Terrorist attack is certain; we can't ignore warningsWinnipeg Free PressSunday, July 16, 2006Inside Canadian IntelligenceExposing the New Realities of Espionage and International TerrorismBy Dwight HamiltonDundurn Press, 264 pages, $35Reviewed by Harold BuchwaldIt won't come as a shock to anyone who has been paying heed to world terrorism that al-Qaida has labeled Canada as the fifth most important Christian country to be targeted. The United States, Great Britain, Spain and Australia have already been hit. Dwight Hamilton, principal author and editor of this remarkable book, rhetorically asks, "Who's next?"Perhaps, with inside knowledge, or professional clairvoyance, he was anticipating the apprehension of "the Toronto 17," the Canadian Muslims who were arrested in Ontario last month on charges of plotting terrorist activity within Canada. It was widely predicted that Inside Canadian Intelligence would never see the light of day. Besides Hamilton, a journalist, its main contributors are three former highly placed members of the Canadian security and intelligence community. The results are an informative and revealing study of the intricate and at times Byzantine multiple structures that have been put in place in a large number of different federal departments and agencies to apprehend and counter terrorist activity at home and abroad.Ex-security officials Kostas Rimsa and John Thompson each contributed four or five chapters. Former Winnipegger Robert Matas, national correspondent with the Globe and Mail, has added an enlightening chapter on the Air India bombings and the failures of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP in their handling of the investigation and prosecution of the suspected perpetrators.Readers will be fascinated by the substantial detail revealed and the lucid explanations provided of the murky world of intelligence and security. The information is up to date as of February of this year. They will also appreciate the authors' lament and frustration that their warnings of clear and present dangers are generally falling on deaf ears of politicians, commentators and the public at large, who seem to be either unaware or unconcerned. The particular Canadian political psyche provides a soft underbelly for terrorist elements -- foreign and domestic -- who would do us harm.According to Hamilton and colleagues, the barriers to effective surveillance and apprehension are: A prevailing lack of political will. Chronic under-funding. Bilingualism policies that have excellent candidates for senior intelligence work passed over because they don'tspeak French (although they speak eight other languages). Lax immigration policies and practices (there are currently over 200,000 illegal aliens in Canada). Privacy laws that inhibit personal investigations. An oversensitivity to Charter of Rights concerns.In these things, the authors say, we have fallen far behind the Americans, the British and the Australians in the misguided belief that it can't happen here. The authors propose a pragmatic seven-point plan of action to deal with espionage and terrorism in Canada in the current reality. They also urge readers to constructively lobby their members of Parliament and all political leaders. Describing intelligence as "the brains behind the sword," they urge that an al-Qaida attack is not a matter of if, but when.We ignore these warnings at our peril.Harold Buchwald is a Winnipeg lawyer and editorial page columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. 2006 The Winnipeg Free Press. All rights reserved.
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