Annual Report 1999-2000 - An Operational Audit of CSIS Activities
The Committee found no evidence of political interference as alleged. None of the documents or records reviewed, interviews conducted or representations received evidenced such interference, actual or anticipated. Project Sidewinder was not terminated; it was delayed when its product was found to be inadequate.
With respect to the first Sidewinder draft report, we found the draft to be deeply flawed in almost all respects. The report did not meet the most elementary standards of professional and analytical rigour. The actions the Service took to ensure that subsequent products of its collaborative effort with the RCMP on Project Sidewinder would be of higher quality were appropriate.
The Committee found no evidence of any substantial and immediate threat of the sort envisaged in the first Sidewinder draft, no evidence that a threat was being ignored through negligence or design and no evidence that the Government had not been appropriately warned of substantive threats where such existed. Both CSIS and the RCMP continue to investigate similar threats separately.
The Committee found no indication that the disagreements between CSIS and the RCMP, which arose during the course of Project Sidewinder, had caused, or were symptomatic of, difficulties in other areas of the inter-agency relationship.
The Service disposed of what it regarded as “
transitory documents” related to the Sidewinder first draft report. It is unable to locate other documents the Committee regards as clearly non-transitory and has stated that these were not disposed of but rather “
misfiled.” However, the Committee does not believe this lapse had a material impact on the events surrounding Project Sidewinder; nor is there any evidence that raw information, kept in Service files and in part used by the Sidewinder analysts to compile their first report, was disposed of or altered in any manner.
On October 10, 1999, the vehicle of a CSIS Headquarters employee was vandalized in the Greater Toronto area. Inside the vehicle were a number of CSIS documents, several of which were classified. These were among the items stolen.
Following an investigation by the Service's Internal Security Branch the employee was dismissed from the Service. In addition, the Service altered some of its procedures for document control and strengthened its internal “
security awareness” program.
The Service's own “
lost documents” investigation was conducted in a competent and professional manner, ultimately revealing how its classified materials went astray. In the course of its investigation, Internal Security had considerable difficulty determining the precise content of one item, and thus had to make an educated guess at what the employee held at the time of the burglary. This apparent lapse helped nudge the Committee toward the conclusion that there may have been a problem in CSIS internal document control procedures generally.
We are aware that the Service periodically conducts its own internal review of security procedures. Nevertheless, security breaches in recent years involving CSIS materials suggests that these internal reviews have not been as effective as the Service and the Committee would have wished.
The threat perceived by the Service arose chiefly from the activities of foreign intelligence services operating in Canada. These included suspected attempts to raise funds, collect information on homeland communities, foment civil unrest in Canada and illegally procure weapons and technology.
The Committee determined that the Service had sufficient grounds to conduct the investigation and to employ the investigative methods permitted in the targeting authorities and Court warrants.
Three issues drew the Committee's attention:
strictly necessary” test. The Service agreed with this finding and deleted the information from its database.
The purpose of the Committee's study was to examine several facets of the Service's work in addressing the problems of terrorist fundraising in Canada. Our goals were twofold: to determine the effectiveness of Service advice in assisting the Government's efforts to curb terrorist fundraising and to ensure that all CSIS Actions were appropriate and in conformity with the law.
The Service stated that, as a result of its investigations linked to international terrorism, it had uncovered several Canadian organizations suspected of facilitating terrorist fundraising objectives. Our own review of these investigations showed that CSIS did have sufficient information to believe that the links to international terrorist groups and to their fundraising efforts constituted a threat to the security of Canada.
CSIS and its departmental clients both expressed satisfaction with the liaison relationship. Recipients of Service reports said that the information had been most useful as “
investigative leads” assisting in determining how and where to follow up.
Two recommendations emerged from this study. First, in respect of the nature of the Service's advice,
The Committee recommends that in future, CSIS advise its client departments of substantive changes to the assessments it has previously given them, which arise as a consequence of new information.
Second, although the Committee supports legislative changes that would allow more effective use to be made of the information shared between CSIS and its client departments, such enhanced procedures could well generate an increase in the number of complaints brought to the Committee. To address such an eventuality,
The Committee recommends that the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Privy Council Office initiate special measures to keep SIRC apprised, on a timely basis and as appropriate, of the IWG's (Interdepartmental Working Group on Countering Terrorist-Support Activities) proposals as they impact on CSIS Activities.
During a previous review, the Committee learned of several CSIS source operations that sometimes involved the legitimate dissent milieu—specifically, certain protests and demonstrations. We subsequently reviewed the investigations.
The Committee's review identified no violations of Service policy or Ministerial Direction. CSIS had reasonable grounds to suspect that the targets were threats to the security of Canada. Notwithstanding our general conclusions, this set of investigations was the source of some residual concerns for the Committee.
The Committee believes these point to an occasional lack of rigour in the Service's application of existing policies, which oblige it to weigh the requirement to protect civil liberties against the need to investigate potential threats. The Committee would like to see tangible evidence that significant investigatory decisions involving the legitimate dissent milieu are adequately weighed.
The Committee recommends that the Service make the changes to its administrative procedures necessary to ensure that all significant investigatory decisions in the area of lawful advocacy, protest and dissent are weighed and so documented.
The Committee believes that as well as providing an additional measure of comfort to the Review Committee, such changes would help maintain the day-to-day sensitivity of all CSIS staff to the need to protect civil liberties.
The Committee had an additional recommendation concerning the need to clarify a section of the CSIS Operational Policy Manual (a classified document).
It is the Service's view that the target of this investigation is engaged in intelligence-related activities that manifest themselves in classical espionage, foreign influence in various aspects of Canadian society and the theft of economic and scientific information through clandestine means.
In an earlier report the Committee stated that “
the threats posed by the intelligence gathering activities of this [target] [were] at th[e] time, nebulous, and sometimes hard to define.” Although events since then have served to confirm that the potential for serious threat to Canadian interests is serious and genuine, the current threat as measured in concrete and confirmed activity appears to us to be limited and infrequent.
This difference of opinion between CSIS and the Committee about the nature of the threat led us to conclusions about some of the target's activities that were at odds with those of the Service. Some of the activities investigated by the Service showed the target engaged in intelligence gathering in Canada, but others did not.
The Committee believes each of the targeting decisions examined was justified by the evidence. However, in the Service's application to secure warrant powers against one target were a number of overstatements.
The Committee believes that the potential threat to Canadians and Canadian interests arising from the activities of this target is significant. However, our review evidenced a few instances that pointed to the Service occasionally drawing conclusions not based on the facts at hand.
In carrying out its mandate to investigate suspected threats to the security of Canada, CSIS co-operates and exchanges information with federal and provincial departments and agencies and police forces across Canada. Under section 38(a)(iii) of the Act, the Committee is charged with the task of examining the co-operation arrangements the Service has with domestic agencies, as well as the information and intelligence it discloses under those arrangements.
The Committee found that CSIS co-operation with federal departments and agencies and its relations with provincial authorities and police forces was productive. Our review also showed a general willingness between CSIS and the RCMP to share information with each other.
We found some instances where, in the Committee's opinion, CSIS had retained unnecessary information. One region had collected a report that did not meet the “
strictly necessary” criterion under section 12 of the CSIS Act. CSIS has since removed the report from its database. In another instance, some of the information contained in reports did not, in our view, demonstrate reasonable grounds to suspect serious violence or a possible threat to public safety. The Committee recommended that CSIS report and retain only the information required to meet its obligations with regard to threat assessments.
Canada's efforts to prevent or at least slow the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—chemical, biological and nuclear—to states that do not possess them are longstanding. Although Canada does not possess such weapons itself, a national infrastructure of advanced nuclear, chemical, biotechnological and electronic industries and research facilities makes the country vulnerable to illicit procurement. The goal of the Committee's review was to assess the Service's performance of its function to advise the Government in a clearly vital area.
From CSIS files it was evident that, because of consistent attempts to procure WMD, a certain foreign country was a particular focus for the Service's investigative efforts. Based on an extensive review of the documentation, we concluded that CSIS had reasonable grounds to suspect a threat to the security of Canada.
It is evident to the Committee that the Service plays an important role in Canada's management of proliferation issues at the domestic level (co-operating with police and other enforcement agencies), and globally (acting in support of DFAIT counter-proliferation initiatives, and exchanging information with allied governments and other parts of the international antiproliferation regime). We noted that, overall, the Service's approach to proliferation matters was both strategically sound and flexibly managed.
We determined that the office's internal security practices and procedures were generally sound and noted that in response to incidents elsewhere in recent years, the Region had implemented CSIS Headquarters's new procedures in relation to managing classified documents and electronic storage media.
The Committee did note, however, that the Region had conducted significantly fewer (in proportion to the staff complement) random searches of employees entering or leaving Service premises than CSIS offices in other regions. Given the security breaches of recent years, and the Service's acknowledgment of the role of random searches in increasing “
security awareness” among its employees, the Committee believes the Region should bring its security practices into line with other of the Service's regional operations.
The Committee recommends that the Region increase the number of random searches to reflect the current practices in other CSIS regional offices.
A 1987 tri-ministerial MOU stipulates that any section 16 request likely to result in the inadvertent interception of communications to which a Canadian is party, should so state. Although all Ministerial requests since August 1998 have contained such clauses, the Committee believes the declaration used currently concerning incidental interception requires additional clarification.
The Committee recommends that in requesting section 16 assistance, Ministers indicate explicitly those instances where there is a real likelihood that the communications of Canadians will be subject to incidental interception as part of the collection activity.
A related concern arises with respect to CSIS warrant applications resulting from section 16 requests. Two applications examined by the Committee did not include, as stipulated in the tri-ministerial MOU, the mandatory caution against directing the collection of information at citizens, companies and permanent residents.
The Committee strongly recommends that all future CSIS section 16 warrant applications contain the required prohibition against directing the collection of information at Canadian citizens, companies or permanent residents.
The Committee also reviewed CSIS reports to requesting Ministries based on section 16 collection. Some contained information about Canadians that went beyond that necessary for the understanding and exploitation of the intelligence. Although these represented only a very small fraction of the total, the Committee believes that the Service could be more circumspect with little or no penalty to the quality of its analyses.
The Committee recommends that CSIS ensure that it is more circumspect and that reports to requesting agencies contain only that information absolutely essential for the exploitation of the foreign intelligence.