit the Intelligence Commissioner’s website

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

Visit NSICOP’s website

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:

Making a complaint

You may submit a complaint to the chief of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) about any activity carried out by CSE.

As per the Communications Security Establishment Act, CSE is the national signals intelligence agency for foreign intelligence and the technical authority for cyber security and information assurance. Activities carried out by CSE, in furtherance of its mandate, must not be directed at a Canadian or at any person in Canada and must not infringe on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Submitting your complaint

You may submit your complaint online to the chief of CSE.


To submit a complaint by email or mail, download the complaint form (PDF) and send the completed form to external_complaints_plaintes_externe@cse-cst.gc.ca or to the following mailing address:

Communications Security Establishment
P.O. Box 9703,
Ottawa, ON
K1G 3Z4

Receiving a response

CSE is committed to providing a response to a written complaint within 60 calendar days of the receipt of the complaint.

Some complaints may be resolved quickly, however, depending on factors such as the complexity of the allegations and investigation into a complaint, it may take longer to receive a response. In cases that are not resolved quickly, we will keep you informed of our progress.

How we protect your privacy

Personal information provided in support of this complaint is collected under the authority of section 9.1 of the Communications Security Establishment Act. It will be used only for the purpose of providing a response to the complainant regarding their complaint. The personal information collected is described in Standard Personal Information Bank (PIB) PSU 902 (Executive Correspondence), which is used by all government organizations. The information is collected and managed according to the requirements of the Privacy Act and its related policy instruments. Individuals have the right to access and correct their personal information as well as to file a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada regarding CSE’s handling of their personal information.

You may contact CSE’s Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator by email at atip-aiprp@cse-cst.gc.ca for any question regarding CSE’s collection and handling of personal information.



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