Bill C51: What if Police are Already Abusing their Power?

Brian Wed, 2015-04-01 15:15

On October 20, 2014, troubled Quebecker Martin Couture-Rouleau used his car to run down two members of the Canadian Armed Forces in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Two days later, troubled Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, known to have been a drug user and described by some acquaintances as having had mental issues, shot an unarmed Canadian Armed Forces sentry dead at the National War Memorial, and proceeded to Parliament Hill, where he entered the Centre Block, got into a shootout with security, and was shot dead himself.

In addition to the attackers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, were also dead, murdered.

In true disaster-capitalism style (see Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine), Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his acolytes appeared before the media before the bodies were cold, and denounced each attack as "terrorism." "We are ... reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governance are by their very nature, attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all."

He then placed before Parliament Bill C-51, the "Anti-Terrorism Act (2015)." The bill amends more than a dozen previous acts of Parliament, and significantly expands the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), giving it the power to "disrupt terror plots, make it easier for police to limit the movements of a suspect, expand no-fly list powers, crack down on terrorist propaganda, and remove barriers to sharing security-related information."

Bill C-51 had been drafted and was ready to introduce long before the Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau attacks, but the moment was opportune. You might even say it was a lucky break for Harper; the media were all lined up on the side of anti-terrorism, and they helped tremendously, putting a lot of effort into scaring the bejeebers out of the Canadian polity. He struck while the iron was hot.

Since its introduction, a lot of questions have been raised regarding whether it gives the "intelligence" community too much power to disrupt and criminalize legitimate opposition. Fair enough. But did Bill C51 even go in the right direction? If we knew all there was to know, would we want to expand the powers of the secret police?

The one question that's been gnawing at my mind since the attacks has not only not been answered, but most media don't even seem to be all that interested. It is this: How could Zehaf-Bibeau, a guy with known psychological problems, with known drug problems, with a criminal record, with supervision from parole personnel, whose eccentricities were well-enough known by federal immigration officials (including his mother) that he couldn't get a passport, and who was living in an Ottawa homeless shelter, get hold of a rifle?

Terror and the FBI

We're not supposed to know this, but the FBI has made quite a name for itself in the terrorist incident-creation industry. The majority of the plots they've "foiled," keeping us all "safe," have been set in motion by the FBI themselves, and result in the arrest of another troubled, often mentally challenged, Muslim, often young, often a recent convert.

  • On April 7, 2009, James Cromitie, an African-American Walmart stocker, was arrested in the act of blowing up a synagogue. Well, thinking he was blowing up a synagogue, anyway. A bit of a blowhard, he wouldn't be anyone's idea of a nice guy—he converted to Islam while in prison for selling cocaine. He also tended to make up stories about the wild exploits of himself and others. But for the most part, he was an impoverished, not-very-successful guy, with a nasty anti-Jewish streak. Over a period of five months, a professional FBI informant, one Shahed Hussain, worked on him, passing himself off as an operative of Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistani terror group. For eight months Cromitie resisted all Hussain's entreaties to blow up some Jews. Finally, though, the informant said he'd be paid $250,000, an offer he made just after Cromitie had lost his job (at Walmart!). Cromitie caved. The bombs, supplied by the FBI, were fake. Nicked! Hussain was paid $96,000.
  • On January 7, 2012, the FBI swooped in and arrested Sami Osmakac, 25, preventing him from attacking an Irish bar in Tampa, Florida, with disabled rifles and fake bombs, all supplied by the FBI.

    Sami fled Kosovo with his family when he was 13. His family weren't very devout Muslims—they seldom attended at their mosque. But Sami began to have problems after a flight to Kosovo to attend the wedding of his brother—nightmares, and an incident of scarey airborne turbulence, which Sami associated with those dreams—and, as family members say, he began to go downhill. The psychiatrists who examined him before his trial called him a "deeply disturbed young man." But he didn't have any connections to international terrorists, he possessed no weapons, and couldn't even afford to keep his car running. But no matter. Once he was targetted for his "beliefs," his goose was cooked.

    The story is long and involved (and well worth reading—see here), but it involves a shady, red-bearded, FBI-associated American Muslim convert named Dennison, who assisted Osmakac greatly in his radicalization (and later disappeared, though he is now reportedly "fighting" in Syria); an FBI informant named Abdul Raouf Dabush, who was working for the FBI to deal with a debt-load of more than $700,000; and another FBI informant, "Amir Jones," who was introduced by Dabush to Osmakac to help him obtain "weapons." In this case, The Intercept managed to get hold of some of the tapes of conversations of FBI agents involved, which show that they were fully aware that Osmakac could barely arrange his own life, much less mount a "terrorist" attack that would terrorize anyone without a lot of "help," which was a bit of a problem for them. Osmakac needed a lot of guidance.

    Before Osmakac set off to put the boots to the Irish pub, he starred in a "martyrdom" video, with "Amir Jones" at the camera. Having finished the video, he heads out to his car, fake weapons and suicide belt in place. Whoops! The FBI, keeping us safe, take him down!

  • On January 14, 2015, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) arrested Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of the Cincinnati area, and charged him with plotting "to attack the US Capitol and kill government officials." Cornell was "unemployed, live[d] at home, spen[t] most of his time playing video games in his bedroom, still addresse[d] his mother as 'Mommy,' and regard[ed] his cat as his best friend." He'd converted to Islam just six months before his arrest. Cornell was targetted by an FBI informant who the FBI admits started working for them in exchange for "favorable treatment with respect to his criminal exposure on an unrelated case.” The informant met with Cornell twice, and they discussed an attack on the Capitol. The FBI arrested him, they say, to prevent him from carrying out the attack. At the same time, they assure us, the "public was in no danger."

  • On February 25, 2015, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, and Abror Habibov, 30, were arrested and charged with terrorism offences. The FBI became interested in Mr. Juraboev over some postings he'd made on an Uzbek-language web-site. He wanted to go to Syria, he said, and he'd be willing to conduct "attacks" in the US if ordered to do so by DAESH (the "Islamic State"). Mr Saidakhmetov and Mr Juraboev clearly had not the resources nor the means to get to Syria (Saidakhmetov's mother had confiscated his passport), so the FBI introduced them to an informant, an "older, more experienced" Muslim who came on to them as wanting to travel to Syria with them. Through him, they obtained the money they needed to get the plane tickets, and the informant also helped Saidakhmetov in filling out the forms he needed for a new passport. Through the informant, Mr Habibov became involved, providing at least some of the money needed for the plane tickets. The informant even helped the first two concoct a plan to join the Army as "double agents," a plan that was eventually rejected.

  • A little ways north, in Canada, Raed Jaser, a 37-year-old Palestinian whose passport is from Jordan, and Chiheb Esseghaier, a 31-year-old Tunisian who was a PhD student in Montreal, were convicted by a Canadian court of plotting to terrorize us by arranging for the derailment of a Via Rail train, and other miscellaneous murders. Esseghaier, who refused to defend himself in court, as he didn't recognize the Criminal Code, and desired only to be judged by the Qu'ran, was quite a character. His neighbours hated him, as they found him rude, abusive, and loud. Jaser, who had once been convicted of issuing a death threat, but was later pardoned, claimed he was only going along with things to get money for his struggling business. On-again, off-again scribbler for the National Post, Christie Blatchford, referred to the two of them as "clownish misfits." By now, you'll probably have begun to recognize the type.

    The arrests were the culmination of an investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canada's federal Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSETs). The RCMP and INSETs received cooperation and assistance from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency. Provincial police forces involved were the Ontario Provincial Police and the Sûreté du Québec. Municipal police forces included the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, the Toronto Police Service, York Regional Police, Peel Regional Police, and the Durham Regional Police. Also getting in on the action were corporate security teams from Via Rail Canada and CN Rail.

    All these Canadian police received cooperation and assistance from the United States Department of Homeland Security, including the United States Transportation Security Administration, and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Wow! In pursuit of a couple of “clownish misfits.”)

    Especially the FBI. The star witness at the trial was an "undercover FBI agent" who recorded many conversations, in Canada, with the two suspects. No news media outlet that I've managed to find even begins to question why an FBI agent was operating in Canada.

    Intriguingly, there was a third man in the plots, a Tunisian named Ahmed Abassi. He was arrested in New York City on the same day Jaser and Esseghaier were arrested in Canada, and spent 17 months in jail awaiting trial. US attorney for Manhattan Preet Bharara said Abassi had come to the United States with “an evil purpose” to develop a terrorist network in the US. In the end, Justice Department prosecutors listened to the secretly taped conversations, and decided there was no case. Abassi pleaded guilty to a couple immigration charges, and was deported.

    Who taped the conversations? Why, none other than the undercover FBI agent from the Via Rail case, who used the pseudonym Tamer El-Noury. A year before Abbasi became a suspect, he'd met El-Noury through Esseghaier, who was a casual acquaintance in Montreal when Abbasi was a student there. As in the Via Rail case, El-Noury presented himself as an Egyptian businessman. He befriended Abassi, who was in Tunisia trying to deal with his mysteriously cancelled Canadian student visa. El-Noury paid Abbasi’s way to New York to help him fill out forms, put him up in an apartment, gave his family $800, travelled with him to Las Vegas to meet another Tunisian guy, and on and on. According to Abbasi's sentencing report, El-Noury was "relentless." He tried to get Abbasi to start thinking about committing terrorist acts, but Abbasi wasn't buying. All he wanted was his student visa back.

    Never mind. He was arrested anyway. But thanks to him, we know a bit more about the FBI agent who put Jaser and Esseghaier away, and how he works. (Kudos to Catherine Solyom, Montreal Gazette, for some actual journalism! See here.)

    The biggest joke of the whole mess? Police officials say Jaser and Esseghaier received “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda elements in Iran, but said there was no suggestion of state sponsorship of the plan." Al-Qaeda in Iran! Don’t the police know anything about Iran? Jaser and Esseghaier received direction and guidance from El-Noury, end of story.

  • Last, but not least, there’re the Dzhokar brothers, a pair of Chechen-Americans who’d been on the FBI terrorism “radar” for some years, and are alleged to have carried out the Boston Marathon Bombing. Oh, wait a minute! This was a real terrorism attack, not one made up, staffed, funded, and (whew!) prevented by the FBI. Somehow, though they can find a kid in his basement in Cincinnati and stitch him up, they missed the two brothers who were allegedly involved in a real plot. Even though they'd been watching them for years. Makes you think.

It’s called "entrapment." The police find some loser who, despite his dreams of glory, wouldn’t have the wherewithal to put together any kind of an incident, and they set him up. Without the police (and, in many cases, the money offered), most of these plots wouldn’t have even occurred to these folks.

The courts used to look on entrapment unkindly, but North American legislators have had a great deal of success in beating back the entrapment defence. Now it’s very difficult, even when you’ve been stitched up. Nobody so far has successfully established it in a trial, and, according to Karen Greenberg, director of the Centre on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York, Abbasi is the only person charged with terrorism who’s successfully used the defence of entrapment get terrorism charges removed from an indictment.

According to a Mother Jones study published in 2011, almost half the 508 terror prosecutions studied “involved the use of informants, many of them incentivized (sic) by money (operatives can be paid as much as $100,000 per assignment) or the need to work off criminal or immigration violations.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder thinks the whole thing’s fabulous. He says they’re an "essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks." He thinks everyone ought to do it, and he’s encouraging other NATO member states to set up their own plot factories.

Clearly there are many who think this is a useful expenditure of public moneys, casting a wide net for potential terrorists and grooming them to commit themselves to acts they can then be arrested for. A more accurate description might be preying on the mentally ill and economically desperate to justify your terrorism budget.

Terror in Canada

Enough has been written about Micheal Zehaf-Bibeau that it wouldn’t serve much purpose to go over it in much detail. He was more or less in one kind of trouble or another for most of his life—at 16, after his parents’ divorce, he had to be placed in a secondary school for pupils who got into fights with other pupils. He had a lengthy record of drug and criminal convictions, including one for which he got 60 days in jail. In 2011, he was charged with committing a robbery and uttering death threats, and he claimed he’d done it so he’d be sent to jail so he could kick the drugs. Unfortunately, perhaps, he was only convicted of the death threats, and got no jail time.

His father was Libyan, and reportedly went to Libya in 2011 to join the “rebellion” against Qaddafi. His mother was French Canadian, and a deputy chairperson in Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board. They divorced in 1999. Zehaf-Bibeau converted to Islam in 2004, but his behaviour in mosques got so erratic that he eventually wasn’t welcome. He held both Canadian and Libyan passports at one point, and spent some time in Libya in 2007. At some point, he decided to go back to Libya (there is some lack of clarity about this; it might have been Saudi Arabia or Syria), for the language, the religion, and the discipline. In October, 2014 he travelled to Ottawa to get a passport. A background check was required for a Canadian one. The Libyan Embassy turned him down flat. He was living in a homeless shelter. Somehow he managed to buy a car, but he couldn’t register it because his identity documents were from British Columbia. (So he somehow managed to drive around downtown Ottawa at 10am with no licence plates on his car, and not get stopped.)

Because of his lengthy criminal record, he was absolutely prohibited from acquiring a firearm.

Martin Couture-Rouleau went from well-known party guy to obsessive jihadi in one year. He converted to Islam in 2013 shortly after a business he started went south, a development he blamed on his business partner cheating him. As Ahmad Rouleau, he grew one of those beards, copied out the Qu’ran 14 times, and became very active on Facebook. He devoured “jihadi porn,” as one friend put it, ranted on “conspiracy theories,” criticized US foreign policy and military actions, and went on in such radical ways his own father called police in June, 2014. The next month he attempted to travel to Turkey, but was arrested by the RCMP. His passport was seized, and he found himself on the watchlist. The RCMP said they met with him several times over the next four months to “try to change his way of thinking, ‘to avoid him turning to violence.’” By October they say they thought they’d been making some progress. Apparently not.

Both these guys would very much fit into the club of malcontents, misfits, and unfortunates that have found themselves in the sights of the FBI’s terrorist incident creation program. Both these guys were on the radar, they were known.

Briefly after the Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau killings, some reporters expressed an interest in how Zehaf-Bibeau got hold of a gun. So did RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. "The source of that gun is of tremendous interest to us," he said, "and we will determine where that gun came from."

Clearly he couldn’t have bought one legally—there’s no way someone with his record could get a firearms licence. As a CBC feature put it: “It all means that Zehaf-Bibeau must have obtained his rifle either by stealing it, buying it on the black market, or been given the rifle, either by someone unaware of his motives or an accomplice.”

Now I stand to be corrected, but it seems to me that someone who’s just arrived in Ottawa and living in a homeless shelter would be hard put to figure out where the “black market” is, let alone access it and get hold of a rifle in time to shoot up Parliament.

One possibility that doesn’t seem to occur to anyone is that someone in the police gave it to him—they’ve got lots of guns—in a “sting” gone horribly wrong.

It would be pretty hard for us to find out if that’s so, especially when no one in the media appears to be asking the question. But if so, it’s something we need to be absolutely sure about before we give the police more powers, and make them less accountable.

Another thing standing in the way is that both Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau are dead. They can no longer tell us anything. (Oddly, an early report in the US on the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu killing, which I can no longer find, said Couture-Rouleau was shot as he tried to surrender. Now we're told that at first he put his hands up, but then he charged police with a knife. You know, sort of like Michael Brown.)

Rogue Canadians

It wouldn’t be the first time the police went rogue.

In the late 1970s, the RCMP in Quebec were accused of stealing the Parti Québécois membership list, illegal opening of mail, forging documents, conducting illegal electronic surveillance, and more than 400 illegal entries without warrants (break-ins). Seventeen RCMP officers were charged with criminal offences.
In 1971, RCMP officers broke into a firm called Richelieu Explosives, and stole some dynamite. A year later, officers hid four cases of dynamite in Mont Saint-Grégoire, in an attempt to link the explosives with the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).

In 1972, RCMP officers burned down a Quebec barn to prevent a meeting between the Black Panther Party and the FLQ. They torched it after a judge refused to allow them to wiretap the meeting.

As a result of the revelations into RCMP “dirty tricks” In the 1970s, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was created, and the RCMP was relieved of any responsibility to do “intelligence” work, a prohibition that appears to have fallen by the wayside.

In October, 1998, the RCMP blew up a shed on the property of the Alberta Energy Company, and attempted to blame it on Wiebo Ludwig, a crusader against the oil industry’s “sour gas” emissions in Alberta farmland.

In the early 2000s, Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin were detained and tortured in Syria (and El Maati in Egypt as well), at the request of Canadian officials. Their torturers asked them questions that had been given to them by Canadian officials. All were eventually released without charge, and Arar was awarded $10.5m in damages. The RCMP Commissioner at the time apologized and resigned.

In the late 2000s, the RCMP paid individuals to write negative, politically biased reports about the Vancouver safe injection site, Insite. Memos were distributed referring to British Columbia's Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS—a nationally renowned repository of some of the top AIDS research in the world—as the "Centre for Excrements", and suggesting stacking radio shows with callers against Insite.

We already know from the Via Rail stitch-up that Canadian police are entirely okay with participating with the FBI in setting up “terror” stings here in Canada. And apparently no one in the Canadian government or mainstream media think it’s at all unusual, either.

And we know Canadian police aren’t above using “informants” as agents provocateurs. That’s the role one Mubin Shaikh played in the 2006 “Toronto Terrorism” case. And, of course, most everyone involved in protests in Canada has met a few.

Canada is a useful, reliable member of the “five eyes” club, a coming-together of the “intelligence” communities of the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and us. They’re all the best of pals, and great admirers of each other’s work.

You’ve got to admit, the Global War on Terror™, like the War on Drugs™, is a great job creator, at least in the US, where the Department of Homeland Security and the prison industry are going great guns. But for those active in the terrorism industry in Canada, there just hasn’t been a lot of action over the past few years.

So what have those guys and gals been getting up to on the slow days? Two incidents in quick succession in October, and then not much—that’s not going to keep them very busy.

Why can they, with the help of more than a dozen police outfits in Canada and the US, and, of course, at great expense, catch the “clownish” misfits, but not the ones prepared to commit real violence. Could they, perhaps, be doing something wrong?

These are questions our representatives in Parliament ought to be interested in as they consider whether to further intrude into our private lives, and set the forces against us in earnest.

(References available on request. Yes, Wikipedia was involved.)

Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo, RIP