The trial of accused terrorists John Nuttall and Amanda Korody resumed yesterday in Vancouver, with the judge seeking to determine whether the pair were entrapped by the RCMP. A finding of entrapment would render last month’s guilty verdict null and void, so the stakes for the Mounties are high.
As regular readers of The Alfalfafield may know, my mind is pretty firmly made up on this one, and has been since the trial’s early stages – there’s no way in hell this pair could’ve cooked up and executed this plot without extensive training, funding, and pressure from their police handlers, who literally planned the entire scheme.
For those who are new to the story, Nuttall and Korody were recovering heroin addicts who had recently converted to Islam. Nuttall encountered an undercover CSIS agent provocateur at his local mosque, and decided to snitch (to CSIS, ironically) about this seemingly dangerous firebrand radical. For whatever reason, this caught the attention of the RCMP, through channels that Nuttall’s lawyer is convinced were undocumented, so as to avoid future court disclosure. The RCMP then sicced its INSET program on Nuttall and his wife.
To give a bit more detail on INSET [Integrated National Security Enforcement Team]: it’s actually five programs, not one. It operates in six major Canadian cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, and a joint Calgary-Edmonton unit, each of which is known as an INSET. And the purpose of these INSETs?
The purpose for [INSETs] is to increase the capacity for the collection, sharing and analysis of intelligence among partners with respect to individuals and entities that are a threat to national security and; create an enhanced investigative capacity to bring such individuals and entities to justice; and enhance partner agencies collective ability to combat national security threats and meet all specific mandate responsibilities, consistent with the laws of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
INSETs are made up of representatives of the RCMP, federal partners and agencies such as Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and provincial and municipal police services. [sic throughout] [Evidently one of the 600+ officers transferred out of their normal duties into INSET was the one responsible for copy-editing and keeping track of all the semicolons]
That’s some pretty suggestively murky language right there. If “enhanced interrogation techniques” turned out to mean “torture”, what do you supposed “enhanced investigative capacity” means when translated into plain English? It’s hard to say exactly, but after squinting really hard at these paragraphs, I came to the conclusion that INSET is largely about undercover and intelligence work, infiltrating suspected national security threats and disrupting them from within.
Note that this program was very much operative long before anybody ever learned to dread the alphanumeric abomination that is C-51. That is to say, people and parties who advocate merely for a repeal of that noxious law are advocating to a return to the days when the RCMP could pull a stunt like the one they pulled on Nuttall and Korody.
That stunt basically involved taking two impressionable and socially isolated addicts who had done nothing more than express anger and hostility towards the government due to its involvement in invading Muslim nations and coerce them into an elaborate plot. This plot involved extensive use of police resources, including the involvement of 240 officers over the course of the undercover investigation.
Initially, the pair – and especially Nuttall – talked about impossible schemes like launching homemade rockets at Seattle or hijacking a nuclear submarine. To be clear, these two were poor as fuck and had no specialized training or access to the materials they would need to pull off such a scheme, nor did they show any particular ability or motivation to actually follow through on their shit-talking. Most likely, they were trying to impress the (in their eyes) genuinely radical Muslim jihadists who had befriended them.
Mounties frequently applied pressure on the couple to consider schemes which were more realistic, more feasible, and more easily achieved on a tight timeframe. They even paid for the couple to have a weekend getaway in Kelowna to learn how to use C-4 and build pressure-cooker bombs, a weapon that the RCMP urged them to consider using.
In the end, the RCMP actually built the pressure cooker bombs for the pair, and of course rendered them completely inoperative. After Nuttall and Korody, at their handler’s urging, planted the inert pressure cookers on the grounds of the BC Parliament buildings in Victoria on Canada Day 2013, the RCMP “found” the “bombs” and “caught” the “terrorists” who had planted them. High fives all around!
From my April post:
What that sounds like to me is that the Mounties had put a ton of funding into these INSETs without seeing strong results and the higher-ups were getting antsy for a big arrest. So they devote huge amounts of time and money and two hundred forty officers to this case which just keeps not panning out, and all the way up the chain of command there’s pressure to get results, get an arrest, get some headlines, to the point that they pretty much concocted the whole damn plot. They took Nuttall’s initial half-baked unachievable plan of making rocket explosives out of cow manure, a plan that he projected would take over a year of concentrated effort to achieve (effort of which he was incapable, left to his own devices), and pressed the couple hard to consider a more realistic and achievable attack plan. They provided them with the means, the cash, the knowledge, and the capability to achieve a plot that they themselves had concocted. And then, at the last minute, they “caught the bad guys”, to international acclaim – and on such a conveniently symbolic day, too. Perfect for maximum media impact, really.
It seems, though, that the defence saved some of the most hard-hitting details for this stage of the trial, so as to milk them for maximum impact. And woah Nelly some of them are real doozies.
Like for instance, it turns out that Nuttall and Korody’s handlers had to frequently pressure the couple to even leave the house, because all they really wanted to do was hit the bong and play video games:
The lead investigator of an RCMP sting wanted a pair of terrorism suspects out of their home and away from the distractions of drugs and video games to keep them focused on their bomb plot, a court heard Monday.
Staff Sgt. Vaz Kassam testified on Monday that removing John Nuttall and Amanda Korody from “their element” would give police a better assessment of the couple’s commitment to threatening public safety…
Korody’s lawyer Mark Jette suggested to Kassam that police removed his client and her husband from the house because otherwise “they weren’t motivated to do much of anything except play video games.”
“It sounds to me like your assessment is that if they were at home they were unfocused and unmotivated and using drugs but if you got them out of the house you might be able to motivate them to do something,” Jette suggested.
Kassam disagreed, saying “I think it’s more of a commitment level as to how serious they are.
In other words, left to their own devices, Nuttall and Korody wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything more dangerous than a daring midnight raid in WoW.
And here’s the really important part, as far as I’m concerned:
Kassam was appointed primary investigator in charge of the undercover file on June 24, 2013, one week before Nuttall and Korody were arrested. He testified that when he took over the case the other officers appeared frustrated that the suspects weren’t moving forward with their bomb plot as predicted.
Just seven days later, the pair planted their pressure cookers on the Parliament lawn. What the hell happened in the interim?
Testimony from just today provides a crystal-clear answer:
The head of an undercover terrorism investigation says it would have been important to know that a target of the operation feared he’d be killed for not following through on a mission to blow up the British Columbia legislature.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Vaz Kassam has testified that he doesn’t recall being briefed that John Nuttall felt he’d lose his life for disobeying orders he thought were coming from al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives. [my bold, because Jesus effin Christ!]
I mean, ya wanna talk about entrapment? How about fearing for your goddamn life if you don’t do what the scary angry jihadist tells you to do?
Maybe Kassam actually didn’t know that Nuttall feared for his life, but I’ll bet my bottom donut that Kassam told his underlings to do whatever they had to do to get the job done. And it worked.
But now everything’s falling apart on them. Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I feel like any objective reading of the facts should lead the judge to conclude that the duo were entrapped into this scheme. (I’ll grant that my reading is far from objective – but then again, it’s not my job to be objective!)
The longer I think about it, the more it seems to me that the real tragedy of this case is the way these two former heroin addicts were treated. As evidence continues to accumulate that addicts are largely victims of various types of abuse and neglect, and that the criminalization of addiction is perhaps the single most counter-productive approach to addiction that a government could take, it’s clear that we as a society repeatedly and consistently failed these two. Long before they ever got entangled in this ridiculous plot, we failed them.
That this marginalized and impoverished pair responded to the encouragement (and financial support) of their handlers should be no surprise, because who else was encouraging them? Who else was supporting them? Who else was telling them that their lives had meaning and purpose, that they were capable of accomplishing something meaningful?
As far as most of Canadian society is concerned, addicts like Nuttall and Korody are useless, worthless human beings, unworthy even of sympathy. Little surprise, then, that they spurned society’s values, first as heroin-addicted punk rockers and then as radical Islamists. Little surprise that they were taken in by the first people who told them they mattered.
And then, when things took a turn for the serious and they felt like their lives were on the line, is it at all surprising that they went through with a plan that they had severe doubts about?
As testimony continues, it will be the RCMP which is on trial as much as Nuttall and Korody are. Their high-pressure tactics in manipulating and pressuring a vulnerable couple are under fire from advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch, and media coverage of the trial has focussed on allegations of heavy-handed Mountie behaviour. The more details emerge, the harder it is to see the judge ruling in the Crown’s favour.
I’ll be sure to keep y’all posted as the trial grinds on – check back frequently for updates!