NSIRA’s Research Directorate is responsible for carrying out reviews of any national security or intelligence activity undertaken by any Canadian federal organization.
A review involves a retroactive assessment of the national security and intelligence activities of departments/agencies to assess their lawfulness, reasonableness and necessity.
Reviews can either be focused on a single department/agency, or on multiple departments/agencies, depending on the subject of review. Review subjects are chosen based on a combination of required reporting (i.e. legally obligated reports to a particular Minister, or on a particular topic), and risk-based assessments of key program areas and/or emerging issues to ensure appropriate scrutiny. The review plan is approved by NSIRA members.
NSIRA has unlimited access to sensitive information, with the sole exception of Cabinet confidences. Reviews often require hundreds of staff hours and are completed over a period of several months. Hardcopy and electronic documentation must be obtained from department/agency files, reviewed and analysed. Briefings from and interviews of relevant government employees are a key part of any review.
Once a review is completed, a classified version of the review is shared with the appropriate Minister or Ministers. The report is later summarized in NSIRA’s annual unclassified report to Parliament, which includes findings and recommendations stemming from reviews completed during the previous calendar year.
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