Report on reviewing the Communications Security Establishment tabled in Parliament

OTTAWA, July 20, 2016 /CNW/ - 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.  As CSE Commissioner, he has all the powers of a Commissioner under Part II of the Inquiries Act.

The Commissioner affirmed, "Transparency continues to be a cornerstone of my approach, to inspire better informed public discussion and maintain confidence in the work of CSE. As such, I am committed to providing as much explanation as possible with respect to my investigations." He added, "I have continued to encourage CSE to make as much information public as possible."

Report Highlights

  • All of the CSE activities reviewed in 2015–2016 complied with the law.
  • The Commissioner made four recommendations to promote compliance and strengthen privacy protection:
    • that the Minister of National Defence be kept informed of CSE's activities transmitting a certain kind of reporting from partners to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service;
    • that CSE issue guidance on cyber defence private communications to ensure accuracy and consistency in reporting to the Minister;
    • that CSE reconcile existing discrepancies between its practices and administrative requirements for a specific method of foreign signals intelligence collection; and
    • that future records in the CSE Privacy Incidents File contain adequate information to thoroughly describe and document each incident.
  • The report includes the second part of the ongoing review of CSE metadata activities and an update on CSE's failure to minimize certain Canadian identity information prior to it being shared with its five eyes partners. In early October 2015, the Commissioner recommended that the National Defence Act be amended in order to clarify CSE's authority to collect, use, and share metadata.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Office of the CSE Commissioner. The 2015–2016 report highlights the impact the office has had on the protection of the privacy of Canadians, carrying out reviews over the last 20 years that have produced 161 recommendations intended to promote compliance.


CSE's mandate includes collecting foreign signals intelligence and helping to protect Government of Canada computer systems. It is prohibited by law from directing these activities at Canadians or at any person in Canada. However, CSE may, unintentionally, acquire through these activities communications with a Canadian end, which it may use provided certain legal conditions have been met. The Commissioner's review includes determining whether CSE takes satisfactory measures to protect a Canadian's reasonable expectation of privacy in how CSE uses and retains communications.

CSE has accepted and implemented 100% of the Commissioner's recommendations relating to privacy since the inception of the Commissioner's office in 1996.

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SOURCE Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner

For further information: Contacts: J. William Galbraith, Executive Director, Office of the CSE Commissioner, 613-992-3044

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