Activities of the Commissioner's Office

As part of my goal to increase transparency, my officials and I make concerted efforts to broaden public awareness of the work of my office. This is accomplished in many ways, including making more information available through our website and my public annual report, speaking at and participating in conferences and seminars, responding to media inquiries, and participating in bilateral meetings with colleagues in the other Canadian review bodies and with review bodies of other countries.

When I indicated in last year's annual report that the office's website included new information, to clarify misconceptions and to address issues and criticisms raised about the role and work of the Commissioner, I promised to post more detail about how my office reviews the operational activities of CSE. This past year I added detailed information on reviews: about how I select activities for review, how I conduct reviews, the criteria on which reviews are structured, and how I report on the findings of my reviews

My office also continued to deliver presentations about our work as part of the orientation of new CSE employees. These sessions ceased in the late spring when CSE began moving into its new building but are expected to start again later in 2015. As in the old CSE facilities, we will have dedicated, secure, separate office space in the new building, where we can conduct interviews and work on-site during our reviews.

The Executive Director attended the Privacy and Security Conference in Victoria B.C., in February. This leading conference explores topical and controversial issues related to information and communications technology, information security, the role of government and government agencies, and privacy.

Throughout the year, staff from my office also attended many other conferences dealing with international affairs, information technology security, national security and privacy, sponsored by many different organizations such as the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, and the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.

My office also provided support to the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS), a network initiated by a number of university academics with the support of government departments and agencies. Our support was in-kind and will consist of my staff offering to read and comment on certain TSAS reports, to engage in discussions with researchers and to attend meetings or workshops of relevance.

Throughout the year, I met with a number of my review colleagues in Canada as well as internationally.

Consulting with review bodies in Canada

The Review Agencies Forum is a meeting of representatives of my office, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. This forum provides an opportunity to compare best practices in review methodologies and to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern, but excludes any exchange of operational details of reviews. The forum met in November and March.

I met with the interim Chair of SIRC for general discussions regarding cooperation between our organizations and our respective executive directors agreed to coordinate certain basic elements of two reviews of activities that involved both CSE and CSIS. As already noted in the review section, I referred two recommendations and another issue, all involving CSIS, to the interim Chair of SIRC for SIRC's information and any follow-up it deemed appropriate. The executive directors of my office, SIRC and CRCC also met to discuss further possibilities for cooperation and to exchange views on issues related to review of intelligence and security agencies.

In June 2014, the Executive Director of my office joined with his SIRC counterpart in a panel at the third annual Chief Information Security Officers Executive Summit in Vancouver. They described the roles of their respective organizations in contributing to the public accountability of the intelligence agencies they are responsible for reviewing. This specialized and informed group, with an interest in the threat environment and in the role of the intelligence agencies, discussed whether the current operating environment and the public interest are adequately reflected in existing legislation and frameworks.

I met with the new Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, a few months after his appointment. In October, I addressed the meeting of federal, provincial and territorial privacy and information commissioners in Ottawa. I explained my mandate, my role and the common interest we serve in ensuring the protection of the privacy of Canadians. These commissioners have a much broader area of responsibility, in terms of covering most of the departments and agencies within their respective jurisdictions, whereas my mandate concentrates exclusively on CSE. I found the discussion with the privacy and information commissioners to be productive and helpful in learning about their particular perspectives and concerns.

Consulting with review bodies of other countries

Last July, the Executive Director and the Director of Operations joined me in attending the ninth International Intelligence Review Agencies Conference in London, England. Representatives from 14 other countries attended. These biennial conferences are an opportunity for legislators and senior office holders working in the field of intelligence review and oversight to exchange views and experiences on topics of mutual concern. The conference also supports countries in the development of intelligence review and oversight mechanisms, drawing on the experience of countries with existing structures. Conference sessions were devoted to topics such as the future of intelligence oversight, public expectations of privacy and what is proportionate, and working toward greater transparency. Broadening the dialogue and expanding our expert networks through these conferences benefits our work in Canada. We have an opportunity to hear the experiences of, and to share best practices with, a wide variety of review and oversight bodies.

In December, some of my officials and I met with the U.K. Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, Q.C. Mr. Anderson was tasked by the British government to examine whether the United Kingdom needs new or amended legislation to address the interception powers of security and intelligence agencies. His focus includes communications data, which is the term used in the United Kingdom for what we refer to as metadata. In this useful exchange we also learned more about his overall role as independent reviewer.

In last year's annual report, I concluded my review of sharing of foreign signals intelligence with international partners with the statement that I was going to explore options to cooperate with review bodies of Second Party countries to examine information sharing activities among respective intelligence agencies and to verify the application of respective policies. While in London for the International Intelligence Review Agencies Conference, we met with the U.K. Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office to discuss and compare experiences in review methodologies, privacy issues and legal frameworks. In January, I travelled to Washington, D.C., accompanied by my Executive Director and acting Director of Operations, to meet with the Inspector General of the United States Intelligence Community and then with the Inspector General of the National Security Agency (NSA).

The Inspector General of the U.S. Intelligence Community is responsible for conducting audits, investigations, inspections and reviews of the entire U.S. intelligence community. Our meeting included inspectors general and representatives from a number of other agencies. Despite significant distinctions between my office and the inspectors general – a principal one being that the inspectors general have a much broader mandate whereas I have a mandate specific to compliance with the law – the main purpose of our meeting was to learn about the level of cooperation among the intelligence community inspectors general and how I might apply that to my efforts to encourage cooperation among Canadian review bodies. I was also interested to discuss the interactions between the inspectors general and other offices more recently established within the intelligence agencies, such as those that deal with civil liberties and privacy, and with whistleblower and source protection. I was struck by my hosts' candidness in discussing issues and sharing views. This highly worthwhile meeting will stimulate reflections on my own work.

Following the meeting with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community and his colleagues, we met with the Inspector General of the NSA. These detailed discussions were specific to the review in my annual report last year regarding CSE foreign signals intelligence sharing with its international partners. As I state elsewhere in this report, I wished to hear – and received – personal assurances from the Inspector General as to NSA's policies and procedures on the treatment of information about Canadians.

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