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Canadian Security Intelligence Service

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) collects, analyzes and retains information and intelligence about activities that may threaten the security of Canada, and reports to and advises the Government of Canada on these matters.

Assessment: A

(Received a D in 2008–2009)

  • CSIS performed well in 2010–2011. Its deemed refusal was 3 percent—the lowest among the institutions that were part of the report card process this year. It took CSIS an average of 49 days to complete a request, the second-best rate for the year.
  • CSIS cited a number of factors that contributed to its success in 2010–2011: a well-established staff complement, training, compliance monitoring and a general will to improve.
  • CSIS satisfactorily implemented all four of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s (OIC) 2008–2009 recommendations. The OIC has issued a new recommendation in the area of time extensions for searching through large volumes of records, because it is not clear to the OIC why CSIS had to take so many for this reason when it has an excellent central records registry (2010-2011 Recommendations).
QUICK FACTS
2008–2009 2010–2011
Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 37 33
Number of new requests 150 263
Number of requests completed 140 260
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 33,333 31,309
Deemed refusal rate 20.9%* 3%*
Average number of days to complete a request 86 49
Number of consultation
requests received
182 257
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the OIC <85% >85%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 13 22
Number of complaints the OIC resolved 6** 1**
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 15 15
Follow-up on 2008–2009 recommendations

Training............................................................ Met expectations

Deemed refusal rate........................................ Met expectations

Average completion time............................... Met expectations

Extension notices........................................... Met expectations

See report card text for details. For the full text of the recommendations, as well as the institution’s initial response and October 2010 progress report, go here

* Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix B for the formula the OIC used to calculate this rate.)

** A complaint is resolved when the OIC finds it has merit and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction. The number of complaints reported reflects complaints resolved as of November 2011. As a result, the figure for 2008–2009 may differ from what appeared in the 2008–2009 report card.

Report card

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) performed well in 2010–2011. Its deemed refusal was 3 percent—the lowest among the institutions that were part of the report card process this year. It took CSIS an average of 49 days to complete a request, the second-best rate for the year. This is a significant improvement from CSIS’s results on its first-ever report card in 2008–2009, when it received a “D” grade.

CSIS began 2010–2011 with a clean slate, since none of its small carry-over of 31 requests was overdue. The access coordinator cited a number of reasons for how CSIS managed to stay current with its request and consultation workload for the rest of the year.

For example, CSIS has an established complement of employees. It is especially important for CSIS to be able to retain its staff because the stringent security screening that each employee undergoes is a significant investment of time. CSIS has chosen to assign its staff the responsibility for their cases from start to finish. The coordinator said that this makes it easy for anyone to be able to inquire about the advancement— or any other aspect—of a request.

The coordinator also credits training, compliance oversight and a general will to improve for CSIS’s commendable performance in 2010–2011. There were two full days of Privasoft training for all staff that was intended to avert technical mishaps; requests were monitored to ensure they were advancing; and the responsible director general was briefed regularly about the access office’s statistical progress.

CSIS has begun proactively processing frequently requested records with results that have proven so successful that a full-time resource has been assigned to this task. CSIS also reported that communicating with its applicants has helped to streamline its operations.

CSIS reported an increase of about 50 percent for new requests, and that its consultations are “skyrocketing” (a 41-percent increase from 2008–2009). The coordinator observed that many of the consultation requests it received were not necessary and would prefer that consulting institutions contacted CSIS in advance of sending the consultation.

As reported in the 2008–2009 report card, CSIS has a strong information management advantage, since every record generated is entered into a central registry. This causes the OIC to question, however, why CSIS needed to take extensions on almost half of the new requests it received in 2010–2011, the majority of which were for searching through records or for when the nature of a request impacted operations.

The OIC received three complaints of an administrative nature (delays/time extensions) about CSIS. However, there was a significant increase in the refusal category, which includes complaints about institutions’ use of exemptions, there being no records that match the request and incomplete responses.

Follow-up on the 2008–2009 recommendations

The OIC issued four recommendations to CSIS with the 2008–2009 report card. The following summarizes the subsequent developments at the institution in response. (For the full text of the recommendations, the institution’s response and its October 2010 progress report, go here ).

  1. CSIS undertook two full days of Privasoft training for all staff to avoid technical mishaps, as per the OIC’s recommendation.
  2. In response to the OIC’s recommendation, CSIS reduced its deemed refusal rate to 3 percent, from 20.9 percent in 2008–2009.
  3. CSIS cut its average time to complete requests nearly in half, to 49 days, which is among the best results for institutions in the 2010–2011 cohort.
  4. CSIS met the OIC’s 85-percent standard for acceptable performance, in terms of submitting the required notices of extensions taken for longer than 30 days.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This graph shows the sources of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s workload for the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. Comparing 2008–2009 to 2010–2011, the institution saw a 50-percent increase in its workload. This was accounted for by a 75-percent increase in the number of new requests it received and a 41-percent rise in consultation requests. The number of pages reviewed for requests completed decreased by 6 percent.

Access to information workload, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Between 2008–2009 and 2010–2011, the proportion of new access requests the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act increased from 79 percent to 96 percent. The remaining requests were completed late: 22 requests in 2008–2009 and 9 in 2010–2011. The Office of the Information Commissioner is concerned that CSIS took time extensions for nearly half of the new requests it completed in 2010–2011, although CSIS was the subject of only two time extension complaints that year.

How long it took to complete new requests, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reported to have taken in 2008–2009 and 2010–2011. The institution supplied this information in the notices it sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. CSIS submitted fewer than 85 percent of the required notices in 2008–2009, at which point the OIC issued a recommendation that CSIS improve its performance in this area. In 2010–2011, CSIS submitted more than 85 percent of the required notices.

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2008–2009 and 2010–2011

Text Version

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that CSIS delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about CSIS’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. After receiving no complaints about CSIS in 2009–2010, the Office of the Information Commissioner received one deemed refusal complaint and two time extension complaints in 2010–2011.

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

Text Version

* Resolved complaints are those that the Office of the Information Commissioner finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Number and outcome of complaints received by the Office of the Information Commissioner, 2008–2009 to 2010–2011

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) registered against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in the three fiscal years starting in 2008–2009. In 2010–2011, the OIC received three administrative complaints (delays/time extensions), which is an increase from the previous year but, notably, not in proportion to the large increase in the number of time extensions CSIS took in 2010–2011. Of concern to the OIC, however, is a significant increase in the refusal complaints, which includes complaints about institutions' use of exemptions, there being no records that match the request and incomplete responses.

 

Resolved*

Not substantiated

Discontinued

Pending

Total

2008–2009
Administrative 5 0 1 0 6
Refusals 1 2 2 2 7
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 2 3 2 13
2009–2010
Administrative 0 0 0 0 0
Refusals 0 0 2** 2 4
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0 0 2 2 4
2010–2011
Administrative 1 0 1 1 3
Refusals 0 0 0 19 19
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 0 1 20 22

* Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

** The OIC began using new disposition categories in 2010–2011. There was one refusal complaint registered in 2009–2010 and closed in 2010–2011 in the new Settled category, which comprises complaints about minor errors, settled to the Commissioner’s satisfaction without a finding. For reporting purposes, this complaint was placed in the Discontinued category.

2010–2011 recommendations

In light of CSIS’s outstanding performance, the OIC challenges it to assume a leadership role in the access to information community.

1.  The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service review and document the criteria it uses for extensions taken under paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Access to Information Act to ensure that the extensions are reasonable and legitimate.

RESPONSE: The criteria for extensions will be reviewed in each case considered for an extension to ensure the extensions are reasonable and legitimate. The underlying reason behind each time extension will be duly documented in the ATIP case management system.

2.  The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service report on its progress implementing this recommendation in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.

RESPONSE: The 2011–2012 Access to Information Act Annual Report to Parliament will address this issue.