October 12, 2003


Haroon Siddiqui has a readable piece in the Star today which at least gives us a starting point for any discussion of how serious the Canadian/terrorism nexus really should be taken.

Siddiqui's piece is biased, sure, but reasonably complete in its way. It would be foolish, to pretend that there are no Canadian Al Qaeda members or fellow travellers. There certainly are, and at least two remain at large today. None of the men listed in the piece are as clear-cut innocent as Bill Sampson was or the recently released Maher Arar seems to be. But the suspicion, and the reasonable course for Canadians to take in deciding whether to claim these men as our own, would seem to vary widely.

Siddiqui lists a lot of captured Canadians, held in various places in the world. It isn't explicit, but those he lists as held abroad basically break down into four groupings:

1) The Hezbollah engineer. Fauzi Ayub, a known Canadian member of Hezbollah, was arrested during an Israeli army sweep in Hebron in the summer of 2002, and is reportedly being secretly tried. Hard to lose any sleep over this one.

2) The Khadr family.. Two brothers, Omar and Abdul Rahman Khadr, of St. Catharines, Ontario, were captured in arms during the fall of Afghanistan. They are being held in Guantanamo. Their father, Ahmed Khadr al-Kanadi, is a terrorist financier affiliated with Al Qaeda, still at large, and wanted by the U.S. I am not wholly impressed with the Guantanamo situation, but if anyone deserves to be held there, it would likely be people like this. (The elder Khadr brother was held initially by the Northern Alliance, and reportedly tortured... it seems unlikely he would not have preferred a transfer to Cuba.)

3) The Jabarah family. A second pair of St. Catharines brothers were tangled up in Al Qaeda, too. Mohamed Mansour Jabarah, accused of plotting attacks for Al Qaeda in Singapore, disappeared into U.S. detention in May 2002... it's not quite clear where he is now (somewhere in the U.S., but not Guantanamo). His brother Abdul Rahman Jabarah, was reportedly involved in the recent Al Qaeda bombing in Saudi Arabia, and was apparently killed in a gunbattle there in July. If Jabarah ever got spat out by the U.S. security apparatus, extradition to face charges in Singapore would seem the most just outcome... not a return home to Canada.

4) The Ottawa "cell." This is the interesting one. Four Canadians were arrested in apparent connection with each other while travelling abroad, and held in Middle Eastern jails. This seems to be the same group that Sy Hersh said had plotted a bombing on the American embassy in Ottawa. Three were Syrians from Ottawa... Abdullah al-Malki, Arwad al-Bouchi -- and the unfortunate Maher Arar, of whom we've talked before. Whereas Arar does not seem to have been in on the conspiracy, the first two seem to have been connected somehow with another Canadian, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, on the FBI's watch list, who was also arrested and is now being held in Egypt. He in turn is the brother of Canadian Badr Abou-Elmaati, an Al Qaeda member on the FBI's most wanted list.

It's still pretty vague, but what seems to have happened here was Syrian-U.S. cooperation led to the rounding up of three of the four known conspirators. One of them then fingered the apparently innocent Arar, who went to the same mosque as the Ottawa pair... possibly to avoid torture, or to derail the investigators.

In this case, I have more sympathy with Siddiqui's point of view. The others were all Canadians, arrested abroad, in the midst of committing terrorist acts abroad. In this particular case, though, these were Canadians arrested abroad who were apparently plotting a terrorist act in Canada. Even though I suspect the legal remedies we have are woefully inadequate, I don't believe it's appropriate for Canadians to avoid dealing with our own problem children by acquiescing to their indefinite detention in some other country (basically now we're the ones who find their dual citizenship convenient, despite our anger that other countries ignored it in the Arar case). Ideally all three of these should be tried in Canada, and the fourth member, still at large, hunted down and tried too.

It's important to note that no one has yet made a convincing case that any of these groups was using Canada as a springboard for terrorist acts in the U.S. Surprisingly, the common border still seems to not be a terrorist entry point (probably, to be fair, because arrangements like the U.S.-Saudi "easy Visas" made using a third country to transit into the U.S. for Sept. 11 and other attacks superfluous). The only time that Canada seems to have been used as a way station was for the aborted 2000 attack on LAX, in which case the terrorist in question was actually *caught* at the border.

Siddiqui also mentions the 28 known Canadians and immigrants that have been held here in Canada. 23 of those are part of the much hyped immigration fraud ring, and are now in the process of being released or deported, never having been any kind of threat to anyone. The other five, not connected with the others, are being held here without trial on national security certificates. We'll talk about them another day.

Posted by BruceR at 10:15 AM


Won't somebody think of the philosophers?

Posted by BruceR at 02:45 AM


The NSC and State Department staffers were stunned to learn, for example, that the Pentagon, with the approval of the vice president, had flown controversial Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi into southern Iraq after Bush had opposed giving Chalabi special treatment.
--Washington Post, today

Posted by BruceR at 02:16 AM