Snowden document reveals extent of NSA/Canadian collaboration

America's northern neighbour provides the United States with access to areas that the NSA cannot touch.

The Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), Canada's national cryptologic and foreign signals intelligence agency, has been heavily involved with spying initiatives with the United States' National Security Agency (NSA), CBC is reporting.

The source of the Canadian national broadcaster's claims is a top secret document (PDF) dated April 3, 2013, that is part of the cache released by Edward Snowden.

The document details the extent to which the NSA and CSEC have worked together in the "mutual interest in the defence of North America as a whole", which includes "the exchange of liaison officers and integrees, joint projects, shared activities, and a strong desire for closer collaboration in the area of cyberdefence". The document says that due to Canada's ability to produce "cryptographic devices", it is therefore a large consumer of American intelligence-gathering equipment.

Approximately 20 high-priority nations are targeted by the partnership, for which the two agencies exchange intelligence on "worldwide national and transnational targets". For its part, the CSEC has opened "covert sites at the request of NSA", provides resources for the collection, processing, and analysis of intelligence, and has increased funding for research and development projects.

The NSA says that it pays for research costs on shared projects, but none of the US$11 billion of funds in the Consolidated Cryptologic Program, an intelligence program that employs almost 35,000 employees from the NSA, as well as surveillance and code-breaking components of America's armed forces, are used.

It was already known that the US and Canada cooperate closely on intelligence matters, as both countries are signatories of the Five Eyes agreement, along with the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, but the details and implementation of how the agencies work together was not publicly known until the release of Snowden's documents.

Last week, it was revealed that Australia had been willing to share uncensored metadata on its citizens with other members of the Five Eyes.

The document that showed the Australian Signals Directorate's willingness to hand over such metadata also showed that CSEC was able to make use of "unselected" metadata, but that distribution of bulk, unselected metadata from CSEC with other Five Eyes parties could not be shared. This was because of the need to ensure that the identities of Canadians and people in Canada were removed; however, this clause is being re-examined.

The document obtained by CBC shows that the relationship between the American and Canadian intelligence agencies is one that will be built on in the future.

"NSA has a close, cooperative relationship with CSEC that both sides would like to see expanded and strengthened."