More Stringent Oversight of Military Intelligence at DND in Limbo

By Brewster, Murray | The Canadian Press, January 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

More Stringent Oversight of Military Intelligence at DND in Limbo


Brewster, Murray, The Canadian Press


More oversight urged of military intelligence

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OTTAWA - National Defence has been looking at ways to introduce more stringent oversight of its intelligence operations, but "fiscal restraint" may prevent the department from implementing the preferred option.

A series of internal documents and slide presentations, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information legislation, show the head of defence intelligence ordered the exhaustive, independent review -- which was conducted in the wake of the scandal involving navy sub-Lt. Jeffery Delisle, who was convicted of spying for the Russians.

Unlike the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment, there is no direct civilian oversight body to review the actions and operations of military agents, who conduct investigations into possible threats against the Forces both overseas and on Canadian soil.

The powers of intelligence services have come under the microscope following allegations of National Security Agency eavesdropping in the U.S., and the bombshell revelations of former contractor Edward Snowden.

Closer to home, CSE has faced questions about its activities, and the Harper government has indicated it intends to introduce legislation giving law enforcement more tools to track suspected terrorists.

The draft defence intelligence review lays out four options, of which the preferred would be a permanent, independent review board reporting directly to the minister and taking its authority from the federal Inquiries Act.

But in recommending the idea, the report noted defence may have to accept a watered-down version in the form of a part-time review team -- a so-called hybrid option -- that would be appointed for external reviews when necessary.

The assessment said they recognized that "in a period of fiscal restraint and downsizing" a permanent review team might not be possible and that the government might want to "avoid the challenges and costs" of setting up the body.

The report underscored the need for a review body by highlighting a recent military intelligence operation where the minister, when authorizing it, stipulated that it must be the "subject of independent review at least every 12 months" and defence had to hire an outside consultant three times to live up to the demand.

A spokesman for the defence intelligence command was asked whether anything was done with the recommendations, but did not answer the questions directly.

Instead, Capt. Travis Smyth noted that their operations and activities were monitored by the chief of defence staff, the military's top brass and the department's chief of review services. …

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