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CSIS and the Security Intelligence Cycle

The primary mandate of CSIS is to collect and analyze information and subsequently to provide reports, in the form of security intelligence, to the government. CSIS produces intelligence in order to provide advance warning to government departments and agencies about activities which may reasonably be suspected of constituting threats to Canada's security. One of the primary values of intelligence-gathering is the timely delivery of perishable information to policy-makers in government. The five phases of the process that produces these results is known as the security intelligence cycle and they are described in this document.

The Security Intelligence Cycle

1. Government Direction

CSIS responds to direction from the federal government. This is the central characteristic of the relationship envisioned in the CSIS Act. The Act ensures that the Solicitor General has the responsibility to provide direction to the Director of CSIS on matters concerning the policies, operations and management of CSIS. Policy guidelines for Service activities are established through these directives. Direction of this nature covers many areas of Service activity, including guidance in the use of investigative methods and techniques. It also ensures that the Solicitor General is a key decision-maker within the Service's legal and policy framework.

Regular direction from government on intelligence priorities is one characteristic that distinguishes the Service from a police organization. Police agencies conduct criminal investigations based upon the law. Security intelligence work is rooted in government priorities formulated within the context of the legislative framework of the CSIS Act.

Intelligence priorities are re-evaluated each year in light of an annual assessment by the Service. This assessment is based on the Service's review of the constantly changing security environment. CSIS has established an ongoing environmental scanning capability in order to integrate government requirements more directly into the intelligence cycle. Based on consultations with other government departments and agencies, an assessment is then provided to the government. Following ministerial consideration of the assessment, the Solicitor General then provides direction to the Service.

The Service has established a Government Liaison Unit which is responsible for maintaining regular contact with government departments in order to obtain their security intelligence requirements. This enables the Service to tailor distribution of its information to a government department's specific requirements.

2. Planning

Planning encompasses the entire intelligence process. The process begins with the threat assessment phase and culminates in the delivery of the final intelligence products. Plans are geared to meeting the government's security intelligence requirements. In response to client needs and ministerial direction, CSIS determines a co-ordinated strategic approach. In this way, resources are allocated for investigations on the basis of government-approved criteria.

In planning an investigation, care is taken to ensure an appropriate balance between the degree of intrusiveness of an investigation and concern for the rights and freedoms of those being investigated. Low-level investigations, consisting primarily of the collection of open-source information, may be approved by operational supervisors. Investigations, which may call for the use of more intrusive techniques, are subject to a rigorous process of challenge and controls, including a review by senior management committees chaired by the CSIS Director with representation from the Departments of the Solicitor General and Justice.

All investigative activities must abide by ministerial direction. Section 21 of the CSIS Act requires that judicial authorization in the form of a Federal Court warrant must be obtained before certain intrusive techniques are used. A Federal Court judge must be satisfied, after examining a CSIS draft warrant and accompanying affidavit, that there are reasonable grounds to justify issuing a warrant.

3. Collection

Collection is the preliminary phase of the Service's advisory role to government. Information from members of the public, foreign governments and technical interception of communications is combined with information from open sources including newspapers, periodicals, academic journals, foreign and domestic broadcasts, official documents and other published material.

The Service uses a variety of collection methods to monitor individuals or groups whose activities are suspected of constituting a threat to national security. Through such monitoring, the Service is able to identify individuals with suspected connections to terrorism and persons operating in Canada on behalf of hostile intelligence services. In addition to monitoring potential espionage and sabotage efforts, the Service is mandated to inform the government of foreign-influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.

In the competitive global economy of the 1990s, acquiring scientific and technological information from other countries has become increasingly important for many nations. Sometimes, this is done by covert or unlawful means. As a result, CSIS has intensified its activities to detect economic espionage against Canadian scientific and technological interests by foreign governments and/or their surrogates.

CSIS maintains full-time security liaison officers at a number of Canadian diplomatic missions abroad. Their task is to work with selected foreign police and security intelligence agencies. They also collect and analyze openly available information on global trends which may have Canadian security implications, and, finally, they conduct security screening assessments of prospective immigrants.

4. Analysis

Policy makers rely on security intelligence prepared by Service analysts following the information collection stage. Analysts in all operational programs use their knowledge of regional, national and global trends to assess the quality of all types of information gathered, and organize it into useful security intelligence.

Information collected by investigators is initially assessed at a regional office prior to its transmission to CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa, where a second-phase analysis is undertaken from a national perspective. This investigative reporting is then combined with information gathered from consultations with government agencies, other intelligence agencies and open sources. Further analysis of the information is carried out within an intelligence analysis program dedicated to the preparation of CSIS intelligence reports.

As part of the broader Canadian security intelligence analysis and assessment effort, CSIS also participates in the Intelligence Assessment Committee of the Privy Council Office which reports to the Interdepartmental Committee on Security and Intelligence. This committee is chaired by the Clerk of the Privy Council and consists of deputy-minister-level officials of government departments and agencies active in the security and intelligence field including CSIS.

5. Dissemination

The CSIS Act designates the Government of Canada as the main recipient of CSIS intelligence. Under section 19 of the CSIS Act, the Service distributes a variety of reports, including threat assessments, to various departments of the federal government and law enforcement authorities.

The RCMP depends on threat assessments to determine the level of security required to protect foreign diplomatic missions and Canadian VIPs. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade uses these threat assessments to determine the proper level of protection required for Canadian missions and personnel overseas. Transport Canada uses the assessments when considering security concerns for the travelling public.

Under the Government Security Policy, CSIS also undertakes threat and risk assessments for government departments and their operating programs at their request.

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