CSIS is not engaged in James Bond espionage but Canada’s spy agency is facing steep challenges as it conducts more missions abroad, according to an annual review committee report.
“They’re not old hands at this yet,” said Adam Green, acting executive director of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). “They’re still in learning mode.”
SIRC’s annual report for 2011-2012 found that as CSIS expands “the nature and scope” of activities abroad it’s running into problems managing relationships with foreign intelligence agencies – often from countries without the same democratic norms as Canada.
CSIS doesn’t have clear criteria on what assurances it gets from foreign intelligence sources that shared information wasn’t extracted by torture.
That bothers SIRC.
“The fact that we flagged that in our report suggests that obviously it looms large,” said Green.
SIRC makes 12 recommendations in its report, including that CSIS develop a clear policy on getting assurances regarding torture and that it updates its protocols for sharing its information with foreign partners.
The report also notes there has been at least one “serious operational failure” of a CSIS mission abroad, leading it to recommend the service update its risk assessments of foreign operations.
On the domestic side, SIRC wants CSIS to develop a more consistent approach to nominating people for Canada’s no-fly list.
The report concludes CSIS can be too broad in who it nominates and takes “a somewhat ad hoc approach.”
Still, Green doubts that’s making life difficult for passengers.
“I think you’re still many steps away from that affecting an individual who’s boarding a plane and runs into trouble,” he said.
Meantime, SIRC reports just 17 new complaints about CSIS in this latest report.
That compares to an average of 32 new complaints per year over the last decade.