Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Canadian Security Intelligence Service
Canadian Security Intelligence Service logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed June 21, 1984, by Act of Parliament (Bill C-9)
Preceding agency RCMP Security Service
Headquarters Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Employees 2449[1]
Annual budget $506,573,000[2]
Minister responsible Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety
Agency executive Richard Fadden, Director
Parent agency Public Safety Canada

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS, play /ˈssɪs/; French: Service canadien du renseignement de sécurité, SCRS) is Canada's national intelligence service. It is responsible for collecting, analyzing, reporting and disseminating intelligence on threats to Canada's national security, and conducting operations, covert and overt, within Canada and abroad.[3]

Its headquarters are located at 1941 Ogilvie Road, in Ottawa, Ontario, in a purpose-built facility completed in 1995.[4] CSIS is responsible to Parliament through the Minister of Public Safety, but is also overseen by the Federal Court system, the Inspector General of CSIS, and the Security Intelligence Review Committee.[5]



CSIS was created on June 21, 1984 by an Act of Parliament passed as a consequence of the McDonald Commission.[6] The main thrust of the McDonald Report was that security intelligence work should be separated from policing, and that the activities of a new agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, should be subject to both judicial approval for warrants, as well as general oversight review by a new body, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, as well as the office of the Inspector General. Its de facto existence began on July 16 under the direction of Thomas D'Arcy Finn.[7] Before this, Canadian intelligence had been under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Security Service.

During the Cold War, the CSIS was tasked with tracking down foreign spies in Canada, relying heavily on the use of "technological gadgets" to uncover espionage activities[8][dead link]. More recently, it has engaged in counter-espionage operations against alleged Chinese intelligence activities throughout Canada[9][not in citation given].

Mission and operations

CSIS is Canada's lead agency for national security matters. It is a federal agency which conducts national security investigations and security intelligence collection at home and abroad.[3] CSIS collects and analyzes intelligence and advises the Government of Canada on issues and activities that may threaten the security of Canada. CSIS also conducts security investigations and assessments for all applicants seeking a security clearance with federal departments and agencies, with the exception of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who conduct their own security assessments.

There is no restriction in the CSIS Act on where CSIS may collect "security intelligence" or information relating to threats to the security of Canada. The agency may collect information on threats to Canada or Canadians from anywhere in the world. While CSIS is often viewed as a defensive security intelligence agency it is not a domestic agency. CSIS officers work domestically and internationally in their efforts to monitor and counter threats to Canadian security.

There is a distinction between "security intelligence" and "foreign intelligence". Security intelligence pertains to national security threats (e.g., terrorism, espionage). Foreign intelligence involves information collection relating to the political or economic activities of foreign states. According to Section 16 of the CSIS Act, the agency collects this type of "foreign intelligence" within Canada.

CSIS is neither a police agency nor is it a part of the military. As an intelligence agency, the primary role of CSIS is not law enforcement. Investigation of criminal activity is left to the RCMP and local (provincial, regional or city) police agencies. CSIS, like counterparts such as the United Kingdom Security Service (MI5) and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is a civilian agency. CSIS is subject to review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and an Inspector General (IG) as well as other legislative checks and balances. The agency carries out its functions in accordance with the CSIS Act, which governs and defines its powers and activities.

Canadian police, military agencies (see Canadian Forces Intelligence Branch), and numerous other government departments may maintain their own "intelligence" components (i.e. to analyze criminal intelligence or military strategic intelligence). The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade maintains a Security and Intelligence Bureau to review and analyze overtly acquired information. The bureau plays a coordinating and policy role. While not an intelligence agency, it is responsible for the security of Department of Foreign Affairs personnel around the world.[10] However, these agencies are not to be confused with the more encompassing work of larger more dedicated "intelligence agencies" such as CSIS, MI5, MI6, or the CIA.

The Operational Programs of CSIS include:

  • Facing Technological Challenges

CSIS works closely with the intelligence agencies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under the post–World War II Quadpartite Pact all intelligence information is shared between the intelligence agencies of these four countries.

Permission to put a subject under surveillance is granted by the Target Approval and Review Committee.

Security Liaison Officers (SLOs) of CSIS are posted at Canadian embassies and consulates to gather security-related intelligence from other nations. This information may be gathered from other national intelligence agencies, law enforcement services and other sources. SLOs also assess potential immigrants to Canada for security issues.

CSIS has been named one of "Canada's Top 100 Employers" by Mediacorp Canada Inc. for the years of 2009-2011, and was featured in Maclean's newsmagazine.[11]


The activities of CSIS are regularly reviewed on behalf of Parliament by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). It is also under the portfolio of the federal Minister of Public Safety, whose Inspector General compiles an annual classified report on CSIS' operational activities for the Minister. Both SIRC and the CSIS IG have access to all CSIS information, classified and open, with the exception of Cabinet Confidences.


CSIS has at times come under criticism, such as for its role in the investigation of the 1985 Air India bombing. The Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, headed by Mr. Justice John Major, is underway. Two Canadian courts have publicly criticized CSIS for destroying wiretap evidence. One court impressed upon the importance of wiretap evidence from CSIS in establishing guilt. The second focused on its exculpatory value.

From 1988 to 1994, CSIS mole Grant Bristow infiltrated the Canadian white-supremacist movement. When the story became public knowledge, the press aired concerns that he had not only been one of the founders of the Heritage Front group, but that he had also channelled CSIS funding to the group.[12]

In 1999, classified documents were stolen from the car of a CSIS employee who was attending a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game. The Security Intelligence Review Committee reportedly investigated this incident.[13][14]

On September 18, 2006, the Arar Commission absolved CSIS of any involvement in the extraordinary rendition by the United States of a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar.[citation needed] The Commission found that U.S. authorities sent Arar to Jordan and then Syria (his country of birth) based on incorrect information which had been provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to the U.S. government. Arar was held by the Syrians for one year and was tortured. The sole criticism of CSIS levelled by the Commission was that the agency should do more to critically examine information provided by regimes which practice torture.[citation needed]

On March 31, 2009, CSIS lawyer and advisor Geoffrey O'Brian told the Committee on Public Safety and National Security that CSIS would use information obtained by torture if it could prevent another attack such as 9/11 or the Air India bombing. Testifying before the same committee two days later, Director of CSIS Jim Judd said that O'Brian "may have been confused" and "venturing into a hypothetical", and would send the committee a clarifying letter.[15] Two weeks later, the CSIS announced that Judd would be retiring in June, five months before the end of his five-year term.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "A Study Into the Size of the World’s Intelligence Industry" (Master's Thesis, December 2009), 87,
  2. ^ Government of Canada, "Main Estimates 2010-2011"
  3. ^ a b "Role of CSIS". 2009-04-09. Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^
  6. ^ The RCMP and CSIS: Background
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Government vows to curb Chinese spying on Canada". 2006-04-16. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  10. ^ "P:\Commissions of Inquiry\Maher Arar\2005-05-17 volume 11.wpd" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-24. 
  11. ^ "Reasons for Selection, 2009 Canada's Top 100 Employers Competition". 
  12. ^ Canada's Security Agency Accused of Spying on Canadians, New York Times
  13. ^ Edited Hansard (Debates of the House of Commons of Canada), 36th Parliament, 2nd Session, Number 20, 15 November 1999, 1425 [2]
  14. ^ Edited Hansard (Debates of the House of Commons of Canada), 36th Parliament, 2nd Session, Number 22, 17 November 1999, 1455 [3]
  15. ^ The Canadian Press (2009-04-02). "Official misspoke; CSIS says it's not involved in torture". Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  16. ^ "Head of CSIS stepping down". 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 

External links

Coordinates: 45°26′15″N 75°36′50″W / 45.4374°N 75.614°W / 45.4374; -75.614

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