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Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)


CSIS - Canadian Security Intelligence Service and more

Canada's official intelligence community is small and disparate. Almost alone in the Western world, it has no foreign intelligence service and there is no strong central direction of the various intelligence organizations that do exist.

There is the Privy Council Office (PCO) which is the office of government that heads up the public service and, in their own words "provides the best non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet." More specifically, the PCO includes a Deputy Secretary, Security and Intelligence who oversees intelligence functions, in particular the Security and Intelligence Secretariat and the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS). It is the IAS that produces foreign intelligence assessments. To quote the PCO website, the IAS:

... coordinates the interdepartmental activities and assessments of the Intelligence Assessment Committee (IAC), chaired by the Executive Director, whose membership is composed of senior officials from the departments and agencies most concerned with intelligence matters.

It should be noted that, as stated above, the IAS and IAC produce assessments -- that is written reports offering analysis. They are not actual agencies collecting intelligence. In essence, they are advisoring bodies, drawing upon other government departments and agencies intelligence capabilities. Nor do the IAS or IAC have an executive direction function over the intelligence activities of those other government departments and agencies, the way for instance the CIA does in the US.

CSIS Headquaters

So what are those "other government departments and agencies?" There is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This often misunderstood service is neither a foreign intelligence agency on the model of the British Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6), nor a central intelligence agency on the model of the American CIA. Rather, it is responsible for producing intelligence about security threats within Canada -- primarily terrorism, political extremism, drugs and organized crime. As such, it is more analogous to the FBI than the CIA. Parliamentary oversight of CSIS is provided through the Security Intelligence Review Committee or SIRC.

Since time immemorial states have sent diplomats abroad to keep track of what others in the world are up to, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade ( DFAIT) still performs this function.


In matters touching upon criminal issues (in particular terrorism) the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ( RCMP) is an important organization.

The Communications Security Establishment or CSE is the Canadian organization dedicated to Signals Intelligence or SIGINT. While placed under the Minister of National Defence for accountability, it is its own agency rather than part of the military, and serves all government departments.

See the Auditor General of Canada report on intelligence in Canadian government.

Military intelligence in Canada forms a branch of the Canadian Forces, and as such constitutes an area of professional military specialization. Personnel of the Intelligence Branch, who wear the Intelligence Branch cap badge, are posted in units and headquarters staffs throughout the Canadian military fulfilling their roles. Within National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa the intelligence function is the responsibility of J2/Director General Intelligence.

Published on: 2004-08-05 (22133 reads)

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