CSIS Director Statement regarding the Operational Data Analysis Centre


The Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Michel Coulombe, issued the following statement today regarding the recent Federal Court decision and the Service’s Operational Data Analysis Centre (ODAC):

“Given recent media coverage, as I indicated in my previous statement and in the news conference when the Federal Court’s ruling was issued, I would like to reiterate that all associated data was legally collected under warrants. CSIS, in consultation with the Department of Justice, interpreted the CSIS Act to allow for the retention of non-threat related associated data linked with third party communications that were collected while under warrant. The Federal Court has disagreed with this interpretation and we accept their decision. I would like to make it clear that the Service was not knowingly exceeding the scope of the CSIS Act.

I would like to address the apparent perception that the Service created and operated ODAC without the knowledge of key government stakeholders. 

ODAC was created in 2006 to derive more value from the data already being collected under warrant using data exploitation techniques. The creation of ODAC and this core operational capability was presented to the Minister of Public Safety in July 2006 explaining the requirement for advanced data analytics and the ability of ODAC to retain data, including metadata, for extended periods of time. The Minister was also briefed on the program in March 2010. Information was also shared over the years with various government stakeholders, including the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the Privacy Commissioner, including a Privacy Impact Assessment, and the Inspector General of CSIS.

The CSIS 2007-08 Public Report also refers to ODAC, noting the support being provided to its operational branches through the performance of advanced analysis of data, and the program was described over the years in the Directors’ Annual Reports to the Minister.

Given the Service and Department of Justice interpretation that the activity in question was within the scope of the CSIS Act, these briefings may not have specifically addressed the retention of the sub-set of associated data on which the Court has now ruled. The intent of the Service, however, was to ensure key stakeholders were aware of ODAC, its capabilities, and intentions around retention.

SIRC reviewed CSIS’ use of associated data and published its findings on the issue in its 2014-15 annual report. SIRC did not conclude that the retention of associated data was illegal, but did suggest that the Federal Court be made aware. 

As I noted in my previous statement, CSIS agrees that the Court should have been informed earlier of the existence of ODAC and the approach to data retention, and acknowledges this was a significant omission. At no point did CSIS deliberately seek to withhold this information from the Court, and the Court acknowledged that there is no evidence to suggest CSIS did.

CSIS recognizes the importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in its activities. CSIS takes very seriously the privacy considerations related to its work, and it is committed to ensuring that its activities are in compliance with all legislation and Ministerial Direction.”

CSIS Media Relations

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