Canada’s Secretive Spy Agency CSEC Spies For Israel

A story recently published by Glenn Greenwald reveals that Canada's highly secretive spy agency CSEC cooperates with with the NSA to support Israeli intelligence agencies with "cash, weapons and surveillance."

by: Obert Madondo |  | Published August 19, 2014, by The Canadian Progressive

Communications Security Establishment CanadaA story recently published by Glenn Greenwald reveals that Canada’s highly secretive spy agency CSEC cooperates with with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and British spy agencies to support Israeli intelligence agencies with “cash, weapons and surveillance.” The Israelis used the data “to monitor and target Palestinians.”

Greenwald’s story, “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance: the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack,” was published on The Intercept. It was based on top secret documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The story mainly discusses how “the U.S. government has long lavished overwhelming aid on Israel, providing cash, weapons and surveillance technology that play a crucial role in Israel’s attacks on its neighbors.” All this is achieved through the NSA’s cooperation with Canadian and British intelligence agencies.

The role of CSEC or Communications Security Establishment Canada, our national electronic intelligence agency, is unmistakable.


Over the last decade, the NSA has significantly increased the surveillance assistance it provides to its Israeli counterpart, the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU; also known as Unit 8200), including data used to monitor and target Palestinians. In many cases, the NSA and ISNU work cooperatively with the British and Canadian spy agencies, the GCHQ and CSEC…

The surveillance-sharing relationship with Israel has expanded to include the NSA’s British and Canadian counterparts, GCHQ and CSEC, both of which actively participate in feeding the Israelis selected communications data they have collected. Several documents from early 2009, at the height of the Israeli attack on Gaza called “Cast Lead” that left more than 1,000 people dead, detail some of this cooperation.

One top secret 2009 GCHQ project named “YESTERNIGHT” involved “Ruffle,” the British agency’s code name for ISNU. According to the document, the project involved a “trilateral (GCHQ, NSA and Third Party RUFFLE) targeting exchange agreement covering respective COMSAT accesses.” One of the “specific intelligence topics” shared between the parties was “Palestinians”, although the GCHQ document states that “due to the sensitivities” of Israeli involvement, that particular program does not include direct targeting of Palestinians and Israelis themselves. Another GCHQ document from February, 2009, describes “a quadrilateral meeting for RUFFLE, NSA, CSEC and GCHQ.”

CSEC, which costs taxpayers $350 million annually and operates without significant oversight, also cooperates with the foreign intelligence agencies of the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand in the so-called Five Eyes global spy network.

Previous Snowden leaks have confirmed that “CSEC conducted espionage activities for U.S. in 20 countries,” conducted widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits in Toronto, and spied on Canadian travelers.

That’s right, CSEC spies on Canadians. Late last year, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a lawsuit against CSEC, claiming that the agency’s “broad and unchecked surveillance of Canadians is unconstitutional.”

“At present, CSEC is permitted to read Canadians’ emails and text messages, and listen to Canadians’ phone calls, when a Canadian communicates with a person outside Canada,” said the organization in an email announcing the lawsuit.

The question is: how much information on Canadians opposed to Israel’s ongoing war crimes in Gaza is CSEC handing over to the Israelis?

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on

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Obert Madondo
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. Obert is the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive and The Zimbabwean Progressive, both of which are independent political blogs dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented journalism situated right at the intersection of politics, technology and human rights. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad
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