Review Backgrounder

On August 14, 2019, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) presented the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness with a classified report on its review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) Internal Security Branch. This review is a follow-up to the 2013 study conducted by NSIRA’s predecessor, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) of CSIS’s Internal Security (IS) Branch. SIRC found a number of serious shortcomings related to CSIS’s handling of sensitive case files, access lists and their practices and management of internal investigations.

NSIRA’s latest review found that while significant improvements have been made with respect to internal security at CSIS since the 2013 review (The “Insider Threat” and Its Effect on Information Management — Section 54 Report (TOP SECRET) (PDF of Review) (SIRC 2013-06)), further improvements to internal security policies could strengthen the consistency of decision-making on personnel security files and investigations. It could also improve the procedural fairness of these processes writ large.

NSIRA’s review also examined the use of the polygraph, and sought justification for its use and the extent to which such determinations are reasonable and necessary. Several key observations were derived from this analysis. It also raised a much broader consideration: namely, the extent to which the government’s overarching policy document, the Standard on Security Screening, provides adequate guidance for departments and agencies when they implement this safeguarding measure.

Going forward, NSIRA will continue to examine the Government’s use of the polygraph as a security screening tool.

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