A lesson for the U.S. in inter-agency counter-terrorism collaboration.
Canadian Muslim convert John Stewart Nuttall and his “lover,” Amanda Marie Korody, plotted to plant pressure-cooker bombs at the British Columbia legislature in Victoria, scene of a mass celebration for Canada Day, July 1.
Adrian Dix, leader of the socialist New Democratic Party, told reporters that “had bombs gone off on Canada Day here it would have been a terrible and horrendous situation.” Dix lost a cousin in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. His wife, Renee Saklikar, lost two relatives when terrorists bombed Air India flight 182. At least 24 Canadians were killed on September 11, 2001, including several from British Columbia.
As in the Boston Marathon bombing, Nuttall and Korody were targeting a mass gathering. The pressure-cooker bombs were the same type Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev deployed, packed with rusty nails and bolts. But unlike the Boston attack, the authorities foiled the plot. No explosions, no injuries, no deaths, and two arrests.
Wayne Ridout, an assistant commissioner with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) told reporters, “The suspects were committed to acts of violence and discussed a wide variety of targets and techniques.” The RCMP described Nuttall as “inspired by al-Qaeda ideology” but not supported from abroad. What contact Nuttall and Korody may have had with terrorist organizations and websites remains an open question.
The RCMP launched Project Souvenir, their five-month investigation, based on information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, an espionage agency. The CSIS made no statements and the RCMP offered no details about how, exactly, they had tracked the bomb plot, what emails or calls they might have intercepted, and so forth. Vic Toews, Canada’s minister for public safety, credited the information sharing for achieving the arrest.
Thomas Nuttall, the Muslim convert, is reportedly a rock musician and has been in trouble before. In the course of a robbery in 2002, he struck a businessman on the head with a rock. His lawyer, Thomas Morino, described Nuttall as “always a compassionate, kind, caring person” and a lover of music. Nuttall and Korody now face terrorism charges.
The Canada Day celebrations went on as planned in Victoria. BC Premier Christy Clark told reporters, “Let me say this about those who would resort to terror: You will not succeed.” Clark has good grounds for that statement.
The RCMP heads the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSET) of law enforcement, intelligence and border services agencies. But such close cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement has not always been the practice in Canada. For example, in 1999 in Vancouver, BC “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam prepared explosives destined for Los Angeles International Airport. But Ressam never should have been in Canada in the first place.
Ressam became a militant Islamist in the early 1990s after an Islamist party won the Algerian elections. Ressam left for France where he lived illegally for four years before departing for Montreal with a bogus French passport Canadian officials easily spotted, but which did not prevent him from remaining in Canada. Ressam requested political asylum and Canadian officials accepted his story without checking with France, Algeria, or Interpol.
In Montreal Ressam augmented his welfare payments by robbing tourists. He was arrested four times but convicted only once and, incredibly enough, served no jail time. In Montreal, Ressam also linked up with the Osama bin Laden network and the Algeria-based Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which hijacked an Air France plane and attempted to crash the Eiffel Tower. The GIA also bombed the Paris Metro and attempted to murder European leaders at a G-7 meeting.
A car bomb case near Roubaix gave French police evidence that led to Ressam’s Montreal apartment. French authorities asked Canada for a search warrant but Canada took six months to process the request. When Canadian authorities did finally attempt to deport Ressam, he adopted the alias of Benni Noris and easily eluded them. When Ressam crossed the border Canadian officials failed to inspect the rented Chrysler in which he had stashed 100 pounds of explosives. Fortunately, a sharp-eyed customs inspector in Port Angeles, Washington, found the explosives and Ressam was arrested. He had targeted millennium celebrations, so hundreds of lives were surely saved.
Canada clearly learned from that experience. Last April Canadian authorities arrested two men plotting to derail a train between Montreal and New York City. Meanwhile, the Boston bombing and the 9/11 attacks confirm that American intelligence, border and law enforcement agencies aren’t collaborating with each other nearly as much as they should.
U.S. officials knew that Major Nidal Hasan, an acknowledged jihadist, was a clear and present danger but did nothing to stop him from murdering 13 and wounding more than 30 at Fort Hood in 2009. American officials added absurdity to their incompetence, proclaiming the attack a case of “workplace violence,” not terrorism or even gun violence.
Nothing like that has surfaced in British Columbia. As the Canadian national anthem says, stopping the terrorists was one of those plus brilliants exploits, like helping American hostages escape from Iran. In Canada, they really do stand on guard for thee.
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