“Spy services often rely on foreign networks of local people and informants, whose ability to blend in and speak the language reaps more intelligence. Usually, the foreign governments where this takes place don’t know about such operations.
The allegations in Turkey come as the Conservative government is moving legislation through Parliament that would increase the latitude CSIS has to conduct spying missions outside Canada. One bill would give the agency explicit authority to work overseas, or as top Canadian spymaster Michel Coulombe told MPs this week, to “conduct a threat-related activity investigation abroad.””
Technically, CSIS is not supposed to be gathering information out side of Canada, although there have been grey areas and loopholes. Currently, two pieces of legislation have been introduced that would change that: Bills C-44 and Bill C-51 would allow CSIS greater scope to operate on foreign soil and not only monitor but also disrupt potential threats to Canadian security. The legislation is of course extremely controversial. There has been a long running debate about whether Canada needs the institutional capacity to spy abroad. There are also concerns about judicial oversight, the process by which information is shared with foreign governments and other agencies, and the question of what constitutes a threat to Canadian security. Many critics are concerned that legitimate dissent could be categorized as terrorist subversion. Indeed, the laws and institutional structure which has been in place since the 1960s was a response to excesses by the RCMP, so there is historical precedent for concern.