Communication Security Establishment’s History of Its Predecessor

Canada’s NSA wrote a classified 7-volume history of its predecessor agency. Here it is

PDF: History of CBNRC [1,320 pages, 133MB]

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is Canada’s equivalent of America’s NSA. “Canada’s national cryptologic agency,” it calls itself. Its main function is intercepting/monitoring foreign communications, and it’s engaged in illegal domestic surveillance as well. Unlike NSA, it has two additional responsibilities: 1) securing the federal government’s computer network and 2) helping Canada’s security and law-enforcement agencies spy on Canadian citizens when the agencies have a warrant.

CSE’s roots go back to Canada’s code-breaking and signals-monitoring during World War II. After the war, the government continued its signals-intelligence activites by forming the Communications Branch of the National Research Council (Canada’s sci-tech agency). Like NSA, CBNRC was an official secret for decades, and the public learned of its existence only in 1974 due to a CBC documentary about Canada’s espionage efforts.

In 1975, the CBNRC was moved to the Department of Defence and was rechristened Communications Security Establishment Canada. (“Canada” was dropped in 2014). CSE is part of the “Five Eyes” alliance – a system of cooperation among the intelligence agencies of Canada, UK, US, New Zealand, and Australia.

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Starting in 1987, CSE internally published a classified 7-volume history of its predecessor agency, CBNRC. It was partially released due to Access to Information Act requests at some point and, from what I can gather, a more complete version was released in 2016. As far as I can tell, it is not available online, so I requested a copy from CSE.

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