Tag Archives: Steven Blaney

Massive cost of Nuttall & Korody sting raises serious questions about counter-terrorism funding

Image description: John Nuttall, with long stringy hair and unkempt beard, sits in the passenger seat of a car, his head turning towards his left. In the back seat is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf and smoking a cigarette while gesturing emphatically with her left hand. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance)

Image description: John Nuttall, with long stringy hair and unkempt beard, sits in the passenger seat of a car, his head turning towards his left. In the back seat is Amanda Korody, wearing a black headscarf and smoking a cigarette while gesturing emphatically with her left hand. (Image credit: RCMP surveillance)

Back when The Alfalfafield was a brand-new little baby blog, my very first serious post focussed on a Toronto Star investigative report into the alleged underfunding of the RCMP.

The article relied almost entirely on internal RCMP documents asking the government for more money. The documents were provided to the Star by the Liberal Party’s then-finance critic Ralph Goodale, who got in a few good kicks at the Harper Conservatives in the piece. The Star attempted to make the case that the RCMP, faced with limited funds, was being forced to choose between pursuing dangerous terrorists and going after more conventional criminals.

At the time, I called bullshit, pointing to the ongoing trial of the so-called Canada Day bombers, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, as evidence that the funds allocated by the Mounties for combatting terrorism were being poorly spent. Even then, it was clear that the pair of incompetent indigents couldn’t have orchestrated a bomb plot on their own if their very lives had depended on it, and that it was only the intervention of two hundred and forty RCMP officers that made the pressure-cooker plot possible.

Undercover Mounties steered Nuttall and Korody away from impossibly far-fetched schemes, pushed the idea of pressure cookers and a Canada Day detonation date, brought them to a Kelowna hotel for a weekend to teach them how to make C-4 plastic explosive, bought them groceries and cigarettes so they would be able to afford bomb-making materials on their meagre welfare benefits, and left John Nuttall with the impression that his life was in danger if he didn’t go through with the plot.

If Nuttall and Korody were the face of the menacing terror threat facing Canadians, if the threat their ilk posed was the reason that the RCMP was being “forced” to divert scarce resources away from investigations into gangs or white-collar financial crime, if their paranoid/delusional brand of homegrown extremism was the justification for major increases to the federal anti-terror budget, then all this fuss is just so much empty hype and noise.

The RCMP didn’t urgently need more money to combat terrorism; they just wanted more money. And rather than reflexively reaching for our wallets in response to their fear-mongering, we ought to take a good hard look at how reasonable this request actually is.

At that time, the public didn’t have any access to hard numbers on how much the Nuttall/Korody sting had cost. We still don’t have the full picture, but based on recently released figures on overtime pay for the operation, it looks to have been pretty darn expensive: Continue Reading

Liberals elaborate on their plans for C-51, and they’re not encouraging at all

Image: A hand holds a cardboard sign reading “C-51 IS TERRORISM – REJECT FEAR”

The shape of Liberal reform of C-51 is becoming increasingly clear, and as I predicted, it doesn’t meaningfully address the most important issues with the law. There are, however, the slightest glimmers of hope for anti-C-51 advocates – which I’ll get to after the doom and gloom, so as to leave you with at least a bit of optimism.

But first, the bad news.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, in his interview last week with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton (who, by the way, is to be congratulated for her appointment as permanent host of CBC’s Power and Politics after doing a fantastic job during last year’s election), gave some indication of what the Liberal approach to C-51 will be:

Goodale is travelling to London next week for meetings on counter-terrorism, violent extremism and cybersecurity. He will also be gathering information about United Kingdom’s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament as he prepares to adopt a similar model for Canadian parliamentarians…

The Security Intelligence Review Committee, a civilian oversight body, will remain with an enhanced mandate.

Goodale said the government is committed to repealing key elements of the anti-terrorism legislation known as Bill C-51, including protecting civil protests and better defining “propaganda” and the expanded no-fly list. [my bold]

So, to recap: a parliamentary committee to oversee surveillance agencies, a beefing-up of SIRC, the protection of “civil” protests, and better definitions and parameters for “propaganda” and the no-fly list. Goodale also made clear that the Liberals would make good on a specific pledge to ensure that the law-breaking “disruption” that security agencies are allowed to engage in under C-51 would not include actions which violate people’s Charter rights.

That’s broadly in line with what I was predicting months ago, especially the tightly limited action on police/surveillance agency “disruption”, better known as legalized law-breaking.

But as more details emerge about the new oversight committee which is the centrepiece of the Liberals’s “reformist” agenda on C-51, I’m getting increasingly dour about the whole thing.  Continue Reading

Remember #StopC51? Anybody?

Image: a protester holds a sign with a thumbs-down symbol over the words C-51 at a large rally. (Image credit: openmedia.org)

It was the major rallying cry of activist groups across Canada this spring. Tens of thousands took to the streets in big cities and small towns in opposition to its passage. Editorial boards slammed its heavy-handed creeping totalitarianism, even at more conservative publications like the Globe and Mail:

On close inspection, Bill C-51 is not an anti-terrorism bill. Fighting terrorism is its pretext; its language reveals a broader goal of allowing government departments, as well as CSIS, to act whenever they believe limply defined security threats “may” – not “will” – occur.

It became one of the most fiercely debated and protested government bills in recent years, and its passage was fought tooth and nail.

It’s easy to forget now, but when C-51 was first proposed, it was wildly popular. Something like 80% of Canadians were in favour of its passage, with many saying that the bill didn’t go far enough in tackling terrorism.

It was only after a fantastically organized grassroots campaign of public education against the bill and high-profile criticisms of its contents, including condemnations from the Canadian Bar Association and four former Prime Ministers, that public opinion started to turn around. And, it’s worth noting, it was only when a majority of Canadians opposed the bill that Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair finally clarified that he favoured its repeal. As late as mid-May, the NDP’s opposition mainly focussed on the lack of Parliamentary oversight of intelligence agencies, and while Mulcair had indicated he would vote against the bill, some comments he had made on the issue seemed to imply that he favoured reforming it if his party won the election in October.

Meanwhile, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s inherently mockable wishy-washy position, that he was against portions of the bill but would be voting for it nonetheless, seemed to fail to capture the urgency of the issue. For many, it was nuance for the sake of nuance, when what was called for was a clear and unequivocal denunciation of the dangers of the law. Andrew Mitrovica at iPolitics was unreserving in his scorn: Continue Reading

On Timbits and terrorists and Thomas Mulcair

Over the past few weeks, the Conservative government has been introducing a flurry of bills that they have absolutely no intention of passing.

Many of the bills, which include motions to sentence certain criminals to life without the possibility of parole and to ban women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, have been labelled as potentially unconstitutional by legal observers and rights groups. But that’s besides the point.

The Conservatives are betting on two things: first, that these bills will be popular with their base, and second, that they can slur the Liberals and NDP for opposing these motions. As the CBC puts it, “who wants to run an election campaign arguing against tough sentences for murders and rapists?”

To claim that opponents of their measure are sympathetic to vicious criminals is a classic example of an ad hominem attack. If you’ve never heard of it, the ad hominem is an attack on the arguer rather than on their argument, an attempt to discredit the speaker rather than refute the speech. Ad hominems are common on schoolyards everywhere – like for instance, “What do you know about sports? You’re just a girl!” or, “Nobody cares what you think anyway, you dummy!”

Which sound pretty obvious. But I still remember watching George W Bush gravely intone in a speech to Congress days after 9/11 that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” to wild thunderous applause. Now, that’s barely one step removed from “If you don’t agree with me, you’re clearly an idiot”, but I don’t remember the New York Times calling him out on that one. Continue Reading

Stephen Harper wants YOU to be terrified

Another deep dive into a Stephen Harper speech designed to provoke fear in your hearts
harper protecting canadians

Good ol’ Steve, keeping us safe! (Image credit: pm.gc.ca)

As the Conservatives continue to slip in the polls going into the summer, Harper and his strategists seem to have seized upon the George-W-Bush-circa-2004 strategy for trying to get a not-so-popular government reelected – wrap yourselves in the flag and hype the so-called “terror threat” for all it’s worth. (We’ll have to wait and see whether the HarperCons employ the same kinds of dirty tricks and low-blow character assassinations that the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign ran, although given the deep institutional links between the Conservative and Republican Parties, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.)

Harper’s terror fixation has been on full display for the past few weeks. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him posing in front of the same podium, which vaguely claims he is “Protecting Canadians” from unspecified threats.

First there was his super-secret-undercover-agent trip to Iraq for photo opportunities and fear-mongering, with a bleary-eyed press in tow. (I wrote up his trip here  and his speech to the troops here.)

Then there was the overhyped RCMP raid on a Montreal airport, in which they detained (but didn’t arrest or charge) ten young people allegedly attempting to travel abroad to join ISIS. (Link is to the Toronto Sun purely for the totally unrelated but provocative photo.) These highly-publicized but mostly insubstantial detainments were closely followed by a major Prime Ministerial announcement at that same airport that the Government of Canada was going to give the Mounties and the Canadian Border Services Agency even more money to keep doin’ what they’re doin’.

And most recently, right here in Toronto, Steve announced that we haven’t surrendered enough dollars or enough liberty quite yet to keep the terrorists at bay – we need to also give more money to CSIS so they can collect biometric information on pretty much everybody who enters Canada.

As I did with his fear-mongering hate speech in Iraq, I’d like to take a close look at Harper’s statement in Toronto, examining it both for its truth-value (low) and its propaganda value (high). I think it’s a useful indicator of what we can expect from the HarperCons in the election campaign this fall, and I hope that the more his rhetoric gets exposed and picked apart, the less effective it’ll be. Continue Reading

Bill C-51, Jenni Byrne, and the “reality-based community”

Reading the Globe’s best attempt at a profile of Jenni Byrne today, I was struck by how resolutely on-message the woman is.

Byrne, for those who don’t know – and she’s done her best to make sure that most people don’t – is the Karl Rove to Stephen Harper’s George “Dubya” Bush, the secret strategist behind the throne, the master of messaging and spinning and damage controlling.

In stark contrast to Rove, however, Byrne’s name is unfamiliar to all but the most die-hard politicos. She declined repeated requests for an interview with the Globe (although she did dispatch people loyal to her to provide quotes for the story and to rebut specific criticisms on her behalf). Her Twitter feed is a mix of anodyne hockey-related posts and retweets of government propaganda.

Rove, by contrast, was quite public about his influence, and become a fixture on Fox News. On Election Night in 2012, he very publicly (and somewhat suspiciously, given the history) tried to cast doubt on Fox’s projection that Obama had won Ohio and the presidency. He even went on Colbert.

Karl Ham Rove and Stephen Colbert talking some serious policy

But their methods are strikingly similar. Continue Reading

HypocrISISy and the House of Saud – The Canadian Government’s Double Standard on Radical Islam

There is a group currently terrorizing large sections of the Middle East.

Using a radical interpretation of Islam as their pretext, they treat women and minorities horrifically. They are internationally renowned for their beheadings and public floggings of “heretics” and “witches”. The United Nations and major human rights organizations have accused them of war crimes and of violating international law. In their most recent offensive, hundreds of innocent civilians have died, and access to medical care has been cut off for millions.

They are the House of Saud, rulers of Saudi Arabia and one of Canada’s partners in the war against ISIS and the bombing campaign in Syria. And the Canadian government confirmed today that it is proceeding with a $15-billion sale of weaponry, notwithstanding the kingdom’s atrocious human rights record.

In fact, the government insists that it doesn’t need to justify the purchase to the public.

From the Globe:

The Department of Foreign Affairs argues it must keep deliberations secret regarding this deal – by far the largest export contract ever brokered by Ottawa – citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which makes the light armoured vehicles.

Ottawa maintains this despite the fact that Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.” [my emphasis]

When it comes to persistently violating the human rights of its citizens, few countries can rival Saudi Arabia. Indeed, its record of human rights violations is well-known, although few Western nations are willing to call it out on the virtual enslavement of its women or its incredibly harsh treatment of dissidents. Human Rights Watch summed up the situation in this commentary from shortly after the recent death of Saudi King Abdullah: Continue Reading

This week in The Canadian Government Does Stupid And Bad Things

Everybody who spends even a little time following federal politics in this country will quickly realize that Stephen Harper is a combative human being. He sees things in terms of sides, and if you’re not on the same side as him, then he will try to crush you, plain and simple.

This week alone was rife with examples demonstrating that disagreement won’t be tolerated. Harper’s mean streak was on full display in the government’s desperate attempts to keep child soldier and torture victim Omar Khadr in prison. He deployed attack dog and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who not only smeared Khadr, but also accused the judge who authorized Khadr’s release of not considering his (alleged) victims.

It’s a sign of how tired and well-worn this fear-and-terror rhetoric is getting that even the Calgary Sun wasn’t buying it.

Opinion columnist and unrepentant bigot Ian Robinson, who describes his attitude towards the War on Terror as “Kill ’em all, let God sort them out”, had this to say: Continue Reading

The din and fury over the CBC’s story on BDS

There are many disadvantages to blogging on current events in my spare time. One of the biggest is that news has an unfortunate tendency to break while I’m at busy.

When I read the CBC’s explosive conversation-starter of an article about the HarperCons’ apparent willingness to use hate crime laws against proponents of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) campaign over a hurried pre-work breakfast this morning, I knew that (a) it was something I really wanted to post about, and (b) by the time my shift was over so many people would have weighed in that I probably wouldn’t have anything new to add.

Now here it is, several hours later, and this story has certainly made the rounds online.

Everybody from Warren Kinsella to Glenn Greenwald has weighed in on the controversy, with the story about the story becoming an increasingly important metanarratival (metanarrativistic?) part of the narrative.

But let’s begin at the beginning.
Continue Reading

RCMP devote 240 officers to entrapping two incompetent stoners, then complain they don’t get enough funding

So last week I was walking past a Toronto Star newspaper box, which I literally can’t do without checking the headline. This particular day the Star was whinging about the RCMP and its supposedly inadequate anti-terrorism funding, which at the time I thought was just a straightforwardly transparent attempt by the Mounties to get more money out of a government which is flogging the terror issue to death. (Hopefully that’s not a too-insensitive metaphor.)

But since then some of my reading has gotten me to digging further, and I’ve had to revise my initial impression. The Star was indeed pushing for more cash for the Mounties’ anti-terror programs, but they were also quite slickly drawing attention away from the actual content of those programs.

Let’s start with a rundown of the Star’s article: “RCMP FORCED TO SHUFFLE CASH, STAFF TO MEET TERRORISM DUTIES, DOCUMENTS SHOW”

The gist of it is that the RCMP whined to Parliament earlier this year that they were bearing the main brunt of funding an inter-agency anti-domestic terrorism program known as INSET (Integrated National Security Enforcement Team). Their contributions towards this program have increased by more than 3200% in the last twelve years while the federal government’s input has remained constant, not even adjusting for inflation. The result of this funding shortfall is that the Mounties have had to transfer resources and staff – over 600 staff! – from other areas of focus into domestic counter-terrorism operations. The article specifically references resources being transferred away from investigating economic crime, i.e. banks and hedge funds screwing over us common folk, as well as organized crime. The Star, being the loyal Liberal rag it is, doesn’t delve into this angle, but instead tries to make this a strictly partisan issue:
Continue Reading

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