One of Edward Snowden’s released NSA documents has been reported by the CBC to reveal a vast network of spy outposts set up by the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) on behalf of the NSA. Targeting 20 “high-priority countries” and some of Canada’s trading partners this clandestine network gave strategic access to NSA based on Canada’s geographic access to the targets. These are areas which are reportedly inaccessible by the United States NSA.
Beyond the details of the network, the CBC describes Canada’s role in intelligence-gathering as robust and having garnered American intelligence agencies’ respect. The document reportedly outlines the role the CSEC plays in the NSA’s international spying, describing the partnership as a “close co-operative relationship.” The CBC reports that CSEC is described in the document as “sophisticated, capable and highly respected.”
The two agencies are reportedly becoming increasingly intertwined. According to the NSA the two agencies share more than just intelligence data but a significant amount of technology, personnel and expertise. The NSA has suggested that the CSEC’s monitary contribution to joint-projects and Research & Development has increased.
In addition to contributions to the NSA, Canadian taxpayers are largely unknowingly floating a large bill for this the CSEC’s secret surveillance programs. Reportedly the CSEC also employs 2000 people and has a budget of $450 million. Additionally it is building a new headquarters at the cost of $1.2 billion.
A Canadian intelligence expert, Wesley Wark, suggests that this program, which would have had to be approved by Canadian parliament or the Prime Minister, comes at great risk to Canada’s diplomatic image. While the NSA is keen to have a Canadian partner, with a good international diplomatic reputation, this reputation is likely to come under fire as this story develops.