History

Examination Unit 1941-1946

The Examination Unit (XU) was Canada's first civilian office that was solely dedicated to the encryption and decryption of communications signals.

The Examination Unit office

BID -08/3

Multiple component equipment, keyboard, wires, paper roll, encrypt and decrypt based on random tape, technology similar to the ENIGMA.

Multiple component equipment, keyboard, wires, paper roll, encrypt and decrypt based on random tape, technology similar to the ENIGMA.

Poly-alphabetic cypher

Decryption aid made with cardboard tubing and graph paper made by analyst. Tube with characters, within a black tube case with slit window to lign up with characters.

Decryption aid made with cardboard tubing and graph paper made by analyst. Tube with characters, within a black tube case with slit window to lign up with characters.

CSE has a rich history of foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) that goes all the way back to the Second World War, and the very beginnings of Canadian SIGINT itself. What began as a military signals corp in support of the British War effort became a joint military and civilian operational activity area. By the end of the war, the operation had exceeded expectations and demonstrated the possibilities for Canadian intelligence in the newly emerging independence of Canada as a country that was no longer in the dominion of Great Britain (1951). Since then, CSE has remained committed to its primary mission of providing the Federal Government with Signals Intelligence vital to Canada’s National Security and subsequently protecting Canadian Government communications. In 1946, as the Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC), then in 1975, as the Communications Security Establishment, CSE has proved a valuable asset to the Canadian Government and to our Allied Partners.

The Anti-terrorism Act, ratified on December 24, 2001, included amendments to the National Defence Act, Part V.1 of which gave CSE a legislative mandate, including specific authorities as well as prohibitions and limitations. The Act gives CSE a clear mandate to collect foreign SIGINT, to protect Federal Government communications, and provide technical support to Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It also strictly forbids the targeting of any person in Canada, or Canadians anywhere in the world. In the 12 years since the Act was implemented, CSE has more than doubled in staff. The end of the Cold War brought with it the end of an era of superpower posturing with apocalyptic weapons of mass destruction, giving general public opinion a false sense of relief after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In fact, the global intelligence community has had to adapt to new and, at times, even greater threats to their respective national security and economic profiles. CSE continues to collaborate with domestic and international partners to anticipate communications trends and technological advances. From a 1974 cardboard roll that was created to add another facet to an encryption slide rule, to some of the most advanced technologies of the next decade, it is all part of our history; Canadian history; CSE’s history.