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Horizontal Accountability and Signals Intelligence: Lesson Drawing from Annual Electronic Surveillance Reports

20 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2017  

Christopher A. Parsons

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab

Adam Molnar

Deakin University - Department of Criminology

Date Written: September 30, 2017

Abstract

This paper argues that Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency’s public accountability reporting might be enhanced by drawing on lessons from existing statutory electronic surveillance reporting. Focusing exclusively on Canada’s signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), we first outline the relationships between accountability of government agencies to their respective Ministers and Members of Parliament, the role of transparency in enabling governmental accountability to the public, and the link between robust accountability regimes and democratic legitimacy of government action. Next, we feature a contemporary bulk data surveillance practice undertaken by Canada’s signals intelligence agency and the deficiencies in how CSE’s existing review body makes the Establishment’s practices publicly accountable to Parliamentarians and the public alike. We then discuss how proposed changes to CSE oversight and review mechanisms will not clearly rectify the existing public accountability deficits. We conclude by proposing a principle-based framework towards a robust public accountability process that is linked to those underlying domestic and foreign statutory electronic surveillance reports.

Keywords: accountability, transparency, national security, signals intelligence, Canadian politics

Suggested Citation

Parsons, Christopher A. and Molnar, Adam, Horizontal Accountability and Signals Intelligence: Lesson Drawing from Annual Electronic Surveillance Reports (September 30, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3047272

Christopher Parsons (Contact Author)

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Adam Molnar

Deakin University - Department of Criminology ( email )

221 Burwood Hwy
Melbourne, Victoria 3125
Australia

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