Assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies

In June, 2017 the Government tabled Bill C-59, new national security legislation. Included in this Bill is the CSE Act.
The proposed CSE Act will eliminate the ambiguities about what we are permitted and authorized to do in cyber space.
Read more about our proposed legislation here.

Assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies

Under the third part of its mandate in the National Defence Act, CSE is authorized to provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance of their lawful duties. This is also known as part C of CSE’s mandate, or our "assistance mandate."

What does that mean?

As Canada’s national cryptologic agency, CSE possesses unique capabilities and expertise. Under the assistance mandate, those capabilities may be used, as required and appropriate, to assist a law enforcement or security agency to perform tasks in accordance with their legislated mandates. In assisting, CSE acts under the legal authority of the requesting agency it is assisting and is also subject to any restrictions on or conditions of that authority. This authorization is usually through a warrant issued by a court.

CSE may assist in various ways, such as collecting and processing communications, providing linguistic support, or designing technical solutions.

Who are the federal law enforcement and security agencies that CSE assists?

A federal law enforcement or security agency is a federal organization with a mandate to enforce the law or responsibilities related to security, such as the RCMP, CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency. CSE may not provide assistance to Government of Canada departments or agencies that do not have a federal law enforcement or security function.

What are the rules?

In order to request assistance from CSE, agencies must have the proper legal authority, such as a warrant from a court. Again, when providing assistance, CSE is in fact operating under the legal authority of the requesting agency.

In providing assistance, CSE must, first and foremost, comply with all relevant laws of Canada that are applicable to the requesting agency, including the Privacy Act, the Criminal Code, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In addition, CSE must:

  • receive a written request from the requesting federal law enforcement or security agency, authorized by an appropriate representative from the requesting agency
  • be bound by any limitations placed on the requesting agency’s authority (e.g. such as the conditions of a warrant issued by the court)
  • comply with all relevant Ministerial Directives issued to CSE by the Minister of National Defence
  • be satisfied that any information provided to CSE in the request has been lawfully obtained
  • adhere to agreements or arrangements with the respective agency
  • comply with all CSE policies and procedures related to the provision of assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies.

There is also strict internal monitoring of assistance mandate activities for legal and policy compliance. These activities, like all of CSE’s work, are subject to independent review by the CSE Commissioner, and can also be subject to review by other federal review bodies such as the Privacy Commissioner.