And just to top it off, a piece of real worth from Toronto's own Eric Margolis, journalist extraordinaire.
Death to America.
Death to Denmark.
Monday, June 05, 2006
* No evidence suspects planned to attack US
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The three tonnes of ammonium nitrate found with the Totonto terrorism suspects was planted by the police in an elaborate sting operation.
According to Toronto Star, "Sources say investigators who had learned of the group's alleged plan to build a bomb were controlling the sale and transport of the massive amount of fertiliser, a key component in creating explosives. Once the deal was done, the RCMP-led anti-terrorism task force moved in for the arrests." At the news conference held by the police, there was no mention of the sting operation. Among the intended targets of the group, one report said, was the Parliament in Ottawa and the headquarters of Canada's premier spy agency.
The 12 adults charged are: Fahim Ahmad, 21; Jahmaal James, 23; Amin Mohamed Durrani, 19; and Steven Vikash Chand, 25, all of Toronto; Zakaria Amara, 20; Asad Ansari, 21; Shareef Abdelhaleen, 30; Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21; Saad Khalid, 19; and Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, all of Mississauga; and Mohammed Dirie, 22 and Yasin Abdi Mohamed, 24. Six of the 12 suspects lived in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, four came from Toronto and two from the town of Kingston in Ontario. The last two are already in custody on a gun smuggling charge.
The police also arrested five youngsters but their identities or names have not bee made public. At a court hearing in Toronto on Saturday, all the suspects were produced and Canadian newspapers published photographs of head-to-toe, black burqa clad group of women said to belong to the one or more of the families of the men arrested. One whose face was visible looked like a Pakistani. Several of the men, photographed as they were being brought in police cars, were bearded.
The charges include participating in or contributing to the activity of a terrorist group, including training and recruitment; providing or making available property for terrorist purposes; and the commission of indictable offences, including firearms and explosives offences for the benefit of or in association with a terrorist group.
According to the Toronto Star report, "Anser Farooq, a lawyer who represents five of the accused, pointed at snipers on the roof of the courthouse and said, "This is ridiculous. They've got soldiers here with guns. This is going to completely change the atmosphere. I think the police cast their net far too wide," he said.
According to the Globe and Mail, defence lawyer Rocco Galati, who was representing some of the suspects, protested the intense security measures at the court. Galati later scoffed at the allegations. "I've seen fertiliser for the last eight years," he said.
Aly Hindy, a Toronto imam, said he knew several of the accused because they prayed at his mosque but said they were not terrorists. "The charges are to keep George Bush happy, that's all," he added sardonically. The Globe and Mail did not mention that all incriminating evidence had been planted on the suspects.
AP adds: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there was no indication that the arrested were trying to plan an attack in the United States. "We certainly don't believe that there's any link to the United States, but obviously we will follow up," said Rice. "I think we will get whatever information we need," she said. "But it's obviously a great success for the Canadians. They're to be congratulated for it."
Snipers, leg irons, selected evidence, police brass — all calculated to sway the public, lawyers and security experts say
Jun. 5, 2006. 08:16 AM
"A good spectacle ... theatrical atmosphere ... like 24 ... an awards show."Reviews for a Mirvish production, right? Maybe a Hollywood blockbuster or fast-paced new action series on Fox?
Wrong. It's how several lawyers and security experts describe the sombre, indeed frightening, events which transpired in the GTA over the past weekend. At a news conference Saturday, a dozen of the highest-ranking police officers in the province gathered to announce that an alleged terrorist cell had been shut down before it could explode a truck bomb three times more powerful than the device used in Oklahoma City. They were circumspect about Operation O-Sage, arguing time constraints in the preparation of evidence as well as police procedure. The anti-terrorism task force was careful about the wording of its news release, saying that the group "took steps to acquire" the three tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a popular fertilizer used to make bombs. As well, they laid out selected evidence for the photographers and TV crews, showing only "sample" bags of ammonium nitrate.
Meanwhile, under massive police security which included sharpshooters on nearby roofs and tactical squad officers with submachine-guns, suspects were brought in leg irons to the provincial courthouse in Brampton. There, in Room 101, Justice of the Peace John Farnum postponed bail hearings until tomorrow morning.
For the experts contacted by the Star, these events were as much about creating an image for the public as about charging the individuals. And it's an image, they argue, that could hurt the right of the accused — 12 men and five youths — to a fair trial.Being on message — "on script" as the spin doctors put it — is a concept more easily associated with politicians than police chiefs. But for a veteran of the criminal justice system like Toronto lawyer Walter Fox, it's the obvious lens through which to judge events
.The principal audience, in his view, is the Canadian public.
"Police think they have to present a show of force to advance the public's understanding that these guys are dangerous," said Fox. "Does it prejudice the mind of the public? I think so."
As a criminal lawyer, I am well aware that police and the prosecution are never stronger than at the moment when they've brought their suspects into court for the first time. I've also learned that the stronger the police seem to be at this point, the more suspicious I become that they don't have a complete case."
Overall, Fox tends to believe that the checks and balances of the justice system will probably win out. David Jacobs, a Toronto lawyer with extensive experience in international human rights law, is less sure.
"The fanfare around the arrests creates such a theatrical atmosphere one wonders if it is necessary for the enforcement of justice.... It raises the emotional level without necessarily shedding any light," he said.
In Brampton Saturday, lawyer Anser Farooq, who represents five of the accused, clearly saw the image of snipers on the roof and police armed to the teeth as negative to his clients. "This is ridiculous," he told the Star. "They've got soldiers here with guns. This is going to completely change the atmosphere."
Inside, lawyer Rocco Galati, representing two suspects, complained to Farnum about the leg irons and armed officers in the courtroom, adding: "I do not feel safe with an automatic weapon facing in my direction.
"Police evidence was carefully chosen for the news conference, held at the Toronto Congress Centre by the RCMP-led National Security Enforcement Team. The chief speaker was RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell, and lined up behind him were chiefs of police from Toronto, York, Durham and Peel regions, as well as representatives from the Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
"When I saw all that brass lined up with every cop in southern Ontario and Canada telling us what a wonderful job they had done, I thought it was like an awards show," said Fox. "Everybody will tell you it's standard but they are all working to influence the public."
He had questions, as did Jacobs, about exactly how three tonnes of ammonium nitrate were "acquired" by the suspects. The Star has learned that when investigators monitoring the men found out about the alleged purchase of the fertilizer, they intervened before delivery, switching the potentially deadly material with a harmless substance.
Jacobs advised vigilance in seeing what comes out in court about how far police went. He said that the courts have been drawing a line past which law enforcement officers can't go without being seen as having induced the commission of a criminal offence.
He found it interesting that police referred to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing where 168 people died in an explosion at a federal building. He said that if, for example, police arranged for delivery of the ammonium nitrate, it would shed a different light on proceedings.
"In Oklahoma City, there was no suggestion police were involved," said Jacobs, adding that there are a number of important unanswered questions in the investigation.
Jacobs also criticized police for linking the suspects to Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, without providing evidence. Police said that cell members were "inspired" by Al Qaeda.
Fox chuckled at the way evidence was presented, notably the use of similar bags of ammonium nitrate, not the actual evidence.
Watching it on TV, he said, he had the sense of reading an old crime pulp magazine from the '50s, with lines like: "At a location similar to the one pictured above, the following events took place ..." "Was there a police infiltrator?" asked Fox. "Did a spouse talk to police or did someone arrested on more minor charges give information to police? We don't know what kind of a police operation it was. Everybody thinks that it's like on TV, but everything is far more complicated."
Michael Edmunds, administrator of the U of T's McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology, argues the public is already so influenced by television that people are receptive to the kind of message sent out by police on the weekend. Unconsciously, receptive audiences for police actions are created by such TV shows as the Fox hit 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer. Viewers sympathize with Bauer, no matter what he has to do, because they want him to get the bad guys and protect the free world.
Edmunds argued that certain memes — or unspoken beliefs in any culture — are constantly being reinforced. Here, he said, the message was that police know what they are doing and they are protecting us.
"It's all global theatre, as Marshall McLuhan used to say. We assume the police want to help us and we assume it's good."
The interesting aspect of the weekend for him was yesterday's front-page play of the story in the New York Times. "Now we know what the police did was good," he said. "It's vindication when our brothers and sisters in the United States see it, too."
And perhaps therein lies another audience for the images of the weekend: the American public, or more precisely, official Washington, both the White House and Capitol Hill.
The Times story pointed out that Bush administration officials were kept abreast of the police investigation and arrests, adding that Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day spoke early Saturday with his U.S. counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
The Oklahoma City reference would surely resonate with Americans. The 1995 tragedy — the first domestic terrorist action in recent history — shocked a nation. It was exceedingly difficult for Americans to come to grips with the fact that domestic terrorists were involved, and not foreigners.
The trial of Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the crime, was held under massive security, a preview perhaps of what Canadians can expect in the trial of the O-Sage 17."
They are putting on a good spectacle, a show," U.S. security expert John Pike said in a telephone interview from Virginia yesterday about the Canadian police show of force. "We are used to that here."
Pike said the kind of massive security force employed in U.S. trials, while clearly reinforced in the aftermath of 9/11, is not a product simply of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on 9/11."
There has been an inexorable militarization of the police in the United States since the 1980s," he said, citing a gradual weakening of human rights groups that began a decade earlier. "But there has been a substantial ratcheting up of security since 9/11."
Problem is, said Pike, that police and prosecutors "make a big deal of what they've got, but as trials progress, we've repeatedly seen that the prosecution's case falls apart because they simply don't have the evidence."
According to Pike, the key to the Canadian case will be the three tonnes of ammonium nitrate with which the 17 suspects supposedly plotted to set off a bomb in southern Ontario.
Police put on a `good spectacle'
CANADA’S ALMOST 9-11?
PARIS – Canadians got a taste of the real world this week.
The arrest Friday of 17 suspected terrorists is stark evidence Canadians can no longer expect to escape the private enterprise violence by small groups that we call `terrorism.’
Three weeks ago, this writer warned a conference of DND and police officers that the greatest security threat to Canada would come not from the shadowy al-Qaida organization, but from angry young Canadian Muslims opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan and its tacit support of US policy in Iraq and Palestine.
The recent bombing attacks in Madrid and London were not conducted by al-Qaida, but by young British-born Muslims men and Spanish residents opposed to their nation’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Is Canada now facing its own home-grown violence? The 17 arrested men were all apparently Muslims, with the possible exception of one Indian. The RCMP suggests the arrested suspects planned to use three tons of fertilizer to build truck bombs for use against targets in southern Ontario.
This scenario is plausible. Canadian Muslims, like their brethren across the Muslim world, see western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan as crimes against the Islamic World, and part of a new anti-Muslim crusade directed from Washington
A small number of extremists may have decided to punish Canada for sending troops to fight in Afghanistan. But before we rush to judgment, it’s worth remembering the score of Pakistanis arrested in 2003 allegedly for plotting to blow up the nuclear reactors at Pickering. After a huge media uproar and lurid claims the charges were dropped and the accused deported on minor visa irregularities.
The Bush Administration has been putting enormous pressure on Canada to `get tough’ with a wide assortment of Muslim groups and individuals protesting US policy in the Muslim World.
The raid by hundreds of Canadian security officers on a small number of young Muslim suspects in Mississauga and Kingston suggests the high-profile operation was designed as much for public relations and diplomatic reasons as national security. No doubt, Washington will be very pleased with PM Harper.
If RCMP and CSIS have in fact uncovered a major terrorist plot, kudos to them for a job well done. They will have performed far more effectively and professionally than the FBI and CIA.
But caution is advised until all the facts are known. It is also very possible Canadian security organizations have rounded up a bunch of loud-mouthed teenagers who may have been encouraged to sedition by government `agents provacatuers.’
We won’t know what really happened until the accused go to court. It seems an FBI investigation last month of a group of American Muslims from Atlanta who went to Toronto and met co-religionists there led to the current arrests. FBI and Canadian authorities believe they have uncovered an important terrorist cell plotting major attacks in Canada and the US.
But the FBI’s evidence so far appears fairly slim and may not amount to much. Recall that of the more than 2,000 Muslims arrested in the US since 2001 for suspicion of terrorism, less than 15 were convicted, and those mostly for minor visa offenses.
Canadian authorities may face the same results. Their track record so far has been unimpressive.
That, of course, may be because there are no terrorist cells plotting outrages, but just a lot of angry young men.
By sending combat troops to Afghanistan, Canada has declared itself an active participant in the US-led war against Islamic militancy. As a result, Canadians must now expect what CIA veterans call `blow-back.’ Once admired by everyone, and hated by no one, Canada has now made itself a target. It’s only a matter of time before a major attack occurs. If not this week, then soon.
30 MARGOLIS http://www.ericmargolis.com/archives/2006/06/index.php
The "30" above is printers' code to signify that the copy is ended. In this case one must guess it's to show Margolis is an old-time and hard-bitten journalist no one can fool.