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U.S. intelligence chief's cover blown in Ottawa

The Globe and Mail | October 19, 2006
BY JEFF SALLOT

RELATED:
Alleged Toronto terror plot included two police agents

OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper met yesterday with John Negroponte, the U.S. director of national intelligence, at what was supposed to be a secret meeting to discuss security issues at a time when the two countries are trying to smooth troubled waters in the wake of the Maher Arar affair.

The unannounced meeting in Ottawa took place 11 days after Mr. Harper called President George W. Bush to say Canada was lodging a formal diplomatic protest about the deportation of Mr. Arar, a Canadian software engineer, from the United States to the Middle East, where he was tortured.

Canadian and U.S. officials tried to keep the meeting under wraps, but Mr. Negroponte's cover was blown when reporters spotted him and U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins being escorted to Mr. Harper's Parliament Hill office.

Also attending the meeting were Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States.

Traditionally, visits by cabinet-rank U.S. officials are accompanied by a bit of public fanfare, including an advance announcement by Ottawa. But Mr. Harper's guarded style of government has been characterized by unpublicized federal cabinet meetings and an unannounced visit by the Prime Minister of Haiti. Mr. Harper's office issued a hastily written note about Mr. Negroponte's visit only after journalists began asking why Mr. Bush's top intelligence official was on Parliament Hill. The note, which mistakenly referred to the director of national intelligence as the director of national security, said Mr. Negroponte was making a courtesy call.

"Mr. Negroponte is here on a liaison visit to Canada, as part of a regular exchange regarding security issues between Canada and the U.S.," the note said. "This is an indication of how closely we work together."

The U.S. embassy said Mr. Negroponte was staying for dinner and "touching base" with Canadian officials.

Speaking with reporters on his way to the Prime Minister's Office, Mr. MacKay said he did not know exactly what was on the agenda for the meeting with Mr. Negroponte. "He's meeting with Stockwell Day. He's meeting, I believe, with the Prime Minister just as a courtesy."

The United States has not yet formally responded to Canada's diplomatic protest note on the Arar case, Mr. MacKay said. Mr. Wilson delivered the note to the State Department on Monday.

Last month, a federal commission of inquiry cleared Mr. Arar of any involvement with terrorism. The inquiry also said Washington likely relied on false and inflammatory intelligence reports from the RCMP in its decision to deport Mr. Arar in 2002.


Alleged Toronto terror plot included two police agents

Viva Canada | October 19, 2006

By David Adelaide

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's FifthEstate and the Globe & Mail, the “Toronto terror cell” arrested in June for allegedly plotting massive acts of terrorism against Canadian targets included not just one, but two Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) moles. This second Muslim man in the pay of Canada's security forces is said to have been involved in the accused terrorists' alleged efforts to construct powerful explosives.

Following the early June arrest of 18 young Toronto-area men on terrorism charges, government and media sources repeated ad nauseam that only prompt action by the security and intelligence services prevented a major terrorist atrocity.

The authorities' contention that those arrested posed a real and imminent threat rested on two claims—both of which have proven threadbare. On the one hand, they pointed to a “terrorist training camp” held in rural Ontario during December 2005. On the other hand, the Toronto men's intention to put into action their terrorist schemes was said to be proven by their alleged attempt to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer, from which bombs can been be made.

In the days immediately following the arrests, the World Socialist Web Site urged that “all of the claims of the government and the police concerning the alleged terrorist conspiracy, and the further revelations and speculations given out by the media, be treated with the utmost caution and a large degree of skepticism. None of the alleged facts presented by the authorities can be accepted uncritically as true.”

This warning was quickly vindicated when, in July, the identity of a first CSIS mole was made public. One Mubin Shaikh admitted to the media that he had been working for CSIS for two years, befriending members of the Toronto group and ultimately going on to lead the two-week “terrorist training camp.” This camp, which largely consisted of paint-ball games, was under blanket surveillance by CSIS and RCMP personnel, while a crack-Canadian Armed Forces special operations unit waited a short helicopter ride away for orders to intervene.

With last week's news that a second mole was at the heart of the “bomb-making” part of the plot, the question is raised anew of the extent to which the alleged Toronto terror plot was—if not a complete fabrication of the security and intelligence apparatus—at the very least carried out with significant encouragement and “facilitation” from them.

Clearly, Canada's security agencies were in a position to manipulate the alleged plotters—a group comprised almost entirely of young men. And manipulate them it did: The arrest of the 18 individuals followed shortly on the heels of an attempted purchase of fertilizer in which the seller turned out to be an undercover RCMP agent.

 

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