By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 28, 2012 - 0 Comments
Is he lying, manipulating? Is he sincere? Search me. If it’s a calculated routine, it’s a complicated one. The fact is, we simply don’t know what’s going on in Omar Khadr’s head, his political thoughts, his potential for violence, his chances for successful integration in Canadian society. Anyone who tells you otherwise — certain he’s a bomb waiting to explode, certain he’s a gentle lamb — is simply grasping at his preferred straws.
Never mind humanitarianism for now. The smart public safety play, from the day of his capture under a Liberal government, was to take an active interest in precisely these questions, in hopes of him coming home, as he must, as well-adjusted and pacified as possible. At every turn, Ottawa has rejected that approach, and no doubt there are more stall tactics to come. Personally, my hunch is that he is not particularly dangerous. But I’d rather wager as little of my safety on that as possible. If he is, in fact, a threat, it’s hard to see the advantage, in Dr. Welner’s memorable phrase, of him continuing to “marinat[e] in a community of hardened and belligerent radical Islamists” at Guantanamo Bay.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Vic Toews suggests Omar Khadr won’t be home for Christmas.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews shot down as erroneous a report that said convicted terrorist and murderer Omar Khadr would be back in Canada in November. ”The process in regular transfer of offenders situation is about nine months,” Toews told reporters Thursday. “We received his application in April.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Harper government tries to explain why it hasn’t made a decision about Omar Khadr yet.
The Canadian government claims in court documents that they only became aware of psychological assessments of Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr through media reports in February, despite the fact that the existence of this material had been widely reported since 2010.
The tapes he sought apparently landed on his desk on Sept. 7, but Vic Toews hasn’t viewed them yet.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 8:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Huffington Post reports that “while Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is not expected to formally communicate the decision for several weeks … the Conservative Government will approve Khadr’s transfer from the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay and plans are afoot to house the 25-year-old Canadian in a federal institution with a segregated space for his own safety.”
The Prime Minister’s Office says, “False. No decision made.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 9:38 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister’s statement on the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
“September 11, 2001, was a day that shocked the world. More than a decade later, the horrific images from that terrible morning continue to evoke anger and heartache.
“As we remember the nearly 3,000 innocent people – including 24 Canadians – who were killed, and mourn with the countless others who lost loved ones, we also honour the incredible acts of courage and sacrifice of those who responded to the calls for help of those in need. From the police officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel who risked or gave their lives to help others, to the small community in Gander, Newfoundland, which welcomed thousands of diverted air passengers into their homes, Canadians and Americans alike demonstrated unwavering resolve and compassion in the face of adversity.
“While the grotesque events of 9/11 remind us that we are not impervious to the threat of terrorism and that we must remain vigilant, they also remind us of the power and resilience of the human spirit and of the feats that we can accomplish together.
“This is why our Government last year declared September 11 as a National Day of Service – a day for Canadians to reflect upon the past and to honour all of our country’s heroes, including first responders and members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who give so much of themselves for their fellow citizens.
“On this occasion, it is my hope that all Canadians will be inspired to once again show their friends, family and neighbours, the same warmth and compassion to which we were witness on this tragic day 11 years ago.”
And a statement from NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
It is with great sadness that we remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the innocent victims of these attacks, including 24 Canadians. Our thoughts are with all those who lost a loved one that day.
We salute the courage and determination of the first responders and acknowledge the compassion of those who extended a hand to our American neighbours in these tragic circumstances.
This sad anniversary reminds us how important it is to continue our efforts to create a better world where tolerance and solidarity triumph over hatred and division.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
The videotapes and transcripts that Vic Toews demanded have now been delivered. It has now been nearly two years since the Harper government told the American government that it would look favourably on Omar Khadr’s transfer to Canada.
Last week, Michael Friscolanti looked at speculation that Mr. Khadr was sexually abused in Afghanistan. We’ve also posted five psychiatric reports on Mr. Khadr here, here, here and here, as well as a transcript of Michael Wellner’s testimony at Mr. Khadr’s trial.
By Michael Friscolanti - Friday, August 31, 2012 at 6:27 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Friscolanti reports. Plus, the full text of the newly released Khadr psychiatric reports.
Sexual abuse is the unspoken topic looming over the Khadr case. Click here to read the full text of newly released psychiatric reports that delve into the question.
The story of Omar Khadr—or at least some version of it—has been told and retold so many times that even he has trouble keeping track of the details. As Khadr confided to one psychologist, he sometimes gets “mixed up with what I remember and with what other people tell me.” At last count, his young, twisted life has filled three books, half a dozen documentaries and thousands of news reports from across the globe. Even poets have mused about Canada’s most chronicled prisoner.
There are, of course, two competing narratives in the Khadr lexicon: the one he pleaded guilty to, and the one he didn’t. Khadr the aspiring Muslim martyr who proudly killed an American special forces medic. Or Khadr the helpless 15-year-old, thrust into battle by his al-Qaeda father, only to be shot, captured, and shipped to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. By now, most fellow Canadians are firmly convinced, one way or the other. Enemy combatant. Abandoned citizen.
What happens next is up to Vic Toews, Canada’s public safety minister. In exchange for that guilty plea (to five war crimes, including murder) Khadr received an eight-year sentence and the chance to request a transfer to a Canadian prison after serving just 12 more months at Gitmo. But almost two years later, Stephen Harper’s government is still pondering Khadr’s homecoming, and last month the feds prolonged the process yet again by asking the Pentagon to hand over two lengthy videotapes of Khadr being questioned by mental health professionals. As Toews explained, the raw footage will help corrections officials “appropriately administer” the rest of Khadr’s incarceration.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 12:59 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press reports that directives have been issued to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to explain how the agencies can use information when torture might be involved.
As with the directive to CSIS, the instructions from Mr. Toews to the RCMP and the border agency apply to information sharing with foreign government agencies, militaries and international organizations. They say Canada “does not condone the use of torture” and is party to international agreements that prohibit torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
The directives add that “terrorism is the top national security priority” of the government and it is essential that the RCMP and border agency maintain strong relationships with foreign entities and share information with them, as well as with domestic agencies. They say that in “exceptional circumstances” the RCMP or border agency “may need to share the most complete information in its possession,” including information foreign agencies likely obtained through torture, “in order to mitigate a serious risk of loss of life, injury, or substantial damage or destruction of property before it materializes.” “In such rare circumstances, ignoring such information solely because of its source would represent an unacceptable risk to public safety.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
Three months after first receiving Omar Khadr’s application to return to Canada—and 21 months after the Harper government assured the American government that it was inclined to look favourably upon such an application—Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he needs more information.
In a formal letter sent Thursday to both U.S. defence secretary Leon Panetta and Khadr’s Toronto lawyer, John Norris, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews states that in order to have Khadr sent back to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada, officials north of the boarder must be given access to sealed video footage of separate interviews with Khadr that were carried out by two psychiatrists during the lead-up to Khadr’s trial in 2010.
Toews also stated complete reports from Dr. Michael Welner and Dr. Alan Hopewell have not been supplied to Correctional Service of Canada and the parole board, and that both are required to administer Khadr’s sentence in Canada, according to sources familiar with the letter.
As Jonathan Kay notes, there are questions about the involvement of Dr. Welner in this case. Reg Whitaker’s review of Ezra Levant’s book on Omar Khadr is here. Ezra Levant’s response to Whitaker’s review is here. More on Dr. Welner’s testimony here, here, here, here and here.
The CBC recently interviewed both Dr. Welner, who worked for the prosecution in Mr. Khadr’s case, and Dr. Stephen Xenakis, who worked for the defence.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 3:18 PM - 0 Comments
In October 2010, the Harper government assured the Obama administration that “Government of Canada is inclined to favourably consider Mr. Khadr’s application to be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, or such portion of the remainder of his sentence as the National Parole Board determines.” In October 2011, the Harper government managed to say both that it would respect the agreement between Mr. Khadr and the U.S. government and assert that that agreement had no bearing on the Harper government’s decision.
Mr. Toews says he’s still waiting for “relevant information.”
“I’m not going to make any decisions that would in any way jeopardize public safety. I have an obligation to satisfy myself that I have all of the relevant information before I make a decision,” Toews said in Saskatchewan. ”At this point I do not have all the relevant information and I will not be pushed into making a decision that would have me consider less than the full facts.”
Omar Khadr was first captured by American forces in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in late October 2002.
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
His critics say he’s a danger; supporters say he poses no threat. Someone will be proven wrong.
As always, the latest “development” in the endless Omar Khadr saga provides few definitive answers. Here’s what we know for sure: Khadr’s official application for a prison transfer—from a cage at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to a cell in his home country—is now on the desk of Vic Toews, Stephen Harper’s public safety minister. And Toews has confirmed, as reluctantly as ever, that he will sign his name to the bottom of the page. At some point.
Beyond that, the future of Canada’s most (in)famous child soldier/homicidal jihadist remains as hazy as ever.
When will the minister actually pull out his pen? When will Khadr spend his ﬁnal night at Gitmo? Which Canadian prison will become his next temporary home? Could he be eligible for parole the same day his plane touches down? And when the Toronto native is eventually set free (whether it’s five months from now or ﬁve years), where exactly will he go? Will Khadr run back into the arms of his notorious family and their fanatical sympathizers? Or will the feds ask a judge to impose special conditions on the convicted war criminal, limiting his movements and dictating his associates?
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
“You guys sure as hell didn’t find any combined explosives, ’cause I didn’t make any.”
-Byron Sonne, under interrogation by Detective Tam Bui, June 26, 2010
It’s called “security theatre,” the bombastic display of body scanners and bomb squads paraded out in airports and at mega-events like the G-20 to deter terrorists and make us all feel safe. Does it stop terrorists who aren’t scared by the costumes and gadgets? Or does it miss them entirely while ensnaring hapless goofs who stick out from the crowd?
Those are the real questions yet to be answered in the curious case of Byron Sonne. They likely won’t be addressed until his criminal trial is over (the judge is deliberating now, verdict expected on April 23rd). That’s when, if he is cleared, Sonne has vowed to take legal action against the police for incarcerating him for 11 months and ruining his marriage and reputation.
But we may have to wait even longer for answers to the big questions, as the spectacular security show is back on. Yesterday, police bomb-squads returned to Sonne’s former residence in Forest Hill, two years after their first raid, and dug up his backyard.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM - 0 Comments
Police in Egypt arrested a man who may or may not be a leading…
Police in Egypt arrested a man who may or may not be a leading al-Qaeda operative, depending on who you ask. From the Washington Post:
The person arrested was Egyptian-born Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, who authorities identified as the senior al-Qaeda leader known as Saif al-Adel (the “sword of justice” in Arabic). Makkawi was arrested at Cairo International Airport, where he was traveling on an Emirates Airline flight from Pakistan via Dubai, airport officials said.
Makkawi, however, says he cut ties with al-Qaeda decades ago, according to Reuters:
He said he had been wrongly identified as Saif al-Adel because his name had been used as an alias, but said he had severed any links to the group in 1989, shortly after the organization was set up and several years before it declared its drive against the West and those it deemed foes of Islam.
“I did not carry out any operation against any installation or individual,” said Makkawi, a former army officer in Egypt’s special forces.
The actual Saif al-Adel is thought to be one of al Qaeda’s top officials and is wanted in connection with embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.
By Erica Alini - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives just busted a man who was going to…
FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives just busted a man who was going to blow himself up on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., according to the Washington Post:
Amine el-Khalifi, 29, was picked up while carrying an inoperable MAC-10 automatic weapon and a fake suicide vest provided to him by undercover FBI agents.
The young Moroccan man reportedly entered the U.S. when he was 16, and overstayed his tourist visa by thirteen years, living as an illegal immigrant in northern Virginia. His arrest today was “the culmination of a lengthy and extensive operation,” says a statement released by Capitol Police.
The Wall Street Journal, however, reports that the FBI’s Washington field office said the suspect “never posed a danger to the public.” Perhaps that’s because, as far as terrorists go, el-Khalifi was not the sharpest tool in the shed. He fell for the exact same trick the FBI used two years ago on Farooque Ahmed, who happily went along with a mock plot to bomb the D.C. metro. Ahmed seemed enthusiastic about the idea, in fact, providing the undercover agents with video of northern Virginia subway stations, suggesting the use of rolling suitcases rather than backpacks to make sure the explosion would kill as many people as possible, and offering to donate money for al-Qaeda’s overseas operations.
Here’s hoping the bad guys never figure it out.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 6:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. After offering a general appeal for clarity from the government—”What is happening on your side?” she begged—Nycole Turmel narrowed her complaint to a specific article of speech. In this case, a conjunction.
“Yesterday, the Minister of Public Safety said ‘information obtained by torture is always discounted. However…’ What does he mean by ‘however?’ she asked. “There is no ‘however.’ There is no ‘but.’ Torture is either condoned or it is not. Which is it? No ‘however.’ No ‘if.’ No ‘but.’ ”
Rising as today’s stand-in prime minister, Peter MacKay offered a perfectly straightforward response that entirely avoided the question. “But! But!” the New Democrat side mocked. “But! But!”
Ms. Turmel tried again, this time en français. Mr. MacKay did likewise. “Mais!” the New Democrats chirped. “Mais!”
Switching to English and stepping forward, the Defence Minister attempted to put this all in perspective. Or possibly to read aloud from a script he’d recently submitted to television producers. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 at 6:30 PM - 0 Comments
“As long as there is a market for information derived from torture,” he posited, “torture will exist.”
Mr. Harris’ concern this day was the government’s quiet decision to allow for the use of information potentially obtained through torture. This after publicly renouncing the suggestion that it was operating under any such policy.
“Why,” the NDP critic wondered, “is the government getting Canada into the torture business?” Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
He had Libyan dissidents gunned down in London, sponsored the Italian Red Brigades, and kept an album of photographs of Condoleeza Rice–to cite a few
He ruled the country for 42 years, after seizing power in a 1969 coup. It was not enough for Gadhafi to lead Libya; he tried to remake it. Gadhaﬁ wrote a manifesto, his “Green Book,” dealing with subjects from the economy to horsemanship, but all fall under the principle of “jamahiriya”—a made-up word that roughly translates as “the state of the masses.”
In reality, though, the masses had no say over how they were governed. Gadhafi’s rule was total and arbitrary. He banned alcohol and private property. He closed tea shops because unemployed men hanging around in them made Libyans appear lazy. The only constant was fear. East Germans helped him set up the secret police. They built networks of informants, arrested dissidents, tortured and hanged them. Even Libyans abroad were not safe. Eleven protesters, plus British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, were gunned down outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM - 28 Comments
“A shlemiel is somebody who often spills his soup; a shlemazl is the person the soup lands on.”
Byron Sonne is a shlemiel and a shlemazl. He is clumsy and unlucky. But he is not a terrorist.
Driven by curiosity, hubris, and a genuine desire for social justice, Sonne poked and prodded the $1.2 billion “security apparatus” of the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto. He wanted to know if it was in fact just “security theater”–an expensive display of pomp and barbed wire that would never thwart an actual terrorist. Simultaneously, he wanted to know if it was too effective, if the heightened atmosphere around the summit meant that police were forgetting people’s rights. And he wanted us to know too, so he documented everything he did. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 2 Comments
Did Iran really plan to kill the Saudi ambassador?
It’s a baffling plot that strains the credulity even of those deeply familiar with Iran’s capacity for murder and intrigue.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department said it had disrupted an Iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir. Several options were supposedly discussed, including a restaurant bombing that likely would have killed many innocent bystanders.
The U.S. has charged two individuals with the alleged plot. One, Gholam Shakuri, is a suspected member of the Quds Force, a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for operations—including terrorism and assassination—outside Iran. The second, Mansour Arbabsiar, is an Iranian-born American citizen who, over the past three decades, has failed at a variety of business ventures selling everything from used cars to horses, gyros and ice cream. He’s been sued, chased by angry creditors, and charged with theft. Friends say he’d often forget keys and cellphones, and that his socks didn’t always match.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 3:53 PM - 6 Comments
Speaking with reporters today in Peterborough, the Prime Minister commented as follows on the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Let me just say with regards once again to this specific plot, we condemn this in the strongest possible terms, and it only reiterates the position that our government has been expressing for several years now, that the regime in Tehran – we have no quarrel with the Iranian people, but the regime in Tehran represents probably the most significant threat in the world to global peace and security. And so we take these matters very, very seriously, and we will be working with our allies.
In an interview with this magazine, the Prime Minister was asked about the threat and identified “Islamic extremist terrorism,” but also an increasingly complex world. Roland Paris read that interview and came away wanting the Prime Minister to be more specific.
In an interview with Peter Mansbridge this fall, Mr. Harper identified “Islamicism” as the greatest terrorist threat to Canada, but here he seems to elevate Iran to the most significant global threat. It’s unclear whether that makes Iran the threat to Canada that he has vaguely referred to in the past.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM - 8 Comments
Planned attack on Saudi officials in the U.S. also included bombing Washington embassy
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that federal authorities had disrupted a plot by the Iranian government to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. and to bomb the Saudi embassy in Washington. Holder said the two men charged in the alleged plot have links to the secretive Quds Force, a division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that has carried out operations in other countries. Court documents suggest the assassination would have been carried by men with ties to a Mexican drug cartel, but who were in fact confidential sources for the Drug Enforcement Agency. Manssor Arbab Arbabsiar, who was arrested September 29, and Gholam Shakuri, who remains at large, have been charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official; conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. specifically explosives; and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 12:27 PM - 5 Comments
The government has announced details of its omnibus crime bill: The Safe Streets and Communities Act, which will bundle together nine separate bills.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 6:28 PM - 1 Comment
The text of Stephen Harper’s speech in New York City today.
Thank you, Mr. Johnston. Merci beaucoup. Thank you to everybody. Greetings to Consul General Prado, to Consul Generals Lopez and Scanlon, to Senator Wallin, to Commissioner Castro, to Mr. Stewart, to of course so many members of our protective services, and of course families and friends of those whose memory is honoured here today.
À titre de Premier ministre du Canada, j’ai l’honneur d’accepter l’offre de tenir en ce cadre enchanteur une cérémonie commémorative officielle pour les Canadiens et Canadiennes qui ont cruellement perdu la vie il y a dix ans aujourd’hui.
As Prime Minister of Canada, it is my honour to accept the offer to include in this beautiful place an official commemoration of the Canadians whose lives were taken so cruelly ten years ago today. On behalf of the people of Canada, I thank her Majesty, the Queen, and I thank Mr. Stewart, Mr. Johnson and the officers and directors of the trust for this gracious gesture. We warmly welcome the decision to also include here other Commonwealth countries, and we support wholeheartedly the plan to rename this garden the Queen Elizabeth the Second Garden to reflect this decision. It is fitting that the Canadians who perished on 9/11 should be remembered here, alongside the Britons, Australians and other Commonwealth citizens who were also killed in that atrocity.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 4:18 PM - 0 Comments
The speaking notes for John Baird’s remarks at the National Arts Centre memorial ceremony this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, friends and colleagues: Those beautiful notes we just heard hang heavy with memories of that terrible morning 10 years ago.
On this solemn anniversary we remember and honour all those who lost their lives or a loved one. Nearly 3,000 people died that day – including 24 Canadians – in senseless acts of terror. Many left behind still grieve for the loved ones taken from them. Today, we stand with them in solemn solidarity. Sadly, the terrorist threat is still with us. Still very real.