National Security Transparency Advisory Group Initial Report : What We Heard In Our First Year

The National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) is an independent, arms-length committee that is supported financially and in-kind by the Government of Canada.

The opinions and views expressed in this document are strictly those of the NS-TAG members collectively, and should not be considered as the official view of the Government of Canada.

Initial Report to the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada on Transparency in National Security

Introduction: The First National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) Report

The national security community in Canada has traditionally not been very transparent. Official websites and public documents typically contain little information, while the access to information system is frequently criticized for the severe extent of its redactions and its slow processes. The situation has somewhat improved in recent years, notably through the establishment of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA). The establishment of both review bodies have led to the enhanced review and oversight of Canada’s national security and intelligence community.

In a 2020 survey, 49% of Canadians expressed some degree of agreement that “I can trust the Government of Canada to strike the right balance between security and civil liberties.” In 2017, this percentage was 55%.

Source: Library and Archives Canada – Public Opinion Research Report 063-19.

As the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG), our work in the past year has convinced us of the need to continue improving national security transparency. We certainly understand that some information held by national security institutions must remain classified. At the same time, transparency is essential to the health of a democracy. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to be perceived as legitimate by the society they seek to protect: when they have the trust of the population, it is easier to develop ties with communities. Transparency can also ensure that national security professionals are held to account when transgressions arise. When agencies do not believe they will be held to account, inappropriate actions and behaviours continue to go unaddressed; yet when security agencies are too secretive and closed, it is more difficult for citizens to trust them. This reinforces a dynamic of mistrust and suspicion.

What We Heard in Our First Year

The main themes we explored during our first year of work include: governance within the national security community; the prevalence of reflexive secrecy; challenges associated with digital and open government; secrecy in oversight mechanisms and legal proceedings; information management; the difficult balance between privacy and security; the national security community’s relationships with racialized and other minority communities; the link between transparency and workplace culture in the community; and, finally, the more technical issue of how the government communicates.

Governance within the National Security Community

Over the course of three in-person meetings and several more virtual meetings, we heard from a range of officials from the national security community about their views on transparency. A number of challenges emerged. First, size matters: we recognize that the national security community is large. This raises important challenges in terms of coordination; improving transparency requires efforts that take time and can only be achieved through the mobilization of significant will. As a result, coordination – the alignment of multiple moving pieces – is complex. The national security community faces multiple challenges at this level, including in terms of its leadership: both the National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister (NSIA) in the Privy Council Office, and the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, have a coordinating role, but the precise distribution of their responsibilities is not always clearly defined. Second – a topic we will look into during our second year – definitional issues also matter: more transparency has different implications for different agencies.

It would be useful if the government could better explain these complexities in straightforward and engaging ways to enable the public to have a better grasp of national security issues. This could be done through more regular public speeches by elected officials and senior public servants, as well as more frequent and better official written communications through websites, social media, and reports. Importantly, better transparency here is not solely a matter of quantity. More communication is necessary, but it should also be clear, digestible, and meaningful. The government could also be more transparent in communicating the possible points of interactions between the public and the national security community, notably to hold it accountable (e.g., complaints mechanisms, ombudspersons, etc.). We have also heard various points of view regarding potential shifts in the scope of national security, border management, and intelligence capacities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, we intend to give consideration to the potential implications for governance and transparency from these recent developments.

Reflexive Secrecy

In the national security community, there is a dominant reflex to keep information as secret as possible; the default position is usually to protect information. While this is sometimes necessary, efforts to improve transparency need to be accompanied by changes to this culture of secrecy. This is not a new problem. A decade ago, the Air India inquiry emphasized that one of the biggest institutional failings that led to the tragedy was a systemic lack of information-sharing among government agencies.Footnote1 The norm that information should be shared on a “need-to-know” basis is often interpreted too stringently; instead, as many of our guest speakers argued, the national security community needs to be more disciplined and rigorous in avoiding the systematic over-classification of data.

This lack of transparency can have unintended consequences, as the information gap is more likely to be filled with misinformation or raise suspicions. In an era of an abundance of online information, some of which is available through open sources or from Canada’s allies, the lack of government disclosure can raise suspicion.

Transparency is often one of the last priorities in national security discussions, but there is growing recognition of the need for systemic reforms to change this. In 2018, for example, the U.S.-based RAND Corporation published a report titled “Secrecy in US National Security: Why A Paradigm Shift is Needed.”Footnote2 The report makes the case for systemic change in governance structures and mindsets in order to improve both accountability and performance. Many of the themes in this report are closely aligned with feedback we heard from stakeholders in our own discussions.

Digital and Open Government

As digital and open government reforms have expanded in recent years, there has been growing recognition of the benefits stemming from information sharing within and outside of government, and of engaging citizens in meaningful ways. The Government of Canada has taken a number of measures to improve its performance, such as: the proactive disclosure of information; the quantity and quality of open data; and, the engagement of the public in a range of policy issues, notably through its commitments to the Open Government Partnership.Footnote3 In spite of this progress, much work remains to be done. A 2016 report on Digital Government and Westminster governance reforms by the University of Toronto’s Mowat Centre observed, for example, that public servants are incentivized to hoard scarce and specialized information rather than share it.Footnote4 As the report noted, echoing many of the insights from the aforementioned RAND study, changing this mindset can only result from a large-scale cultural shift.

Change must come both from the top – leaders can and should be more open and transparent – and from the bottom, notably through better training and awareness. This is an important point. At least one of our guest speakers emphasized that merely directing lower-level personnel in government to be more transparent is not sufficient; management must provide them with the necessary tools and skills to do so. Finally, we note that transparency efforts also require financial investments in human resources, technology to support transparency measures, and engagement activities. Absent these additional, specifically designated resources, new transparency initiatives merely add to the workload of public servants.

Secrecy in Oversight Mechanisms and Legal Proceedings

Secrecy surrounding national security oversight mechanisms and legal proceedings is another area in which added transparency is crucial in fostering public trust. Even in ordinary criminal and civil legal proceedings, the open court principle has limits. National security proceedings are no exception.  Nevertheless, maximizing transparency by national security review and oversight bodies and legal proceedings could assist in reducing suspicion and the trust deficit.

In our first year, we received representations about the need for more transparency on how mandates and authorities of national security organizations are legally interpreted and implemented. Related to this is the issue of legal interpretations that arose in a recent public decision of the Federal Court.Footnote5 The Court found that due to institutional failings by both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Department of Justice, CSIS breached the duty of candour owed to the Court in failing to proactively identify and disclose that it had included  information, in support of warrant applications, that was likely derived from illegal activities. In 2013Footnote6 and 2016Footnote7, the Federal Court had also found breaches of the duty of candour by CSIS involving warrant applications.

National security review organizations also face the challenge of balancing the importance of transparency with the need for secrecy when carrying out their responsibilities. In 2017, a former national security review organization, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC, now replaced by NSIRA), dismissed a complaint against CSIS and sought to restrain the ability of the complainant to comment on it publicly by issuing a “confidentiality order.”Footnote8 The Federal Court later allowed the disclosure of the unclassified SIRC record stating that “to find otherwise would be to routinely subordinate the open court principle to the practices of any tribunal authorized to conduct its hearings in private.”Footnote9

Information Management

Throughout our first year, we heard about a number of challenges in the information management realm that impede efforts to enhance the national security community’s transparency. Canada, in particular, does not have a comprehensive declassification strategy, which often significantly hampers the release of older classified documents. The access to information process is widely criticized for being painstakingly slow, and documents tend to be released only once they have been excessively redacted. In addition, different government departments and agencies work with a range of technologies and information management systems. Many of these do not speak easily to one another, complicating the sharing of information within government, between security bodies, and to the general public. Previous reform efforts have often failed to lead to more than incremental change.

Privacy and Security

In a 2019 survey, 92% of Canadians expressed some level of concern about the protection of their privacy.

Source: Library and Archives Canada – Public Opinion Research Report 055-18.

As governments gather and process data and information from a broadening range of sources, many have raised concerns about risks to personal privacy. Transparency in terms of how national security agencies access, share, and analyze data involving the identities and actions of members of the public is essential, as many stakeholders noted (including the Privacy and Information Commissioners of Canada). New tools stemming from Artificial Intelligence and mobile device applications create greater opportunities for enhancing security capacities while also deepening questions about privacy protections. Through advancements in machine learning, there are added concerns that metadata may reveal information about people in ways that reinforce discrimination and biases. Predictive analytics is a seductive tool, but can lead to undesirable outcomes that hurt already marginalized communities. Although many laws exist protecting the privacy rights of people living in Canada, these rights are challenged by national security legislation that may limit or override them, which makes striking an appropriate balance between openness and secrecy imperative. We also engaged with various experts on the privacy and security implications of COVID-19 contact tracing applications for mobile phones, an important example of how public health surveillance, national security, and data governance can become further intertwined and consequently heighten matters of privacy, security, and transparency.

In a 2018 survey, 41% of Canadians expressed concerns about the information that intelligence agencies collect on them.

Source: Library and Archives Canada – Public Opinion Research Report 101-17.

Safeguarding privacy also requires secure infrastructure for storing and sharing data, a growing challenge for all sectors as massive cloud-based systems expand and underpin online activity. Along with its own systems, governments also face external privacy challenges tied to encryption, which can improve privacy protections on one hand while also facilitating nefarious activities and emerging threats on the other. Creating modern and innovative cybersecurity capacities to address the various competing facets of encryption is an  emerging priority for national security agencies that is closely interwoven with matters of transparency, as well as the aforementioned structures and cultures of reflexive secrecy that can impede progress in this regard. In addressing these challenges, it will be vital to ensure that transparency is not forsaken in the name of privacy and security. This necessitates creative technological solutions and requires continued work with the international community on open data standards and solutions. 

Relationships with Racialized, Marginalized and Other Minority Communities

National security agencies must acknowledge that systemic racism and unconscious biases exist within them, and that these biases are manifested in their interactions toward certain members of the public. If national security agencies do not recognize and vigorously address these existing biases, they risk individually or collectively failing to detect, and act upon, actual dangers posed to society.  

What information are national security agencies allowed to collect, who can they share it with, and what is appropriate and legal? Agencies often poorly answer these questions, and this lack of transparency feeds mistrust and suspicion. This further damages a sense of belonging, social cohesion, and public safety for all. As one of our guest speakers emphasized, many members of Indigenous, Black, racialized, marginalized, and other minority communities mistrust national security agencies, and the nature of their interactions with these government bodies often exacerbate these tensions.

It is essential for national security agencies, when they interact with people of all communities, to better inform the public about their mandates, responsibilities and authorities, and about the community’s or individual’s rights. They could also be more attuned to the reality that some people living in Canada, be they Canadians or not, have prior negative histories with state authorities in Canada and other countries that may shape their perceptions of Canadian security agencies. As we intend to explore in the second year of our work, enhancing diversity and inclusion in the personnel practices of national security agencies is essential to prevent mistreatment and exclusionary practices. This includes engaging in anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all levels of personnel and being more aware of the experiences of racialized, marginalized, and other minority communities within the agencies.

When it comes to national security, members of Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities may have formed a certain perception of how national security agencies conduct their business. In an effort to be more transparent, national security agencies can be more responsive to communities’ repeated calls for accountability, address their concerns, and respond to their requests. There is also an opportunity for national security agencies to take accountability where there might have been a lack of transparency in the past. This requires a commitment to meeting communities where they stand.

Members of these communities sometimes fear that national security agencies contact them to gather intelligence under the name of outreach; it is therefore important for national security agencies to be fully transparent about their work. Is there really a need for outreach?  What are an individual’s rights with regards to interactions like this? These rights should be identified clearly and without coercion prior to any further communication with an individual. National security agencies must also practice caution around the content and delivery of their training (which includes, but is not limited to, countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism). They must, in particular, make sure that training does not target or label any specific community. The stigmatizing content and delivery of their training programs has harmed trust in federal agencies and has contributed to feelings of unease and skepticism towards them. 

Finally, the use of stigmatizing words or labels about a community or religion in national security reports has negatively affected interactions between local law enforcement and the public as it makes communities feel targeted. Even though different levels of organizations (municipal, provincial, and federal) have their own respective mandates, the actions of one can affect others, as many members of the public perceive all these levels under the same umbrella.

Workplace Culture in National Security Agencies

There have been a number of stories reported in the media in recent years on cases of harassment and discrimination in national security agencies. These government bodies produce public reporting explaining where such problems arose and how they were dealt with, yet they typically include only limited information. How frequent are such cases, and how can the public be confident that serious efforts are made to improve the situation? How do such problems affect these agencies’ relations and trust with racialized and other minority communities? We believe that part of our role as the NS-TAG is to help bring attention to these issues and to explain how a lack of transparency can feed mistrust. 

How the Government Communicates

In a 2017 survey, “on an unaided basis, only 3% of respondents correctly name “CSE” or the “Communications Security Establishment” as the government agency responsible for intercepting and analyzing foreign communications and helping protect the government’s computer networks. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is much more commonly named as the agency described (mentioned by 22%).”

Source: Library and Archives Canada – Public Opinion Research Report 128-16.

Well-intentioned government efforts at being transparent are often undermined by ineffective communications: for example, officials sometimes do not know who to reach out to, while documents and public statements – in particular on government websites – tend to use dry or technical language, making the information less engaging for the public. That is, improving transparency is not only about being more transparent, but also about improving how transparency is implemented in practice. This is an especially important issue for interactions with marginalized and racialized communities, where biases, translation challenges, or intercultural misunderstandings can hamper effective communication.

We believe that the government’s interactions with the media are an especially important, yet sometimes neglected, part of the equation. The government sometimes interacts directly with members of the public, either in person or through various reports, statements, and websites. But government information also often reaches the public after being filtered by the media; efforts to enhance transparency should therefore include initiatives to better leverage the media’s role, notably by offering improved information sessions. This is true for national and mainstream media, but also for local news outlets, and especially those that serve racialized and minority communities.  

The Way Ahead

The NS-TAG will produce two reports in its second year (2020-2021). The first, to be released in the first half of 2021, will focus on the definition, measurement, and institutionalization of transparency. There are multiple definitions of transparency, in national security and beyond, and it is difficult to measure. Yet having a foundational understanding of what transparency is, how to measure it, and how to assess progress is essential to efforts to improve it. We therefore propose to dive deeper into these questions. At the same time, for enhanced transparency to be sustainable, it must be institutionalized and routinized. Structures and processes must be put in place to “hardwire” transparency into the national security community’s everyday work. The report will also examine the evolution of open government in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as we seek to understand the potential implications for government transparency generally – and the National Security Transparency Commitment specifically – in light of this new reality.

The second report, to be released later in 2021, will study relations between national security agencies (especially the RCMP, CSIS, and the CBSA) and racialized and other minority communities. For this, we will reach out to a range of individuals and organizations from various communities in year two, as well as from the agencies themselves. 

Annex 1: Background on National Security Transparency

What is Transparency and Why is it Important for National Security?

Members of the public need to have confidence in national security efforts to maintain the Government’s operational effectiveness, democratic resilience, and institutional credibility. The Government has a duty to foster this confidence by providing the public with relevant and timely information on national security and related intelligence activities to enable civic engagement in the development of national security policies and activities, and to ensure public accountability.

For additional precisions on what national security is and the national security architecture, please see Annex 3.

The National Security Transparency Commitment

The National Security Transparency Commitment was announced in 2017. The aim of the Commitment is to enhance Canada’s democratic accountability by explaining to the public what the Government of Canada does to protect national security, how the government does it, and why this work is important.

The National Security Transparency Commitment identifies six guiding principles for national security transparency, categorized into three broad areas:

Information Transparency

Executive Transparency

Policy Transparency

The Commitment was introduced following input received through the 2016 National Security Consultations.Footnote10 These extensive consultations engaged Canadians, stakeholders, and subject-matter experts on issues relevant to national security, including oversight and accountability. Across a span of four months, Canadians provided 58,933 responses to an online questionnaire and submitted 17,862 emails. They also participated in public town halls, engagement events held by Members of Parliament, in-person sessions, digital events, and one round-table.Footnote11 Many responses noted a perceived lack of transparency, as well as distrust in Canada’s national security institutions and law enforcement.

The National Security Act, 2017

Also arising from the national security consultations was Bill C-59, now known as the National Security Act, 2017. The Act established several key initiatives meant to promote national security transparency, including the introduction of a new, comprehensive national security review body called the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and the appointment of an Intelligence Commissioner. The legislative approval of the Act gave the Commitment, a related initiative, credence and momentum to begin implementation in earnest.

The aim of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency is to ensure that the historic and ongoing work of Canada’s national security institutions are reasonable, necessary, and in line with Canadian law.Footnote12 The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency acts independently to determine which government activities to review, and has the ability to access information from any department or agency with national security responsibilities across government.Footnote13 It collaborates with the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, which also has a broad mandate to review the Government of Canada’s national security and intelligence institutions.

The Intelligence Commissioner conducts an oversight function by independently reviewing and authorizing certain intelligence activities before they are performed. This oversight applies to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment.

The National Security Transparency Commitment does not come with review or oversight mechanisms, but rather calls upon departments and agencies with national security responsibilities to proactively share information related to their work and engage regularly with the Canadian public. In this way, the Commitment supports the work of other transparency initiatives - including the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, the Intelligence Commissioner, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner while making information more accessible to Canadians.

Annex 2: Background on the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG)

An essential component of implementing the National Security Transparency Commitment is the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG). The NS-TAG is an external advisory group whose mandate is to provide advice to the Deputy Minister of Public Safety (and by extension, other national security related departments and agencies) on the effective implementation of the Commitment. The annual report is the NS-TAG’s primary mechanism for dispensing advice.

The NS-TAG was established to provide advice on how toFootnote14:

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale officially launched the NS-TAG in July 2019. Members were selected to represent a diversity of experience and expertise in academia, civil society and the public service, in subject areas including national security, open government and human rights. The NS-TAG government co-chair is determined by the Deputy Minister of Public Safety. The Non-government co-chair is selected by the Group. The former exists to act as a bridge between the government and the NS-TAG, and liaise with national security departments and agencies as necessary.

NS-TAG Meetings

The NS-TAG is mandated to meet up to four times per fiscal year to discuss issues of transparency, hear from guest speakers, and develop their advice to the Deputy Minister. For more information on the NS-TAG’s mandate, membership, and meetings, please refer to the Group’s Terms of Reference.Footnote15

Between summer 2019 and winter 2020, the NS-TAG met three times in-person. Their fourth meeting was planned for late March 2020, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was replaced with a series of three virtual meetings, which took place throughout the summer of 2020.

Initial meetings focused on presentations from government officials on the roles and responsibilities of key national security institutions. Representatives from relevant review and accountability bodies were invited to help situate the NS-TAG within the broader national security transparency and accountability environment.

As meetings progressed, the NS-TAG also heard from members from civil society, including experts in national security law, representatives from human rights organizations, journalists, and technology professionals from the private sector. Several themes were addressed, from diversity and inclusion in national security institutions to privacy implications when addressing digital threats. For a more detailed overview of topics discussed, please refer to the chart in Annex 4.

Members of the NS-TAG as of October 7, 2020.

The term of NS-TAG membership is two years with the possibility of a one-year renewal.

Annex 3: National Security Community Architecture

What is National Security?

There is no recent, official definition of ‘national security’ by the Government of Canada. The last National Security Policy, 2004’s Securing an Open Society, focused on the following broad national security issues:

In today’s evolving landscape, national security activities are continuously adapting to keep pace with new and emerging threats from terrorism and violent extremism, to disinformation campaigns during election season, to cyber hacks targeting government databases.

National Security Departments and Agencies in Canada

The Government relies on a number of departments and agencies to identify and address national security threats. While many federal departments and agencies have some national security responsibilities, the primary or core institutions that make up Canada’s national security community include:

Canada Border Services Agency: Provides border services that support national security and public safety priorities and facilitates the free flow of persons and goods.

Canada Security Intelligence Service: Investigates suspected threats to the security of Canada and reports to the Government of Canada, sometimes taking steps to reduce these threats.

Communications Security Establishment:Collects foreign signals intelligence and helps protect the computer networks and information of greatest importance to Canada.

Department of National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces: Supports the Canadian Armed Forces who serve with the Navy, Army, Air Force and Special Forces to defend Canada’s interests at home and abroad.

Global Affairs Canada: Has the mandate for foreign policy, diplomatic representation and foreign intelligence, and provides reporting on a range of international security issues.

Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre: Analyses terrorism threats to Canada and Canadian interests and recommends the National Terrorism Threat Level.

Public Safety Canada: Coordination of national security policy (crime, terrorism, cyber, critical infrastructure), emergency response, responsible for portfolio agencies – RCMP, CSIS, CBSA, Correctional Services.

Privy Council Office: The Security and Intelligence Secretariat, the Intelligence Secretariat and the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat are part of the Privy Council Office and serve an important role in the coordination of strategic decision-making on national security matters.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Prevents and investigates crimes, enforces the law, and strives to keep the public safe at the community, provincial/territorial and federal levels.

National Security Community Architecture at the Federal Level

National Security Community Architecture at the Federal Level
Image Description

Core Security and Intelligence Community

Privy Council Office

  • National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister
    • Security and Intelligence Secretariat
    • Intelligence Assessment Secretariat
    • Integrated Terrorism Assessment Center
  • Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister
    • Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat

Public Safety Portfolio

  • Public Safety Canada
  • Canadian Security and Intelligence Service
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Canada Border Services Agency

National Defence Portfolio

  • National Defence
  • Canadian Armed Forces
  • Communications Security Establishment

Foreign Affairs Portfolio

  • Global Affairs Canada

Departments and Agencies that also have a role

  • Transport Canada
  • Justice Canada
  • Canadian Coast Guard
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Finance Canada
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada
  • Privy Council Office (Democratic Institutions)

Governance at the Deputy Minister Level

  • Operations Committee
  • National Security Committee
  • Intelligence Assessment Committee
  • Global Trends in Foreign Affairs and Defence
  • Issue-Specific Tables

Cabinet Structure Related to National Security

  • Cabinet Committee on Global Affairs and Public Security
  • Incident Response Group

National Security Review Bodies

  • National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians
  • National Security and Intelligence Review Agency
  • Intelligence Commissioner (note: also has oversight responsibilities)


Annex 4: NS-TAG Meeting Highlights, August 2019-September 2020

Meeting 1 – August 22-23, 2019, Ottawa


Internal Discussion


Discussion with Public Safety Deputy Minister


Discussion on Open Government


Discussion with the CSIS and CSE

Meeting 2 – December 1-2, 2019, Ottawa


Internal Discussion


Discussion on Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) with Representatives from Global Affairs Canada, Department of National Defence, Department for Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) and Public Safety Canada


Discussion with the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Security and Intelligence


Discussion with the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) Secretariat

Meeting 3 – February 2-3, 2020, Ottawa


Discussion with the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner


Discussion with the Assistant Chief of Defence Intelligence of the Department of National Defence


Discussion with Civil Society Representatives


Discussion with a Panel of Journalists

Informal Meeting – May 20, 2020, Virtual


Internal Discussion

Meeting 4.1 – June 10, 2020, Virtual


Discussion with Guest Speakers: Privacy Protection, Artificial Intelligence, the Digital World and Cybersecurity: Are Canadians’ Information Expectations and Needs Met?

Meeting 4.2 – July 10, 2020, Virtual


Discussion with Guests: National Security and Human Rights: How do Canadians’ individual Rights Factor Into Related Transparency Initiatives?

Meeting 4.3 – July 22, 2020, Virtual


Role of the CBSA and the RCMP in National Security and Intelligence.


The Role of the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) in National Security Oversight and Review and the Municipal Level.

Informal Meeting – September 9, 2020, Virtual


Internal Discussion

Annex 5.1: International Jurisdictional Scan of Transparency in National Security

Important: This Annex and the information contained herein was last verified on October 20, 2020, and is subject to change. As part of this report, it will not be updated in the future.

The table below provides an overview of the national security and intelligence (NS&I) transparency policies and institutional features across seven countries. As the NS-TAG’s mandate is to provide advice to the Deputy Minister of Public Safety Canada on enhancing transparency policies in NS&I, this chart provides comparative perspectives to facilitate a critical examination of Canada’s context.

For the purposes of this chart, “Transparency” refers to policies and programs of national security and intelligence agencies that proactively and/or reactively disclose information to its citizens on its activities, policies, programs, and research. All the information provided below are based on publicly available information. Each country is examined across seven aspects:

For additional reading: A detailed analysis of the relationship between individual Five Eyes countries and their corresponding NS&I oversight bodies can be found in the Library of Parliament.

Important notes to the following table:

  1. Please note that these are not a comprehensive list of all possible transparency initiatives in the countries being compared.
  2. Please note that these are not a comprehensive list of all the available data and information on each country’s NS&I website.
  3. This is not an exhaustive list of all the think tanks in each country. It attempts to list some of the more prominent think tanks that conducts research in national security, defence, intelligence, cybersecurity, and privacy. Annual reports of top think tank index reports can be found here:
  4. This is not an exhaustive list of all NS&I advocacy groups.
International Jurisdictional Scan of Transparency in National Security


Current NS&I Transparency Initiatives 1

Oversight & review Bodies

Freedom of Information Legislation

Declassification System & Policy

Available Data In Public Reports & Websites2

NS & Policy Research Institutes3

NS&I NS&I Advocacy Groups4


Public Safety Canada
- National Security Transparency Commitment (NSTC)
- Public Reports on the Terrorist Threat to Canada (PTTR)
- Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities Act, 2019
- Federal Terrorism Response Plan (FTRP)
- Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada's Counter-terrorism Strategy (2013)
- Strategic Coordination Centre on Information Sharing

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- 2018 Public Report

Department of National Defence (DND)
- Increasing the transparency and timeliness of communication to the defence industry associations 

Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
- Annual reports
- Proactive Disclosure

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security
- Alerts & Advisories
- Industry Collaboration
- Academic Outreach

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC)
- Guidance on policy and legislation, including technical publications
- Terrorist Financing Assessments 2018
- Strategic Intelligence products

National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)
- Classified reports to the relevant Ministers.
- Unclassified annual reports to the Prime Minister to be tabled in Parliament.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) - Reviews the framework of Canada’s national security and intelligence community, as well as departments that were not previously subject to external review.
- NSICOP Annual Reports  (Redacted)
- Special reports

The Office of the Intelligence Commissioner (no published reports) – the office conducts quasi-judicial review of the Minister’s decisions in issuing ministerial authorizations and determinations for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Access to Information Act (1983)

In 1983, the Act established the Office of the Information Commissioner

The Act outlines exemptions to withhold or deny access to information, including defence and security of Canada and any state allied or associated with Canada.

Declassification System
- No system of automatic declassification of documents.

Treasury Board Directive on Security Management (2019)
- Directions to manage government security to support delivery of federal government programs and services, the protection of information, individuals and assets.

Open Government Portal - Completed Access to Information Requests
- Allows to search for summaries of previously completed Access to Information requests.
- Copies of records must be requested but at no cost.

Office of the Information Commissioner
- The Administration of the Access to Information Act report provides an overview of the total number of requests, number of pages processed, timeliness, and average completion time.
- OIC Annual Reports provide statistics on complaints activity for 24 institutions.

NSICOP Annual Report (Redacted)
- Reviews the framework of Canada’s national security and intelligence community
- Includes NSICOP’s review of Canada Border Services Agency, the diversity and inclusion in Canada’s security and intelligence community, and etc.

2018 CSIS Public Report
-Report on the assessment of security threats in Canada
- Statistics on immigration and government screening programs.

Other reports to consider (may not contain specific data):
- Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada.
- Communication Security Establishment Annual Report.

Federal government NS&I Research Institutes
- Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program (DND)
- Tutte Institute
- Policy Horizons Canada

- Canadian Network For Research On Terrorism, Security And Society
- Centre for International and Defence Policy
- The Citizen Lab
- NATO Association of Canada
- Vanguard 

Policy Research Institutes with designated NS-related area of focus:
- Canadian Global Affairs Institute
- Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic
- Centre for International Governance Innovation
- Conference board of Canada
- Macdonald Laurier Institute

Other notable Policy Research Institutes with short-term NS projects:
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
- Broadbent Institute
- Canadian International Council/Open Canada
- Fraser Institute
- IRPP/Policy Options
- Public Policy Forum 

Nation-wide groups:
- Business Council of Canada
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association
- Canadian Anti-Hate Network
- Canadian Race Relations Foundation
- International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (follow link for member organizations)
- International Human Rights Watch
- No Fly List Kids

Regional-level groups:
- BC Freedom of Information And Privacy Association
- CCLA provincial chapters in Moncton, Montreal, Kingston, Regina, Saint John, Vancouver, Timmins, Fredericton, London
- Digital Justice Lab
- Ligue des droits et libertés

United States

Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
- Centralized website that acts as a portal to organizations within the US NS&I community.
- Leads the integration and coordination of the nation’s intelligence community.
- In 2015, ODNI issued Principles of Intelligence Transparency and the Transparency Implementation Plan for the US Intelligence Community to enhance public understanding of the intelligence community and institutionalize transparency.
- National Intelligence Council (NIC) – acts as the DNI’s think tank; produces IC’s assessments on NS issues and global trends.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
- Information Sharing: A Vital Resource For Critical Infrastructure Security And Resilience
- The National Infrastructure Coordinating Center
- Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community C³ Voluntary Program

Homeland Security
- Homeland Security Information Network

Open Government Plan (PDF) – outlines new or expanded initiatives to increase transparency, as well as ongoing initiatives. 

- Statistical Transparency Report Regarding National Security Authorities
- National Intelligence Strategy
- The ICOTR Transparency Tracker
- Annual Report on Security Clearance Determinations 

Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) – Interagency panel body that provides the public and users of the classification system with a forum for further review of classification decisions.
- The Panel has ruled in favor of disclosing CIA documents in more than 60% of cases.
- ISCAP Releases & Appeals Log is available on the website.

United States Congress
U.S. House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security
- Jurisdiction includes oversight of national security, homeland security, and foreign policy (including the relationships of the United States with other nations; immigration; defense; issues affecting veterans; and oversight and legislative jurisdiction over federal acquisition policy related to National Security).

U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- Oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the U.S. Government.
- Submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs.
- Provide vigilant legislative oversight over intelligence activities of the U.S. to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
- Broad jurisdiction over government operations generally and the Department of Homeland Security in particular.
- Studies the efficiency, economy and effectiveness of all agencies and departments of the federal government.

Freedom of Information Act (1966)

No official Information Commissioner but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has acted for data security and privacy violations.

FOIA includes 9 exemptions, including withholding and denying requests to protect national security. The CIA takes exemptions under the FOIA to protect sources and methods and national security information.

Biometric Legislation (State-level):
- Illinois, Texas, and Washington have legislated biometric privacy laws that aim to regulate the collection, retention, and use of biometric data.
- Other states (Arizona, Florida, and Massachusetts) are also considering similar proposals.
- “The Biometric Bandwagon Rolls On: Biometric Legislation Proposed Across the United States” – The National Law Review’s analysis of the state-level biometrics legislation

Declassification SystemEO 13526 (2009) establishes the mechanisms for most declassification.
- Originating agency assigns a declassification date (10 years by default).
- Automatic declassification review after 25 years, unless the documents falls under the nine exceptions.
- At 50 years, there are two exceptions.
- Classification beyond 75 years require special permissions.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
- National Declassification Centre
- Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel

ODNI - IC on the Record (ICOTR)
- Created in 2013 to “provide the public with direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the Intelligence Community.”
- The Tumblr site posts location for the previously released documentation.

NSA Declassification & Transparency
- Links to documentation including FOIA reports and releases, historical documents, NSA internal publications, etc.

Statistical Transparency Report Regarding National Security Authorities
- Provides the public with statistics on how often the government uses critical NS authorities (ex. FISA)  and an explanation on how the IC uses these authorities.

National Intelligence Strategy
- Outlines activities and outcomes necessary for the IC to deliver timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence.
- Provides objective for the IC enterprise.
- Factors affecting performance of IC (accomplishments, risks, challenges).
- Provides a diagram and explanations of all the IC elements.

ICOTR Transparency Tracker
- Statistics on released documents, including previously declassified documents.

Annual Report on Security Clearance Determination
- Annual report of the current state of US government security clearances.
- Statistics for the total of individuals across government who are eligible for access to classified information, those with access, and those who are eligible but not in access. 

Federal government sponsored NS&I Research Institutes:
- Arroyo Center (R&D)
- Center for Communications and Computing
- Center for Naval Analyses
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (R&D)
- MIT Lincoln Laboratory
- National Institute of Standards and Technology

- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Center for a New American Security
- Center for Security and Emerging Technology
- Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
- Federation of American Scientists
- GW Cyber and Homeland Security Programs  
- James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
- National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism

Policy Research Institutes with designated NS-related area of focus:
- The Atlantic Council
- Belfar Center
- Brookings Institution
- Cato Institute
- Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Council on Foreign Relations
- Hudson Institute
- Rand Corporation

Nation-wide groups:
- American Civil Liberties Group
- Americans for Prosperity
- Amnesty International USA
- The Brennan Center for Justice (NYU)
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Constitutional Alliance
- Defending Rights & Dissent
- Demand Progress
- Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Human Rights Watch
- Project on Government Oversight
- U.S. Global Leadership Coalition

Regional-level groups:
- ACLU chapters in every state, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico

United Kingdom

Investigatory Powers Act, 2016 
Provides a new framework to govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies.

Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament
- Accessible links to reports, list of organization overseen by the Committee, intelligence oversight bodies, and relevant legislation.


The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) – the committee of Parliament with statutory responsibility for oversight of the UK IC.
- Annual Reports (1995-present)
- Government Reponses & Written Ministerial Statements made in relation to ISC publications
- Special Reports 

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation – informs the public and political debate on anti-terrorism law
- Reports to Home Secretary and Parliament.
- Evidence to parliamentary committees
- Articles and speeches  

Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office (IPCO) - provides independent oversight and authorization of the use of investigatory powers by intelligence agencies, police forces, and other public authorities
- IPCO Annual Reports

Investigatory Powers Tribunal – A judicial forum that investigates complaints about the conduct of UK Intelligence Community, MI5, SIS and GCHQ.

Biometrics Commissioner – established by the 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act, the Commissioner is an independent advisor to the government. It reviews the retention and use of biometric data by the police.

Freedom of Information Act (2000)

Information Commissioner’s Office started as a Data Protection Registrar in 1984. The ICO was given an added responsibility of the FOI in 2001 and changed its name to Information Commissioner’s Office.

UK’s FOI includes 23 exemptions and is divided into 2 types: Absolute and Non-Absolute. Security matters are classified as one of the absolute exemptions. Thus, all security agencies (ex. MI5, MI6, GCHQ) are exempt from disclosure requests.

Data Protection Act (2018) – based on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation; supersedes the 1998 Data Protection Act.

Declassification System
- No system of automatic declassification review of documents.
- FOI requires information to be released, except for cases where there are reasons for secrecy.

National Cyber Security Centre's (NCSC) – Indicator of Compromise (IoC) machine.
- Declassifying sensitive material via an automated system that can identify what can be shared in seconds.
- Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee run by Ministry of Defence.
- DSMA-Notice System is a means of providing advice and guidance to the media about defence and security information, the publication of which could compromise national security. It’s a voluntary means to encourage the media not to publish certain information. 

ISC Annual Reports
- Detailed description of the work of the committee, intelligence assessments on specific threats, and expenditure (with redactions.)

- Factsheet Indicators of Compromise (IoC), where organizations can gain quick insights at central points in the network into malicious digital activities. Organizations can use IoC to trace back which system is infected.

Investigatory Powers Tribunal
- Tracks the volume of complaints over time, number of complaints by organizations, number of open hearings, and outcome of hearings by year
- Publication of judgement by the Tribunal.

- The Annual report provides methodology for inspection by expertise of inspectors in IPCO. It also outlines how approach has changed. 

Federal government NS&I Research Institutes:
- Defence and Security Accelerator
- Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

- International Institute for Strategic Studies
- The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House)
- The Royal United Services Institute
- United Kingdom National Defence Association

Policy Research Institutes with designated NS-related area of focus:
-Future of Humanity
- Google DeepMind (AI focused)

General Policy Research Institutes with short-term NS projects:
- Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society
- Equality and Human Rights Commission
- Institute for Public Policy Research
- New Local Government Network

Nation-wide groups:
- Amnesty International UK
-Big Brother Watch
- Centre for Policy Studies
- Defend the Right to Protest
- Liberty
- Open Rights Group
- Privacy International


Office of National Intelligence (ONI)
- ONI is a key component in the formation of National Intelligence Community (NIC).
- Responsible for enterprise level management of the NIC and ensures a single point of accountability to the PM and National Security Committee of Cabinet.

Office of National Assessments (ONA)
- Open Source Centre (OSC) – collects, interprets, and disseminates information relating to political, strategic or economic significance to support government intelligence priorities, the work of the NIC.

Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee
- An agreement between the two countries to ensure the coordination on counter-terrorism matters.
- Maintains documents on the National Counter-Terrorism Plan & info sharing between agencies and jurisdictions.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – an independent statutory office that ensures the legality and propriety of the Australian Intelligence Community’s actions, investigate complaints and conduct reviews into AIC agencies and other Commonwealth departments involved in national security.
- IGIS produces an annual report but is currently unavailable.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security – conducts inquiries into matters referred to it by the Senate, the House of Representatives or a Minister of the Commonwealth Government.
- Inquiries and reports for each Parliament

Freedom of Information Act (1982) at the federal level of government.

FOI was amended in 2010, establishing the Office of the Information Commissioner.

FOI outlines ten exemptions, including documents that affects national security, defence, or international relations.

Declassification System
- Originator of the information remains responsible for controlling the sanitization, reclassification or declassification of its information.
- The originator can set specific date or event for automatic declassification.

IGIS Annual Reports
- Includes annual performance statement, including outcome, relevant programs, results, and analysis.
- Performance indicators on inquiries, inspections and investigations of complaints
- Data on public interest disclosures by agency and source. 

Federal government NS&I Research Institutes:
- National Security Science and Technology Centre

- Air Power Australia
- Australia Defence Association
- Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- SAGE International Australia
- Strategic & Defence Studies Centre

Other notable Policy Research Institutes with NS projects:
- The Centre for Independent Studies
- Institute for Government

Nation-wide groups:
- Australian Council For International Development
- Australia Privacy Foundation
- Digital Rights Watch
- Human Rights Law Centre
- Refugee Council of Australia

New Zealand

Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)
- Review of compliance at GCSB
- Annual Report
- External oversight mechanisms

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZIC)
- Similar to GCSB, NZIC made available its own oversight mechanism and annual reports.

Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee (refer to the Australia section for more info)

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – provides independent oversight of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau. IGIS can investigate, conduct inquiries, and review intelligence agencies.
- IGIS Reports – investigation reports, reviews, best practices.
- Annual Reports
- Current Inquiries
- Speeches and Papers 

The Official Information Act (1982)

The Office of the Ombudsman established in 1962, is an equivalent body to Canada’s Office of the Information Commissioner. The country’s Ombudsman investigates complaints against government agencies.

The OIA outlines conditions to deny access to information, including the national security and defence of N.Z. (OIA, Part 1, Section 6).

Declassification Policy
- Originating agency is expected to set up classification review procedures.
- Ad hoc declassification process depending on the success of OIA requests.
- Systematic declassification depends on the department.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has an extensive and ongoing program of reviewing and releasing classified materials that are 25 years and older.

IGIS Publication
- Intelligence warrants issued.
- Public reports into specific inquiries that includes best practices and recommendations.
- Longitudinal study of complaints about intelligence activities abroad. 

MFAT Declassification Program
- Record of documents released to date. 

- Centre for Strategic Studies New Zealand

Nation-wide groups:
- Amnesty International NZ
- Human Rights Foundation


Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community publishes various reports on its website
- Annual Reports on preventing corruption in the federal administration.
- Explicitly states that the report excludes Germany’s federal intelligence agencies to avoid revealing sensitive information.

German Domestic Intelligence Service (BfV)
- Provides intelligence to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community for its annual report.
-Publications of annual reports, overview reports on right-wing extremism, Islamism, cyber security, and protection against industrial espionage
- Anti-terrorist hotline
- Outline of areas of activity by BfV

German Parliamentary Committee investigation of the NSA spying scandal
- Started in 2014 to investigate US secret services spying on Germany, and to strategize on how to protect Germany’s telecommunications.
- Presented findings to the Parliament. The report also provided information about Germany’s spying activities on its allies.

The Parliamentary Control Panel (the Panel) – The Parliamentary Scrutiny of Federal Intelligence Activities Act allows the Panel to investigate the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD), Federal Intelligence Service (BND). The Panel investigates the federal government’s disclosure obligation since the federal government is required to volunteer following information:
- General activities of intelligence agencies.
- Surveillance of private communications.
- Covert gatherings of data, including intelligence agencies’ information requests to other organizations.

The Panel can compel the intelligence services to hand over evidence. However, the intelligence agencies can refuse to disclose information to the Panel under certain circumstances (ex. protection of sources, infringement of an individual’s right). The Panel also regularly reports to the federal parliament

G10 Commission of the Parliament
- Examines and authorizes the federal government’s requests to allow the intelligence agencies to intercept private communications. It has the authority to end surveillance measures it deems unlawful.
- Can also investigate complaints regarding information requests.

Freedom of Information Act (2006)

Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI) is the agency mandated to supervise data privacy. The 2006 FOI act added an Ombudsman function to the agency. In 2016, BfDI became an independent agency.

Germany’s foreign intelligence agencies and certain activities within the federal police services are exempt from disclosure of information requests.

Declassification Policy
- Classified materials are declassified by the German Federal Archives after 30 years, unless specified otherwise. The length of classification may be extended only once for a maximum of an additional 30 years.
- Exceptions apply to personnel information, which are only declassified 10 years after the individual’s death.
- No periodic review of classified materials.
- Holdings related to the former German Democratic Republic have been made available with a minimum of time limitations.

Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community
- Annual reports outlining data and trends on crime, extremism, terrorism, espionage. The report is based on intelligence collected by BfV.
- Police crime statistics

The Parliamentary Control Panel
- Annual Reports on its activities, assessment/evaluations reports, report on measures under the Counter Terrorism Act.

German Domestic Intelligence Service
- Reports lists and provides an overview of the groups under surveillance.

Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI)
- Annual Reports that assesses data protection and freedom of information across departments, from AI to defence and security (no English version available).

Federal government NS&I Research Institutes:
- High-Tech Strategy 2025

- George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
- German Institute for International and Security Affairs
- European Stability Initiative ‒ ESI
-Federal Academy for Security Policy

Notable Policy Research Institutes with NS area of focus:
- Friedrich Ebert Foundation
- German Council on Foreign Relations
- Transparency International

Nation-wide groups:
- Algorithm Watch
- German League for Human Rights
- Society for Threatened Peoples International


General Intelligence and Security Service (GISS)
- Publication of various information including annual reports, audio clips, video, and Q&As.

Intelligence and Security Services Review Committee (CTIVD)
- The main external oversight body of intelligence and security services.
-Oversight of the activities of GISS and Defence Intelligence and Security Service (DISS).
- Has access to all relevant information required for an investigation, can listen to testimony of witnesses under oath, and call on experts.
- Acts as internal complaints advisory committee – advises ministers on decisions about complaints against GISS and DISS. While ministers are free to make their own decisions, CTIVD’s advice has to be published.

The Counter-Terrorism Infobox (CT Infobox)
A cooperative group made up of national security, intelligence, and a number of other bodies set up after the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid to share information to combat terrorism and radicalization, as well to enable appropriate actions

Intelligence and Security Services Review Committee (CTIVD)
- Annual Reports
- Review Reports by the Oversight Departments of CTVID
- Complaints procedure, complaints protocol, and decisions on hearings about possible misconduct by intelligence agencies.
- Conducts systemic monitoring activities by random inspections to gain a full picture of the key activities of the intelligence services.
- Can exercises authority over CTInfobox).

Parliamentary Oversight Committees (they do not carry out investigations, and do not produce reports)
- Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services (ISS Committee) – conducts oversight of GISS.
- Committee on Defence – composed of all subject experts of all the political parties in the Second Chamber, addresses issues under the mandate of the Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations, including GISS. 

Government Information (Public Access) Act or Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur (Wob) (1980)

The Dutch Public Access Act makes the distinction between passive and proactive information disclosure. However, unlike passive disclosure, proactive disclosure is not enforceable. The Public Access Act has 11 exemptions. Authorities in the parliament, the judiciary, and some executive authorities like the Intelligence and Security Services Review Committee (CTIVD) are not expected to disclose information upon requests. Likewise, information that is processed by, or, in support of the intelligence services are exempted.

No official Information Commissioner but does have a Dutch Data Protection Authority (similar to the Privacy Commissioner). Objections with Public Access request decisions by a government body are made directly to the government body, including the higher appeals process.

Declassification Policy
- Regulation assumes that classification is temporary, unless there are special exemptions. As such, length of classification is set at 10 years or to a specific time set depending on the sensitive nature of the document.
- Documents that are classified for longer than 10 years may be reviewed after 20 years.

CTVID Publications
- For CTVID’s oversight function, the Committee published reports on secrecy/transparency, operations investigations of the NS&I agencies, data exchange and cooperation, as well as current ongoing investigations.
- Outline of complaints process against NS&I agencies.

GISS Publication
- Reports on espionage, including guidance for businesses to investigate espionage, and ways to limit risks.
- Publicly available information on terrorism, the agency’s activities, and news on terrorist activities.
- Information on radical Islam and extremism including different types of fundamentalist movements and extremism, a report on Salafism in the Netherlands. 

National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV)
- Threat assessment reports on cyber security and terrorist threats.
- Information on different types of critical infrastructure in Netherlands.

Federal government NS&I Research Institutes:
- Scientific Council for Government Policy
- Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis

- International Centre for Counter-Terrorism

Notable Policy Research Institutes with NS area of focus:
- Clingendael, Netherlands Institute of International Relations
- Hague Institute for Global Justice

Nation-wide groups:
- Bits Of Freedom
- Cordaid
- Justice and Peace Netherlands
- Netherlands Institute for Human Rights
- Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research

Annex 5.2: Transparency Policies in National Security and Intelligence in Selected Governmental Organizations at the International Level

Important: This Annex and the information contained herein was last verified on October 20, 2020, and is subject to change. As part of this report, it will not be updated in the future.

The tables below provides information on the national security and intelligence (NS&I) transparency policies and initiatives in four governmental organizations at the international level. These are organizations that have NS&I implications for Canada, either directly or indirectly.

All the information provided below is based on publicly available information and is not a comprehensive list of all the available data and information.

European Union

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

EU-Canada Passenger Name Records (PNR) Agreement

Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) on Security and Defence

Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD)


Five-Eyes Countries

Note: Information provided above is based on secondary sources of information.

Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council (FIORC)


Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)

OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence (AI)


North Atlantic Treaty Organization

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Unified Vision

NATO Building Integrity (BI) Policy



  1. 1

    “The Government of Canada Response to the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182.” Public Safety Canada, 21 Dec. 2018,

  2. 2

    Bruce, James B., et al. “Secrecy in U.S. National Security: Why a Paradigm Shift Is Needed.” RAND Corporation, 1 Nov. 2018,

  3. 3

    “Canada.” Open Government Partnership, 2020,

  4. 4

    Johal, Sunil, et al. “Reprogramming Government for the Digital Era.” Mowat Centre, Munk School of Public Policy & Governance, 11 Sept. 2014, Page 12.

  5. 5

    Federal Court, 16 July 2020,

  6. 6

    Federal Court, 22 November 2013,

  7. 7

    Federal Court, 4 October 2016,

  8. 8

    “SIRC Annual Report 2017–2018.” Security Intelligence Review Committee, 20 June 2018, Section 3.

  9. 9

    Federal Court, 31 October 2018,

  10. 10

    “National Security Consultations: What We Learned Report.” Public Safety Canada, 21 Dec. 2018,

  11. 11


  12. 12

    The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency replaced and absorbed the responsibilities of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner, and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

  13. 13

    “Parliamentary Passage of Bill C-59: The National Security Act, 2017 - Enhancing Accountability and Transparency: Overview of New Measures.” Public Safety Canada, 19 June 2019,

  14. 14

    “National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG): Terms of Reference.” Public Safety Canada, 31 Jan. 2020,

  15. 15


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