Mark Collins – New Liberal Government on Parliamentarians and Security/Intelligence–Could be Worse

First a post from some two years ago that reflects my views,

Canadian Intelligence: ‘National Security Oversight: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
[new URL for penultimate link here]

 plus what I wrote in February this year:

Overseeing Intelligence, or, Something That Would Not Work in Canada, Part 2

I certainly agree outside review needs strengthening, especially in view of the frivolous manner with which this [Conservative] government has treated it–the case of Arthur Porter says it all.  However I remain convinced that, given the hyper-partisanship and ignorance of most of our MPs, they simply cannot be trusted with highly-sensitive national security information unlike their counterparts elsewhere who take these issues seriously. Sad but true.

Much less partisan Canadian senators could well do a better job but almost everybody hates that appointed other legislative body now…

Then what the Liberals said in their election platform (p. 6 PDF):



STRONGER NATIONAL SECURITY OVERSIGHT

… we will create an all-party national security oversight committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities.


Now the prime minister’s mandate letter to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons instructs him to…


Lead, in collaboration with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the creation of a statutory committee of Parliamentarians with special access to classified information to review government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities…


Perhaps an important wording change: “monitor and oversee” means while things are actually happening; “review” is after things have happened.  That means some less chance of interference with, and revelation of, sensitive activities and information.  Plus one can hope that  “classified information” does not include the whole kit and caboodle.  If any sense prevails parliamentarians will not be given access to Top Secret or, gasp, Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI aka “codeword”–see K. p. 3  PDF here, e.g. SIGINT for one thing).

The other four eyes will be watching closely and nervously.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds
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4 thoughts on “Mark Collins – New Liberal Government on Parliamentarians and Security/Intelligence–Could be Worse”

  1. >”However I remain convinced that, given the hyper-partisanship and ignorance of most of our MPs, they simply cannot be trusted with highly-sensitive national security information unlike their counterparts elsewhere who take these issues seriously.”

    Because the Americans aren’t partisan? Lindsey Graham is a savant?

    >”Much less partisan Canadian senators could well do a better job but almost everybody hates that appointed other legislative body now…”

    The senate currently is currently stuffed full of bagmen and flacks and are as partisan as the House. Now if we get a proper appointment process put into place and the government stops trying to do every thing in it’s power to torpedo the the Senate I would agree with you.

    The possible chilling effect on decent of CSIS/RCMP is a far bigger potential threat than ISIS. It never gets mentioned in Canada but every thing the other 5 eyes countries are doing in regard to mass surveillance is also being done in Canada and that information is also being shared in bulk with the 5 eyes as well as Israel. What are they doing with that information? Should this all happen without oversite? No damn way. Is that power currently being abused? We have no way to know, but we really should.

    1. Note, esp. second para:

      “…
      The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) was first established by the Intelligence Services Act 1994 to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Justice and Security Act 2013 reformed the ISC: making it a Committee of Parliament; providing greater powers; and increasing its remit (including oversight of operational activity and the wider intelligence and security activities of Government). Other than the three intelligence and security Agencies, the ISC examines the intelligence-related work of the Cabinet Office including: the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); the Assessments Staff; and the National Security Secretariat. The Committee also provides oversight of Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office.

      Members of the ISC are appointed by Parliament and the Committee reports directly to Parliament. The Committee may also make reports to the Prime Minister on matters which are national security sensitive.

      The Members are subject to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 and have access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The Committee takes evidence from Cabinet Ministers and senior officials – all of which is used to formulate its reports…”
      http://isc.independent.gov.uk/home

      Mark Collins

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