The Commissioner's Role

Parliament passed the Anti-Terrorism Act in December 2001. This amended the National Defence Act (NDA) and established in legislation the role and responsibilities of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the CSE Commissioner.

My primary legislated duty is to review the activities of CSE to determine whether they comply with the laws of Canada. The Act charges me to review CSE's activities in general and, as well, specifically to review activities that CSE carries out under ministerial authorization. Given the nature of CSE's activities, I place a particular emphasis on determining whether those activities are carried out in a manner that appropriately protects the privacy of Canadians,[1] as CSE is required to do by law.

My other duties include undertaking such investigations as I consider necessary in response to any complaints received about CSE's activities, and informing the Minister of National Defence and the Attorney General of Canada about any CSE activity that I believe may not be in compliance with the law.

As I see it, my main role as the CSE Commissioner is to give assurance to the Minister of National Defence that the intrusive powers Parliament granted to CSE are used in accordance with the legislation. Annex A of this report sets out the key elements of my mandate under the National Defence Act, as well as my duties under the Security of Information Act.

The Communications Security Establishment, the subject of my attention as Commissioner, is a central player in Canada's security and intelligence community. CSE's mandate under Part V.1 of the National Defence Act includes:

I carry out all my responsibilities in full recognition of the importance of CSE's contribution to ensuring that the Government of Canada is in a position to play an active, well-informed role in promoting and protecting Canadian interests in a rapidly changing world. In light of the continuing threat of terrorism around the world in recent years, I am particularly aware of CSE's important contribution to protecting the security of Canada and Canadians. It is not my intention to impede CSE from fulfilling its important role. Rather, I believe that CSE's effectiveness is enhanced when I am able to provide evidence-based assurance not only about the lawfulness of its activities, but also about the policies, procedures and processes it has in place to help ensure that lawfulness.

I am pleased to submit this annual report summarizing my office's activities and findings for the year ended 31 March 2006. In doing so, I would like to express my appreciation for the cooperation and assistance that my office received from the CSE's new Chief and his staff throughout the year. Although it is normal, and indeed fitting, for a measure of healthy tension to exist in the relationship between any review body and the organization being reviewed, the professionalism of CSE's employees has facilitated the work of my office and made it more productive.

[1] It is important to note that "Canadians" includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents and corporations incorporated in Canada.

[2] Foreign intelligence is defined in Part V.1 of the NDA as "information or intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group, as they relate to international affairs, defence or security".

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