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Privy Council Office (PCO)

Unlike most of its allies and competitors, Canada does not have an agency dedicated to gathering foreign intelligence abroad. More specifically, Canada does not have the equivalent of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency or the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service. Instead, Canada's foreign intelligence requirements are met from a variety of sources.

Canada has close formal intelligence relationships with a number of countries. The closest of these were forged during World War II and solidified during the Cold War. Links remain particularly strong with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Intelligence products, including analyses and assessments, are exchanged, and technical assistance is provided by each to the others. These, and other relationships, provide Canada with information and technological resources that would otherwise be unobtainable with current resources.

The Prime Minister has leadership in areas of fundamental importance to the national interest, such as foreign affairs and the security of the nation. The Prime Minister therefore provides direction on key intelligence policy issues. The Privy Council Office (PCO) supports the Prime Minister in his ultimate responsibility for the security and integrity of Canada and related intelligence matters.

A senior official of the Privy Council Office, supported by the Security and Intelligence Secretariat, has a mandate from the Prime Minister to co-ordinate intelligence community activities. The PCO also houses the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, which both assesses and co-ordinates the assessment of political, economic, strategic and security intelligence for the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, ministers and senior officials.

The Co-ordinator of Security and Intelligence in PCO is responsible for providing co-ordination to the security and intelligence activities of all Canadian government agencies and, through the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet (the Clerk), advising the Prime Minister on security and intelligence matters. The Clerk, or in the Clerk's stead the Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, supports the meetings of ministers on security and intelligence issues.

The Security and Intelligence Secretariat of PCO supports the Clerk in advising the Prime Minister on security and intelligence matters. In addition, the Secretariat assists the Co-ordinator, and itself plays a co-ordinating role within the intelligence community.

PCO also houses the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS). This is a central intelligence assessment unit that undertakes national intelligence assessments on matters related to Canadian foreign, defence and security policy. National intelligence assessments are interdepartmentally agreed assessments with a broad governmental perspective that cuts across departmental boundaries.

The IAS undertakes its own analyses and also supports the Intelligence Assessments Committee (IAC). The IAC is an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Executive Director of the IAS, that co-ordinates and facilitates interdepartmental co-operation in preparing analytical and assessment reports to ministers and senior government officials.

The Security and Intelligence Secretariat helps co-ordinate the work of the community through several interdepartmental and ad hoc, issue-specific committees that it chairs. In addition to the co-ordination that is effected through these committees, the committees provide a measure of informal control that results from sharing information and from discussing plans and operations among committee members.

The Interdepartmental Committee on Security and Intelligence (ICSI) includes the deputy heads of the departments and agencies directly and indirectly involved in security and intelligence matters. In practice, the executive subcommittee of ICSI is currently the most senior forum at the officials' level for regular consideration of security and foreign intelligence matters, and the primary interdepartmental mechanism for reviewing proposals and submissions to ministers. It also has responsibility for the management of resources to ensure that priorities are met by the various departments and agencies.

The Intelligence Policy Group (IPG) is the principal policy and operational co-ordination forum in the community. Its membership is drawn from the assistant deputy minister level in key departments and agencies of the intelligence community. It also includes the Assistant Deputy Attorney General (Criminal Law), who has functional responsibility for co-ordinating legal advice by the Department of Justice to the intelligence community.

There are a number of other interdepartmental committees and working groups. These cover foreign intelligence as well as national security matters (for example, counter-terrorism). Their purpose is to provide support and co-ordinated advice to the committees of senior officials and to ministers.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:52:03 ZULU