CSIS director says data not collected illegally, but welcomes court ruling

OTTAWA – The head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says he wants to “make it clear” the spy service was “not knowingly exceeding the scope” of its legal authority when it kept potentially revealing electronic data about people who posed no security threat over a 10-year period.

On Thursday, a Federal Court judge said the spy service was acting illegally and breached its duty to inform the court of its data-collection program, since the information was gathered using judicial warrants.

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CSIS director Michel Coulombe took the unusual step of issuing an additional statement on Sunday to defend the program, saying the spy service had been collecting the data using legal warrants and retaining it based on its interpretation of the law, but that it accepted the decision of the court.

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Coulombe also says that the agency briefed former public safety ministers Stockwell Day and Vic Toews about the program, and shared information with the Security Intelligence Review Committee and other government stakeholders.

But Coulombe also says those briefings might not have dealt specifically with retaining the subset of associated data that is the subject of the ruling by the court.

Coulombe said last Friday that the spy service had halted all access to, and analysis of, the data in question while it reviews the court decision.

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