Toronto — The U.S.-led war on terrorism has made al-Qaeda an even more dangerous organization, a senior Canadian intelligence official said Monday.
The blunt assessment of the group's increased “lethal effectiveness” came during a bail hearing for an Egyptian national detained as a threat to Canada's national security.
U.S. action in Afghanistan that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks “significantly degraded” al-Qaeda's infrastructure and its ability to provide support for other extremist Islamic groups, said the official, identified only as J.P.
However, that merely prompted terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to put out calls to like-minded groups “to take over the fight,” said J.P., the deputy chief of counter-terrorism with the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.
“That appeal has been effective,” J.P. told Federal Court Justice Eleanor Dawson, saying that the effect has been a “net increase” in terrorist activities and the results can be seen in “broken bodies and blood in the streets.”
“We now have a more dangerous al-Qaeda.”
J.P. was testifying in the bail-release application of Mohammad Mahjoub, 44, an Egyptian refugee who has been in a Toronto jail since being detained as a threat to national security since June 2000.
Canada's spy agency alleges that Mr. Mahjoub was a leading member of the Egyptian terrorist group Vanguards of Conquest, which has close ties to Mr. bin Laden's al-Qaeda.
Mr. Mahjoub is deemed a threat based in part on people he knew or associated with. But Mr. Norris told the court that a man deemed a serious security threat in the United Kingdom because of his senior status in the Egyptian terrorist group was recently freed without conditions.
The last assessment of Mr. Mahjoub's security threat is two years old and therefore may no longer be valid, the lawyer said in an interview.
Egyptian authorities tried Mr. Mahjoub in absentia and sentenced him to 15 years. He maintains he would be tortured if returned to Egypt.
J.P. testified the intelligence service is sensitive to the possibility that information from foreign sources could be wrong or politically motivated. He also said CSIS annually reviews the human-rights records of countries with whom it has a working relationship.