Cyberspies look to the skies for security help at new headquarters

Cyberspies look skyward for security help

OTTAWA — Canada’s secretive cyberspies have turned to the people who pat travellers down at the airport to bolster security at their new Ottawa headquarters amid heightened concern about sensitive leaks.

The Communications Security Establishment had the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority — the agency that does air-passenger screening — teach spy service staff how to use hand-held wands as well as newly installed metal detectors and X-ray machines.

A memorandum of understanding that sets out details of the September 2015 training was recently released under the Access to Information Act.

The instruction came as CSE employees were settling into their new workspaces at the expansive Edward Drake building in the city’s east end — a gleaming facility that replaced the agency’s aging south Ottawa quarters.

The CSE monitors foreign communications of intelligence interest to Canada, and exchanges a large amount of information with “Five Eyes” partner agencies in the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The airport-style screening devices were seen as “essential tools to enhance our security posture,” said Ryan Foreman, a CSE spokesman.

“Although CSE had many security measures in place at our previous facilities, this particular equipment was new to CSE and was included as one of the many security measures in place at our new facility.”

Six spy service employees were taught how to operate the devices and recognize images that turned up on X-ray screens.

The session — provided free of charge — was a “train-the-trainer” course intended to qualify the CSE participants to later teach other personnel about the new equipment.

The memorandum refers to screening of “individuals entering premises,” but Foreman declined to elaborate on whether people leaving CSE are also subjected to examinations. “To ensure that our security measures remain effective, we cannot provide any further detail about how these tools are used or how they are deployed.”

Installation of the new screening equipment came months after CSE expressed concern about disclosures by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a vast trove of classified material about “Five Eyes” surveillance techniques.

In March 2015 briefing notes prepared for agency chief Greta Bossenmaier, CSE said Snowden’s revelations about the Canadian agency’s intelligence capabilities and those of its allies “have a cumulative detrimental effect” on CSE operations.

“Our success is hard won and is dependent on our targets being unaware of the methods and technologies that we use against them.”

In 2013, Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Delisle was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to passing classified western intelligence to Russia in exchange for cash on a regular basis for more than four years.

Delisle was able to copy top secret material on to a thumb drive and walk out of a secure building in Halifax.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

UPDATED: Dog found wandering in Langley headed to his Alberta family

The Langley Animal Protection Society and a kind truck driver are helping Frankie get home.

UPDATED: Byelection lawsuit cost Langley City $27,000

Last-place candidate Serena Oh failed to convince the Supreme Court to hear her case.

Michael Jackstien named Langley’s Good Citizen of the Year

The longtime volunteer organized the BC Summer Games and many other local events.

Province’s best young curlers compete in Langley

Langley Curling Centre is hosting the juniors from Dec. 18 to 23.

Langley’s Marley and Cratchit bring spirit of giving to life

Local accountants will act as characters from A Christmas Carol for a fundraiser.

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Police appeal for info after girl, 11, hit in New Westminster crosswalk

Child was left with non-life threatening injuries

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Tequila, hammers and knives: what not to bring on an airplane

Vancouver International Airport staff provide tips on travelling during the holidays

More than 20,000 pounds of garbage removed from riverside homeless camps

Two camps taken down last week on the banks of the Fraser and Chilliwack rivers

New fighter-jet competition to have national ‘economic interest’ requirement

Trudeau government wants to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighters by as early as 2025

Most Read