09Feb/15

Crown Presents Evidence In Toronto Terror Suspect Trial

Crown prosecutors began presenting evidence Friday in the trial of one of 11 suspects charged in the alleged Toronto bomb plot.

While the trial opened in Brampton, Ont., in March, Friday was the first day the Crown presented evidence in the case.

The 20-year-old on trial is accused of being part of a homegrown terror cell – one of 18 men and teenagers arrested two years ago during dramatic raids around Toronto. He was charged as a youth and cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Since the initial arrests, the Crown has dropped or stayed charges against seven of them.

The first witness called by the Crown was a member of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team. RCMP Cpl. John Mecher testified about evidence police seized during the investigation, dubbed “Project Osage,” that led to the massive sweep.

Mecher, who is in charge of securing and tracking evidence in the case, told Ontario Superior Court that investigators recovered spent shell casings and a bullet-riddled tree trunk at or near an alleged extremist training camp north of Toronto.

Police seized other items from the home of one of the adult suspects, included a bomb-making manual, a video showing a small explosive being detonated by cellphone and a collection of cellphones and circuit boards, the court heard.

08Feb/15

Facebook ‘Violates Privacy Laws’

A Canadian privacy group has filed a complaint against the social networking site Facebook accusing it of violating privacy laws.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic has listed 22 separate breaches of privacy law in its country.

Clinic Director Phillipa Lawson told the BBC that, with over 7 million users in Canada, “Facebook needs to be held publicly accountable”.

Facebook rejects the charge, claiming some of the highest standards around.

The basis of the complaint, filed with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, states that Facebook collects sensitive information about its users and shares it without their permission.

It goes on to say that the company does not alert users about how that information is being used and does not adequately destroy user data after accounts are closed.

The 35-page action was lodged after students at the clinic analysed the company’s policies and practices as part of a course this past winter and identified specific practices that appear to violate the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Pipeda).

07Feb/15

Municipalities Join Miller In Calling For Final Citizen Disarmament

Mayors of Montreal, Halifax say they support Miller’s proposal for national ban on handguns

Quebec City—Two big-city mayors have gotten behind Mayor David Miller’s push for a national handgun ban.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay has sent Miller a letter of support for the ban, and Mayor Peter Kelly of Halifax — who attended the Big City Mayors caucus meeting here yesterday along with Miller and several other Canadian mayors — is also onside.

Miller has launched an online anti-handgun petition on the City of Toronto website and is broadcasting his message on YouTube.

“We’ve had some drive-by shootings,” Kelly said in an interview, adding that a “groundswell” of support is growing for Miller’s proposed ban. Kelly said the Atlantic mayors conference also recently passed a resolution calling for a ban.

Montreal City Councillor Claude Dauphin said Tremblay sent Miller a letter last week indicating support.

The letter reflects on Montreal’s history of mass shootings and says, “We’re 110 per cent in support of Mayor Miller’s initiative,” Dauphin said, referring to the September 2006 shooting at Dawson College in which a young student was slain by a gunman, and the 1989 massacre at Ecole Polytechnique, where a gunman killed 14 women.

Right now the only people legally entitled to own handguns in Canada are police and security officers, target shooters, collectors and Olympic-style athletes.

Miller wants to see what the federal Liberals proposed in the 2005-06 election campaign — a tightening of loopholes so handguns would be banned for collectors, too.

“The facts are very clear, no matter what the gun lobby says — and they are extremely well-organized in this country and fight very aggressively,” Miller said. “But between 30 and 40 per cent of the handguns used in crimes in Toronto come from local owners.

“They’re stolen from them. That’s a huge public safety issue.”

He referred to the seizure by Toronto police yesterday of 125 rifles and handguns from a collector who was charged with storing them unsafely.

“The man had a permit for (125) guns. Think of the public safety threat if one of the criminal gangs found out (the man had them). If they got there before police, all of those guns would have been on the streets and eventually used in crimes,” Miller said.

But Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, also here for the big-city mayors meeting — part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) annual conference — voiced some trepidation about the proposed ban.

“You can ban handguns, but that won’t eliminate guns. People who want to get them will get them,” she said.

Meanwhile, a report that says local municipalities are “subsidizing” federal police enforcement at a cost of more than $500 million a year was released today by the FCM.

The report says that, increasingly, local police have taken on areas traditionally under federal jurisdiction — such as border patrol, cyber crimes, drugs and terrorism — but aren’t being compensated fairly.

The report suggests Ottawa should cover about 10 per cent of the budgets of local police forces. For Toronto, that would amount to about $84 million.

06Feb/15

Pistol Pendant Causes Airport Holdup

The Colt .45 hung cold around her neck, like a pendant.

Because it was a pendant.

On Monday, Marnina Norys, a 39-year-old PhD student of social political thought at York University, was forced to remove a piece of silver jewellery cast in the shape of an antique pistol by airport security in Kelowna, B.C., who feared the trinket posed a security risk to the passengers on her WestJet flight.

Approaching the security desk, Norys says she was stunned when guards labelled the 5-centimetre pendant, with no bullets or moving parts, a replica firearm.

“When the woman pointed at the pendant I had no idea what she was talking about,” said Norys, who was informed that replica firearms are banned from planes.

“They made me feel ashamed, as if I should have known that it was wrong to wear this type of jewellery.” Flustered, Norys stuffed the pendant into her carry-on, but was surprised when the guards opened her bag and analyzed the trinket as if it were an actual gun.

“I moved from shamed to irritated very quickly, because (the pendant) couldn’t do any damage to anybody,” she said.

Despite the trinket’s innocence, an unnamed security guard told Norys she’d have to check her jewellery in storage under the plane.

05Feb/15

Youth Worker Subjected To Warrantless Raid On Secret Evidence

A respected youth worker in the Malvern area of Scarborough who was charged with possession of marijuana following a police raid of his home two weeks ago says he has been suspended from his job, although he has never seen a search warrant.

Brian Henry says he still doesn’t know what prompted the raid, although he was told Toronto police – some in protective gear and accompanied by a canine unit – were looking for guns and drugs during the raid May 17.

“It’s torn my heart out and I’ve given for the last six years, day in day out, given my life to seeing kids staying in school and working towards their diploma while they’re in school,” he says.

Henry’s lawyer, Aswani Datt, described the police action as “outrageous behaviour.

“At this point, all we want is answers. Why was Mr Henry subject to a search? Who and what evidence was the basis of the search warrant in which no guns were found? Mr. Henry is a well-known figure in the community helping at-risk youth, why was he targeted?”

Henry counted 15 police officers during the raid. Some wore protective gear and police dogs were there. He said doors and walls were damaged and from an odour, he suspects, a police dog urinated inside his house.

Police did not find guns or major drugs. They did charge Henry with possessing a small amount of marijuana.

04Feb/15

US Homeland Security Keen On ‘Novel’ Israeli Airport Security Technology

JERUSALEM, May 29 (Reuters) – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Thursday he will seek to adopt novel Israeli methods, like behaviour-detection technologies, to better secure America’s airports.

“That’s a scenario where Israel has a lot of experience,” Chertoff said in an interview with Reuters. “I think that it is of interest to us to see if there is any adaptation there.”

Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, known for its strict security measures, relies heavily on techniques that detect suspicious behaviour among travellers.

Chertoff said such methods, as well as Israeli technologies that detect explosives, are some of the things that may help protect U.S. airports and other public places against attacks.

Chertoff, at a conference in Jerusalem for public and homeland security ministers from around the world, signed an agreement with Israel to share technology and information on methods to improve homeland security.

One of the new systems presented at the conference, developed by the Israeli technology company WeCU, uses behavioural science, together with biometric sensors, to detect sinister intentions among travellers.

04Feb/15

Rachael Ray The Paisley Terrorist

Fashion illiteracy, moral outrage and Dunkin’ Donuts make for a bad combination, especially for celebri-chef Rachael Ray. Last weekend, Dunkin’ Donuts pulled an online ad that featured the food-icon sporting a black and white silk scarf. In the eyes of ultra-conservative blogger Michelle Malkin  and others, however, the scarf was no innocent paisley-patterned kerchief (which it clearly was), but a keffiyeh – national symbol of the Palestinian people cum trendy fashion accessory.

That’s right, America’s favourite donut chain was subverting the war on terror! And seditious advertising was only the tip of the terror-berg! Could it be that the money Dunkin’ Donuts usurped from hard-working Americans was funnelled to terrorists who seek to destroy everything we hold sacred and deep-fried?

Thankfully, Dunkin’ Donuts was not about to let the terrorists win. They removed the secretly political ad almost immediately. In a statement, Margie Myers, senior VP-communications for the donut firm said that “the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee.” Yet another victory for the squinty-eyed anti-terror militia.

That Ms. Malkin and other conservative bloggers flipped out is not surprising – it’s pretty much the only thing some of these commentators do. But Malkin et al. pulled the fashion equivalent of confusing the American flag with the Cuban one. True, they both have red and white stripes with at least one blue-ensconced white star, but no one is accusing hyper-patriotic Americans of supporting the Castro regime.

It is continually amazing to watch these pundits foam at the mouth at the mention of anything vaguely Palestinian. The notion that mere association with a national group is cause for condemnation at the very least borders on racism. I shudder to think what will happen when commentators find out that Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus himself – is actually in Palestine.

The “Keffiyeh kerfuffle” is yet another example of the jingoism pervading certain sectors of today’s America. Confronted with paisley, some see Palestinians; faced with Obama, some see Osama. That Dunkin’ Donuts pulled the ad is indicative of the power of such members of society. The donut chain isn’t in the business of making political statements, but the reality that imagined political implications would affect their business is a sad measure of the world’s most powerful democracy.

03Feb/15

Afghan Attacks Rise As Al-Qaeda Gains Strength: U.S. report

Al-Qaeda has regained some of its pre-Sept. 11 strength based on support from within Pakistan, leading to a 16 per cent jump in the number of attacks in Afghanistan, a U.S. government report said Wednesday.

“Al-Qaeda and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007,” says the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism.

“It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas, replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri,” said the report.

Al-Zawahiri is considered to be al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man and the group’s main “strategic and operational planner.”

State Department counterterrorism co-ordinator Dell Dailey stressed to reporters Wednesday in Washington the group remains weaker overall than it was on Sept. 11.

The report suggests the main reason for the increase in al-Qaeda’s strength in the region was a ceasefire agreement the Pakistani government reached with tribal leaders last year. The agreement has since expired, but Pakistan’s government is negotiating a new truce.

“Instability along the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier appeared to have provided al-Qaeda leadership greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States,” said the report.

The report says al-Qaeda’s activity in the Afghan-Pakistan border zone is funded by “criminal networks and narcotics cultivation” in Afghanistan’s south and east.

More than 2,500 Canadian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province as part of a NATO-led mission. Since the mission started in 2002, 82 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed. The report notes that is “the highest proportion of casualties to troops deployed for any NATO member.”

03Feb/15

The Pretext For A North American Homeland Security Perimeter

After months of negotiations, the U.S. and Canada have unveiled new trade, regulatory and security initiatives to speed up the flow of goods and people across the border. The joint action plans provide a framework that goes beyond NAFTA and continues where the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) left off. This will take U.S.-Canada integration to the next level and is the pretext for a North American Homeland Security perimeter.

On December 7, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the Beyond the Border Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan. The new deal focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security. It will act as a roadmap with different parts being phased in over the next several years. This includes the creation of various pilot projects. Many aspects of the agreement will also depend on the availability of funding from both governments. In addition, the two leaders issued a separate Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan that sets out initiatives whereby the U.S. and Canada will seek greater regulatory alignment in the areas of agriculture and food, transportation, environment, health, along with consumer products.

At a Joint News Conference, President Obama declared that, “Canada is key to achieving my goal of doubling American exports and putting folks back to work. And the two important initiatives that we agreed to today will help us do just that.” He went on to say, “we’re agreeing to a series of concrete steps to bring our economies even closer and to improve the security of our citizens.” Obama also added, “we’re going to improve our infrastructure, we’re going to introduce new technologies, we’re going to improve cargo security and screening.” Prime Minister Harper proclaimed that, “These agreements create a new, modern order for a new century. Together, they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.” He explained that, “The first agreement merges U.S. and Canadian security concerns with our mutual interest in keeping our border as open as possible to legitimate commerce and travel.” Harper described how, “The second joint initiative will reduce regulatory barriers to trade by streamlining and aligning standards.”

Some of the measures found in the Beyond the Border action plan include conducting joint, integrated threat assessments; improving cooperative law enforcement capacity and national intelligence- and information-sharing; cooperating on research and best practices to prevent and counter homegrown violent extremism; working to jointly prepare for and respond to binational disasters and enhancing cross-border critical infrastructure protection and resilience. Other facets of the deal will work towards adopting an integrated cargo security strategy; implementing entry and exit verification; establishing and verifying the identity of foreign travellers to North America; better aligning Canadian and U.S. programs for low-risk travellers and installing radio frequency identification technology at key border crossings.

As part of the agreement, both countries will, “implement two Next-Generation pilot projects to create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” This will build on past joint law enforcement initiatives such as the Shiprider program and the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. The Next-Generation pilot projects are scheduled to be deployed by the summer of 2012. In September, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed plans that would allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. He announced that, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.” Holder also commented that, “In conjunction with the other provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.”

In his article, How the U.S. blackmailed Canada, Gar Pardy stressed that as part of a North American security zone, “Canadian security institutions will be more closely integrated with those of the United States.” While addressing the Beyond the Border declaration and the subsequent action plan, he highlighted the fact that, “these are not formal treaties or even formal agreements, although there could be greater formality in the future.” Pardy also noted, “Nowhere in the documentation resulting from the two meetings are there suggestions the people of Canada will be provided with detailed information on which judgments can be made on the wisdom of this consensual agreement negotiated in the backrooms of both capitals.” Instead he cautioned that, “the troublesome details implicit in the agreement will be hidden behind the wall of national security.” Pardy argued that in the process, “Canada sold its national security independence in exchange for hoped-for minor changes to American border restrictions.” He concluded that, “It is not an overstatement to suggest the United States blackmailed the government of Canada into making this deal. It was the American way or no way.”

The Council of Canadians have also strongly rejected the new border deal. They have challenged the notion that, “proper privacy protections can be achieved between Canada and the U.S. without significantly diluting stronger Canadian laws and norms.” Citing privacy concerns associated with the U.S. Patriot Act, the organization emphasized that, “the proposed new entry-exit system for travellers needs the greatest scrutiny by Canadian parliamentarians, security and privacy experts.” The Council of Canadians also criticized, “the government for hiding behind a sham public consultation and implying that this should clear the way for implementation of the action plan.” In August, the Conservative government released two reports which summarized online public input received concerning regulatory cooperation, as well as perimeter security and economic competitiveness. While improving the movement of trade and travel was the priority for business groups, many individuals expressed concerns over the loss of sovereignty, along with the protection of personal information.

When it comes to regulatory convergence, Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians agreed that, “Standardization can be a good thing when standards are high,” She conceded, “The problem is standards aren’t higher in the U.S. in many cases.” Barlow also acknowledged that, “Already Health Canada and other agencies consider harmonization with U.S. standards to be a more important consideration than the real safety of our food. This perimeter deal cements that skewed priority list.” There are fears that it could erode any independent Canadian regulatory capacity and weaken existing regulations. Part of the SPP agenda called for improving regulatory cooperation which resulted in Canada raising pesticide limits on fruits and vegetables. Regulatory integration threatens Canadian sovereignty and democracy. Further harmonization with the U.S. could result in Canada losing control over its ability to regulate food safety. This could also lead to a race to the bottom with respect to other regulatory standards.

By all accounts, big business is the winner in the new trade and security perimeter deal. Maude Barlow explained that, “this process has been set up to accommodate one sector of our community and that is big business.” In advance of the action plans being unveiled to the public, business stakeholders were briefed on the specifics. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, an organization that lobbies the government on behalf of Canada’s largest corporations has given it their stamp of approval. The U.S. and Canadian Chambers of Commerce also applauded the new vision for border and regulatory cooperation. When it comes to negotiations on the border security agreement, Barlow confirmed that, “the big business community was the only sector at the table with government and guided the process from the beginning.” This was also the case with the now defunct SPP. Big business was a driving force behind the initiative which led to the creation of the North American Competitiveness Council to ensure that corporate interests were being addressed.

In her article, Maude Barlow also warned that when it comes to the perimeter deal, “Canada is essentially giving up policy control in the key areas of privacy, security, immigration and surveillance in order to entice the U.S. to loosen controls at the border.” She stated, “it is likely to lead to a wholesale replacement of Canadian privacy and security standards with American ones, set by Homeland Security.” When it comes to information being collected and stored, Barlow questioned whether it will be, “used as a form of social control, to identify not terrorists, but activists and dissenters of government policy.” She insisted that, “We must call on our government to create a full public and Parliamentary debate before this deal becomes operational.” From the beginning, the whole process has lacked transparency with no congressional or parliamentary oversight. This has drawn comparisons to the SPP which was shrouded in secrecy and fueled by fears over the loss of sovereignty that finally led to its downfall. We can only hope that this latest endeavour will meet the same fate. With the 2012 U.S. election cycle about to get into full swing, the new bilateral deal could get lost in the shuffle.

While the perimeter agreement is being sold as vital to the safety and prosperity of Canadians and Americans alike, there is little doubt that it will mean a tradeoff between sovereignty and security. Any deal which gives the Department of Homeland Security more personal information poses a serious risk to privacy rights. As both countries move forward, perimeter security will be further defined and dominated by American interests. This could force Canada to comply with any new U.S. security measures, regardless of the dangers they may pose to civil liberties. A North American Homeland Security perimeter goes well beyond keeping people safe from any perceived threats. It is a means to secure trade, resources, as well as corporate interests and is a pretext for control over the continent. Ultimately, the U.S. wants the final say on who is allowed to enter and who is allowed to leave.

02Feb/15

Family Of Canadian Stranded By No-Fly List To Make Public Appeal

The family of a Montreal man stranded in Sudan for five years because he’s on a no-fly list will make a public plea to the Canadian government Tuesday to help bring him home.

“The family just wants to deliver a very clear message … to our prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, simply to bring [him] back. The children want their father back in Canada,” his lawyer, Yavar Hameed told CBC News. “He has a life here, he has connections here, and they want him back.”

Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was detained by Sudanese authorities while visiting his mother in 2003, has since been released from jail, but remains under police surveillance. Abdelrazik, who is a dual citizen of Canada and Sudan, hasn’t been charged with any crime in either country.

Hameed said his client has been deemed a security threat over Canadian Security Intelligence Service suspicions that he’s an al-Qaeda agent, something he denies. CSIS documents suggest it was CSIS agents who asked the Sudanese government to arrest Abdelrazik, Hameed said.

Ottawa has been putting up roadblocks to thwart Abdelrazik’s attempts to return to Canada, Hameed said, adding that Canada has ignored Sudan’s offers to facilitate Abdelrazik’s return to Canada.