If an intelligence professional was speaking to you and
referred to the “intelligence community,” regardless of your background it
seems like a simple concept to infer. The concept is comprised of two common
words that would immediately make you think of a group or organization that
works on intelligence issues. In essence that is what an intelligence community
is when boiled to its simplest form. However, there are numerous complexities
and intricacies at play in an intelligence community. The RAND Corporation has
a more thorough definition and says an “intelligence community comprises the many agencies and organizations
responsible for intelligence gathering, analysis, and other activities that
affect foreign policy and national security.”1 When looking at Canada, it
has an extremely thorough intelligence community that is
a key asset in the government’s efforts to protect the interests of Canada and
Canadians and to assure public safety.
Before delving into what an intelligence community is, it is
important to first understand intelligence. Essentially security intelligence is the
information relevant to protecting from external and inside threats as well as
the processes, policies and tools designed to gather and analyze that
Within intelligence there are multiple disciplines that include human intelligence (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT),
measurement and signatures
intelligence (MASINT), and open source intelligence (OSINT). Any discipline or
combination can be used and contribute to the gathering of information to
promote national security.
The core work of
an intelligence community is to contribute to the safety and security of the
public at both a domestic and international level. With respect to Canada, the
community must judge the growth or decline of particular threats, provide
political leaders with well-founded advice, and take appropriate prevention and
enforcement actions. It adds value to decision-making and policy-making on the
full range of matters vital to Canada’s interests in foreign relations,
defence, the economy and domestic security.3 Some
examples of tasks the community is involved in, but is not limited to, include
preventing people-smuggling, detecting and thwarting potential terrorist
attacks and cyber threats.
Within Canada there are a number of agencies involved in intelligence,
all of which play important and specific roles. The following outlines some of
the major agencies.
Public Safety Canada was created in 2003 with the mandate to
“ensure coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible
for national security and the safety of Canadians.”i4 Public Safety works on issues relating to
national security, border strategies, countering crime, and emergency
management, particularly natural disasters, terrorism, policing, and border
The Department works alongside many agencies in order to achieve its objective,
particularly the RCMP and CSIS, which reports to Public Safety, and play a
significant role in Canada’s intelligence community;
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s national police force. As per
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act
the agency is responsible for enforcing Canadian laws, contributing to national
security, preventing and investigating crime, and maintaining peace, order and
security.iii6 “Under the Security Offences Act the RCMP has primary investigative
responsibility for offences related to terrorism and espionage as well as for
offences against internationally protected persons, such as foreign ambassadors
accredited to Canada.”iv7
Intelligence collection and analysis is an important component of RCMP
investigations, including those relating to organized crime, high technology
crime and illegal migration.v
per the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act of 1984, CSIS
operates under the mandate to “investigate
activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada, and to
report on these to the Government of Canada.”vi8 This is achieved through the collection and
analysis of threat related information both domestically and abroad.vii9
“Key threats include terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, espionage, foreign interference and cyber-tampering affecting
critical infrastructure.” viii10
The Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada (CISC) was
established in the 1970s as an inter-agency organization mandated to coordinate
and share criminal intelligence amongst member police forces, including
federal, provincial, and municipal law enforcement units.11
CISC Central Bureau is responsible for providing criminal intelligence products
and services to the national law enforcement community.
The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) was created
in 1975 as the successor of the Communications Branch of the National Research
Council. The CSE is responsible for
collecting foreign SIGINT in support of the Government’s priorities, and
“helping protect the computer networks and information of greatest importance
As defined by the National Defence Act, CSE
is mandated to acquire and provide foreign intelligence in accordance with the
Government’s intelligence priorities, to help ensure the protection of
electronic information and critical infrastructure in Canada, and to provide
assistance to federal law enforcement and security agencies in the performance
of their lawful duties.x13
The Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) was
created in 2004 in accordance with the 2004 “Securing an Open
Society: Canada’s National Security Policy (NSP)” strategic framework.xi14 ITAC operates to prevent and reduce the
effects of terrorist incidents on Canadians and Canadian interests. ITAC achieves this through analyzing security
intelligence received from partner institutions and produces threat
assessments; these assessments are “integrated analyses of the intent and
capability of terrorists to carry out attacks”.xii15
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of
Canada (FINTRAC) was created in 2000 as an independent agency responsible for
financial intelligence. The agency operates under the mandate to “facilitate
the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and the financing
of terrorist activities.”xiii16
FINTRAC works alongside the Canada Revenue Agency and the private sector to
produce financial intelligence related to money laundering, terrorist activity
and threats to the security of Canada.xiv17
It gathers and analyzes data from a variety of information sources that shed
light on trends and patterns in money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (CFINTCOM) was
established in 2004 as the “functional authority with the Department of
National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces for defence intelligence.”xv18 The CFINTCOM consolidated and centralized all
intelligence collection capabilities of the CAF and DND. It is responsible for providing intelligence
officers and integrated intelligence collection services to the CAF and DND. xvi19
The Privy Council Office (PCO) is the “hub of non-partisan,
public service support to the Prime minister and Cabinet and its
The PCO has three main roles including as Advisor to the Prime Minister,
Secretary to the Cabinet, and leader of the Public Service. The PCO is responsible for supporting the
Prime Minister in matters regarding security and intelligence in Canada. Within the PCO, the National Security
Advisor (NSA) to the Prime Minister is responsible for providing information,
advice, and recommendations on security and intelligence policy matters.xviii21
The NSA is supported by three PCO secretariats, including the Security
Intelligence Secretariat (SIS), the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS),
and the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat (FDPS), and his duties require
coordination with members of the security and intelligence community. The SIS provides advice and support to the
PM, NSA, and Cabinet; its role includes supporting Cabinet in managing national
security and intelligence activities; coordinating federal activities within
the security and intelligence community; and coordinating federal responses to
It is important
to note that intelligence communities are not autonomous and able to act on its
own will. Like other parts of government, the members of the security and intelligence community are accountable
through their Ministers to Parliament,
and their representatives occasionally appear before parliamentary committees. Each
member has a clear mandate and is also governed by the rule of law. The
security and intelligence community is also subject to audits by the Auditor General, reviews of information holdings by the Privacy
Commissioner, requests for access to
documents through the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and
examination by the Office
of the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Human Rights Commission.23
Within the aforementioned agencies there are individuals who
work on a daily basis on a wide array of issues that all benefit to protecting
Canada and Canadians. Not all employees are on the front line in a foreign
country however, there are people working in laboratories, translators,
analysts, consultants and many others. Their responsibilities include, but are
not limited to, providing non-partisan advice on specific threats, assess key
international issues and events affecting Canada’s interests, develop policy, legislative
and funding proposals to strengthen the community’s effectiveness and undertake
investigations to detect and assess threats.24
Another important component to the intelligence community is
cooperate amongst one another and with provincial and territorial governments
and the private sector on such issues as how to protect Canada’s critical
information infrastructure. Cooperation is not only limited to a domestic scale,
intelligence community helps
contribute to global security. Hackers, terrorists, organized criminals and
other threats to Canada’s security make use of the various avenues available to
them to conduct their illegal activities across borders. Therefore, Canada has
made extensive efforts to build its intelligence community at an international
scale through organizations like the G7, as well as working relationships with
most countries in the world. One
organization that Canada leverages regularly is the Five Eyes.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the
United States are members of the Five Eyes intelligence community, the most
exclusive intelligence sharing club in the world. It is a complex network of
linked autonomous intelligence agencies. Individual intelligence organizations
that follow their own nationally legislated mandates, but interact with an
affinity strengthened by their common Anglo-Saxon culture, accepted liberal
democratic values and complementary national interests, all seasoned with a
profound sense of confidence in each other and a degree of professional trust
so strong as to be unique in the world.25
This cooperative relationship is not monolithic, but it is certainly more
cohesive than is generally known.26
It grew from UK-US intelligence cooperation in the Second World War, matured
during the Cold War, and continues to protect the national interests of all
Going forward, intelligence communities will continue
evolve. Historically, either in retaliation or in a proactive manner, intelligence
have continuously evolved to by either adding new members or establishing a new
agency to fill a void in intelligence collection. An evolving international
security environment signals a need for a growth in international communities
and an insurance that intelligence agencies are staying current and identifying
potential threats. The Canadian intelligence community is extremely thorough an
encompassing, however, it is far from perfect. New legislation is continuously
emerging in relation to intelligence and national security, and there are
continued debates of the limits to which the intelligence community can go.
Regardless, if a professional were to refer an intelligence community, it is
evident they are referring to a group of intelligence agencies that work
together to promote public and global security.
1 Rand Corporation. “Intelligence
Community.” RAND Corporation, 12 Apr. 2016.
i Public Safety Canada .”About
Public Safety Canada.” Public Safety Canada. 16 Jan. 2016.
iii Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“About the RCMP.” Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 17 Jan. 2016.
iv Privy Council Office. “The
Canadian Security and Intelligence Community: Helping Keep Canada and Canadians
Safe and Secure.” Privy Council Office. 17 Jan. 2016.
vi Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
“Role of CSIS.” Canadian Security Intelligence Service. 16 Jan.
vii Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
“Intelligence Collection and Analysis.” Canadian Security Intelligence
Service. 16 Jan. 2016
viii Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
“Role of CSIS.” Canadian Security Intelligence Service. 16 Jan.
ix Communications Security Establishment.
“What We Do and Why We Do It.” Communications Security Establishment.
16 Jan. 2016.
xi Integrated Terrorism Assessment
Centre.”About ITAC.” Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre.
16 Jan. 2016.
xiii Financial Transactions and Reports
Analysis Centre of Canada. “Who We Are.” Financial Transactions
and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada. 16 Jan. 2016.
xv National Defence and the Canadian Armed
Forces. “Establishment of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.” National
Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.16 Jan. 2016.
xvii Privy Council Office. “About the
Privy Council Office.” Privy Council Office. 16 Jan. 2016.