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CSIS's new powers: How the new legislation will affect security agencies

The federal government has unveiled security legislation that has faced criticism for expanding the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service without added public oversight.

Here's a breakdown of what the new powers will allow and how the legislation will affect Canada's spy and security services.

What the new security measures would allow

NEW POWERS

Canada's spy service would become an agency that actively tries to derail terror plots at home and abroad – not just one that collects intelligence and hands it off to the RCMP.

NEW OFFENCES

The bill would give authorities the power to order the removal of "terrorist propaganda" from websites. It would also create a new criminal offence of encouraging someone to carry out a terrorist attack.

LOWER THRESHOLDS

Authorities could apply to a court if they believe terrorist activity "may be carried out." The previous threshold called on authorities to state they believed an act "will be carried out."

LONGER DETENTION

The bill extends the length of time authorities can detain suspected terrorists for up to seven days from three and expands the no-fly regime to cover those travelling by air to take part in terrorist activities.

INFORMATION SHARING

The bill grants government departments explicit authority to share private information, including passport applications or confidential commercial data, with law-enforcement agencies.

CSIS then and now

1985

2015

GUNS

Not allowed.

Being used, but CSIS won't say where/how

DISRUPTION

Not allowed.

Explicit mandate in new legislation

FOREIGN SPYING

No explicit mandate to do it

Explicit mandate in new legislation

PARTNERS

Rarely worked with RCMP/Communications Security Establishment

Constant interaction with Communications Security Establishment and RCMP

BUDGET

$100-million

$500-million and growing

MOST FREQUENT CRITIQUE

Incompetent/ finding its feet

Breaching its "duty of candour" to judges, watchdogs

Pillars of protection

RCMP National Security Criminal Investigations

Canadian Security Intelligence Service

Communications Security Establishment

MISSION

Domestic law enforcement

Threat reporting

Collecting "foreign intelligence"

INTERNATIONAL COUNTERPART

U.S. FBI

British MI-5

U.S. National Security Agency

PRIMARY "CLIENTS"

The criminal justice system

Ministry of Public Safety

CSIS, Privy Council Office, Department of National Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs, RCMP

CLOSEST CANADIAN PARTNER

CSIS

RCMP

CSIS

JURISDICTION

Canada

Canada

Everywhere but Canada

WHO APPROVES SURVEILLANCE

Superior Court judges

Federal Court judges in secret

Secret Defence Minister authorizations

LEGAL THRESHOLD FOR SEARCHES

"Probable cause" to suspect a crime

Reasonable suspicion of a threat

No threshold

SURVEILLANCE OUTCOMES

Prosecutions

Government intelligence dossiers

Government intelligence dossiers

STAFF SIZE

170 core employees in unit

3,000 employees (organization wide)

2,200 employees (organization wide)

MAIN WATCHDOG

Appointed "complaints commissioner"

Five political appointees

A retired senior judge

A brief history of CSIS

1972

The RCMP Security Service burns down a barn in rural Quebec to prevent a meeting between suspected Front de libération du Québec separatists and Black Panthers. The act comes to symbolize years of unconstrained "disruption" activities by the Mounties.

1981

A federal commission of inquiry recommends the disgraced RCMP security service be spun out into a highly scrutinized spy agency.

1984

After Parliament passes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, CSIS spies are constrained by Federal Court warrant processes, an inspector-general's oversight, and the politically appointed Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).

1985

The Air India terrorist attacks kill more than 330 people, a made-in-Canada massacre that occurred amid fighting between CSIS and the RCMP.

2001

Parliament passes the Anti-Terrorism Act, giving Canada's foreign-intelligence spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment, greater latitude to share the fruits of bulk-collected electronic communications with CSIS.

2005

A CSIS mole posing as a Toronto terrorist is lent to the RCMP, a new template that sets the stage for national security investigations – and the "Toronto 18" bust.

2008

Fearing too much intelligence sharing and warrantless wiretapping, a retired Supreme Court justice urges that CSE and CSIS clarify their relationship.

2010

Another retired Supreme Court justice finds that CSIS's intelligence exchanges with Egypt "likely contributed" to the torture of a detained Canadian.

A CSIS director tells Parliament his spies "have saved Canadian lives" in Afghanistan – highlighting the domestic spy agency's growing number of foreign forays.

The Supreme Court faults CSIS for having unlawfully interviewed a teenaged Canadian prisoner in Guantanamo Bay.

A former CSIS director is caught venting about judges and the public living in an "Alice in Wonderland" reality, in a leaked U.S. State Department cable.

2012

The Conservative government shuts down the CSIS inspector-general's office, one of the agency's two watchdogs.

2013

A Federal Court judge accuses CSIS of breaching its "duty of candour" to unlawfully obtain a surveillance power.

2014

CSIS's remaining watchdog criticizes it for unlawfully carrying guns in unspecified overseas countries.

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