CSE Information Kit

Safeguarding Canada's security through information superiority

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is Canada's national cryptologic agency. Cryptology is the art of making and breaking codes.

Our vision

Safeguarding Canada's security through information superiority.

Our mission

To provide and protect information of national interest, through leading-edge technology, in synergy with our Government of Canada partners in the security and intelligence community.

What we do

The Communications Security Establishment is mandated to acquire and provide foreign signals intelligence, and to provide advice, guidance and services to help ensure the protection of Government of Canada electronic information and information infrastructures. We also provide technical and operational assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies.

Place in government

The Minister of National Defence is accountable to Cabinet and Parliament for all of CSE activities while providing direction on how CSE carries out its mandate. The Chief, CSE reports directly to the Minister of National Defence.

Legislation and Review

CSE operates within all Canadian laws, including the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. CSE's existence was enshrined in legislation in 2001 with the passing of the Anti-terrorism Act. It describes various aspects of CSE, including our role, responsibilities, and function in government. The law also describes the responsibilities of the CSE Commissioner. The Commissioner's mandate is to review CSE's activities to ensure their compliance with Canadian law. He has access to all CSE information, subject however to any other Act of Parliament or any privilege under the law of evidence, and submits an annual report to the Minister of National Defence that is then tabled in Parliament. In all annual reports to date, the CSE Commissioner has said that CSE acts lawfully.

Our History

The organization that one day would become the Communications Security Establishment originated during the early days of the Second World War. Established in 1941 as a civilian organization under the National Research Council, the Examination Unit worked with intercepted foreign electronic communications collected largely from the Canadian Signal Corps station at Rockcliffe airport in Ottawa. The Examination Unit successfully decrypted, translated, and analyzed these foreign signals, and turned that raw information into useful intelligence reports during the course of the war. Among its targets were German Military Intelligence rings active in South America, diplomatic and naval cipher from Vichy, France (then allied with Nazi Germany) and Japanese communications.

With the end of the Second World War, the federal government pondered whether to continue its cryptographic effort. The revelations of former Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko that Soviet espionage rings were active in Canada helped to persuade the Canadian government that there was a post-war role for a cryptographic and signals intelligence organization dedicated to collecting, decrypting, translating and analyzing foreign signals intelligence in peacetime.

Acting on recommendations of Lester Pearson, the federal cabinet passed an order-in-council formally establishing the organizations' status, amalgamating it with a military cryptographic organization called the Discrimination Unit, and renaming the new organization the Communications Branch, National Research Council - CBNRC. Formal partnerships with sister agencies in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand soon followed, continuing the close collaboration shared by these organizations during wartime.

The establishment of a communications security - COMSEC - organization in Canada grew out of a need to protect sensitive information transmitted by various agencies of the government, especially External Affairs, National Defence and the RCMP. Prior to 1947, cryptographic keying material was provided by the United Kingdom without cost to Canada.

In February 1946, UK authorities suggested that Canada might set up production facilities to provide for their own internal crypto requirements. By the end of the year a cipher materials production component was created in the newly formed Communications Branch with the mandate to produce cipher books and keying materials for use with machines of UK or US origin.

Throughout the decades of the Cold War, CBNRC and its partners in the Canadian Forces Supplementary Radio Service provided accurate, timely, and authoritative signals intelligence on the Soviet Union. Much of this information was shared with our SIGINT allies and partners, especially the United States. In return, Canada received vast amounts of high-grade intelligence on a wide variety of diplomatic, trade, political and military subjects of interest to the Canadian government.

In 1974 the television program "The Fifth Estate" broadcast an exposé of Canadian involvement in signals intelligence. The program revealed the existence of the hitherto low-profile CBNRC, and explored the nature of its signals intelligence program and its US partners. The Fifth Estate's revelations were raised in the House of Commons over the next week. As a result of the unwelcome publicity, the government soon transferred Canada's SIGINT and Communications Security organization to the Department of National Defence portfolio, and renamed it the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

CSE continued its dual SIGINT and COMSEC role for years, quietly providing high-grade SIGINT and COMSEC which it shared with its allies and deriving great benefit from the resulting intelligence provided by our allies in exchange. However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of European communism soon afterwards, budget and human resources cutbacks impaired CSE's ability to keep up throughout the 1990s.

At the same time, a revolution was taking place in the field of telecommunications. The velocity, variety and volume of communications increased greatly and use of the World Wide Web as a communications tool became widespread, making obsolete many less sophisticated means of telecommunications.

The terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 were a wake up call for the security and intelligence community in Canada as well as the United States. The Anti-terrorism Act, passed in December of 2001, gave CSE the legislative authority it needed to more assertively carry out its SIGINT role and its COMSEC role, now renamed Information Technology Security. Furthermore, it also established, in statute, the Office of the CSE Commissioner, endowing that office with the authority to review the legality of the Establishment's activities. That office has confirmed, over all its annual reports to date, that the organization conducts its activities lawfully.

On September 27, 2007, the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada approved the registration of a new applied title for the organization. This change was made in order to become compliant with the federal government's Federal Identity Program (FIP), which requires all departments and agencies have the word 'Canada' as part of their corporate title. From this point forward, the organization became known as Communications Security Establishment, with an abbreviation of CSE. It is important to note that while the applied title changed, the legal title remains Communications Security Establishment and continues to be used for all legal documents.

Today the Communications Security Establishment's SIGINT and Information Technology Security programs are meeting Canada's cyber-challenges head-on and are working to provide security for Canada and for all Canadians. Our organization is growing, and will continue to draw on the skills and talents of a new generation of code-makers and code-breakers.

Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)

CSE's signals intelligence program - which we call SIGINT - produces intelligence that responds to Canadian government requirements.

CSE collects foreign intelligence that can be used by the government for strategic warning, policy formulation, decision-making and day-to-day assessment of foreign capabilities and intentions.

The success of this process is founded on CSE's understanding of the leading-edge technologies used by the global information infrastructure.

CSE relies on its closest foreign intelligence allies, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand to share the collection burden and the resulting intelligence yield. Canada is a substantial beneficiary of the collaborative effort within the partnership to collect and report on foreign communications.

During the Cold War, the Establishment's primary client for signals intelligence was National Defence, and its focus was the military operations of the then Soviet Union. Since the end of the Cold War, Government of Canada requirements have evolved to include a wide variety of political, defence, and security issues of interest to a much broader range of client departments.

While these continue to be key intelligence priorities for Government of Canada decision-makers, increasing focus on protecting the safety of Canadians is prompting greater interest in intelligence on transnational issues, including terrorism.

CSE now provides foreign intelligence based on SIGINT to a growing number of senior clients in Government.

Information Technology Security Program

Our world has changed significantly since September 11, 2001. The Government of Canada, in response to growing cyber dependencies and global threats has recognized the urgent and critical need to address rapidly developing IT security threats and vulnerabilities. The Information Technology Security (IT Security) Program provides the Government of Canada with timely, credible, unbiased insight and the technical leadership required to guide critical IT security decisions.

As a result of this critical and urgent need, the IT Security Program's new strategic stance has made possible a shift to that of a predictive nature allowing the program to provide relevant knowledge based upon sound practices and forward looking solutions. The IT Security Program has earned highly valued global respect and a reputation of technical excellence. It now extends its expertise past its traditional technical clients to those within the Government of Canada who are responsible for the formulation and implementation of policy and program managers. This approach encourages harmonization between Government of Canada's operational IT security requirements with its business needs and processes.

The IT Security Program will aid the Government of Canada's effort to make cyber security a business enabler. Raising cyber protection awareness, developing requisite knowledge, and encouraging the adoption and application of appropriate security solutions will be undertaken as an evolutionary process. The IT Security Program is committed to ensuring that our Government of Canada clients' cyber networks and critical infrastructures are trustworthy and secure.

Make a difference

CSE offers a dynamic, stimulating workplace where specialists from diverse backgrounds share expertise and commitment in a team environment.

We are looking for foreign language intelligence analysts who are interested in challenging positions involving analysis, research, translation, transcription and report writing, and have demonstrated interest and ability in information and communication technology.

We are looking for engineers for the development of both hardware and software systems, as well as testing and documentation using state-of-the-art equipment and facilities within CSE's two main business lines: Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Technology Security (IT Security).

We are hiring mathematicians who work on some of today's most interesting and challenging problems. They conduct research in many fields of mathematics, including Cryptography, Number Theory, Group Theory, Finite Field Theory, Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Mathematical Statistics, Computer Science, Data Mining, Combinatorics and much more.

We are interested in computer science specialists to develop systems for various fields of operations, including cryptanalysis, engineering support, office automation, LAN/WAN administration (UNIX, Windows), programmer analysts (C/C++, Java), communications security and other communications-related areas.

We are also interested in human resources professionals to develop and implement human resources strategies, including advice to clients, recruitment, learning & development, employee relations, compliance with relevant legislation on key HR policies, and administrative functions.

CSE has other requirements for finance professionals, accountants, facilities management professionals, business planners, clerks, administrative professionals, project managers, and communications specialists.

Come join the CSE team!

Quick Facts about CSE

The Communications Security Establishment is Canada's national cryptologic agency.

In January 2015, there were 2200 employees working at CSE. Virtually all of them work at CSE's headquarters in Ottawa.

CSE's budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year is approximately $538 million.

The Chief of CSE is Shelly Bruce.

CSE was formally established in 1946 as the Communications Branch, National Research Council. In 1975, it was renamed the Communications Security Establishment and moved to the National Defence portfolio. In November 2011, CSE became a stand-alone agency.

CSE's mandate and responsibilities were enshrined in legislation in the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001.

The CSE Commissioner is CSE's review agency. The current CSE Commissioner is is former Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec, and Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Plouffe, CD. To date, every CSE Commissioner has confirmed in their annual reports that the CSE activities examined are in compliance with the law.