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Security Intelligence Cycle

CSIS gathers intelligence information and disseminates it to appropriate government policy-makers using a five-phase process, known as the “security intelligence cycle,” which consists of the following in order:

1. Government Direction

CSIS responds to direction from the Government of Canada. This direction comes from the Minister of Public Safety Canada (PS) and focuses on matters concerning policies, operations, and the ongoing management of CSIS. Through these directives, CSIS develops policy guidelines that cover many areas of CSIS activity, including guidance in the use of investigative techniques.

Intelligence priorities are evaluated each year based on an annual assessment and review of the changing security environment. CSIS integrates government requirements into the intelligence cycle, based on consultations with other government departments and agencies.

2. Planning

Planning encompasses the entire intelligence process, which begins with threat assessment and ends with the delivery of intelligence products.

In planning an investigation, care is taken to ensure an appropriate balance between the degree of intrusiveness of the investigation and respect for the rights and freedoms of those being investigated.

3. Collection

CSIS investigators, who are located across the country at regional offices, use a variety of methods to collect information on individuals and groups whose activities are suspected of constituting a threat to national security.

The information necessary to conduct an investigation is collected from various sources, including:

  • open sources, which include newspapers, periodicals, academic journals, foreign and domestic broadcasts, official documents, and other published material; and
  • members of the public, foreign governments, Canadian partners, as well as through technical interception of communications and inquiry. Investigations that rely on these techniques of information collection are subject to a rigorous process of accountability and review.

Information on global trends that might have Canadian security implications is collected by security liaison officers (SLOs) posted at Canadian diplomatic missions abroad. SLOs consult with foreign police and security intelligence agencies, collect and analyze open-source information, and conduct security screening assessments of prospective immigrants.

4. Analysis

CSIS investigators and SLOs assess the quality of the information gathered locally to prepare a security intelligence report. The information is sent to CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa for further analysis and combined with information provided by other Canadian government departments and agencies, foreign intelligence agencies, and open sources. The analysis process results in intelligence reports and threat assessments. CSIS' Government Liaison Unit, which is responsible for maintaining regular contact with departments, enables the Service to tailor intelligence information to a department's specific requirements.

5. Dissemination

The Government of Canada and law enforcement authorities are the main recipients of intelligence reports and threat assessments. For example:

  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) uses threat assessments to determine the level of security required to protect foreign diplomatic missions in Canada and Canadian VIPs;
  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada uses CSIS products to determine the appropriate level of protection required for Canadian missions and overseas personnel; and
  • Transport Canada uses CSIS products when considering security concerns for the travelling public.
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