#CyberFLASH: CSE can assist in ‘threat reduction’ without a warrant, documents show

csis.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxOTTAWA—Canada’s electronic spies can assist CSIS with the agency’s new mandate to disrupt security threats with little oversight from politicians or the courts, documents obtained by the Star show.

The Communications Security Establishment told Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan last November they can aid CSIS with new “threat reduction” efforts — a power granted to the agency under Bill C-51.

It’s not unusual for CSE to lend a hand to police or intelligence agencies; in addition to electronic espionage and cyber defence, assistance to law enforcement is one of the agency’s core mandates. But that assistance often requires a warrant.

But under C-51, CSIS can take action to reduce threats to national security without a warrant — so long as the agency’s efforts don’t violate Canadian law or charter rights. CSE confirmed that they do not necessarily need a court’s approval to assist CSIS in threat reduction.

The new power has opened the door for CSE to act as a “virtuous hacker” for CSIS, according to national security researcher Craig Forcese.

“This was the sleeper in C-51, because CSE is barely mentioned in C-51,” said Forcese, a vocal critic of the new terrorism law.

“CSE has been a watcher . . . . It has not been able to do things kinetically to people. But under the umbrella of CSIS assistance, it can now go kinetic.”

The power to reduce or “disrupt” threats to Canada’s national security was one of the most controversial aspects of the previous Conservative government’s anti-terrorism law.

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