NSA leaks prompted major Canadian eavesdropping review: declassified memo

The new Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) complex is pictured in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA - A newly declassified memo says the massive intelligence leak by former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden prompted Canada's secret eavesdropping agency to review its policies on sharing information with the Americans and other partners.

The three-page note from Communications Security Establishment Canada chief John Forster says the unprecedented breach also sparked a CSEC examination of its practices for protecting the privacy of Canadians.

The undated memo to national security adviser Stephen Rigby — obtained under the Access to Information Act — was prepared some time in mid-2013, after Snowden's leaks began making global headlines.

It says CSEC set about assessing the potential damage to Canadian signals intelligence collection capabilities, as well as asking its partners for confirmation on what data Snowden took from the U.S. National Security Agency.

CSEC, the NSA's Canadian counterpart, monitors foreign computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic for information of intelligence interest.

With a staff of more than 2,000 — including skilled mathematicians, linguists and computer specialists — CSEC is a key player in the so-called Five Eyes community comprising Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

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