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Head of Canada's Spy Agency to Retire in May


FILE - Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director Michel Coulombe (L) waits to testify before the Commons public safety and national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Oct. 8, 2014.

The head of Canada's spy agency said on Monday he would step down at the end of May, the second top security official to announce plans to retire in as many weeks.

Michel Coulombe, who has been the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) since October 2013, said in a statement that after more than 30 years with the agency it was time "to move on to the next stage of my life with my family."

CSIS found itself in the midst of a controversy last November after a Canadian court found that the agency had illegally kept data collected during investigations over the past decade and threatened sanctions if the issue occurred again.

Coulombe said at the time that the agency would immediately stop sharing and analyzing associated data until it could "assess potential operational and legal impacts."

His announcement on Monday comes one week after Bob Paulson, the head of Canada's national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said he would be retiring at the end of June.

"I think it's not entirely accidental that both these positions are retiring at the same time," said Christian Leuprecht, professor of politics at Royal Military College.

Leuprecht said there may be a sense that the Liberal government that came to power in 2015 wants different leadership in place. Both Coulombe and Paulson were appointed by the previous Conservative government.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale congratulated Coulombe in a tweet and thanked him for his service "in keeping Canadians safe."

The Liberals campaigned on a promise to establish a national security oversight committee and vowed to introduce new legislation to guarantee all CSIS warrants respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In their replacement to head CSIS, the Liberals are likely to pick someone who is ready to be open and transparent with the public, which can be a difficult balance for intelligence agencies, said Leuprecht.

"You're going to need someone who is ... willing to articulate what the agency does and why it does it," said Leuprecht.

The government will appoint a new CSIS head against a backdrop of global concerns about the reach of security agencies. Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks last week published what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used over several years.

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