Some Thoughts on May 2006 Terrorism Arrests in Canada

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Some Thoughts on May 2006 Terrorism Arrests in Canada

The recent arrests in the Greater Toronto Area have netted 17 accused person. Five of them are youth.

The Accused

The accused are a very diverse bunch. Two of them, troubled youth of Somali descent, were already in prison for pleading guilty for having guns when crossing the border from the USA. One of them told his mother that "they are changing my story around". One is a widower over 40. A recent graduate of health sciences and the son of a medical doctor. A really "calm and religious" good basketball shooter.

There is no common thread at all among the accused, whether it is ethnicity, education, work, citizenship, criminal background or lack of it. Some are professionals, others employed, some students, some unemployed.

This is in strack contrast to the profiles of the London bombers last summer, who had more commonalities than the bunch above.

Reactions and Responses

Prime Minister Steven Harper's response is somewhat laughable: he attributes the reason Canada is targeted is 'because of who we are'. Even a reason of : "because they are evil" would have been better than that content free statement. On his mind I am sure is Canada's role in Afghanistan, shifting from peace keeping to active  combat, as well as extending that role for years to come. Canada, Afghanistan and the world are better served if our role is focused on aid and rebuilding.

MPs are talking about "engaging the Muslim community" being vital. 

A Toronto mosque was vandalized overnight, most probably as a reaction to those arrests.

Skepticism

This time, I am skeptical about whether this is a genuine terrorism cell or not.

Think about these points:

  • The RCMP undercover cops are the ones who delivered the bomb making material.
  • How can two imprisoned youth be actively involved in plotting for a bomb?
  • Where would three tonnes of fertilizer be stored?

If I were to succumb to conspiracy theories, I can go further:

Fearmongering helps keep the public in check, and implement more draconian laws and concentrate power for the government. It also means more money for CSIS and the RCMP, something that the Harper government has made as a campaign promise. Moreover, it will also make CSIS or some other entity the equivalent of the US CIA engaging in spying and covert operations overseas. Internet monitoring was also mentioned as a means of nabbing those alleged plotters, so we should see more of that in the future put into laws.

Previous Terrorism Cases: No Convictions

Let us not forget that since September 2003, there has been 21 suspects detained for an alleged terror plot against Toronto targets. They are mainly Pakistani students, with at least one of them giving himself up to police voluntarily. In almost three years, there has been no details on the alledged plot, nor have there been a trial let alone a single conviction.

A similar case is of Mohammad Momin Khawaja, who was arrested in March of 2004, and denied bail a bit later.  Again, there are no details on the plot here, apart from the allegation that it was related to Operation Crevice, a London, UK bomb plot with ammonium nitrate fertilizer based bomb.

This is becoming very much like the USA, starting from the Ashcroft era, where he would theatrically announce the arrest of a terrorist cell, accusing them of all sorts of things, from "having ties to al-Qaeda", to plotting against targets in the USA.

Only later would the accused be either let go free, plead guilty of lesser charges, or be convicted or minor offences, such as forging documents or lying on their immigration applications.

Several cases that come to my mind are the group of Oregon black Muslims, the Yemeni-Americans known as the Buffalo Six (more here) and the Detroit Sleeper Cell. This tactic works in giving the public the impression that:

  • they are under constant danger from attacks
  • they are being actively protected from these attacks by the government

And hence, people are cowed into giving the government more power as time passes by ...

Resources

Update:

Since I wrote the original articles exactly 4 years ago, more events have unfolded. Several of the suspects were freed without charges, some pleaded guilty, and some went on trial.

So it seems that this was a mixed bag. Some were true terrorists to be, with all the lurid details just coming out now. Others were innocent and arrested unjustly. Some have realized they have no chance of getting out and plead guilty. Other seem to be fighting it to the end, and lost too.

There are still questions on entrapment: would all of them have done this if they were not coaxed by the two informants?

Muslim Informant Speaks Up

Mubin Shaikh, the Canadian Muslim informant who says he worked undercover with CSIS to infiltrate the the group planning for bombing, has an interview on the CBC.

Shaikh is a former Canadian army cadet and reservist, he said that he was:

... moved to become an informer by concerns about the impact of the plot on all Canadians and particularly on the country's Muslim community.

"My interests were about Islam and Muslims, even and above Canada," he said.

Shaikh said he consulted the Qur'an and senior Muslim religious leaders before going undercover and becoming an informer.

"God says in the Qur'an that we must value one life," he said, "I was guided, I had my licence."

Here is the transcript of the complete interview, with links to the video .

Responses from around Canada are overwhelmingly positive.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Two suspects released on bail

CBC is reporting that two suspects, a teenager who cannot be named, and Ahmad Ghany, 21, were released under bail.

Ghany is a recent health sciences graduate, and had to post $140,000, as well as be under house arrest at his parents' home in Mississauga.

A publication ban forbids publishing the evidence presented in the bail hearing.

If suspects are being let go on bail, and the new terrorism laws not being used to keep them behind bars, then it means that at least for some of the accused the government's case is really weak, and the justice of the peace is not convinced of keeping them behind bars.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Youngest suspect released on bail

The CBC is reporting that the youngest suspect is freed on bail.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

One denied bail, and one more arrested

Asad Ansari was denied bail today, and another 19 year old was arrested, more than two months after the initial arrests.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Fourth suspect released on bail

Another teenage suspect was released on $137,000 bail today.

This means four of the suspects are freed so far.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

One suspect denied bail

Amin Durrani, a 20-year old suspect in the plot was denied bail today.

So far we have 18 total suspects, 4 of them out on bail, and the rest still in jail.

From the CBC.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Fifth suspect out on bail

A fifth suspect is out on bail now.

He is Ibrahim Abboud, who was arrested two months after the other suspects.

More in this Toronto Star article.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

A second informant

Today, another Muslim informant was announced. He is an agricultural engineer in his 20s from a wealthy Toronto family of Egyptian descent, used to work for Air Canada, and is now in a witness protection program.

"He really felt, as a loyal Muslim Canadian, like he owed Canada something, to give back to it," said a close friend and former business associate who, for security reasons, can't be named. "And it's not surprising to see that he did that for the cause of Canada."
...
Like the second mole, whose role is now emerging, [Mubin] Shaikh feared that a successful attack on a Canadian target would have been a social and political catastrophe for the Canadian Muslim community.
...
Mohamed Boudjenane, executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, said it is about time that Canadian authorities involved Muslim Canadians in such investigations.

"What we've been saying from the beginning, to the government, to those security agencies, [is] that if you want intelligent intelligence, you have to bring to the table the Arab and the Muslim community," Boudjenane said.

"Because, after all, we are doubly victimized. We are the victims when there is any terrorist attack, because we could be killed as well, and we are the victim because we are portrayed as those terrorists."

Boudjenane said the young informant made enormous sacrifices to do what he thought was right.

"He left his job, he left everything for the sake of doing this, and it's going to be very difficult for him in the future."

More in the CBC article.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Informant wanted $14 million

This Globe and Mail article says that a financially struggling Muslim informant in this case demanded $14 million. he ended up getting $500,000, with the total cost being close to $4 million when relocation costs were factored in.

Another informant, Mubin Shaikh is on record saying that he was paid $300,000 by the RCMP.

From the article:

People close to the accused have already suggested that large cash payments would raise serious questions about whether informants were motivated by conscience or money.

I cannot be sure, but that raises a valid point. The youth could have been entrapped into planning something that they never would have planned had the greedy informants not coerced them into it.
--
Khalid Baheyeldin

Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail has an article on Mubin to, titled The Making Of A Terror Mole.

The articles says he earned $77,000 from CSIS and is still owed $300,000 by them. It also mentions that he was accused of assaulting his aunt, but the charges were dropped.
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Khalid Baheyeldin