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CSIS - Canada's Spy Agency

Updated on August 23, 2017

Canada's Spy Agency

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also known as CSIS, is Canada's spy agency. The job of CSIS is to prevent terrorists and other spies from getting into the country, as well as preventing unsafe people from getting into or working for the government, among others.

If you're a Canadian and interested in working for CSIS, or just curious what this little-known agency does, read on!

CSIS Recruitment

CSIS's recruitment process is long, but on-par with other Agencies. It starts with an application made on the CSIS website at www.csis-scrs.gc.ca. Then there's an information session, background check, psychological assessment, foreign language testing, several interviews, a reference check, a polygraph, and some interviews.

Whew!

  1. After you've applied you might hear back through a letter asking for an interview. Then you get called in for an information session, and the start of your background check.

    The background check explores every bit of your personality and lifestyle, as well as your living and working arrangements for the last 10 to 15 years, so it requires a ton of information.

  2. If the basic background check information looks, then you're subjected to an assessment by a panel of Psychologists.

    This is to make sure you have no mental illnesses that would pose a problem to your work, and to find out your true motivations for working in the Service (women? money? Somebody let it slip James Bond was a Canadian?)

  3. If you know any foreign languages (French included) then you get tested to see your skill level.

    This is because French is required for all Intelligence Officers, so they want to know how much foreign-language training you have (if any) beforehand, so they know how much training you'll need before you start work.

  4. Then you have to do one of several panel-interviews. These are 3-on-1 grill sessions with working Intelligence Officers, to make sure you understand what you're agreeing too.
  5. After the grill-session a polygraph is conducted, and your fingerprints are taken. All this is to allow you to get a Top Secret security clearance, which is required to work at CSIS.

    A Credit Check is common as well, to ensure you're not suffering from money problems that might encourage you to sell information to a foreign country.

  6. Once all of these tests and have been completed (which can take a year or longer), an offer of employment is made. Once you've accepted it, you begin CSIS's training program.

    While details on the training program are sketchy, it runs in conjunction with a 5-year probationary period (you train while you're performing your job.) Once the 5-years are up, you're eligible to compete for positions in Ottawa and around the world as an Intelligence Officer.

Recruitment Process

Recruiting can take over a year and explores every part of your life for the past 10-15 years.

CSIS National Headquarters

History of CSIS

CSIS actually started as a branch of the RCMP, the RCMP Security Service. They were concerned with things like Quebec nationalism, domestic terrorism, Neo-Naziism, and so on.

Unfortunately, as the RCMP found out, having an Intelligence Agency in a Police Agency doesn't make for a healthy combination. The Police agree to some very hard and fast rules, like "Don't break the law", while Intelligence Agencies are often expected to use illegal tactics to complete the mission.

Because of these conflicts (which led to ethical problems for Police Officers) and several scandals (the RCMP illegally planted evidence, broke into houses without warrants, and kidnapped people), the Security Service was spun off to form the CSIS of today, which has no police power.

The RCMP still works with Intelligence though. They have a Criminal Intelligence Division and they also perform Counter-terrorism (which itself has led to scandal with undercover RCMP agents being accused of entrapment, see below.)

Canada's CIA Equivalent

CSIS started as the RCMP Security Service before becoming it's own organization in 1984.

Spy Ring Discovered in Canada

It's the job of CSIS to practice Counterintelligence, finding foreign spies and getting them out of the country (and preventing them from getting into the country.)

CSIS Intelligence Officer

Most Intelligence Officers in CSIS will work either in Ottawa at the National Headquarters (shown above), or at Canadian embassies and consulates around the world.

A lot of the job is research and analysis. While the CIA has a Clandestine division, where spies infiltrate foreign governments and Intelligence Services, CSIS mostly focuses on domestic protection of Canadians.

While CSIS Officers do go overseas quite frequently, their job still mainly concentrates on domestics. For instance, an Officer may be posted to a major city (such as Toronto), and perform background checks on people entering Canada.

If a suspected terrorist or other undesirable person attempts to enter, CSIS alerts the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) that they're dangerous, and the CBSA works with Airport Security and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to make sure they don't enter.

CSIS is also interested in preventing hate groups and other "subversive" activities. For instance, in the early 90s, CSIS infiltrated the biggest neo-Nazi organization in Canada (Heritage Front), and was instrumental in breaking the group up.

The Officer involved eventually had to go into Witness Protection when his identity was revealed (after his involvement had ended but before the group had ended) by a national newspaper.

Life as an Officer

Intelligence Officers work in a variety of places and jobs including Embassies, Consulates, and in Ottawa.

CSIS Jobs

CSIS hires for all sorts of jobs, from the jack-of-all-trades Intelligence Officer (requiring a University degree), and regular support positions like any Government Agency hires for.

The clandestine positions include things such as Surveillant, whose job it is to watch people (such as suspected terrorists and members of subversive organizations) while standard support positions include Human Resources personnel, Financial Analysts, and Psychologists are also up for hire.

Jobs with CSIS

CSIS hires both for Intelligence positions as well as regular corporation support jobs.

Cooperation or Attack?

Who is more qualified to fight terrorists?

CSIS Security Clearance

You may hear the words OPSEC, PERSEC, and INFOSEC (pronounced opp-seck, purr-seck, and info-seck) used when people are talking about Intelligence, spies, spy agencies, and so on. But did you know what they mean?

OPSEC stands for Operational Security, PERSEC stands for Personal Security, and INFOSEC stands for Informational Security. Together these three pillars of security help keep information about Canadians and Intelligence Officers (as well as members of the Police and Military) safe.

Getting a security clearance is a long and daunting process, but those with the clearances are tasked for practicing OPSEC, PERSEC, and INFOSEC.

National Security of Canada

Not maintaining good OPSEC, PERSEC, and INFOSEC can damage National Security and put lives in danger.

Canadians Infilitrate Computer Spy Network

Computer warfare is more common than ever before. While the job of computer warfare normally falls to the Canadian Forces, CSIS does practice collection and analysis of data.

Operational Security (OPSEC)

Everyone is listening

The basic idea behind OPSEC is to not disclose information to people who shouldn't have it. If you're talking in public places, or with people who might not be who they say they are, don't give them confidential information.

This is most important for people who are thinking about applying to a spy agency. If you tell everyone you know you're applying to CSIS for instance, and that information gets into the wrong hands, you could have a big issue on your hands later, if you make it into the Service.

Personal Security (PERSEC)

PERSEC involves tactics to protect physical objects and information. The same common sense that prevents people from getting robbed also need to be practiced by Intelligence Officers.

Things like not keeping confidential information in places where it can be stolen, not leaving doors and windows unlocked (goes back to the last point), and always being aware of your surroundings.

An example of when PERSEC goes wrong is in 2000, when a CSIS Officer watching a hockey game at Toronto's Air Canada Center had his car broken into, and a briefcase stolen.

The briefcase contained an outline of CSIS Intelligence operations for the next year. He was fired a month after that happened.

It turned out drug addicts had broken into it to get money, and later threw out the briefcase (without realizing it's value), but it still demonstrates a catastrophic lapse in PERSEC.

Informational Security (INFOSEC)

INFOSEC revolves around the protection of digital data, most of which is stored on computers. Hackers are a significant problem for security agencies, with people scanning for vulnerability on computer systems daily.

While hacking from external sources is prevalent and dangerous, there are other problems that can plague Intelligence agencies involving computers. One of the most common is P2P (Peer to Peer programs), which allow people to share music, videos, and other files.

These P2P programs have been used to spread viruses and worms however, and when they've been installed on work computers have inadvertently shared sensitive files.

Chinese Defectors Expose Spies in Canada

This sort of thing still happens today. It's the job of CSIS to evaluate information from defectors and ensure that they're both accurate and that Canada's interests are protected.

When Police Practice Counterterrorism

Gun Carrying Spies

CSIS agents have been carrying firearms into hostile areas. Do you think this is right?

CSIS and Firearms

Recently, it was revealed that CSIS agents have been carrying firearms in the field. They claim this is because like Soldiers and others in the field (e.g. Afghanistan), they need personal protection. However critics say that CSIS is going beyond their mandate and endangering lives, because the Officers get only "weeks of training".

Should CSIS Officers carry firearms?

See results

Toronto 18

This is RCMP footage from a joint CSIS-RCMP investigation that led to 18 arrests in a counter-terrorism arrest.

CSIS Careers

In addition to the standard Intelligence Officer position with CSIS, there are also a variety of other positions that CSIS must hire for. Of course there's the standard administrative ones of other government agencies (e.g. Human Resources), but CSIS also has several unique positions among its ranks.

Some of the more interesting positions include Surveillant, whose job it is to, obviously, perform surveillance on people in their communities. Translators provide, again, translation in and out of various languages, while Multimedia Technicians are responsible for advising CSIS on a variety of multimedia technology used by the Service.

Offset Pressman are used to create documents, and possibly CSIS identifications, and Emergency Management Analysts work to monitor threats around the world to direct intelligence collection.

These are only a sample of the many careers available at CSIS. Check out their website for more!

CSIS Employment Opportunities

CSIS hires for a variety of positions outside of Intelligence Officer

Work Outside Canada

In recent years, CSIS has been doing work outside Canada, in addition to their mandate to (like the CIA) to perform intelligence collection in support of Canada's interests domestically. Their primary action has been in Afghanistan, however it's unknown if they're working in other areas.

CSIS' actions in regards to Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was captured by US forces in Afghanistan after allegedly throwing a grenade at a US Soldier. The ensuing investigation and the several years Khadr spent at Guantanamo Bay while the Canadian Government refused to seek repatriation brought them under fire.

In addition CSIS and DFAIT (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) Officers visited him and may have concealed evidence of Khadr's torture.

Spies in the Field

While the CSIS mandate says they can only work domestically, they have been going abroad lately.

Critical CSIS Footage

Not everyone believes CSIS does good work. This video from CTV is critical of the security detail at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Books about CSIS - Little Known Domestically, Invisible Abroad

The following books feature information on CSIS. While there aren't many books written on the subject, the ones that are written do a fine job.

CSIS Act

The CSIS Act is a 1984 document that officially created CSIS and spinned it off of the RCMP's Security Service. While the Act sets out the CSIS Charter and only allows them to operate domestically, CSIS has been found to operate outside their mandate and go overseas. This is one of the many contentious parts of CSIS' operations in and outside Canada.

The CSIS Act also sets out the 4 main things CSIS is charged with preventing: terrorism, espionage, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and security screening for immigration purposes. In recent years, IT has also become a major focus of CSIS, as protecting Canada's technical infrastructure has become crucial.

Have any questions about CSIS, or just want to leave a comment? Be my guest :)

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    • profile image

      sammy mcloughlin 2 years ago

      Ask csis why Richard kovac of bude in Cornwall England was used to try to sell Sammy mcloughlin hand guns to try to frame him up,lee walklin was fooled by Richard ko0vac ,csis are as dumb as they come and yet they actually call them selves agents is a wee bit of a joke ,they have no skills at all other then goofing up anything they try to do.css blackmailed kovac to do this .contact British journalists and Roderick Russell,ZERZETSEN.

    • profile image

      sammymcloughlin 2 years ago

      CSIS ARE RETARDS

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      CSIS has been keeping secrets from Canadians for over 2 decades, so of this is very sensitive that some of this should be released to Canadians. If everything is released to Canadians it could discrminate againist a majority of Canadians. Canadians should no what is going on in order to protect themselves.

    • profile image

      Robert61 5 years ago

      Enjoy viewing your site. I write about the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), mostly the CIA and NSA. I write about the CIA's relationship with Canada and England, too. It's called Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) News at www.osintdaily.blogspot.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      hi there, I just wanted to know that what are the exact requirments to join CSIS.I mean what courses do I need to take as I am a beginner.Also, what degree i need to take from the university.Does college diploma works.

    • profile image

      brynimagire 5 years ago

      Amazing lens ! Nice post.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i have been brain washed and extorted by north koreans when owning laanguge schools in Japan I know there secretes

      I wanna make some money can hire me

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: welcome aboard eh!

      We'll tell you aboot it later

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      lol I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO BE PART OF the CSIS

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What about food safety and bio-terrorism defending? You don't need specialized candidates in food industry, biotechnology etc?

      Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: for sure. Is mandatory to be born in Canada. No offense. No discrimination. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What is the Surveillant training process like?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How likely are you to be hired if you know 3 CSIS critical languages, both of Canada's official languages, (all fluently, all reading/writing/speaking) BUT your uni degree is a basic general studies degree?

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 6 years ago

      @anonymous: The degree itself is unimportant, as long as it's a Bachelor's degree (three or four years) is fine. What would really boost your application (and everyone else here who worries about education) is to get a Masters degree.

      MA's can be had in as little as a year of full-time study, can be done through distance-learning. Even with a General Studies degree you can still gain admission to a Masters program.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You forgot to mention that CSIS spies on innocent citzens such as Roderick Russell using illegal torture techniques. See report on Canadaâs Moral Dilemma: Torture in Canada by CSIS â Symptomatic of a crisis in our democracy". Read his report here http://zerzetzen.wikispaces.com/.

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 6 years ago

      @anonymous: You must be a Canadian citizen, however you don't need to have been born in Canada. The Security Clearance is difficult for those born outside the country however, so they may be less likely to take you as a candidate unless you have valuable skills (e.g. technical knowledge, important languages, or a Ph.D. in a desired field.)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Must you be born in Canada to get in?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @tradecraftforsp: Also, I've started learning Arabic to increase my chances of employment. Are there some languages that CSIS is looking for more than others?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @tradecraftforsp: I am currently in my 2nd year of university in a psychology major with the intention of applying for an intelligence officer position when i graduate. Should I consider changing my major to better my chances of getting into CSIS or is there a way of making that to my advantage?

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Being Indian, speaking multiple languages, and having degrees in Economics and Business would make you a star candidate for an Intelligence Officer position, definitely.

      Beyond those things, there isn't much more you can do to prepare unfortunately. CSIS's training process is entirely internal (consisting of courses and lectures on intelligence analysis and other topics), so you can't really train for it.

      The Black Belt might help with the interview as a conversation piece but it won't affect your chances of candidacy unfortunately.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How can you improve the chances? I am fluent in 3 other languages (other than english and french) and my ethnicity is Indian. Also, I plan on getting degrees in econmics and business.

      Also, Im a 2nd dan black belt. Would that help at all?

      Thanks.

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 6 years ago

      @anonymous: A little less than 10% of those who apply get accepted. The most important thing is that you keep your Internet identity as little as possible and you don't disclose your candidadcy during the process.

      In addition, many people are qualified (might have a Political Science degree from University, no criminal record, be white, mid-20's, etc.), but not have anything to make them standout.

      This is where languages and foreign travel abroad helps set you apart. Keep in mind family ties to certain countries (e.g. Israel, the Middle East) make it more difficult to qualify due to your potential for being manipulated.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      Great Lens, Very interesting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How high are the chances of getting qualified if you apply, assuming you have a clean record and are a Canadian citizen? Is it very slim or more open?

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Yes! In fact, CSIS loves these broad degrees such as Business, and Economics because they give you exposure to many more useful topics than say, Psychology or Engineering.

      As an example, who would you rather have analyzing North Korea's black market or check out an immigrant's offshore tax shelters, a business major trained in economic and financial statement analysis or a Psychology major?

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Can I still become an intelligence officer, if I get a Bachelors in Business in college, Thanks

      Please answer.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I wish to disappear and be altered mentally and physically to aid my country, take me quick.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Csis and Harper are spies for the , they have injected micro transmitters inside there ears and brains

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Harper and csis are moused spies for Zionism.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @Googleiz: Harper and csis are spies for the mossad, they all have Jewish micro transmitters injected inside there ears and brains to spy and torture till death with biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction all oxided and mixed with chemicals. Harper and csis are attacking the blood relatives to two former U.S presidents George Washington and Benjermin Franklin with illegal entries of there homes with duplicate keys armed with weapons of mass destruction to murder them off with cancer to undermine the world. The jewish are able to see and hear all your thoughts inside your mind and are seen on a T.V screen. The jewish have duplicate keys to all devices that need a key to operate. The jewish are able to shoot toxic gases like depleted uranium from satellites in space and into your body. The jewish are able to bypass or still frame all video surveillance for illegal entries. The feminist terrorist(KLAS OR KILLAS) follow all orders of zionists. A 30-50000 volt police taser will scramble the frequencies of the injected micro transmitters. The jewish lied to the united states for over 300 years, the jewish and Canada and democrats are enemies of the united states. The micro transmitters implanted inside all your ears and brains are Israeli not American. Go to rense.com and whatreallyhappened.com. Expect another 9/11 aftermath. The jewish use contaminated foods and liquids as weapons, the only way of detection is high quality cannabis. The jewish are able to duplicate firearms and there serial numbers.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @tradecraftforsp: lol, ever heard of encryption... not that it would do these blokes any good.

    • profile image

      Obscure_Treasures 7 years ago

      These all sound so good,I really like your lens. It gives me a lot idea

    • tradecraftforsp profile image
      Author

      tradecraftforsp 7 years ago

      @anonymous: This gave me a good laugh!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Little Stew, go to storage unit 24 at "Spaces Self Storage" on 356 Eastern Avenue

      Toronto, ON M4M 1B8. When you get there I have set up a cover for you along with gear you will need. Your briefing is also in the envelope. When you get there go to the front office and ask for Felipe, he will give you the key. The code word is "Alpha". Good Luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: csis torture me sammy mcloughlin 11goad ave prince rock plymouth uk,stops my mail and phone calls to my famil in uk

    • profile image

      Googleiz 7 years ago

      Great Info.

      Jane Linn

      Contributing Editor

      Article Online Search And Background Checks

    • profile image

      express-va 7 years ago

      A very informative and easy to read lens 'tradecraftforspies'. Loads to explore. Jobs-n-goodin!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      csis is cool

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      need to have a privte chat with governer general the t 18 not cool how about the next ones ? i need employment witr a few fixings to mmake this work no religon no polititcs very cappable of getting job done job bless canada discretion prefed will need a little start up gear / cover willing to move pleases contact when intrested sooner better before the big inisedent govner general please soon discretion perferd my code name is little stew

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      HI,

      How do I apply ? I would love this type of spy work. I have been a social worker for a long time- so i can read people well. and I have always wanted to do some investigating. This would be a perfect job.

      please if you could send me some info on how to apply. I would really appreicate it thanks

      mojo-75@hotmail.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      if you could e-mail me please carasado@hotmail.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi there,

      dear friend i lived in Canada ,Toronto for 7 years,my refugee status denied,i have got married to a Cnadaian citizen,but i had to leave the Canada to process my application from Canadian Embassy in Ankara,Turkey

      my case is taking already 14 months

      all steps are done except the background check

      i have heard that it takes sometimes up to 6-7 months embassy to receive answer back from CSIS (ihad 2 charges-1 cleared,2 withdrown)

      dear officer could you help me please,may be there are another ways that we could get our background check done faster ?(agiencies or some fees)

      i miss my family so much ,my wife my dog my cat ,this is so hard for us,Hope to hear from you soon )