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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
You could not move into the foreign intelligence area without some greater
degree of scrutiny, to provide the accountability expected by the government and
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
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
Senator Atkins: Is there a way to clarify it in the minds of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.