The 2018 Annual Report of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
The report contains findings and recommendations from two substantive reviews by the Committee in 2018, including the first external review of Canada’s defence intelligence activities; and, a review of how Canada sets its intelligence priorities.
A key recommendation calls for the government to consider providing explicit legislative authority for the conduct of defence intelligence activities.
The report includes an overview of the Committee’s first year of operation, a brief history of review in Canada and a picture of the various national security threats the country faces, and some concluding observations.
The report is the culmination of a review of highly classified documents, numerous briefings by senior security and intelligence officials, and more than 50 Committee meetings. A classified version was provided to the Prime Minister on December 21, 2018. Consistent with sub-section 21(5) of the NSICOP Act, the Committee revised the report at the direction of the Prime Minister to exclude classified or privileged information. All revisions are clearly identified in the report.
The report is intended to contribute to an informed debate among Canadians on the difficult challenges of providing security and intelligence organizations with the exceptional powers necessary to identify and counter threats to the nation, while at the same time ensuring that their activities continue to respect and preserve our democratic rights.
The Chair of NSICOP, the Honourable David McGuinty, stated: “The Committee’s first Annual Report is an important milestone for Canada’s national security and intelligence community. Each of the Committee’s seven recommendations is aimed at strengthening the accountability and effectiveness of organizations that conduct national security and intelligence activities in Canada and abroad.”
Mr. McGuinty expressed his appreciation to his NSICOP colleagues for their dedication and willingness to examine the serious issues of national security and intelligence in a collegial and non-partisan manner. “Our work has demonstrated that there are issues beyond partisanship – accountability, the security of Canada, and the protection of our democratic rights and freedoms,” he stated.
List of recommendations from NSICOP’s 2018 Annual Report:
In its review of the Government’s process for establishing intelligence priorities, NSICOP recommends that:
• The National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA), supported by the Privy Council Office (PCO), invest in and take a stronger managerial and leadership role in the process for setting intelligence priorities to ensure organizational responses to the intelligence priorities are timely and consistently implemented.
• The security and intelligence community develop a strategic overview of the Standing Intelligence Requirements to ensure Cabinet is receiving the best information it needs to make decisions.
• Under the leadership of the NSIA and supported by the PCO, the security and intelligence community develop tools to address the coordination and prioritization challenges it faces in relation to the Standing Intelligence Requirements.
• The security and intelligence community, in consultation with the Treasury Board Secretariat, develop a consistent performance measurement framework that examines how effectively and efficiently the community is responding to the intelligence priorities, including a robust and consistent resource expenditure review.
In its review of the intelligence activities of DND/CAF, NSICOP recommends that:
• The Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) review and strengthen its administrative framework governing defence intelligence activities, particularly with respect to the Ministerial Directive on Defence Intelligence, to ensure that it meets its own obligations on governance and reporting to the Minister of National Defence, and is properly tracking the implementation of those obligations. In particular:
• Devise a standard process, or principles, for determining a nexus between a defence intelligence activity and a legally authorized mission;
• Document its compliance with obligations in the Directive, including in areas of risk specified in the Directive not currently included in annual reports to the Minister; and
• Implement a standardized process for interdepartmental consultations on the deployment of defence intelligence capabilities, including minimum standards of documentation.
• The Government amend Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters, to ensure that the mandate of the proposed National Security and Intelligence Review Agency includes an explicit requirement for an annual report of DND/CAF activities related to national security or intelligence.
• Drawing from the Committee’s assessment and findings, the Government give serious consideration to providing explicit legislative authority for the conduct of defence intelligence activities.
The Committee has announced its program for 2019 with reviews examining: the collection, use, retention and dissemination of information on Canadian citizens by the DND/CAF in the conduct of defence intelligence activities; threats to national security from foreign interference; the national security and intelligence activities of the Canada Border Services Agency; and, a study of diversity and inclusion in Canada’s security and intelligence community.
“We look forward to continuing our review of Canada’s security and intelligence community to ensure it works together to protect our security, our rights and our institutions,” Mr. McGuinty concluded.
NSICOP was established under the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act on June 22, 2017. The Committee serves as an independent, high-level review body of Canada’s national security and intelligence organizations. It may review the legislative, regulatory, policy, administrative and financial framework for national security and intelligence; any activity carried out by a department that relates to national security or intelligence, unless the activity is an ongoing operation and the appropriate Minister determines that the review would be injurious to national security; and any matter relating to national security or intelligence that a minister of the Crown refers to the Committee.
The Committee must submit an Annual Report to the Prime Minister that includes the reviews conducted in the preceding year. The Committee may also complete a Special Report on any matter related to its mandate, at any time.