The Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s electronic spy agency, is further limiting the already scant details of its activities that are made public. The information technology security and foreign signals intelligence organization, which last year became a stand-alone agency of the government, will no longer report a variety of information that was routinely made public in the past, such as planned capital spending and overall spending projections for fiscal years beyond the current one.
Jim Bronskill (“Secretive eavesdropping agency pulls plug on public reporting,” Canadian Press, 25 July 2012) elaborates:
For years, a section of the Defence Department’s annual plans and priorities report spelled out the agency’s priorities. In 2011-12 they included a focus on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, foreign espionage and interference, and the federal government’s northern Canada strategy.
The report also included information about the CSE’s plans for an elaborate new facility.
But that changed last November when CSE, once a wing of Defence became a stand-alone agency that reports to the minister.
As a result, it will now produce its own plans and priorities report, performance report and annual report.
For reasons of national security, none of those documents will be published, the CSE says.
Longtime CSE watcher (and Ceasefire.ca editor) Bill Robinson, who first noted the change in reporting in June, criticizes its ramifications for the agency’s transparency and public accountability:
“They’re withdrawing information that has been available for years. There’s no clear justification for doing so,” Robinson said in an interview.
“Everything about our lives is increasingly online, and this is the area that increasingly CSE is all about. It’s a time when really we should be having more oversight over this agency, and more information about it.”
Photo credit: CSE