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In which the CSEC looks the other way for the NSA

Posted by Matt on September 11, 2013         Tagged with: surveillance, csec, nsa

Unless you've been living under a rock (hell, even if you've been living under a rock), it's been pretty hard not to notice the seemingly endless stream of revelations about the NSA that the Guardian and the New York Times have been publishing. Sadly, we have a lot less information about what Canada's own intelligence services get up to when no one is watching. We're a Five Eyes nation, among the many other treaties that bind us to the US, so I'm sure we're expected to pull our weight with regards to collecting and supplying intelligence information. A few Federal Court cases have provided some information, and I hope to write more about these in a future blog post. For now, I'll refer you to David Fraser's excellent Canadian Privacy Law Blog. But by and large, the Communications Security Establishment hasn't had as much press as the NSA. I'm sure they consider that a good thing.

However, a New York Times blog today remarked on what may have been CSEC's greatest contribution to the NSA's intelligence-gathering efforts: getting the hell out of the way so that the NSA could water down cybersecurity standards.

Internal N.S.A. memos describe how the agency subsequently worked behind the scenes to push the same standard on the International Organization for Standardization. “The road to developing this standard was smooth once the journey began,” one memo noted. “However, beginning the journey was a challenge in finesse.”

At the time, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment ran the standards process for the international organization, but classified documents describe how ultimately the N.S.A. seized control. “After some behind-the-scenes finessing with the head of the Canadian national delegation and with C.S.E., the stage was set for N.S.A. to submit a rewrite of the draft,” the memo notes. “Eventually, N.S.A. became the sole editor.”

(Hat tip to Michael Geist for this one).