Hey everyone. I live in Canada, and I know that we have a secret intelligence agency (CSIS). The thing is, you never hear about them doing anything. Does anyone know what they do, if anything? Any stories?
Well, I know they issued this interesting report last year, Anti-Globalization - A Spreading Phenomenon, in which some friends of mine were mentioned (not by name, but by association). I’m sure they’re about as active as the Canadian military.
Read Spyworld by Mike Frost. Although he doesn’t talk about anything really James Bond-ish, Canadians did eavesdrop on East-bloc countries during the cold war. Probably the most famous Canadian foreign adventure of recent memory was The Canadian Caper, a successful rescue of 6 American citizens from Iran just prior to the Hostage Crisis of 1979-81.
CSIS is a relatively recent innovation. It was founded in 1984, incorporating intelligence personnel from the RCMP and the military. Prior to that, intelligence had mostly been an RCMP thing, with the military drawing on a mishmash of other sources, including our allies’ intelligence services.
CSIS has had… uh, growing problems, I guess you could charitably put it. Chula’s comment illustrates part of their problem, which is that they’ve been tasked with both foreign intelligence (e.g. where are the terrorists? How strong is Cuba’s army?) and domestic intelligence (e.g. where are the spies? Are these university kids protesting against the WTO a serious threat or just kids? Who might be a mole in our army?) Most countries have separate organziations for these jobs; in the U.S., the CIA does foreign intelligence, and the FBI does domestic counterintelligence. More or less.
CSIS is not very well funded (or so the intelligence community claims; as to that, they probably always would say that) and i’m not certain that it holds the political influence to do its job as effectively as it probably could.
The fact that you dont hear very much about what they do might mean they are very good at it. They are the SECRET service after all
From what I remember from my Crime and Society in Canada class, the CSIS has files on about 700,000 Canadians, down from the 800,000 (including communists and homosexuals) that the RCMP had befor their creation.
Do I have a file?
Can I see it?
You can request it under the Access to Information Act, a federal statute. The response may come back that they don’t have a file on you; that they do and you can’t see it; that they do and they’ll release edited parts.
If you’re not satisfied with the response you get, you can go to the Information Commissioner, an independent federal official, for a review of your request.
One of the antecedents of the CSIS, the National Research Council’s Examination Unit, was headed up by none other than Herbert O. Yardley, former leader (and later exposer) of the American “Black Chamber,” and one of the preeminent cryptologists of his time.
Before they became the CSIS, the intelligence wing of the RCMP scored big in World War II, supporting William Stephenson, the Man Called Intrepid. During the Cold War, they pulled off a wonderful deception whereby they accepted the defection of a Soviet cipher clerk, Igor Gouzenko from the Ottawa embassy, then staged a manhunt to lead the Soviets into believing he was at large. A Mountie speaking broken English impersonated him when his wife went into the hospital to give birth.
According to The Spy Book, (Polmar and Allen, 1997, p. 476), the CSIS does not have law enforcement powers, just as CIA and MI6 do not. When they want to bust you for ripping off rare Rush MP3s, they have to turn you over to a special wing of the RCMP.