Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bordering On Reckless

A top Canadian spy testifies that his country is in as much danger from homegrown terrorists as from those abroad.

While Canadian troops are battling insurgents in Afghanistan, Canada faces a growing threat on the home front -- the young Canadian who quietly plans an attack using tactics learned on the Internet, the country's spy agency is warning.

A top spy yesterday revealed Ottawa's increasing fears of an attack unleashed by homegrown terrorists on the same scale as last July's suicide bombings in Britain that killed 56.

Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was testifying before the Senate's national security and defence committee.

"All the circumstances that led to the London transit bombing ... are resident here and now in Canada," Hooper said.

So, are Canadian authorities on the case? Can they be? Have they been given the funding and resources needed in proportion to the importance of the task?

But he also made the frank admission that the resource-stretched spy agency is having a hard time identifying all the potential threats.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to detect these elements," Hooper said.

"We do a very good job of containing the threats we know about. We stay up at night worrying about the threats that we don't know about," he said.

In a blunt assessment, Hooper described how easily homegrown terrorists blend in and learn their deadly craft without ever leaving the house.

He said there have been a growing number of young people, either born in Canada or who moved here at an early age and become "radicalized."

"They are virtually indistinguishable from other youth. They blend in very well to our society. They speak our language," Hooper said.

"These are people ... in most instances who are Canadian citizens," said the CSIS deputy. "You can't remove them anywhere.

According to this article and another in the Jerusalem Post,
Hooper gave several examples of Canadian residents participating in terrorist attacks, including a man from Vancouver who trained the terrorists involved in the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar e-Salaam, Tanzania. He said that there are a number of "experienced combatants" from conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya living in Canada, as well as veterans of overseas terrorist training camps. But he also said that the internet is functioning as a virtual terrorist recruiting tool as well as a training camp.

Feeling all safe, warm and fuzzy yet?

Consider this.

About 90 per cent of immigration applicants from Pakistan and Afghanistan hotbeds for Islamic fundamentalism and central in the fight against terrorism haven't been adequately screened for security concerns over the past five years, Canada's spy agency said Monday.

The No. 2 man at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said his organization simply doesn't have the resources necessary to do all the security checks it would like.

Jack Hooper, deputy director of operations for the service, told a Senate national security committee about 20,000 immigrants have come from the Afghanistan/Pakistan region to Canada since 2001.

''We're in a position to vet one-tenth of those,'' he said. ''That may be inadequate.''

Asked if that meant CSIS wasn't completely satisfied about 90 per cent of the immigrants coming into the country from that region, Hooper responded ''that's correct.''

Committee chairman and Liberal Senator Colin Kenny suggested in an interview 10 per cent coverage was unacceptable.

'We have resourcing problems that have to be addressed'' at Canada's spy and police services, Kenny said. ''I hope they will be.'' He pointed out RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told the same committee just two weeks ago his force only has the resources to pursue about one-third of known organized crime in Canada.

''And that's of what we know,'' Zaccardelli said at the time. Currently, CSIS only vets a handful of cases referred to it by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.


Let's see, these are the figures just since 2001. 2001. Is it too unfair to speculate that perhaps our neighbors to the north don't really take the potential threat from Islamic extremists/terrorists all that seriously? They sure don't appear to be ordering their priorities or allocating resources in a way that would indicate so.

And about the porosity of our Northern border ... .