The shroud that surrounds the deepening integration of Canada’s two principal intelligence agencies was pulled back, if only very slightly, by the recent publication of figures on the number of times the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIC) has requested assistance from the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—the Canadian counterpart and partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA).
According to a Globe and Mail report, CSIS requested CSEC assistance 205 times in the four years from 2009 through 2012. The Globe report, which was based on an Access to Information request, also reveals that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP asked for CSEC’s help in spying on Canadians 85 times during the same period.
The Globe report does not specify how many of these requests were accommodated. Nor does it disclose any further details about the content of these requests.
CSEC functions under secret Defence Minister directives known at most to a handful of cabinet members and a cabal of national-security operatives. Much of what is publicly known about CSEC’s activities originated with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who released the first batch of his exposures last June. One of his most recent leaks shows that in 2012, CSEC, working in conjunction with the NSA, developed and field-tested a program to tap into the wireless devices of travellers at Canadian airports and other public spaces and to track them for up to two weeks afterward.
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