Statement from CSIS Director on SIRC Annual Report

Statement

Ottawa, June 20 – Today, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, tabled the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) Annual 2017-2018 Report entitled Building for Tomorrow: The Future of Security Intelligence Accountability in Canada in the House of Commons.

Following the tabling, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, issued the following statement:

“CSIS recognizes the importance of independent review in maintaining trust in Canada’s national security and in our organization. SIRC’s annual reports to Parliament play an essential role in providing Canadians with an understanding of our operations, and their recommendations have helped shape and improve CSIS policies and practices.

Our commitment is to protect all Canadians as we continue to respond to national security threats including those posed by terrorism, espionage, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and foreign interference. Canadians can rest assured that this is being done with the utmost care, professionalism and diligence. It is a foundational principle of CSIS that everything we do to keep Canada safe is consistent with Canadian law and Canadian values, and I am honoured to lead such an organization.

I’m pleased to note that this year’s report highlights a number of positive findings, including:

  • That CSIS responded rapidly and effectively to the Federal Court’s October 2016 decision related to third-party associated data.
  • That all Threat Reduction Measures complied with the CSIS Act, Ministerial Direction, and operational policies.
  • The important role played by our foreign stations, as well as our mental health experts.
  • The collaboration of our Quebec regional office with domestic and international partners in the investigation of right-wing extremism threats.
  • The reasonable and necessary exercise of our authorities in the Service’s use of the Internet to further our investigations.
  • The dismissal of all four public complaints they investigated.

With respect to areas in which SIRC has made recommendations, CSIS has accepted and, in many cases, already acted on the majority of this year’s recommendations.

As requested by the Minister, SIRC undertook a section 54 review of CSIS’ response to the Federal Court’s October 2016 decision on associated data. While SIRC did not express any concerns with our direct response to the decision, it did express concern with the retention of certain datasets containing non-threat related information. Bill C-59 proposes to create a clear lawful framework for the collection, retention and use of datasets. CSIS has already taken significant steps to implement many of the privacy protections outlined in this Bill and continues to engage the Federal Court and Privacy Commissioner.

With regard to SIRC’s assessment that a specific dataset should not have been retained and should therefore be purged from our data holdings, CSIS is in the process of assessing this recommendation with the assistance of the Department of Justice. I would like to emphasize that CSIS has no interest in retaining any information beyond its period of utility; however, it does not want to destroy information that could be critical in identifying and understanding a threat to national security.

Finally, CSIS disagrees with SIRC’s conclusion regarding the utility of data analytics. A modern intelligence service requires the lawful authority to collect and analyse a broad range of data to detect threats and identify previously unknown trends and patterns. Datasets are important building blocks that could lead not only to initiating an investigation, but to unfolding investigations. We must, however, implement performance measures to better demonstrate the utility of data analytics, and we are doing so as part of the efforts to implement the proposed Bill C-59.

SIRC’s ongoing reviews contribute to a culture of continual learning and improvement. We welcome the review process and believe it has helped make us a better organization.”

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