2016-2017 Report on reviewing the Communications Security Establishment tabled in Parliament

August 16, 2017 — Ottawa, ON — Office of the CSE Commissioner

Today, the Annual Report of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Plouffe, CD, was tabled in Parliament.

The Commissioner provides independent external review of Communications Security Establishment (CSE) operational activities to determine whether they complied with the law and protected the privacy of Canadians. Mr. Plouffe is a retired judge of the Superior Court of Quebec and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.  He has all the powers of a Commissioner under Part II of the Inquiries Act.

Report Highlights

All of the CSE activities reviewed in 2016-2017 complied with the law.

Three of five recommendations the Commissioner made this year concern sharing with foreign entities: 

  1. that CSE make clear in memoranda of understanding with foreign entities the limitations of CSE's foreign SIGINT activities and that it cannot receive information that may have been acquired by directing activities at Canadians;
  1. that CSE apply caveats consistently to all exchanges and that it use appropriate systems to record all information released;
  1. that CSE issue over-arching guidance to establish baseline measures for information exchanges.

The Commissioner also recommended:

  1. in the context of foreign signals intelligence ministerial authorizations, that CSE reporting to the Minister on private communications explain the extent of privacy invasion. There is a distorted view of the number of Canadians or persons in Canada involved in communications intercepted by CSE as a result of the technical characteristics of certain communications technology and the manner in which CSE counts private communications; and
  1. that CSE always obtain written legal advice from Justice Canada concerning the retention or use of an intercepted solicitor-client privileged communication.

Commissioner Plouffe noted: “As I move through my fourth year reviewing CSE, I will continue to focus on the adequacy of CSE measures to protect privacy.”  He continued: “I look forward to contributing to more comprehensive accountability of national security activities being brought about by legislative changes, in particular my new anticipated role as Intelligence Commissioner.”

The annual report is available at www.ocsec-bccst.gc.ca/ann-rpt/index_e.php.

Associated Links


William Galbraith

Executive Director, Office of the CSE Commissioner


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