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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 17 - Evidence - Meeting of June 11, 2007

OTTAWA, Monday, June 11, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4:10 p.m. to examine and report upon the national security policy of Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the chair.


The Chairman: It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Before we begin, I will introduce the members of the committee.

Senator Norman Atkins is from Ontario. He is deputy chair of the committee, and he came to the Senate with 27 years of experience in the field of communications. He served as a senior advisor to former federal Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, to Premier William Davis of Ontario and to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Senator Rod Zimmer is from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has had a long and distinguished career in business and philanthropy, and has volunteered his services for countless charitable causes and organizations. He sits on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.

Senator Joseph Day is from New Brunswick. He is chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. He is a member of the bar of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec and a fellow of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada. He is also a former President and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.

Colleagues, we have brought together today a distinguished panel of experts from across the country to discuss issues relating to intelligence, and to share their thoughts on the government's proposal to expand the foreign intelligence-gathering capacity of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS. We have asked each of them to give some thought to the government's proposal before coming and we will ask them to share their thoughts in turn. In the remaining time, we will have an opportunity to question them briefly.

We are starting a little bit late, so I will introduce each of our witnesses only by name. We have James Gould, David Charters, Gavin Cameron and John Ferris.

Mr. Charters, I have you first on my list. If we could start with you, you have the floor, sir.

David Charters, as an individual: Thank you very much. I was asked to address Canada's interests and priorities and how an intelligence service might serve those. To state the usual disclaimer, these are my views only.

I will start with Canada's domestic interests, which I have arranged in rough order of priority. I recognize that any of my colleagues or yourselves might rank them differently. However, I would say the difference in their relative importance is minimal. They are interdependent and it would not matter where you put them in order.

I start with the security and independence of our democratic institutions and processes; followed by the preservation of our rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter; maintaining our territorial integrity; maintaining our internal and border security — that is containing domestic threats and preventing threats from spilling over to our neighbours, particularly the United States; and maintaining a healthy economy, however that might be defined, and maximizing the benefits of that healthy economy to all Canadians. There may be other interests on the domestic front that could be identified, but those are the ones that came to mind.

If we look from inside our country out into the world, we have a range of global interests that are often defined in idealistic terms that occasionally border on the clichéd. That said, these goals are desirable to strive for; they are ones that a lot of Canadians share. Even if we, in the international community, fall short, we endeavour to reach those goals. These are not presented in rank order because they are all equally important; and like our domestic interests, our global interests are interdependent and tie into our domestic interests as well.

Among domestic interests, I would include the peaceful resolution of disputes, where Canadians have traditionally exhibited a preference for law over force, but have always recognized that force is the last resort; reduction of poverty, crime, inequality and injustice; maintaining a healthy, stable global economy that benefits as many people as possible — and that, of course, in terms of our trading interests, means managing our trading relations with the United States, which is probably the number one economic priority; reducing, if possible, and reversing the effects of climate change and managing the consequences effectively; containment and termination of armed conflicts, including terrorism; prevention, containment and elimination of infectious diseases; and support for multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and other bodies to which Canada is a party.

There may well be more interests than these, and the relative importance of them and others may vary over time and place. At the moment, for example, climate change is a high profile issue, and it was not perhaps as high profile a decade ago.

What are the challenges and threats to these interests? The threat environment includes long-standing familiar problems, along with new ones. Reducing these challenges and threats to a short list does not diminish their importance or complexity. Coping with them, let alone resolving them, will not be easy. Every one of these threats or challenges has the capacity to impact our domestic or global interests in a negative manner.

Intelligence, whether it is foreign or domestic, can address all these threats and challenges to further and protect Canadian interests. There is a direct link between our domestic and global interests, the threats to them and the intelligence capabilities we have or may need to address them. I put climate change first, followed by major ongoing or potential conflicts, such as those in the Middle East or Asia — and here we must look at the present and what might emerge two, five or 10 years down the road; failed or failing states and their underlying problems — poverty, injustice, infrastructure, governance and so on; global terrorism; marginalization of expatriate populations and their subversion by extremists, whether here or aboard; ethnic cleansing, genocides and forced population migrations; the spread of treatment-resistant, infectious diseases and potential pandemics; decline of vital resources, including non-renewable energy supplies; global crime, including child exploitation, human trafficking, cyber crime and narcotics; and economic, scientific and technological theft, piracy and espionage.

How our intelligence structure might best address those interests and the threats to them starts with an understanding of what an intelligence structure should consist of and what it can deliver. An effective security or intelligence capacity is but one tool that can contribute to furthering and protecting our interests at home and abroad.

Such an effective capacity would include five components: first, a broad-based, open and possibly covert collection system; second, a high quality analytical capability; third, a product that they produce with a reputation for reasonable timeliness and accuracy; fourth, the appropriate means to deliver that product to those who need it; and fifth, decision makers willing and able to use intelligence wisely in their deliberations.

What I have presented is a kind of ideal model. Given sufficient time and resources, good leadership and personnel training, a security or intelligence service can create the first four parts and make them work. The wild card in this model is number five, the role played by decision makers. It lies outside the control of the service and is entirely dependent on personalities, politics agendas, public perceptions, expectations and so on.

At present, I believe we have organizational structures in place to do everything that is needed; but it would be presumptuous of me to claim I know how well or poorly they do their jobs or whether the current structures provide the best means to do so. I do not know enough to make that judgment.

I will make two points. There is no magic bullet here, no formula or structure that can guarantee perfect security to ensure our interests are fulfilled and threats will not harm us. Much of what we wish to achieve, avoid or prevent in the world is beyond our control. Our fate lies in the hands of others, both friend and foe. Our limited diplomatic, security and economic power allows us to exploit our opportunities, to further our interests and minimize and mitigate threats to them. Intelligence is one tool that allows us to do that. Tinkering with existing structures might deliver marginally better capacity to do this but there is no certainty of that. Changes could erode existing capabilities, leaving us worse off. I tend to err on the side of caution; better the devil you know than the one you do not. There is a credible case for expanding our foreign intelligence collecting capacity in the area of clandestine collection. It could provide added value to our foreign intelligence assessments and be useful in furthering our domestic and foreign interests. It could provide a measure of independent Canadian content to those products: provide us with output useful to and valued by our allies and give us a product that we can trade. We already do that, but creating a whole new service to do this is a substantial undertaking. We must make sure the possibly modest return is worth the effort. It would take financial costs and considerable time to produce results but it would not be risk free. Politically, the decision and process of creating a wholly new service through legislation would be a political hot potato. We need to be realistic about that. A government taking this on would need to be courageous, some may say foolhardy. A new service would experience the growing pains of mistakes, misjudgements and perhaps even the odd scandal. It would require the patience of government and the broader political constituency of the country. Does our political system exhibit sufficient tolerance and patience for these things to allow a new service to survive and develop its full potential if it does not do so immediately? I am not convinced that it does. I wish I was persuaded otherwise though.

This brings us to the art of the possible. If our foreign collection capacity were to be enhanced, for the present, the best solution is to expand the mandate or resources of CSIS, which already has trained and experienced personnel. This would require legislative changes. It is not cost or risk free but we do not live in a perfect world. It would be a compromise, a perfectly Canadian solution.

John Ferris, as an individual: We should start out with a sense of what we are talking about. What exactly is intelligence? Intelligence is not knowledge only for itself. It is not scholarship. It is something we use, knowledge for action. Intelligence is geared toward gathering information or material that people are trying to keep secret or hiding. Intelligence begins where information ends. Intelligence is one means to understand our environment. It is important to know the whole story and the hidden story of international relations.

States in the west and elsewhere routinely, in the past century, have maintained large intelligence agencies. What is the situation in Canada? Since the end of the Second World War, Canada has ended up with an unusual situation. We have an internal security service, the normal round of official or open sources, military attachés and diplomats. We have a military intelligence capability used when Canadian Forces are in operations. This capability is gathering tactical or operational intelligence. We have a substantial communications or signals intelligence capability.

What is unusual in the Canadian case is there is no agency directed to gather foreign intelligence through human means. So what? What is Canada missing when every other country in the western world thinks it has something to gain? We really do not know what we are missing because we have no means to gauge it. We do not have a service so we do not know what is there. Even countries such as the Netherlands or Spain feel a necessity for a foreign- intelligence-gathering capability.

This probably indicates that it is at least worthwhile to ask the question. The answer usually put forward is, we receive human intelligence from allies but what that means is we receive whatever they want to give us. We have no control over that and we are potentially affected by the views of other people without means to check whether what they are saying is true or in our national interests. Having a human intelligence agency gives us control over the validity of what other people give us and increases our ability to trade. If we have human intelligence of our own, something of value, we are in a better position to have other agencies cooperate with us.

Finally, in the historical perspective it is clear that human intelligence can help one solve problems, although as a source, human intelligence is highly variable. By that I mean we end up receiving historically the worse possible report and I would also argue the best possible report, although it is rare. At its best, an agent in place can provide better intelligence than communications intelligence, although it is rare. What sorts of needs does Canada have that human intelligence might address?

One is the possibility of terrorism: gathering intelligence on terrorist activities abroad although, for what it is worth, CSIS could be entirely, justifiably, the source to deal with that issue. Another is to provide intelligence for the use of Canadian Forces in robust peacekeeping or military operations abroad. Although the core of that collection would be the Department of National Defence, and indeed would be Canadian Forces or allies in theatre, nonetheless a human intelligence agency could collect political intelligence usefully on the background of adjacent countries. In Afghanistan at the moment, clearly Canadian Forces will not gather information inside Pakistan although it might be useful to have human intelligence inside Pakistan.

We might gather intelligence on our friends. Historically, the way intelligence works is something like this: You want strategic intelligence on your enemies and diplomatic intelligence on your friends because they are the people you interact with. However, it is not an entirely safe or wise process to gather secret intelligence on your friends because if it blows up in your face, it causes difficulties. States are generally willing to assume that their friends are reading their communications and they are willing to live with that particular threat. They are less happy if they think their friends are running agents against them.

Finally, there are general issues. In effect, a general purpose and human intelligence service gathers lots of different material. We cannot predict what material will be of use, to use or trade. That might be the meat and potatoes of what an intelligence agency produces. If we look at what kind of intelligence the Canadian government can obtain that is of direct immediate interest to the actions of the Canadian government or policy, it is clear that a foreign intelligence service will be able to provide only some answers. For what it is worth, one is driven toward the conclusion that the strongest arguments in favour of developing a human intelligence service for Canada are those that say, we are doing it to reduce our reliance on our allies, to have a greater check on what they provide us and to acquire some information for trading. In that way, they can give us information and we can give them information. Judging from the way that normal Canadian governments function, it is by no means clear that a human intelligence service will provide a huge amount of material on a daily basis to the government.

This analysis suggests that it would be an effective way for the Canadian government to think about dealing with issues of intelligence. The point would be to follow a multi-pronged strategy. One of the first things should be to improve our collection of open source and official intelligence. It is plausible that we could improve the collection of intelligence specifically on our friends by having the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade work more at acquiring political intelligence. We can focus on analyzing and distributing the intelligence that we have, more effectively than we do, although one faces the question of the following: If it is truly important to gather and analyze intelligence, why do the users not demand that we do more of that? My answer is that the users do not demand more of it in part because they have no experience in what they can obtain from it. In other words, the more experience they have, perhaps the more likely they are to use it.

Clearly an improvement in our intelligence on internal security threats at home can be done abroad through CSIS, more than anyone else. Finally, in that context, one can make an argument that a human intelligence service would give us a useful improvement in our ability to gather information on problems in the world that would be of use to the government. Also, it would increase our bargaining position in acquiring information and gathering the whole story from our allies as well.

Across the board, we can make a case that Canada would gain from maintaining a relatively medium-sized human intelligence agency focused on foreign intelligence. I am not certain where it would be best placed. Historically, it is problematic to place human intelligence agencies within security services. However, especially in the early days of any such organization, it might be an acceptable beginning point.

I emphasize that the real issue is getting something you can use — knowledge for action. In many ways, the question we need to ask is: What kind of actions does the Canadian state conduct that it could gain from having intelligence on?

Gavin Cameron, as an individual: It seems that when we consider foreign intelligence capability for Canada, we ask two questions. First, does Canada need a foreign intelligence capability? That seems to be a much more fundamental question. Second, if the answer to the first question is, yes, where should such a capability be based? Those two separate questions need to be addressed separately rather than together.

On the first question, whether Canada needs a foreign intelligence capability, realistically, this subject has been discussed extensively in the past few months. There seems to be a fairly strong consensus, and I agree with both Mr. Charters and Mr. Ferris that the answer to that question is, yes.

When we speak to foreign intelligence, we have to be clear what we mean. It is my view that foreign intelligence means economic or political issues of the sort that traditionally have been handled by the foreign affairs department. In that sense, Canada has a limited foreign intelligence capability through Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. The Communications Security Establishment, CSE, is also conducting communications intelligence, which has a foreign intelligence role. It is therefore the covert human intelligence component that seems to be missing from the Canadian foreign intelligence capability.

That missing component seems problematic for a number of reasons. First, we face an increasingly interconnected world, which means not only globalization but also that the distinction between security intelligence and foreign intelligence is not nice and clean. We cannot have foreign intelligence on one side of the equation and security intelligence on the other side because they blend into a grey area. We risk missing some of the picture if we exclude foreign intelligence.

As Mr. Ferris said, relying on allies as a source of information for foreign intelligence or other forms of intelligence raises two problems, and he talked about both: the reliability of sources that we have no means to verify and the ability of Canada over time to trade for information. I concur with both those assessments.

There is at least the strong possibility that a range of Canadian actors suffer a gap. Industry is the obvious example but a range of other Canadian actors would benefit from a greater level of foreign intelligence. As has been mentioned, Canada is the only major power not to have a foreign intelligence agency in some form, whether integrated or separate. That, in itself, is not an argument for having a capability. The fact that we are the only country that does not have a foreign intelligence agency does not necessarily mean that we should have one. It does, however, raise the question of what others see that we do not. My conclusion is that Canada needs a heightened foreign intelligence capability.

On the second question about where the needed foreign intelligence agency should be based, we have three obvious options. First, if the answer to the first question is that we need an enhanced capability of the status quo, that answer is a non-option. The second option would be an expanded role for CSIS, which politically at the moment has the most traction. The third option would be a new foreign intelligence agency, probably under Foreign Affairs Canada. Likely, the model would be similar to the Secret Intelligence Service, SIS, in the U.K. Of the two options that I have not ruled out, like any good academic I like to sit on the fence. There are pros and cons for both. There is not one single, clear- cut good answer.

My preferred option is the CSIS option. As Mr. Ferris suggested, initially, it would be a quicker and easier means of getting the capability up and running. Currently, CSIS handles intelligence overseas as it impinges on Canada's security and, therefore, some capability exists. If we talk about the lines blurring between foreign intelligence and security intelligence, that would seem to suggest that there is some merit in having the two capabilities within one organization, at least initially.

On the other hand, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada does not gather intelligence in the covert sense. However, it works extensively to cultivate individuals as sources of information on an overt and legal basis. The logic is that it would mean spending years building a capacity from the ground up if we chose the foreign affairs option, or it would mean taking expertise from elsewhere in Canada's security and intelligence community. That last argument is somewhat of a red herring. If we decide that we want Canada a foreign affairs capability, then we will spread the personnel in the security and intelligence community more thinly no matter where the agency is located. That is unavoidable. Therefore, the argument that it is a compelling reason to place such an organization in CSIS does not entirely convince me.

However, the argument that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the department are the ones that conduct foreign policy in a way that the Minister of Public Safety does not seems to be a more convincing argument that would lead one toward the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Regarding the pros and cons on both sides, two principal arguments are made against expanding the role of CSIS into foreign intelligence. The first is that domestic intelligence and foreign intelligence are different and require different strategies and skills. That might be true in terms of some of the people one would choose to recruit. I am less convinced that is true in terms of training and techniques between those two types of intelligence.

The second key argument is that there is a risk of a high ethical price and a loss of access if foreign intelligence and security intelligence are merged in one organization — particularly if it means breaking foreign laws or other conventions, for example. That argument does not seem to me to be convincing. Canadian norms matter immensely, and it does not seem beyond the realm of possibility that we could constrain a foreign intelligence organization to abide by Canadian norms.

What is important is that we have a Canadian foreign intelligence capability up and running as quickly as possible. That seems to be the reason to argue for expanding the role of CSIS, amending the CSIS Act and altering the oversight regime for CSIS rather than creating from scratch a new agency complete with a legislative and oversight regime. It is an instrumental perspective on why one option is better than the other, rather than it being a clear-cut decision on other grounds, from my perspective.

James Gould, as an individual: I will speak to two issues: Foreign intelligence in general, by which I mean the utility of foreign intelligence and Canada's need for it; and the suggestion of the extension of a foreign intelligence mandate within CSIS.

We are discussing today foreign intelligence and I take the point made by Dr. Cameron that it is not distinctly severed from security intelligence. Interestingly, it is best defined, I believe, by the CSIS Act, as "information or intelligence relating to the capabilities, intentions or activities of any foreign state or group of foreign states.''

Canada needs foreign intelligence to inform the foreign policy decisions of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Without clear, accurate, timely and objective intelligence, our decision-makers are groping; they do not have the necessary tools.

We need to ensure that Canada is not surprised by events as they unfold. I use the example of how useful a source or asset would have been in the Spanish prime minister's office during the fish war. Think of the issues we have today with China, if we were to have a high level contact, an asset somewhere in the government in China to provide us with information.

Then the question becomes: Do we need a separate organization or would the amendments to the CSIS Act be sufficient for our needs? If I can reflect quickly on what a foreign intelligence agency does, it provides all-source intelligence: it undertakes clandestine, human and technical operations to gather information; it works on the counterintelligence front; and it can employ covert action when the government deems that sort of thing necessary. I assume that Canada is only interested in the first two, analysis and collection. The third is already well addressed by CSIS; and I cannot believe that the Canadian people would want an agency of the government to undertake covert action as a matter of policy.

Canada needs top of the line, current intelligence analysis — not post-event, classified journalism — and clandestine collection from human sources or from technical means. The Privy Council Office analysts and the other analysis units are already at work in a number of government agencies: They can provide the analysis if provided with sufficient resources.

Can CSIS provide the intelligence we need or should we look at a different option? I have great misgivings about wrapping the foreign intelligence clandestine and technical collection role into the CSIS mandate. By so doing, we emulate a model that is not a savoury one. The late KGB and the other former East Bloc agencies were the most prominent examples of the union of the two roles.

CSIS is a security intelligence agency. They operate overseas in this capacity. Foreign intelligence is a different target, and the distinction between the two is important. It is not clearly defined but it is important.

Foreign intelligence collectors need to be accountable to the main clients. They need to be accountable to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, not the Minister for Public Safety. Foreign intelligence collectors must be connected closely with their main clients, so that they require tasking. The roll can be amended and updated frequently as events evolve.

Use of diplomatic cover is the norm in most intelligence agencies for a variety of reasons. Those assigned to these positions of collection must be part of the diplomatic environment for their own safety and to improve their effectiveness. From my personal experience abroad, in other embassies it is all too often easy to spot those persons who do not fit in.

It should be clear that I believe that any agency tasked with the collection of foreign intelligence must be attached to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade — and, of course, this becomes the U.K. SIS or MI6 model. The Department of Foreign Affairs would provide the cover for these people to operate abroad. It has had years of experience sending people overseas to collect information and in providing policy-relevant information to decision makers.

Many professionals see an embassy abroad as an intelligence collection platform. Diplomatic reporting is often construed as overt, but classified, intelligence information. Note that I said attached to and not part of. The Department of Foreign Affairs must be kept at arm's length lest the collection and production of the objective and policy-neutral intelligence gathering be tainted by the departmental need to produce policy advice to the minister and Prime Minister.

It might also be suggested that the Department of Foreign Affairs could conduct clandestine intelligence collection operations abroad already without the need for new or amended legislation — a not unimportant security consideration.

While pondering your recommendation and preparing your report over the coming months, you must be aware that setting out to collect foreign intelligence poses dangers, and your decisions must take into account the downside. The process will be costly. In some places, lives will be at risk — and not only the lives of those persons who are the assigned collectors.

Canada's international reputation will be at stake. Pennies cannot be saved. The United States devotes over $30 billion a year to its intelligence programs. If we work on the 10-to-1 rule — they are 10 times bigger than we are — I do not think we would suggest that we will receive $3 billion for intelligence collection; however, the costs almost certainly will be higher than we can foresee at the moment.

It will not be timely. As has been said, it may take a decade before we can find or develop agents, assets or sources in places where we need them.

There will be failures. The goal of foreign intelligence is to eliminate surprises. This can never be certain. You only have to think of Pearl Harbour, the Yom Kippur war in 1973 and September 11, 2001. It does not always work. Foreign intelligence collection must be undertaken in secrecy. Despite calls for government openness and transparency, human intelligence collection, agent running and other collection methods must be conducted in the shadows. Finally, you must recognize, we will be caught. That is a certainty. Human collection is an unpleasant business. Despite Minister Day's statement, laws will be broken, not Canadian laws but laws of other countries. If Canada becomes involved in this sort of collection, we seek individuals who can be convinced by honourable or foul means to betray their country, ideals and friends. How will the Canadian public react to revelations that Canadians have blackmailed, bribed, threatened, seduced or otherwise coerced people to provide information to us? There will be political fallout.

Should Canada move forward? Is it worth the risk when results cannot be certain? We should take on this challenge even if we are only moderately successful. Not only will our decision-makers receive Canadian produced and generated foreign intelligence but it will ensure our continued place with our allies and share the intelligence they collect.

Senator Zimmer: Interesting, and thank you for your presentations. You wish to attach this capability to CSIS. Mr. Gould, you suggested a new agency.

You have identified the costs, $3 billion, if we use one tenth of the amount the United States spends. More importantly, what are the major political and economic risks with a separate agency and how would they relate to CSIS?

Mr. Gould: I am not sure the risks would be different depending on other sources. It is a risk to Canada and its reputation. We are perceived, in many quarters, as the good guys. We have not done this before and suddenly we do. We will be caught, whether next week, or 10 years from now. It will happen. The risk is to Canada's international reputation. There will be a political cost in Canada to the government when Canadians wake up and see we are doing something unpleasant.

The potential risks would not differ, whether it is an agency attached to the Department of Foreign Affairs or an expanded CSIS mandate.

Senator Zimmer: What would you see as the benefits, and do they outweigh the risks?

Mr. Gould: In my mind they do. I have been a foreign service officer for 30 years and involved in foreign intelligence for 10 to 12 of those years. Our decision-makers need the best information available to make decisions. For example, do we or do we not go into Iraq? That decision was tough. Did we have all the information available? We, as the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defence and CSIS gave the ministers the best information we had. Was it everything we might have had? Did we obtain everything from our allies that we might have gotten? I do not know. Would we receive more? If we trade, we receive more. If we provide a service to the United States and the U.K., providing intelligence on country Y, they will be more open to sharing on country X.

Senator Zimmer: Mr. Ferris referred to trade information. Of information that is gained by other countries about Canada and even though we have nothing to trade, do they share?

Mr. Gould: Yes, senator.

Senator Zimmer: Would they share to the same extent if we were able to trade some our information that we have and they need?

Mr. Gould: We would probably obtain more information. I was the liaison officer in Washington for three years dealing with the American agencies in trading information. The more we have, the more we receive.

Senator Zimmer: We are a passive society, and in some ways we do not progress on this. If it does happen and we create a new agency, we will create a reputation, maybe positive or negative. In the end, it may be good to have the image that we protect our country.

Mr. Gould: It is almost irrelevant whether you collect intelligence with a separate agency or with CSIS. It is the collecting.

Senator Zimmer: What lessons can we draw from the establishment of a successful foreign agency such as MI6 and the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA?

Mr. Gould: The British have been doing this for five hundred years. The Americans have been doing it for five decades or more. I hope, as friends and allies, they would assist us with advice, guidance and training, and that would involve lessons learned from their mistakes.

We would want to avoid the covert action side. Both the Americans and British have been involved in covert actions in the past and those are unpleasant. Canadians do not want covert actions, nor does the government need them. They are good friends and want to help us.

Senator Zimmer: Do you think the current systems of review and accountability are sufficient? Is more review oversight required, Mr. Charters?

Mr. Charters: The existing mechanisms for review are adequate for the kinds of things we are doing currently. If the mandate of CSIS were to expand, the review mechanism would need to be modified to take that expanded mandate into account.

You could not move into the foreign intelligence area without some greater degree of scrutiny, to provide the accountability expected by the government and population.

I would go further and be clear. We are talking about review, not oversight. Oversight involves managing the direction of the services. We have not gone that route in Canada. I would limit it to a review process.

Mr. Cameron: I concur with that and also with what Mr. Gould said. Clearly, we are not talking about a foreign intelligence capability that expands to covert actions. The oversight mechanism would need to be expanded and reworked but not built from the ground up. In the same way that we are talking about building on the existing strengths in some respects with the foreign intelligence capability but also the organizational basis on which we try to achieve that, the same basic idea, as a concept, applies to the review mechanism.

Mr. Ferris: I will begin by saying that the best solution, although it is not immediately practicable, is to have a foreign intelligence service distinct from a security intelligence service.

However, I do not see that as being practical in Canada at all. As a short-term means to develop a capability, I would recommend or support having it based in CSIS, as it stands. In the long run there are problems with having two institutions, which must operate by different legal regimes, working within the same institution. A foreign-intelligence- gathering agency will not be able to function according to the Charter or according to Canadian law abroad. It will do some things that we, as private citizens, would disapprove of. In the case of a foreign intelligence service based inside CSIS, any review system set up must recognize that it must look at external actions in a different light than it looks at internal actions. The review system will need to apply double standards, which will require a change in mentality and, possibly, a change in instructions to a review system.

In the long run, the best bet would be an entirely distinct system but there is no practical way to get there in the short term.

Senator Zimmer: Are you of the opinion that components of the Privy Council Office that engage in intelligence activities should be included as well in the review process?

Mr. Ferris: Do you mean analytical functions and the Communications Security Establishment as well?

Senator Zimmer: Yes.

Mr. Ferris: Analytical functions presumably can be reviewed and present no problem. The CSE is more complicated and needs a different kind of review system because it works in close relationship with international partners. Therefore, the ability of any Canadian review system to function will be seriously constrained. Within some limits of the review, the process for the CSE would be appropriate but could not go as far as it can with CSIS.

Mr. Charters: You need to look at the existing mechanism of the CSE and determine whether the job performed by the commissioner is sufficient. I am not in a position to say whether that person is doing a good job because I do not know. If a good job is not being done, then we need another mechanism. I am not in a position to say that the existing review mechanism is not working.

Mr. Gould: I agree with my colleagues that the situation of the CSE is sufficiently complicated. If the mandate were to be expanded such that they were to become more operationally oriented than they are today, let us take a look at the mandate and review the mechanism again.

Senator Atkins: I would like to go back to the ABC's. There is a great deal of confusion between security intelligence and foreign intelligence. Why does this confusion exist? What can be done to clarify it?

Mr. Ferris: The function of security intelligence is, in essence, to deal with threats to internal security, whether they have a foreign link. Foreign intelligence is any kind of intelligence gathered on any topic outside our own country. The subject matter tends to be military, political and economic. Security intelligence deals with an internal threat. To confuse matters, security services often operate abroad. When dealing with a internal threat that has international connotations, they can pursue it abroad. Foreign intelligence services deal with security threats based abroad as well. The issue, to a large degree, is the kind of problem they are gathering information on. If the problem ultimately focuses on their home territories, then it is security. If the problem deals with people based outside, then it is foreign intelligence.

Senator Atkins: Is there a way to clarify it in the minds of the public?

Mr. Ferris: Security intelligence can be clearly differentiated. As for the rest, everyone understands the difference between spies and code-breakers. It might be helpful to understand the difference between them and the people who collect intelligence through imagery. Where most are uncertain is the role of analysts. In the 21st century, analysis becomes a fundamental part of intelligence and, without it, they do not have intelligence in a large proportion of, and perhaps most, cases.

Senator Atkins: Does anyone else wish to comment?

Mr. Charters: I can only reinforce what has been said. Mr. Cameron made a point earlier with which I agree. There is a kind of grey area between security and foreign intelligence. Some of our security threats originate overseas. They might have routes in Canada or routes to which they are linked outside as well. It is in the area where they are collecting the information and where they see the source of their challenges arising. A military problem arising in the Darfur region is a foreign intelligence issue and does not impact on Canada's internal security. Perhaps we want to collect foreign intelligence on such an issue. It might be useful for us to have assets on the ground to provide us with information in that area. I do not think anyone sees the Darfur issue as one that threatens the domestic security of Canada. That is the easiest way to draw a distinction.

Senator Atkins: You often refer to "the users.'' Who are the users?

Mr. Ferris: The user is any decision-maker and could be a desk officer in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a prime minister or a commander in the field. A lieutenant commanding a platoon in Afghanistan is a user. A user is someone who acts on what is provided through both collection and analysis. A user is any normal decision-maker who gains knowledge that can help his or her action. The way in which users behave depends dramatically. A lieutenant thinks in different terms than a prime minister thinks.

Senator Atkins: Is there any disconnect? Can you tell me that in our situation it is seamless?

Mr. Ferris: There is no such thing as a seamless intelligence system. In our case, we are missing an entire dimension of the picture, and we do not know how important that missing dimension is. Most western countries believe that they need this piece of the picture to fully understand it. Insofar as historians can comment, it is clear that secret intelligence, both code-breaking and human intelligence, has been essential to great power politics. It is like being able to handicap a horse race and know what the real percentages are so that over the long term they make the most rationale bet. It is like playing poker and knowing what the other player has in their hand. It might allow them to avoid being bluffed and, on rare occasions, intelligence transforms what they can do. Sometimes, capabilities are multiplied dramatically. On a day-to-day basis, it shaves the odds in their favour.

Mr. Charters: There were periods of time during the Second World War when the British were breaking the German codes, which was never a seamless process. There were times when they could not break them or could not do it in time. I echo the comment from Mr. Ferris: It is never a seamless process. It is never seamless in collection or in the process of transforming raw data into a finished product and delivering it to those who need it. Some leaders are receptive to receiving and using intelligence, while others have been less so. Sometimes the mechanisms by which they receive the information do not work for them.

The book by Christopher Andrews on American presidents and their use of intelligence is a telling example of that. Each president had a different style of handling information. Some were good at using intelligence; others were not.

Senator Atkins: Mr. Ferris, you talked about human intelligence. I have the impression you thought that was maybe the first way to go in terms of any development of an agency. CSIS has 2,000 people; the CIA has perhaps 100,000; and MI5 and MI6 have massive amounts. We are only a pebble in the brook. How can we make any impact and be taken seriously on that basis?

Mr. Ferris: If you look at the Canadian military, it is small — probably about the same order of magnitude compared to the Americans and most European militaries. However, it has had an effective role in increasing Canadian leverage. It also has achieved results that the Canadian public and the Canadian government want. Simply because something is small does not mean it is ineffective.

The CSE is much smaller than the National Security Agency, NSA, but CSE has established a high reputation for quality, which has done Canada a good deal in terms of military intelligence and relations with the United States. As long as we have a human intelligence capacity that is of a reasonable level of quality, there is no reason why even an organization with 100 people could not be significant in world terms.

Senator Atkins: That was my next question.

Mr. Ferris: If you are asking me whether it would be rational to go head-on with CIA, SIS or the Israelis in areas where they are strong, no. It is unlikely we will find out things in areas where SIS, CIA and Mossad are concentrating their efforts. However, we can find out things we would like to know, and others would like to know and be willing to trade for.

Mr. Cameron: To use your metaphor, even a pebble makes a splash. There are ripples so it is not disappearing into the brook.

I echo much of what Mr. Ferris has said, and also reiterate that part of the leverage we have with our allies in terms of the reciprocal arrangements for intelligence is precisely because it is reciprocal. The fact we are throwing stones is significant in terms of not only being able to gather intelligence that is of direct interest to us, but also in our ability to facilitate this reciprocal arrangement with our allies.

Mr. Gould: This question probably will be the biggest one if we go ahead and create some form of collection unit: How do we target, what do we target, and how many resources do we devote to it? Do we try to compete with the CIA or do we try to cut out a tiny niche somewhere that has been missed by the others? These questions will need to be asked by the managers and will need to receive guidance from the decision-makers, the politicians.

Senator Atkins: CSIS collects some foreign intelligence under the existing act. Do you envision, if there was an expansion of the role of CSIS, that there would be some amendments to that act? If so, what do you see as the major amendments that need to take place?

Mr. Charters: It would depend on the kinds of tasks we would expect a different CSIS to undertake. If we wanted a more broad-based foreign-collection capability, several sections of the CSIS Act would probably require amendments. Other experts here are better placed to discuss this issue, and they may be able to shed light on that in the later session. However, I think section 2, section 12 and section 16 are the ones that probably would be affected by any amendments to the mandate, mission and tasks that CSIS would undertake. However, other people could speak to that question better than I can.

Mr. Gould: At the simplest, the removal of two words from section 16 — "within Canada'' — give the first steps to the collection of foreign intelligence abroad. If you start from there, you take a look at the rest of the act and determine whether there are portions of the act that would impede how they do it. That is where I am not clear.

However, at present, you are correct. They could collect foreign intelligence at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence within Canada — that is the difference.

Senator Atkins: If it was to be organized under the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, would there be any amendments to the act there?

Mr. Gould: The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the authority to conduct Canada's affairs overseas. This would be a matter for the lawyers to look at; but my first blush look would be that we could move forward at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade under the aegis of the minister without a need for amended legislation. However, I am sure there would be a lot of lawyers looking at it before that step was taken.

The Chairman: I would like especially to thank you. The assistance that you provided us in terms of planning today was helpful. We will be back in touch with you. We also thank you for your brief comments tonight and we look forward to staying in touch as we move ahead with the study.

Honourable senators, next we will hear from Wesley Wark, Stuart Farson, Bob Brule, Al Hensler and Jim Corcoran. The latter three are available for questioning on the general subject but we will hear brief presentations only from Mr. Wark and Mr. Farson.

Wesley Wark, as an individual: We have had a long and interesting day of discussions about the question of a foreign intelligence capacity for Canada and I will not repeat in this session the remarks I made earlier on. I want to address a slightly different range of issues.

First, I wish to call attention to the significance of the decisions that we may be about to make. It is important to understand that Canada has been debating the question of whether we need a foreign intelligence service or increased foreign intelligence capabilities for over 60 years. The debate began immediately after World War II and has proceeded episodically ever since, the most recent round before September 11 and then a renewed interest post-September 11 for obvious reasons.

If we decide, as I hope we will, to cross that threshold and finally bring this long debate to a conclusion and create a foreign intelligence service and an increased capability, we do so in a way by cutting cords with some past practices, past cautions and past anxieties.

I want to dwell a minute on what we can tell from the historical record of the reasons why we have debated the issue and not taken steps for all these years. To some extent, we can say that certain things are pertinent to this conversation and useful to keep in mind.

In no particular order, it is important to understand that we have never proceeded to create a foreign intelligence service prior to this year where we seem now to be moving ahead for this set of reasons: concerns about costs; concerns about Canadian effectiveness and capabilities, in other words, a modest or humble self-opinion of ourselves — we could probably not do it well so why do it if we have to do it badly; a sense that to create such a capacity as a Canadian foreign intelligence service, no matter how it may seem attractive, was somehow neither Canadian nor would it fit into our perception at home or image abroad; and probably the most important of all, the reason we never did this in the past was that we assumed we could rely on our allies to do it for us. We made that assumption, not naively, but in the context of considerable experience of operating within an international alliance context; a partnership with greater powers and powers similar to ourselves, greater being Britain and United States and, powers similar in size to ourselves, or medium powers, such as Australia and the so-called Four or Five Eyes alliance. Canada historically made the decision that our contribution in that alliance context would come through security intelligence, analytical or assessment projects or signals capabilities, which are foreign intelligence capabilities, and that would be sufficient. We could avoid the complexity, the costs, the difficulties and the potential political embarrassments of a foreign intelligence service for that kind of product being provided to our allies and that our allies, in turn, would cover that gap left in the Canadian intelligence community by our own unwillingness to go down the road of a foreign intelligence capacity of our own.

Why are we thinking, with that historic decision on the absence of a need to gather foreign intelligence ourselves, that we need to reconsider that decision or that we need such a capacity? The answer to that, I think, is that many past cautions, under closer scrutiny, begin to evaporate. The question of cost for a service would not be a great burden given the relative wealth of our country. On the question of capability and effectiveness, I think we are a more confident and mature power, and have a sense of ourselves as an international actor and important power on the world stage and those kinds of humble self-reflections are things of the past. A sense of the "unCanadianness'' of this kind of activity, I think, has also been dispelled, in part, by Canada's involvement in the post-9/11 global conflict with terrorism and our involvement in countries such as Afghanistan. We see ourselves as being an activist and militarily engaged in the counterterrorism front, and perhaps gathering foreign intelligence would not be so new or scarifying in that context.

For the purposes of Canadian interests and needs, in terms of security of Canada and the protection of our interests at home and abroad, we find that we need our own capacity, even modest in size to begin with, to collect our own intelligence and reach our own judgments about the nature of that intelligence on a wide range of threats and issues that come at us from abroad that are outside the realm of purely security intelligence.

I think we are less willing, if this reading of the situation is right, to assume that we can afford to operate as a power reliant on others for certain kind of intelligence. We are perhaps slightly less trusting of some kinds of intelligence and intelligence assessment that might be provided even by close friends in the post-9/11 world. Issues in this world are complex and clear mistakes have been made by some of our trusted friends and allies with regard to the 9/11 attacks or the threat assessments over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

All this is to say that we now possess a new confidence about our capability. We have a new sense of ourselves as a country and our informational needs because that is what it is about. We have a new sense of requirements for information when it comes to Canada's conduct of overseas policy.

Additionally, in the long term, the maintenance of Canada's alliance connections to its four or five partners is essential to our capacity to perform as an intelligence power. That is not to say that if we do not create an intelligence service we will be kicked out of that privileged club. No one is arguing that. There are new threats and requirements for intelligence abroad, post-9/11, which, from a Canadian and an allied sense, can be met only by a greater contribution from Canada on the human intelligence side.

I hope we are past the point of debating as we reflect on this new environment and sense of ourselves. We are past the point of debating the general and age-old question of, do we need a foreign intelligence service or capacity. From my perspective, the answer to that question is crystal clear. It is all about a new threat environment and a new sense of Canadian identity and needs in an informational age.

Real questions should engage us if we can put that 60-year debate behind us. How do we do this and how do we do it well? There is no point in constructing a foreign intelligence service and capability unless we do it well and have a real plan for it. If we do it without a professional plan that convinces allies, Canadians and Parliament, it will be a disaster. We probably, certainly in our lifetimes, have one shot at this. We will do it well and plan it properly, or we will do it badly and wait another 60 years before considering the question again.

I applaud this committee for taking on this question. I urge the committee to keep an open mind to the alternatives. The government of the day seems to have concluded that there is only one way to launch a foreign intelligence capability and that is to embed it in CSIS and let it grow from there. That may well be a good argument but it is not the only argument. One way to resolve this argument would be to let the interested players in the Canadian government bid for the job. CSIS claims to have an interest in expanding its capacity into the foreign intelligence sphere and claims to be the best situated to build and grow this capacity on the basis of what it currently does, and on the basis of legislation, expertise, talent pool, infrastructure and so on.

You will hear arguments from experts in other government departments who have been involved in intelligence, the Department of National Defence or the Department of Foreign Affairs who say they are not so sure what the best model is. Maybe it should be in the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defence or a central organization reporting directly to the Prime Minister, as it is in some Westminster parliamentary systems.

At the end of the day, any of those models are possible. All of them need to be scrutinized. We should be careful about accepting what seems to be the fait accompli of the moment driven by bureaucratic politics — this is the decision that CSIS is the best place to launch this foreign intelligence service — rather than by genuine best practices or strategic decisions. Hear all the arguments from the different agencies that will ultimately have a hand in this one and come what may.

Who should you trust on this question? You will hear much testimony from many people. You will hear testimony from former and current practitioners, perhaps international experts and academics in Canada. Each will have their experiences, pet projects and biases.

Keep in mind the value of paying attention to academic advice on this issue but also respect the limitations of that advice. Academic advice is not interested in running the agency. Academics bring a broad appreciation of international comparisons in history: what works and what does not. That is not touched by bureaucratic interests. Academics have no hands-on experience of the business, so you will need to blend what academics and practitioners say.

If we move past the threshold of debating the issue to the creation of something, the biggest challenge is deciding where such capacity will come to rest. Which agency will be responsible for it and how will controls surround it in terms of direction, ministerial accountability and outside review? As well, there is the challenge of what this intelligence service will do. I stress that all the different answers are not meant collectively to convey an impression of confusion, bewilderment, bemusement and befuddlement. They are simply appropriate answers. A foreign intelligence service can do many things. The truth is that we will face a 10-year-or-so period experimenting and innovating with the creation of something we never had. It is important to embark on that experiment, appreciating that it will be an experiment, and will not have all the answers in the beginning. Some answers will be provided, in terms of what this service will do, through experience.

That said, we can develop a general picture. Canada is not lucky as we do not have a geographic niche to operate on. We cannot say Canada will target its intelligence operations against this part of the world because that makes sense to us and is sufficient in terms of national interests. We are not Australia. On the other hand, we will not be a global intelligence power. We cannot say that now, in 10 years or ever. We will always be an allied intelligence player. Canada has always done well at this and we should focus our capacities on that. We are a country that is smart about how its national interests and its allied connections function for it. In creating a foreign intelligence service, we will change, adapt and utilize the long history of Canada's allied intelligence operations to our best advantage. This means we will work in cooperation with our major foreign partners to carve out areas of operation and specific issues and targets that Canada wants to tackle in cooperation with those powers. We will not do this alone as that would be a mistake. There is a flip-side challenge. We will not do it for our allies alone either. There will be important negotiations and feeling out between Canada and our allies about what everyone thinks Canada can and should do.

Until those discussions are held and they will need to be secret discussions, although politically overseen, it will be hard to sort out what Canada will do.

Much of what Canada does within that allied context will be driven by identified Canadian national security priorities and needs. We have a national security policy. In April 2004, the policy addressed certain key issues and themes, to which intelligence services can make a contribution. Terrorism is clearly one of those key issues and themes. Aspects of the terrorism problem go well beyond the current capabilities and operations of CSIS, even the intention of the CSIS Act. Proliferation is a major issue that Canada could do more on with a foreign intelligence service. Canada could be more effective at counter intelligence. The threat from foreign intelligence agencies will grow rather than subside over the years to come and Canada could be more effective with a foreign intelligence capacity.

Our ability to engage with failed states, which is an important and appropriate recognition in the national security policy, can be accomplished only with a foreign intelligence capacity. Our desire to contribute to international security and global prosperity is also something that a foreign intelligence service can contribute to. Canada's contribution to debates in the United Nations, and collective actions in the United Nations and elsewhere, can be added to immensely with greater increments of foreign intelligence capacity.

We will be engaged in a process of feeling out this new thing called a "foreign intelligence service,'' a process of trial and error and innovation. Our safeguards as we go forward will be the needed assistance from our close allies, our ability to define Canadian interests carefully and closely so that we are not steered or gulled by our foreign allies at the same time, and a sense that the threat environment has changed. There are new actors and new pieces of the puzzle in the informational landscape, which only a human service can solve. This is an especially good case with non-state actors and non-traditional threats. That goes beyond terrorism but it includes terrorism. It includes such things as people-smuggling and international criminal organizations. A whole new realm of activity can be tackled by a human agency, even if we have come to think of human services as traditional services. They are traditional services where intelligence services began but there are new roles for them today and this is, in part, why Canada needs to have a foreign intelligence service in a 21st century context.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Wark. When you suggested that we ask the different players to bid on it? Were you thinking of a public auction, a silent auction, a Dutch auction or a deal or no deal?

Mr. Wark: Something dramatic.

Stuart Farson, as an individual: I am afraid if you trust academics, I will give you a different view than Mr. Wark because he and I have some fundamental differences. We agree on one thing: He mentioned that this discussion is not new and this dialog has been happening for several decades. Of the dialogue that has occurred over the last quarter century, the primary thrust of it can be identified. The primary thrust is whether Canada should have a foreign intelligence service. The question has been framed as organizational. This focusing has not been as useful as it might have been. We are told that it will be expensive but we are not told where it will do its human source collection or what else it might do and not do. It is presumed that there is a need for such an organization without making the case for one, and what it should do and where it should do it. Instead, there should have been a focus on whether there is a need for Canada to augment its foreign-intelligence-gathering capacity, whether this existed and, if so, how such an augmentation might be achieved. In other words, the question should be phrased and framed as a capacity or capability question, not as an organizational one.

I am not sure whether the government, or any government to date, has ever prepared a detailed review of its needs in terms of what it gathers information about abroad. I suggest that this committee needs to press the government, and anyone else it can press, on whether such a review has ever been done. We need to know whether there are shortfalls and where they exist. I am talking in terms of both security intelligence and foreign intelligence, and how we might fix those shortfalls. Even though we do not know the answer to that question, we might hypothesize that the shortfall exists, possibly in a number of different areas, in human source collection, in technical source collection, in open source collection, et cetera. Within these three categories, the shortfall might be in respect of specific countries or regions where our interests are at play.

Shortfalls in collection need to be considered in terms of whether we need to augment additional other activities of the intelligence community. For example, by what margin should the assessment and analysis staff need to be increased? Would such an increase in assessed intelligence be welcomed and made use of by consumers, given the state of the intelligence culture in this country?

What conclusions might I come to? My view has not changed on this particular question since the 1990s. I still feel that it would be wise and prudent for Canada to increase its intelligence gathering abroad, particularly but not exclusively in terms of human source collection. However, such additional collection will be of limited value unless other important matters receive your attention: better use of open source information; a significant increase in assessment and analytical staff, especially focused on fusion centres; a positive change to Canada's intelligence culture, something which is not easily achieved but I believe is crucial if best use is to be made of any increased collection abroad; change in the review and oversight methodologies that currently exist; and enhanced coordination and cooperation within the intelligence community as it exists.

One additional point I would like to make, which has been said before, is that, in the future, Canada will disagree with its allies, as it has in the past, on how to handle particularly tricky foreign policy issues, such as occurred over Iraq. It may be argued that in the Iraq situation, Anglo-American intelligence was seriously flawed. Its public presentation was made to fit policy preferences and, given that Canada has historically relied on these two countries for most of its foreign intelligence over the years, this intelligence failure gives added weight to the idea that Canada should have a more robust and independent intelligence-capacity gathering system abroad.

Before such a capacity is put in place, it would be prudent to clarify a number of other matters, such as where the collection is needed; what organization should do the collection; what the mandate of the new form of collection should be under; what principles should drive or underpin that mandate, for example, should they be focused primarily on the security of Canada and Canadian interests or on another set of principles; and, not least, what should be excluded specifically from such a mandate? It has been said before that we do not want a mandate that includes covert actions abroad, particularly in such matters as renditions, severe interrogations and assassinations. As well, at least over the short term, we do not want a collection of foreign intelligence. We have enough needs to gather more information about the threats to Canada and to Canadian interests abroad to keep us worried over the short term.

Nevertheless, I see it as feasible under the current circumstances for CSIS to expand its current role, relatively easily, given its current mandate. I do not feel that the old arguments that have been paraded around since the Cold War against having security services blended in with foreign intelligence services necessarily are as compelling or apply at the present time.

By way of a conclusion, to stress the point I have already made, it may be argued that the mandate of CSIS, when it was established in 1984, saw such a blending of gathering intelligence inside and outside Canada in the one area of threats to the security of Canada and Canadian interests. That is a large rubric, and one that is sufficiently flexible to fit our current needs.

In blending security and foreign gathering abroad, I do not think we are, as some have suggested, establishing something similar to what existed in Eastern Europe, nor would we be setting up something similar to the CIA or SIS. We are doing something uniquely Canadian with a uniquely Canadian approach to the problems of intelligence.

The Chairman: Thank you. We have three retired experienced practitioners here. Would any of you like to make a brief comment on what you have heard so far?

Bob Brule, as an individual: The issue of whether we need a service or not has been addressed appropriately by both gentlemen. If we could stop debating that, we could get to the more important questions. They have handled those well.

My background is from the Communications Security Establishment. What I could add to what has been said is that organizations such as the CSE desperately require a foreign intelligence service for them to continue to be successful in the future. From a purely selfish point of view, some decision that the government could make to move forward would be of benefit to technical organizations such as the CSE.

Al Hensler, as an individual: As one who has been around for a good portion of those 60 years of debate, I agree. I think that the debate has ended in terms of whether there is a need; that has been established. In the discussions I heard today I did not hear anyone who said, we do not need more foreign intelligence. The debate will be around where that settles and operates from.

I agree with Mr. Charters on the point that the combination of foreign and security intelligence in one agency is not something we need to be preoccupied with. In 1980, the MacDonald commission identified having those two functions in one agency as a danger in a democracy. That is still a valid argument.

You only have to look at the examples Mr. Charters gave; the Eastern European countries. One of the first moves the Russians made after the revolution was to disband the KGB and separate the two functions. There must be some rationale for that, and no democratic country has those two functions in one agency. I am not sure if we will be right and they are all wrong.

The lessons of the MacDonald commission, which gave us CSIS in a measured argument — probably one of the best services in the world in a short time — was right on that point of separating police law enforcement from security intelligence. The commission was also right that we should not keep foreign and security intelligence in one agency. I hope that you look at that aspect of the MacDonald commission in your deliberations.

Jim Corcoran, as an individual: To go back to the MacDonald commission, I do not necessarily agree that what was relevant in 1980 is necessarily relevant today. We need to look at what a Canadian model could be. From what the minister has said recently, the current government seems to have determined already that at this point in time it will not push for a separate foreign intelligence service. This government thus far is saying, we intend to enhance the capacity of CSIS to collect more foreign intelligence. That may change as politics change and elections come and go.

Your task is a difficult one. It would be more interesting if the government had not already firmly made up its mind. What we are doing is valuable in the sense that it raises all these issues. I do not know whether there is a right or wrong, but I do not think we need to look to other foreign services and say that because they have done it one way or another that Canada necessarily must follow that model.

Senator Atkins: The point you make is valid. You can talk about the CIA or security agencies, but we should have our own made-in-Canada agency. Even if they were to begin development, the training process is not an overnight proposition. We are talking about people that sometimes take years to become effective enough that they can be assigned the responsibilities that any good organization would expect of them. Would you care to comment on that?

Mr. Corcoran: When CSIS was created in 1984, I was the first person in charge of setting up the new training programs for CSIS. I and some colleagues went around the world, talked to all the foreign services that would talk to us about training; we talked especially to our allies and to some that were not necessarily our allies at the time. We set up an elaborate training program and we ran it out of Camp Borden in 1984. It has since moved here to Ottawa.

To create an effective intelligence officer takes five to 10 years. Along with Mr. Hensler, as someone who managed operations at CSIS, when they send someone out on the street in Canada that person must have experience to do that. If we multiply that by sending someone abroad to operate in a foreign country, they must be very experienced. They must know the environment, how to operate, how to recruit sources and how to run them abroad, which brings a greater dimension than if you are working within your own country.

It would take time. It can be done. You can build a separate foreign intelligence service, there is no question. My concern is that in the initial instance it will rob resources from the existing structure we have in place now.

That may be short-sighted, but I see that as an initial problem for the first five years, at least. People will move from CSIS to this new foreign service, or will want to move, as will people from other government departments involved in the intelligence function to some degree now. We must bear that in mind. It is not something that can be prevented, but we need to be cognizant of it.

Mr. Hensler: I disagree with my colleague. In the Canadian government and Canadian society, we have a lot of expertise in terms of working and operating abroad. We have people who are linguistically capable of going into countries now. The military has a large cadre of people experienced in working abroad. Yes, one cannot necessarily rob those agencies but we can consolidate them to establish a core group of an agency. We have the academic capability. We could recruit these two gentlemen to the right, who have the knowledge. We have the ability to produce new intelligence officers and to broaden the number of people involved over the years, but, in the short term, we have a solid cadre in the Canadian government that can start this organization.

Senator Atkins: How do you recruit? If we go back to the model that exists today in CSIS of 2,000 people, there is probably some attrition. I do not know how much there would be, but there must be some. If you are expanding, where is the best place to look?

Mr. Wark: I think Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Hensler are both right. We have a rich talent pool of existing capabilities in the Canadian government, and, inevitably, the creation of a foreign intelligence service in the beginning would be a bit of a drain on some of the existing organizations in terms of taking away some of the personnel from their operations. We should keep our eyes on the longer term picture because this project is long term.

It astounds me, looking back, to think there was ever a notion that Canada would be an incompetent foreign intelligence power. We are technologically sophisticated, rich, well educated and multicultural. We have every single attribute we would want as a society to develop such a capacity. These days, recruitment is the least of our problems in the sense that, as Jim Judd testified to this committee, the problem will not be recruiting but turning away recruits. All kinds of people will be interested, for good reasons, bad reasons, inappropriate reasons and deceptive reasons, in joining such a service, but a flood tide of people will want to engage in the business of foreign intelligence. The recruitment process must be done carefully and on the basis of clear profiles, with security clearances, but we have lots of experience with that.

From my perspective, Canada is ideally placed to be an international information gatherer. That is really what we are talking about. We have all those skills sets. It is only the determination that is finally needed now to get this underway, on top of which I think we should keep in mind that our allies will be interested in us succeeding in this. We will receive help, which we should always measure with a grain of salt, but we will receive help from allies in terms of access to training programs and cross-training programs, instructors, specialized courses and so on that will be invaluable and the kind of things we would not be able to create easily de novo here.

The Chairman: At first I thought he was describing the Senate.

Senator Zimmer: You ask questions, and you answer them. Really, this is more of a comment. What shape does this animal take? Mr. Wark has talked about the resources, the skill sets and the talent pools. We have talked about perhaps piggybacking systems on some of our allies. It is a bush hunt with the size, the shape, the purpose and the magnitude. We have to get our heads around this issue and start to put it together, because even ministers have indicated there must be an increased capacity. We have agreed to that. What shape do you see this foreign intelligence service taking?

Mr. Corcoran: We all have our individual thinking, and I am not certain there is a right or a wrong. I would opt for the hybrid model at this stage. That may develop into a separate intelligence service in due course.

When I look at Canada's role in the world and what kinds of information we want to collect and what we want to do with it, I have always said, in my years in the intelligence business, that we could never interest our senior government political masters in foreign intelligence and could never convince them to use intelligence in the decision-making process. If we cannot create that interest, it is difficult for them to buy into seriously using intelligence. We do not have a history of using intelligence in the decision-making process except in times of disaster. Everyone was interested in intelligence the day after 9/11 and after the bomber was caught at the border going across to the United States. Those are the days that everyone is interested but, beyond that, no one wants to hear about intelligence and no one believes it can help them in their day-to-day work. That is the dilemma we always seem to have in this country. Those of us in the intelligence business are to blame, because we have remained secret. We have been reluctant to talk to people, to politicians and to Canadians about what we do, how we do it and the difficulties associated with that role. We have been reluctant to tell them what we can do for them in terms of helping in the Canadian decision-making process in today's world.

Senator Zimmer: I think you are right in that it is one thing to collect it and set it up, but there must be a culture on the other side ready to use it, and I am not sure we are there yet.

Mr. Brule: There are no military commanders in Afghanistan who are not basing their operational decisions on it. We are seeing a significant shift. Afghanistan is a big step forward. You talked about intelligence being important to decision makers. My experience is that we produce a lot of tactical intelligence, and it is not surprising that ministers and prime ministers are not that interested in it, but on those occasions where the information was of a strategic nature, access to senior decision-makers was challenging, but usually happened. We are not the United States or Great Britain but, in the last 10 years, there has been a positive movement in that regard.

One question you asked earlier, Senator Zimmer, and I do not think you got an answer, I would agree with, was about establishing this organization on a non-legislative basis. That is a non-starter. I existed in an intelligence organization that did not have legislation for a long time. It makes the job difficult. They are much better off, as challenging as it is, working within legislation, and they are much better off having legislation to go forward with if they will run an organization.

The Chairman: Thank you, Senator Zimmer. To the five of you, thank you very much. It has been a terrific and useful day, and the best part of it has been the disagreements. It makes the committee work much more interesting when we have experts who have different perspectives. It is clear you are friends, but you all have your own points of view and that is valuable. We appreciate the assistance. I hope it will help us set up a good framework for our work. We hope to come back to you again over the coming months to probe, test and reject your points of view. Thank you on behalf of the committee.

The committee adjourned.