The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has come under fire, after a Federal Court ruling regarding data collection.
Justice Simon Noel says the agency illegally kept potentially revealing electronic data about people over a decade, and breached its duty to inform the court about the collection, since the information was obtained using judicial warrants.
Noel indicated the information, which included phone numbers and email addresses, but not the message itself, should not have been kept since it wasn’t directly related to any domestic security threats.
It was revealed the data collection started in 2006, using a powerful program, Operational Data Analysis.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale welcomed the decision, and indicated the Trudeau Government would not launch an appeal.
The Director of the CSIS, Michel Coulombe, issued the following statement:
“The Federal Court has recently ruled on the retention of associated data linked to third party information. CSIS fully accepts the Court’s decision, and has taken immediate actions to respond. Given the Court’s decision with respect to third-party data, CSIS has halted all access to, and analysis of, associated data while we undertake a thorough review of the decision in order to assess potential operational and legal impacts, and determine our way forward.
I regret that we did not meet our duty of candour to the Court, and I commit to continuing my efforts, with the Deputy Minister of Justice, to address the Court’s concerns. Let me be clear: all associated data collected under warrant was done so legally. The Court’s key concern related to our retention of non-threat related associated data linked with third party communications, after it was collected.
CSIS, in consultation with the Department of Justice, had interpreted the CSIS Act to allow for the retention of this sub-set of associated data. It is now clear that the Federal Court disagrees with this interpretation; a decision which we fully accept.
As is the case for many of our international partners, CSIS has developed data analytic capabilities and expertise to analyze associated data and enhance its capacity to identify and assess threats to the security of Canada over time. When it comes to understanding and predicting the actions of the subjects of our investigations, data analytics has proven to be an effective tool. In the ruling released today, the Federal Court recognized the intelligence value of the data analytic programme and did not question the authority of collecting telecommunications associated data pursuant to warrants. The Court also rightly acknowledged the age of the CSIS Act and that it may not be keeping pace with changing technology and the current threat environment.
The ongoing national security consultations represent an important opportunity to ensure that CSIS is meeting the dual objectives of security and privacy, and has the tools and authorities, with appropriate oversight, to meet both.
Because the nature of our business is principally secret, Canadians are largely unaware of the professionalism and outstanding dedication the men and women of CSIS show every day as they carry out intelligence work. As the Director of CSIS, I am extremely proud of the people with whom I work. Canadians, too, should be proud of those who work tirelessly to keep this great country safe.
In addition, with respect to the ongoing situation in Quebec regarding the surveillance of journalists, I would like to state that I agree fully with the Prime Minister’s statement on this matter. Such a situation is not occurring at the federal level given the strong safeguards and protections we have in place to protect the freedom of the press in the course of our business.
We appreciate the confidence the government has in CSIS, and it remains for us a privilege to protect Canadians and Canada’s interests at home and abroad.”