The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was officially established on 16 July 1984. The past three decades have witnessed tectonic cultural, technological and geo-political changes across the world, including the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the globalization of terrorism and the emergence of the Internet. The environment in which CSIS operates is different today than it was 30 years ago, but our commitment to the protection of Canada’s national security interests and the safety of Canadians remains the same.
A task force headed up by former Clerk of the Privy Council Gordon Osbaldeston reviews the workings and management of the now three-year-old CSIS. Among other findings, the Osbaldeston report argues strongly for CSIS to obtain its own headquarters building. Also, as a result of the Osbaldeston report, CSIS eliminates its counter-subversion branch.
At the Commonwealth Conference held in Vancouver, the RCMP and CSIS defuse several serious terrorist plots. James Kelleher, Canada’s solicitor general, publicly congratulates intelligence and police officials for their work in protecting visiting dignitaries such as Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
CSIS comes under intense public scrutiny following allegations that it ran a highly placed human source inside the white supremacist Heritage Front organization. The ethics and challenges of human source operations – among the most sensitive and discreet activities that an intelligence service carries out – is suddenly the focus of a national conversation.
Two Russian spies living in Canada under the assumed identities of deceased Canadians are arrested. CSIS had discovered that the pair was not only working for the Russian spy service but for its inner directorate, once known as Special Branch. Deeply placed spies who are tasked with becoming fully integrated in their target country are known as “illegals.” Dmitriy Olshevsky and Yelena Olshevskaya, living in Toronto under the adopted identities of Ian and Laurie Lambert, are eventually deported from Canada.
Patriarch of Canada’s “first family” of Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Said Khadr, is killed in a firefight with the Pakistani military. Khadr and his family had shared a compound in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden and had been fundraising for Al-Qaeda for years. The Khadr family’s complicity in bin Laden’s global campaign of violence shocked and angered many Canadians.
Momin Khawaja of Ottawa becomes the first person sentenced under Canada’s post-9/11 terrorism laws. He was convicted for his role in a plot to detonate bombs in the United Kingdom.
CSIS is expected not only to detect and analyse current threats to Canada’s national security but to look out at the horizon and anticipate challenges before they fully emerge. This is a difficult task, which is why CSIS has become one of the most adaptable and professional intelligence services in the world – and why we will continue to be so over the next 30 years.