Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act isn't about Terrorism: it's a Torture Act

First published as “Impending Threat to Canadian Democracy: Harper Government's 'Anti-Terrorism Act' isn't about Terrorism, it's a Torture Act,” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 March 2015), http://www.globalresearch.ca/impending-threat-to-canadian-democracy-harper-governments-anti-terrorism-act-isnt-about-terrorism-its-a-torture-act/5435766; and as “Harper's anti-terrorism act is a torture act,” Rabble.ca (13 March 2015), http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/views-expressed/2015/03/harpers-anti-terrorism-act-torture-act.


The Harper government's Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn't really about terrorism: it's about smearing other activities by association—and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants—on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence—that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions—occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy—might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts' content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)

But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture.

On February 16, Matthew Behrens observed that these clauses recall “the bone-chilling justification of torture” in the infamous memos of George W. Bush's Justice Department. He pertinently asked what the Canadian government knows, if it “actually feels the need to spell out such a prohibition, [...] about illicit CSIS practices behind closed doors....”1 On February 17, two prominent legal experts, Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan, remarked that the “limited exclusions” in these clauses “leave CSIS with incredibly expansive powers, including water boarding, inflicting pain (torture) or causing psychological harm to an individual.”2

Like the Bush torture memos, Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act is attempting to legitimize forbidden practices. Bush's lawyers argued that interrogation methods producing pain below the level of “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” were legal—as were methods producing purely mental suffering, unless they resulted in “significant psychological harm [...] lasting for months or even years.”3 Harper's legislation prohibits acts of the kind that created an international scandal when the torture practices of Abu Graib, Bagram and Guantánamo became public. But as Ruby and Hasan recognize, in so doing it is tacitly declaring acts of torture that fall below that horrifying threshold to be permissible.

Most of the torture methods applied in the black sites of the American gulag during the so-called War on Terror would be permitted to CSIS under Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act. Among these methods are sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation (both of which induce psychosis, without of course leaving physical marks), stress-position torture and waterboarding (which again leave no marks of “bodily harm”), and techniques of beating and pressure-point torture that produce excruciating pain without leaving visible traces.4

As to what CSIS does behind closed doors, we know enough to be able to say that this agency is already seriously off its leash. CSIS agents were involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until 2007 or later, a period during which the American and Afghan agencies with which they collaborated were systematically torturing detainees. We know from journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada's secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying 'secret torture facility'—“known as Graceland.”5

American torturers seem to have enjoyed giving names of this sort to their black sites: the secret facility outside the Guantánamo prison where three prisoners were tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006 is called “Penny Lane.”6 (Think about the lyrics to Paul Simon's “Graceland” and the Beatles' “Penny Lane”: you'll understand that these interrogators are sick puppies indeed.)7

But these are the people that Jack Hooper, Assistant and then Deputy Director of CSIS Operations from 2002 until 2007, wanted his agents to emulate. He told his men, “If you're going to run with the big dogs, you'd better learn to piss in the high grass.”8

We know already that Stephen Harper doesn't flinch from covering up high-level Canadian responsibility for torture in Afghanistan. In November 2009, the Toronto Star quoted a former senior NATO public affairs official as saying that flagrantly false denials about Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees had been scripted by Harper and his PMO, “which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”9 And we've not forgotten that a month later Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in order to shut down a parliamentary committee that was hearing evidence on the subject.

But on October 22 of last year, when a deranged gunman murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then tried to run amok on Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper was less brave. While some members of his caucus prepared to defend themselves and their parliamentary colleagues with anything that came to hand, he hid in a closet.

It seems that Mr. Harper would now like us all to share the emotion he felt in that closet—if not by quivering at the mention of ISIS jihadis, then, soon enough, by shaking in our boots at the thought of CSIS toughs kicking down doors at midnight.

Canadians need to tell this government, and this prime minister, that we are not intimidated on either count.

We are ashamed by his lies over high-level Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan.

We will not tolerate his attempt to institutionalize torture in Canada.

Michael Keefer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.



1  Behrens, “Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation,” Rabble.ca (16 February 2015), http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/troubled-times-ahead-new-anti-terror-legislation.

2  Ruby and Hasan, “Bill C-51: A Legal Primer. Overly broad and unnecessary anti-terrorism reforms could criminalize free speech,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (17 February 2015), https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/bill-c-51-legal-primer.

3  Jay S. Bybee, “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A (August 1, 2002),” in David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos (New York: New Press, 2009), p. 41.

4  See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Owl Books, 2006).

5  Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/843055--csis-reviewing-role-in-afghan-detainee-interrogations. See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fcanadianpress%2Farticle%2FALeqM5jJLuGfEH6QP3vrNSLPiAGPZNqBcw&date=2010-03-09; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at Radio-Canada.ca (21 January 2011), http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/International/2011/01/21/007-scrs-detenus-afghans-torture.shtml.

6  David Swanson, “We've murdered some folks,” Review of Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Cold Type 94 (March 2015), p. 26, http://coldtype.net/Assets.15/pdfs/ColdType.0315.pdf.

7  Some relevant lines from “Graceland”: “Everybody sees you're blown apart / Everybody sees the wind blow / In Graceland, in Graceland / I'm going to Graceland / For reasons I cannot explain / There's some part of me wants to see / Graceland....” And from “Penny Lane”: “In Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs / Of every head he's had the pleasure to know / ... / Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes....”

8  Quoted by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Mississauga: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

9  Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/729157--pmo-issued-instructions-on-denying-abuse-in-07.  

Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010

On February 14, 2010 I gave an invited lecture on “Media Self-Censorship and the Threat of Government Censorship” at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. My talk received hostile coverage in the National Post in an article by Joseph Brean published on February 16—to which I responded in a letter to the editor, sent very early the next morning.

My ensuing correspondence with two National Post editors is of some interest for what it reveals about the ethics of this newspaper. Letters editor Paul Russell stated on February 17 that he would print my letter (though not until after the 18th), and Jonathan Kay agreed that I was owed a right of reply. In the interim, the National Post printed on February 17 a letter which attributed to me an opinion Brean's article had snidely insinuated must be part of my belief system—and on that basis made a direct accusation of antisemitism. On the afternoon of February 21, by which time it was obvious that my original letter had been flushed down the memory hole, I wrote again to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay. The last text here is Paul Russell's two-sentence message of apology (if that's what it is).

Cyril Connolly wrote in The Unquiet Grave that “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signalling to be let out.” One might say, by analogy, that within each of these two editors of the National Post a person of some decency was making rather pallid efforts—not, alas, sustained—to make himself visible.


Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010


1. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell (Letters editor), February 17, 2010

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Wed 17/02/2010 1:42 a.m. 
To: Letters (National Post
Subject: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)


Joseph Brean's report on my talk at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre illustrates very neatly some of the points I made about systematic omission, distortion, and deception in the news.

Mr. Brean wished elsewhere in his article to insinuate that an Iranian video shown earlier in the evening had stupidly exposed warlike nuclear ambitions on Iran's part. Naturally, then, he avoided mentioning that one of my examples of media falsehood was the deployment against Iran of the same lies about WMDs that were used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq in 2003—this despite the 2006 US National Intelligence Estimates, which declared that Iran was at least a decade away from being able to produce key components of a nuclear weapon. (The IAEA's rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities have of course never found any sign of a weapons program.)

I referred also to scientific analyses, published in the online Journal of 9/11 Studies, which show unequivocally that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by planned demolition—and noted, as one of my examples of deception-by-omission, that the corporate media have avoided mentioning these very newsworthy studies. Mr. Brean also managed not to mention their existence.

As for the Toronto 18 group, its only two or three members who had dangerously fanatical ideas had been under close surveillance for years. The group as such was assembled by one police agent, given the idea of making bombs by a second, and provided with expertise, financial assistance, and materials by a third. Until Mr. Brean can propose a better name for this pattern of events, “police frame-up” will do just fine.

Michael Keefer


2. Paul Russell to Michael Keefer (and replies), February 17

Letters (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 6:10 a.m.):

Thanks for your letter. It will be considered for upcoming editions
Paul Russell
Letters editor


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:04 p.m.):

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your quick reply. 

My text is perhaps longer than you normally print in the letters column. However, I do think the National Post owes me the right to respond to Mr. Brean's remarks about me.

Would that fall more under Jonathan Kay's editorial responsibilities than yours? I'll send him a copy of my letter.

Michael Keefer

p.s. I note that for some reason the apostrophes have dropped out of my text in the form you have it. I'm re-sending it to you as an attachment to this message.


Letters (National Post) wrote:

I'm planning to run your letter, so no concerns. 


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 2:32 p.m.):

Dear Paul, 
Many thanks. 


Letters (National Post) wrote:

Thanks, and FYI, there is no room tomorrow. 


3. Michael Keefer to Jonathan Kay (and replies)

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:22 p.m.):

Dear Jonathan,

I'm attaching a copy of a letter I wrote in response to Joseph Brean's February 16 column, in which I received his unflattering attentions at some length.

I sent the letter last night to the Post's letters page, and received a very prompt response from Paul Russell. I've replied to him saying that I would guess my text is longer than the Post usually publishes on its letters page—but that I do think the Post owes me a right of reply.

I also guessed that right-of-reply issues might be your editorial responsibility, and said I'd send my letter to you: I've attached it to this message. (For some reason, all the apostrophes dropped out of the version that Paul has.

Best wishes, 


Kay, Jonathan (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 12:30 p.m.):

Let me talk to the letters editor
I think you should have the right to respond ...


4. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay (and reply), February 21

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Sun 21/02/2010 4:29 p.m. 
To: Letters (National Post); Kay, Jonathan (National Post
Subject: Re: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)

Dear Paul and Jonathan,

Unless I've been more than usually unobservant, the National Post hasn't run my letter. I would guess now, since we'll soon be five days on from the time I sent it in, that it's not going to be published in the Post. So much, then, for the right to reply.

I don't reproach either of you, but I do reproach whoever countermanded the good intentions you expressed in your notes to me.

In my letter, dated on the 16th but actually sent very early on the morning of the 17th, I replied just to Joseph Brean's article.

But let me draw your attention to the little twist the Post gave to the story by publishing on the 17th a letter from a person in Thornhill who asserted that Brean “quotes Michael Keefer as saying 9/11 was a planned demolition run by Americans (which was obviously a product of the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington).”

Most if not all readers will understand that sentence to mean that everything after “as saying” was actually quoted by Joseph Brean from the talk I gave. Not so: Brean didn't quote the bracketed words from me, for the very good reason that I said nothing of the sort.

Of course, without the implication that I blamed 9/11 on “the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington,” the direct accusation of antisemitism in the person-from-Thornhill's last sentence wouldn't work quite as smoothly. (Unless one has something plausibly antisemitic to start with, it's a long jump to the blood libel.)

The profound indecency here isn't Joseph Brean's—he was just doing his job, which seems to consist of repeated exercises in what I've termed “subtractive politicizing.” Nor should it be laid at the door of the letter writer with the Passover-Seder-hymn name, who's probably no more than a clever schoolboy.

The real indecency is on the part of a newspaper that amuses itself by dancing in the waltz-time of Two Smears-No Reply.



Letters (National Post) wrote:


I'm sorry, but while Jonathan and I generally supported the idea of running your letter, other senior editors had concerns with it, and hence its lack of publication. But thanks for your note and your observations about the other letter.

Paul Russell
NP letters editor


The Toronto 18: A Second Update

First published in Global Outlook 13 (Annual 2009): 62-64.


One of the Toronto 18—a youth who was just seventeen when he was arrested in June 2006, and therefore cannot be publicly named—was found guilty of terrorism by Ontario Superior Court Justice John Sproat in a Brampton courthouse on September 25, 2008. This judgment raises questions of the most urgent kind about the impact of Canada's post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation on civil and human rights in this country.

University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach predicted in 2003 that the Anti-terrorism Act (Bill C-36), which was introduced in Parliament in October 2001 and proclaimed on Christmas Eve of that year, was bound to result in a discriminatory application of security powers. He noted that the federal government, despite its 'hollow' claims that the Anti-terrorism Act promoted human rights, “resisted calls to commit itself in the act to non-discrimination in the administration of the many new powers given to police and prosecutors.”1

Professor Roach correctly identified this act as unnecessary, since “the failure of September 11 was one of law enforcement, not of the criminal law,” and Canada's existing Criminal Code was entirely capable of dealing with terrorist attacks like those of 9/11.2 He memorably described the act as a panicked politicization of the Criminal Code, an “expansion of the criminal law” that was not principled, but rather “political, symbolic, and somewhat cynical.”3 It should be understood, Roach suggested, within a larger process of recent ad hoc and reactive additions to criminal law, in the course of which “The law of first-degree murder has been expanded through piecemeal changes driven by politics, media attention, advocacy by interest groups representing victims and the police, and a desire to denounce horrible acts of violence”—even at the expense of more basic concerns for “coherence within the code or respect for fundamental principles of criminal law.” This process of expansion turns law towards narrative, so that its judgments serve “to memorialize terrible crimes.”4

One of the more striking deficiencies of The 9/11 Commission Report is its habit of repeatedly allowing forensic analysis (or a pretence of it) to be overwhelmed by breathlessly memorializing narrative. As a result, the Report reads like a sensationalist novel—sharing with examples of that genre like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code the related properties of being feebly researched, over-written, and palpably implausible.5 But if impulses toward narrative and memorializing can help to reduce forensic discourse to obfuscation, is there reason to fear a similarly negative impact on the discourses of criminal law?

Professor Roach thinks so. He claims that “The new narrative and memorial style in the criminal law helps explain why the Anti-terrorism Act requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a terrorist activity was committed 'in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective, or cause.'”6 This concern with the broad motive, as opposed to the specific intention to harm, goes against a long-standing principle of common-law tradition: as the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in a 1997 decision, “it does not matter to society, in its efforts to secure social peace and order, what an accused's motive was, but only what the accused intended to do.”7

As Roach warned in 2003, the Anti-terrorism Act's emphasis on motive “undercuts the notion of a liberal criminal law that inquires only into the mind of the accused, as opposed to his or her heart. The requirement for proof of political or religious motive will make the politics and religion of suspects a fundamental issue in terrorism trials. [....] Terrorism trials in Canada will be political and religious trials.”8

While on the one hand the Anti-terrorism Act instructs police, prosecutors and judges to focus on this broad category of political or religious motive, on the other hand it systematically undercuts the traditional common-law concentration on criminal intent. This tendency is evident in the act's newly defined offences relating to the financing of terrorism: as law professor Kevin Davis suggests, these could be used to convict a restaurant owner “for serving customers who he knows are in the habit of making contributions to terrorist groups.”9

However, it is in its definition of offences of facilitating terrorism that the Anti-terrorism Act most distinctly subverts traditional Canadian legal standards. The act provides for up to ten years' imprisonment for any person who “knowingly participates in or contributes to, directly or indirectly, any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of the terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.”10 Participating in or contributing to terrorist activities can be a matter of giving or receiving 'training'—or, more loosely, any kind of association with a group labelled as terrorist. As Roach observes, the act directs Canadian courts “to consider whether a person 'frequently associated with any of the persons who constitute the terrorist group' or uses words or symbols associated with the terrorist group.” As though this drift into guilt-by-association were not loose enough, the act then specifies that it is not necessary that “any particular terrorist activity was foreseen or planned at the time it was facilitated.”11

As Professor Roach's comment makes clear, the act at this point enters the terrain of Franz Kafka:

It seems impossible to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity when you do not know that “any particular terrorist activity was foreseen or planned at the time it was facilitated.” [....] The accused would still, however, be convicted and punished for knowing facilitation of a terrorist activity when, in fact, the person did not know about the terrorist activity.12

* * * *

The September 25th judgment of Ontario Superior Court Justice John Sproat participates fully in the Kafkaesque absurdity of the Anti-terrorism Act that it was his duty to apply.

Judge Sproat fund Mubin Shaikh “to be a truthful and generally reliable witness” whose credibility was not seriously shaken by the defence; not surprisingly, given this degree of gullibility, Sproat also concluded that evidence the Toronto 18 existed as a terrorist group was “overwhelming.”

As the Canadian Press reported,

Sproat rejected defence arguments that two camps organized by the alleged ringleaders were simply a religious retreat or recreational in nature. Sproat noted participants, including the accused, marched, played paintball games, shot a 9-mm handgun, and heard lectures on waging war on the West during a camp north of Toronto in December 2005. “It is inconceivable to me that by the end of the camp there was any doubt about its purpose,” the judge said. Sproat was adamant the young man [...] was aware of the group's murderous intentions and did his part to help by shoplifting walkie-talkies and camping supplies. “He had a full appreciation of the nature of the terrorist group.”13

But the evidence heard by the court would lead most rational people to a very different conclusion. As the New York Times reported, the camps “that the police described as terrorist training sessions” were characterized by prosecution witnesses “as recreational or religious retreats,” and Mubin Shaikh testified that he choreographed scenes in the videotapes he made of these two camps.14 The 9-mm pistol of course belonged to Shaikh, who acknowledged that he bought ammunition and fired the gun in front of participants in one of the camps,15 and the shoplifting was done at Shaikh's instigation.16

Shaikh himself was adamant that the accused ought to be acquitted: in July 2008 he insisted to reporters that the youth had no inkling of any nefarious purposes: “'I knew the purpose of the camp. I can tell you the accused was not told,' said Mr. Shaikh. [....] He said the youth believed the camp was for religious purposes.”17 Following Judge Sproat's judgment, Shaikh continued to insist to journalists, “as he did during his testimony, [that] the youth did not know what the group was up to. 'I don't believe he's a terrorist. I don't believe he should have been put through what he was put through, but that's our system.' Shaikh said.”18

We have, then, a truly bizarre legal judgment, in which the magnifying lens of police entrapment and 'war-on-terror' paranoia swells a shoplifter—whose petty crimes were instigated by a highly paid CSIS-RCMP informant—into a terrorist. The principal crown witness is accepted as “truthful and generally reliable” when his testimony supports the conclusion that a dangerous terrorist group actually existed—but that assessment appears effortlessly to coexist with the judge's bland acceptance of crown prosecutor John Neader's charge that when Mubin Shaikh's testimony exculpated the accused he was “fabricating evidence.”19 The logic of this is perhaps easier to accept once we have come to understand, thanks to the Anti-terrorism Act, that it is possible to “knowingly facilitate” a terrorist activity about which one knows nothing.

* * * *

Common-law tradition demands two things to secure a criminal conviction: a guilty deed (or actus reus), and evidence that the act was done knowingly, with criminal intention or a guilty mind (mens rea). The Anti-terrorism Act's dismissal of the mens rea requirement is a wholesale betrayal of democratic jurisprudence.

But as “national security expert” Wesley Wark of the Munk Centre for International Studies has said of the decision in this case, “so far, so good.”20 In other words, the purpose of the law is to secure convictions, at whatever cost to the principles of justice.

In Franz Kafka's haunting parable “Before the Law,” a man who has spent his life vainly seeking admission at the gate of the Law perceives, as his senses fail, a radiance streaming from the entrance that is about to be shut in his face by a brutal and tyrannical door-keeper.21 (What is the source of this radiance: the clear light of Justice? Or does it come rather from fires being lit in a new form of witch-hunt—one no less cowardly and irrational than the original?)

Integrating this parable into his novel The Trial, Kafka made it part of a dialogue between his innocent but doomed protagonist “K.” and the prison chaplain, who tells him that the authority of the parable's door-keeper must be accepted—not necessarily as true, but as necessary: for “to doubt his integrity is to doubt the Law itself.”

“A melancholy conclusion,” K. responds. “It turns lying into a universal principle.”22




1  Kent Roach, September 11: Consequences for Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 17.

2  See Roach, p. 23: “Had the September 11 terrorists planned their crimes in Canada and had the law enforcement officials been aware of their activities, the existing law would have allowed them to be charged and convicted of serious crimes” before the would-be perpetrators had actually carried out a single violent act.

3  Ibid., p. 24.

4  Ibid., p. 25.

5  For thorough assessments of the Report's substantive deficiencies, see David Ray Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2005); and Griffin, 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2008).

6  Roach, September 11: Consequences for Canada, p. 25, quoting Criminal Code, s. 83.01 (1)(b)(i)(A).

7  Ibid., p. 26, quoting United States v. Dynar, [1997] 2 SCR 462 at para. 81, 115 CCC (3d) 481. In the same note, Roach quotes the opinion of K. Kittichaisaree that “A motive is generally irrelevant in criminal law, except at the sentencing stage” (International Criminal Law [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001], p. 92; see Roach, pp. 212-13).

8  Ibid., p. 27.

9  Kevin Davis. “Cutting Off the Flow of Funds to Terrorists,” in R. Daniels, P. Maclem, and K. Roach, eds., The Security of Freedom (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), pp. 301, 303; quoted in Roach, September 11, p. 39. For evidence that Islamic financial, charity and banking systems have been both routinely misunderstood and unfairly targeted by western intelligence agencies, see economist R. T. Naylor's brilliant study Satanic Purses: Money, Myth, and Misinformation in the War on Terror (Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006), pp. 137 ff.

10  Criminal Code, s. 83.18, quoted by Roach, September 11, p. 42.

11  Roach, pp. 43, 44.

12  Ibid., p. 44.

13  “Evidence of terror group 'overwhelming,' judge rules in finding youth guilty,” Canadian Press (25 September 2008), http://canadianpress.google.com/article/AleqM5gWT-16g3nlt6sz3xdOyPDcfpqCMg.

14  Ian Austen, “Man Guilty in Canada Terror Plot,” New York Times (25 September 2008), http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/26/world/americas/26canada.html.

15  “Evidence of terror group 'overwhelming'.”

16  See Joseph Brean, “'We weren't there picking daisies',” National Post (11 June 2008), http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=580018. Brean quotes Shaikh as testifying that “when he discussed 'acquiring' camping gear with the group, it meant 'to quote unquote take unlawfully items in support of camping. Unlawfully. Not through legal purchases.'”

17  Shannon Kari, “Star witness says Toronto 18 youth should go free,” National Post (3 July 2008), http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=630123.

18  “Evidence of terror group 'overwhelming'.”

19  Melissa Leong, “Key witness's story changed, Crown charges,” National Post (25 June 2008), http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=610976.

20  “Evidence of terror group 'overwhelming'.”

21  Franz Kafka, “Before the Law,” in The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir (1948; rpt. New York: Schocken Books, 1970), pp. 148-50.

22  Kafka, The Trial, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir (1935; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 243.   

Further Reflections on the 'Toronto 18' Case: 'Terror Law' and the 'Crimen Exceptum'

First published in Global Outlook 13 (Annual 2009): 60-62.


The conclusions I arrived at in my article “The Toronto 18 Frame-Up: Fraud and Fear-Mongering in the 'War on Terror',” written in May 2008, have if anything been reinforced by subsequent events. I described a prosecution case that rests upon the entrapment activities of two moles instructed and lavishly paid by the the RCMP: one of them, by his own account a serious drug addict, received some $377,000, while the other, a spendthrift with what a close associate described as a habit of embellishing the truth, was paid $4.1 million. Their job, in return, was to create the appearance of a gang of terrorists with some paramilitary training, and the further appearance that this gang was trying to lay its hands on quantities of fertilizer to make ammonium nitrate-fuel oil (ANFO) bombs.

In July 2008 the first mole, Mubin Shaikh, decided he had sold himself short and requested a further $2.4 million from the RCMP—in return for promises of “no more media interviews, no more drug use, and no book or movie deals.”1 In the mean time, in June 2008, it emerged that the RCMP used a third mole as well—one Qari Kifayatullah, who claimed expertise with ANFO explosives. Thomas Walkom writes that the RCMP has shown no interest in interviewing or arresting this man—for the very good reason, one might suppose, that he was acting under RCMP supervision. It is not yet known how much his services may have cost, or what his relationship was to another man, “identified in court only as Talib,” who also contributed to the frame-up. As Walkom notes, Talib “explained, in a conversation recorded by police, how his team of cocaine addicts used stolen identities to defraud banks in small cities like Kitchener.” He seems, like Kifayatullah, to have enjoyed immunity from arrest: “There is no record [...] of the RCMP moving to shut down Talib's ongoing and apparently lucrative bank fraud schemes.”2

I also described in my article what I called the narrative framing of the case. The motif of ANFO bombs—a project that police agents furthered and almost certainly originated as well3—identified the accused as 'home-grown terrorists' in the manner of Timothy McVeigh; while the motif of beheading—set into motion by a police synopsis of accusations, and given added currency by the police mole Mubin Shaikh—linked the accused with the barbaric 'terrorist international' of arch-beheader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This narrative framing gave shape to a nightmare sense of mortal danger—posed by men and boys who are at once 'home-grown' and at the same time terrifyingly 'other', since their deepest loyalty is supposedly to a barbaric radicalism that seeks to transplant the violence of faraway countries into our own civic space.

A different kind of narrative framing is now at work in the timing of the prosecutions: these cases are moving into court in conjunction with the trial in Ottawa of Momin Khawaja, arrested four years ago on charged of having supplied bomb detonator know-how to a UK terrorist cell. Five people have been convicted in Britain as members of the cell Khawaja is accused of having assisted, and our government may be hoping for synergy between Khawaja's case and the Toronto 18 trials: a conviction in the former might be expected to make the Crown's arguments in the latter more persuasive.

However, another 'War on Terror' case involving a Canadian citizen has also simultaneously been moving toward trial. The alleged child-soldier Omar Khadr, who has been illegally detained in the US prison at Guantánamo since 2002, when he was fifteen, and repeatedly tortured, will be on trial for his life this autumn before an illegally constituted Military Commission. This case has become a major scandal both in Canada and internationally: our Supreme Court has ruled that CSIS agents and Foreign Affairs officials who participated in interrogating Khadr at Guantánamo in 2003 were acting in a manner “contrary to Canada's binding international obligations,”4 and the Harper government's refusal to intervene on Khadr's behalf and repatriate him is a much more serious violation of Canadian law and of Canadian treaty obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture (Article 12) and the Geneva Conventions (III, Article 130, and IV, Article 146).5

On August 8, 2008, Khadr's lawyers launched a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Canada against Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, CSIS Director Jim Judd and RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, asking a judge to order the government to live up to its legal and treaty obligations and repatriate Khadr. Harper's response was breathtaking in its moral obtuseness:

“This predictable,” said Kory Teneycke, the Prime Minister's director of communications. “It's an attempt by Mr. Khadr's lawyers to avoid a trial on the charges of murder in violation of the laws of the war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of the war, conspiracy providing material support for terrorism and spying.”6

Setting aside the ignorance of Teneycke's repeated reference to “the laws of the war” rather than “the laws of war” (it could possibly be a sub-editor at the National Post rather than the PM's flack who thinks that each war has its own laws, and doesn't know that there's just one set of international conventions that applies to all wars), this banal repetition of the Gitmo charge sheet is an affront to civilized values. Canada's Prime Minister is telling us, quite directly, that he regards a Military Commission kangaroo-court as legitimate, that he holds Canada's binding obligations under international law in contempt, and that, above and beyond the laws governing appropriate treatment of children accused of crimes, he fails to see how sheerly idiotic it is to accuse a fifteen-year-old of “providing material support for terrorism and spying.”

The contextual framing of the trials of those among the Toronto 18 whose charges have not been stayed may therefore, if anything, help the Canadian public to recognize the fragility of the government's evidence—and the fact that sleep-deprivation torture is no less disgraceful in Toronto than in Guantánamo. A wider contextualizing still may help us to understand more fully what is at stake, in terms of the principles of democratic jurisprudence, in these and similar 'terror trials'. 

* * * *

We can learn something about the current threat to democratic jurisprudence by reflecting on a uniquely western European and early American experience—the witch-craze that between the end of the fifteenth century and the late seventeenth century intermittently convulsed whole regions of Germany and France, with lesser outbreaks in Scotland, England, and England's American colonies. Its relevance resides in the fact that the 'War on Terror' reproduces with uncanny exactitude not just the key structures of the western European witch-hunts, but also their political function.

The witch-hunts were animated by a conviction that society was under attack by a demonic conspiracy: Satan was said to have assembled a vast network of people who had sworn allegiance to him at secret assemblies, and who were wreaking havoc under his direction, causing crop failures and other 'natural' disasters, outbreaks of disease, and the deaths of children and cattle. Alarmingly, the alleged participants in this conspiracy were often normal, even upstanding members of the community: a large majority of those who were arrested, tortured, and judicially murdered during the witch-hunts were powerless and vulnerable women, but the victims also included municipal councillors, merchants, and landowners.

Although the discourses of the witch-hunts incorporated elements of popular culture, there is overwhelming evidence that the witch-stereotype was constructed by lawyers and theologians. And whether by accident or design, the witch-hunts helped to stifle dissent among the labouring classes, which had increasingly taken the form of quasi-messianic insurrections (among them the German Peasants' Revolt of 1525). The anthropologist Marvin Harris, who noted this connection more than thirty years ago, wrote that the “witch mania [...] shifted responsibility for the crisis of late Medieval society from both Church and state to imaginary demons in human form [...]. The clergy and nobility emerged as the great protectors of mankind against an enemy who was omnipresent but difficult to detect.”7

Harris observed that in contrast to movements of protest, which gave the poor, if only briefly, a sense of solidarity, dignity, and common purpose, the witch mania “dispersed and fragmented all the latent energies of protest. It demobilized the poor and the dispossessed, [...] made everyone fearful, heightened everyone's insecurity, made everyone feel helpless and dependent on the governing classes[...].”8 It amounted to a sixteenth-century form of 'false-flag' deception.

Early modern legal systems influenced by Roman law incorporated torture as a standard means of acquiring evidence in criminal cases. But the witch-craze led to a greatly expanded reliance upon torture, together with a general relaxation of standards of evidence. Membership in the secret society of witches was defined by jurists as a crimen exceptum, a crime so far removed from normal wickedness as to require a corresponding extremism in the investigative and judicial responses to the threat.9 Because Satan, the central co-conspirator, was unavailable for questioning, and because the evidence of guilt by association with him was, by definition, spectral in nature, torture became the principal source of evidence. The result was a cascading proliferation of accusations. And since rules of evidence were relaxed, few of the accused escaped conviction.

The analogies with the post-9/11 'War on Terror' are obvious enough. Once again, by accident or design, a powerful movement of dissent—in this case, the international mobilization against neoliberal globalization that produced mass demonstrations in Seattle, Québec, Genoa and elsewhere between the late 1990s and 2001—has been stifled.10 And once again, the sense of agency and solidarity that fed organized opposition to an exploitative elite has been deflected and dispersed by a demonizing fantasy—a “myth of universal terrorism”11—about a terrifying otherness whose instruments hate us for what is good in us and seek to destroy our central institutions.

That fantasy has legitimized rampant Islamophobia, as well as a powerful deployment of the state's agencies of repression. It has also led to a fearful acceptance of claims that these forces of repression are our only defence against 'terror'. The demonizing fantasy has legitimized, in the United States, an effective abandonment of the rights of citizens once protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights,12 and in Canada and elsewhere it has resulted in the passing of 'Terror Laws' that relax normal rules of evidence and permit claims of 'national security' to trump the long-established rights of defendants to know the evidence against them and cross-examine accusers in open court.

Do we need to be reminded that one central motive of post-Enlightenment democratic jurisprudence has been to prevent arbitrary infringements of what we now recognize as essential human rights? The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, for example, is a barrier against torture: it protects citizens from being coerced into self-incrimination—by means including what US police, borrowing a term from the witch-hunt torturers, call the “third degree.”13 In the Khawaja case, the judge's decision to admit hearsay evidence14 has thrown open the door to evidence that could be derived from torture in other countries, or otherwise tainted.

* * * *

At one key point, the analogies I have been pursuing break down. There never was any such thing in early modern Europe as a conspiracy of witches; Satan, its organizer, exists only in human imaginings; and the 'crimes' for which many thousands of people died never happened. In contrast, the terrorist atrocities of 9/11, and of the bombings in Bali, Madrid, and London, were very real indeed.

But although the crimes of 9/11 are horrifyingly real, and although Islamist extremists with an appetite for unconstrained violence do exist, we know the official narratives about 9/11 to be systematically false. The evidence we have is unequivocal: the attacks can only have been organized by groups within the state apparatus. Given the consequences for the democratic rule of law, it is all the more important to establish, through further patient and scrupulous research, a public understanding of the actual sequence of events that will be as wide and deep as possible.

Under the regency of George W. Bush, the American state appears to have adopted a theory of governance, most definitively propounded by the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, according to which the defining characteristic of sovereign power is ts self-exemption from the laws it applies to its subjects.15 Schmitt's doctrine of a “sovereign exemption” stands in direct opposition to democracy; it also symmetrically complements the witch-hunt doctrine of the crimen exceptum. The state declares certain crimes so appalling that anyone accused of them is denied the normal protections of the law—while on the other hand, the people who punish such crimes are exempted from obedience to the laws they administer and enforce.

Canadians need to ensure that in this country no-one is denied the full protection—under democratic jurisprudence—of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means repealing the 'Terror Laws' passed by a panicked Parliament in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.16 At the same time we should ensure that the RCMP and CSIS do not quietly grant themselves a “sovereign exemption” from any inquiry into the means by which they fabricated the demonizing fantasies of the Toronto 18 case.




1  Michael Friscolanti, “'Toronto 18' informant Mubin Shaikh ups his price,” Maclean's Magazine (23 July 2008), http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20080723_115512_115512&page=1.

2  Thomas Walkom, “Two more odd characters join cast of terror trial,” Toronto Star (21 June 2008), http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/447094.

3  See Walkom, “Two more odd characters”: “According to informer Mubin Shaikh, Kifayatullah was the man who advised an alleged terrorist ringleader about the virtue of truck bombs. Indeed, Shaikh said that it was from Kifayatullah that he first heard mention of ammonium nitrate, or fertilizer.”

4  Supreme Court of Canada, Canada (Justice) v. Khadr (28 May 2008); quoted by Lawyers Against the War, “Release and repatriation of Omar Khadr, Canadian citizen imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay” (Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Attorney General Robert Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Emerson, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, 30 July 2008), available at www.lawyersagainstthewar.org.

5  For details, see Lawyers Against the War, “Release and repatriation of Omar Khadr.”

6  David Akin, Khadr sues Harper over repatriation,” National Post (9 August 2008): A5.

7  Marvin Harris, Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture (New York: Random House, 1974), pp. 237-38. Ken Couesbouc briefly noted the relevance of this book to the 'War on Terror' in “The New Witchcraft: Marvin Harris on the Roots of the War on Terror,” CounterPunch (11 October 2006), http://www.counterpunch.org/kouesbouc10112006.html. For another approach to these issues, see Robert Rapley, Witch Hunts: From Salem to Guantánamo Bay (Montréal and Kingston: Queen's-McGill University Press, 2007).

8  Harris, p. 239.

9  See Wolfgang Behringer, Witchcraft Persecutions in Bavaria: Popular Magic, Religious Zealotry and Reasons of State in Early Modern Europe, trans. J. C. Grayson and David Lederer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 215, 230-32, 312.

10  In late September 2001 the editor of The New Republic declared that if a planned protest against the IMF and World Bank took place in Washington DC, the anti-globalization movement would, “in the eyes of the nation, have joined the terrorists in a united front”; and US trade representative Robert Zoellick identified 'intellectual connections' between al Qaeda and anti-globalization demonstrators (Peter Beinart, “Sidelines,” The New Republic [24 September 2001]; quoted from Corey Robin, Fear: The History of a Political Idea [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004], pp. 188-89.) Corey Robin adds that “Antiglobalization activists and intellectuals quickly felt the power of such rhetoric: many, including the AFL-CIO, stayed away from the [Washington] protest, and the movement has since fallen into abeyance” (Fear, p. 188).

11  The term is from Emmanuel Todd, Après l'empire: Essai sur la décomposition du système américain (2002; 2nd ed. Paris: Gallimard, 2004), ch. 1: “Le mythe du terrorisme universel.”

12  See Naomi Wolf, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007); and Sherwood Ross, “Is America Fascist?” Scoop Independent News (10 August 2008), http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0808/S00119.htm.

13  See Margreta de Grazia, “Sanctioning Voice: Quotation Marks, the Abolition of Torture, and the Fifth Amendment,” in Martha Woodmansee and Peter Jaszi, eds., The Construction of Authorship (Durham: Duke University Press, 1994), pp. 281-302.

14  Ian MacLeod, “Judge allows hearsay evidence in Khawaja trial,” National Post (24 July 2008).

15  For an account of Schmitt's theory, see Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), pp. 15-29.

16  See Kent Roach, September 11: Consequences for Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).   

The Toronto 18 Frame-Up: Fraud and Fear-Mongering in the “War on Terror”

My essay on “The Toronto 18 Frame-Up” was written in May 2008, but not published until more than a year later in Global Outlook 13 (Annual 2009): 52-59. It was followed by two shorter updates, “Further Reflections on the 'Toronto 18' Case: 'Terror Law' and the 'Crimen Exceptum',” and “The Toronto 18: A Second Update,” which were written in July 2008 and October 2008 respectively, and published with it in Global Outlook 13.


On June 2, 2006 the arrests of seventeen Muslim men and youths in Toronto on terrorism charges made headlines around the world (as did that of an eighteenth suspect, a fortnight later). The accusations against them were indeed spectacular: according to the Toronto police, this terrorist cell had been planning bombing attacks against the Houses of Parliament, the CN Tower, the headquarters of CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the CBC—and also, most sensationally, they had allegedly intended, after storming the Parliament buildings, to behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And yet any careful reader of the news stories which followed these arrests could not help but be struck by a number of anomalies. The case was represented as a major triumph of police and intelligence work, and the dangers involved were underlined by massive paramilitary theatrics at the arraignment hearings in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, including grim-faced snipers on rooftops, and helicopters thumping overhead.

But how were we to interpret these theatrics? Did Canadian intelligence agencies really anticipate that squads of heavily armed terrorists might descend on the Brampton courthouse in a desperate Robin-Hood style attempt to free their captured comrades? Or would it be cynical to think that the state was trying to panic the Canadian media and the public at large with this graphic demonstration of how terrified we should all be—if not of the handcuffed prisoners, then certainly of hypothetical shadowy accomplices who remained at liberty? The logic is clear: if the brave and clever men who dress like ninjas, carry big big automatic weapons and work in intelligence are worried, then the rest of us ought to be gob-smacked with fear.

This message appears to have got through quite widely—not least to an American versifier on the Buzzflash website who proposed ironically that his compatriots should stop worrying about building a fence along their southern border to stop Mexican immigration, given what seemed more urgent problems to the north:

Putting up a Mexican fence
May not be the best defense. 
Let's build one near Toronto
And get it finished pronto.1

No-one, presumably, had told him about the existence of Lake Ontario.

Snipers and helicopters notwithstanding, there turned out to be a bizarre disjunction between the material resources the arrested group (if it was a group) possessed, and what the Toronto police and RCMP claimed were their goals. For the arsenal of weaponry revealed by the arresting officers was distinctly unimpressive. In addition to five pairs of boots, it consisted of “six flashlights, one walkie-talkie, one voltmeter, eight D-cell batteries, a cell phone, a circuit board, a computer hard drive, one barbecue grill, a set of barbecue tongs, a wooden door with 21 bullet marks and a 9 mm hand gun.”2

Oh yes—and centrally displayed, a bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, as evidence that the group had intended to emulate Timothy McVeigh's purported feat of destroying the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with an ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) truck bomb.3 Not that any of the accused had actually been in possession of that or any other bag of ammonium nitrate fertilizer—much less fuel oil, or an appropriately configured truck in which to mix the two, or a detonating device—in the absence of which ammonium nitrate makes plants grow, but won't blow anything up, not even the headquarters of CSIS. Yet one or possibly more of the accused had apparently been lured by a police agent into making a purchase order of a large quantity of ammonium nitrate, and had accepted delivery of some quantity of a harmless substitute chemical, at which point the police swooped.

Most media outlets found nothing worthy of comment either in the extreme sketchiness of the accused terrorists' equipment or in the evident fact that the government's case against them rested on entrapment. Not merely had the idea of obtaining ammonium nitrate apparently been suggested to one or more members of the group by a police mole (who conveniently was also an agricultural engineer by profession, and thus able to place an order for a significant quantity of the substance), but the only weapon the group was accused of possessing, a 9 mm pistol, turns out to have been the property of another police mole—who seems also to have been responsible for organizing camping and paint-balling excursions into the Ontario countryside that he subsequently represented as having been terrorist training camps.

The knowledge of military tactics or even of simple camping that he imparted would seem to have been of dubious value: much of the group's time during their major winter 'training camp' in December 2005 appears to have been spent huddling in a local Tim Horton's donut shop trying to stay warm.

Of parallel significance is the information, based on surveillance of the group, that police released to the media: it indicates that one or more of them didn't know who the current Canadian prime minister is, much less where to find him. There seems to be no sign, moreover, that any of the accused had thought about how much damage an ANFO truck bomb might be able to inflict upon the massive reinforced concrete footings of the CN Tower. (The short answer is: none whatsoever.)

But however unimpressive much of the evidence made public by state authorities might appear to be, its narrative framing was very effective indeed.

The motif of decapitation was headlined in many accounts of the arrests.4 Although one might think that the manner in which this motif was deployed ought to have prompted a pause for critical reflection, the general media response was wholly uncritical.

The thought of decapitation by Islamist terrorists evokes the most lurid misdeed of the arch-terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi—who for several years (until, that is, the narrative of his extinction became more useful to American authorities than stories of how he ran the Iraqi resistance more of less single-handed on behalf of al Qaeda) was represented by the Pentagon's fabulists as a demonic Scarlet Pimpernel: that “demmed elusive” one-legged Jordanian was here, there, and everywhere,5 demonstrating a truly devilish capacity to carry out near-simultaneous operations in far-distant places, and committing crimes that there is good reason to suspect may in fact have been perpetrated by American special forces.6

In the spring of 2004, a fortnight after revelations about the torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners by their American interrogators at Abu Graib were headlined throughout the American and world media, Zarqawi very conveniently videotaped himself beheading an American captive, Nicholas Berg. It would be an understatement to call this videotape problematic. Berg, who had been arrested by American forces, was acknowledged as having been in their custody shortly before his death; in the videotape he is wearing American orange prison overalls, while a plastic chair in the background closely resembles chairs that appear in Abu Graib torture photographs. Cries of anguish were dubbed onto the tape, but Berg was clearly already dead when he was beheaded.7 Zarqawi, his executioner, whom the CIA described as having an artificial leg, is vigorously bipedal, and speaks Arabic without his known Jordanian accent. In brief, the video appears to be a black operations product, and Berg a victim of the same people who ordered the Abu Graib atrocities.

The reason for the Zarqawi video's manufacture seems obvious. It abruptly reversed the valences of news stories about torture and executions, making an American the hapless victim, and a brutal Islamist terrorist the perpetrator. And it allowed media pundits to argue that, whatever the lapses of a few 'bad apples' on their side, their adversaries were wholly barbaric. Meanwhile, damning evidence of the direct responsibility of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and other senior officials for systematic torture and murder in the American gulag could be flushed down the memory hole.

In the case of the Toronto 18, the beheading motif strengthened associations with al Qaeda and international terrorism by linking the accused with Zarqawi—even though, behind the headlines, it appeared that beheading Stephen Harper was not a crime any of them had actually proposed to carry out, but rather something an imaginative police officer had speculated in a synopsis of accusations one of them would be likely to want to do.8 In the event, “no criminal charges to this effect were ever actually laid”9—though Mubin Shaikh, one of the two police moles, helped keep the beheading motif in circulations when he told PBS Frontline that the plans of the accused included “[s]torming Parliament, kidnapping, like holding hostage the MPs, beheading them one by one, unless Canadian troops are pulled out of Afghanistan and Muslim prisoners are released from prisons in Canada.”10

The outlines of an interpretive framework—or what I would prefer to call, with full awareness of the ambiguity, a framing narrative—were thus in place. Like Timothy McVeigh, whose method of attacks they are accused of wanting to imitate, the Toronto 18 are constructed for us as 'home-grown terrorists'; but the association with Zarqawi's most sensational supposed crime makes them at the same time barbarous outsiders, with spiritual loyalties to the largely mythical Islamist terrorist international11 for which his name is a metonymy. The links to both key aspects of this framework, we can observe, are provided by the police: the first through entrapment, and the second through mere supposition.

Only some time after the arrests did the elaborateness of the entrapment scheme become apparent. Early reports made much of an alleged 'training camp' session the group conducted in Washago, Ontario in December 2005—the principal organizer of which turned out to have been Mubin Shaikh, who was paid $77,000 by the RCMP for his services in setting the group up for arrest, and who, when he went public on July 13th to speak of his role to the media, declared that he was owed a further $300,000.12 As an army cadet from the age of 13 to 19 with the Canadian Armed Forces, Shaikh had received some weapons training and would have learned the rudiments of infantry tactics. Although a publication ban on evidence in this case prevents us from knowing in any detail what kinds of paramilitary expertise the group is accused of having possessed, he was presumably its principal source.

In October 2006, details were revealed of the role played by a second mole, an agricultural engineer, in what CBC News called “a sophisticated sting operation.” His function was to provide “evidence to the authorities that the conspirators had material that they thought could be used to make bombs,” and unnamed sources informed CBC News that his degree in agricultural engineering “could have given the alleged conspirators access to much larger quantities of ammonium nitrate than they could have purchased at ordinary retail outlets.”13

In February 2007, it emerged that the RCMP had paid this second mole fully $4.1 million for his services. The Mounties helpfully provided Maclean's Magazine with a set of 'secret' memos in order to make clear what their thinking had been. These memos showed, according to Maclean's, that by mid-April 2006 “authorities had grown increasingly desperate, convinced that the group was on the brink of building a bomb.” If the RCMP truly believed this, then their ensuing behaviour is so bizarre as to defy explanation. One might suppose that if they had information from Mubin Shaikh that the group he had 'infiltrated' (to give as polite as possible a spin to his activities) was nearly capable of making bombing attacks, had formulated a plan “of renting three 14-foot U-Haul vans packed with explosives, parking them at strategic locations, and remotely triggering the explosives,” and had actually got so far as setting a date for the attack,14 then the Mounties might reasonably think about making some arrests.

Instead of doing so, the RCMP made contact on April 29, 2006 with a CSIS informant—a Canadian-born man from “a prominent Egyptian family” who had received most of his secondary and university education in Cairo, returning to Canada in 2000 “with degrees in agriculture and business.” This high-minded citizen initially requested $15 million as compensation for infiltrating the alleged terrorist group and offering them his expertise, but was bargained down to $4.1 million; by mid-May, the RCMP had given him “the legal authority to 'knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity' in the name of cracking the case.” His job, according to the Maclean's report, “was to provide suspects with credit cards and help them purchase large quantities of what they believed to be ammonium nitrate, the same chemical used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”15 In other words, his job was to make possible a purchase that the supposed terrorists would not otherwise have had the resources for—and might indeed not even have contemplated without his intervention.

Let's see what the evidence—at least what we've been allowed to know of it—adds up to. One of the accused is alleged by Mubin Shaikh to have experimented with a home-made detonator;16 the same man is also said to have had contacts with Islamist radicals from the US. Apart from this alleged detonator, the only item more dangerous than barbecue tongs that the group possessed or had access to was Mubin Shaikh's own 9 mm pistol.

And what of the purported group's alleged bomb-making expertise? One might well suspect that the RCMP was if anything concerned by their lack of any such expertise, and did not themselves believe Shaikh's story that the group was “on the brink” of being able to carry out terrorist bombing attacks. Why else would the Mounties spend $4.1 million to hire an agricultural engineer, already tested as a CSIS informant, who could tell some witless member or members of the group how to make an ANFO truck bomb, enable a purchase of ammonium nitrate through his professional accreditation, give them credit cards so they could actually put a purchase order through—and also, it turns out, provide them with warehouse space for storage of the substance, in a building conveniently located a hundred yards from the RCMP's Newmarket headquarters?17

At its senior levels, the RCMP is both a scandalously corrupt and a scandalously politicized organization. Evidence of corruption can be found in the recent disgraceful rip-off by senior officers of the RCMP's own pension fund.18 The force's politicization was made apparent in its unprecedented intervention in the 2006 federal election campaign: midway through the campaign, the RCMP launched a corruption investigation into the office of Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, hitherto a highly respected politician.19 Goodale and his staff were exonerated in February 2007, but in the mean time the empty investigation had fueled opposition parties' accusations of government corruption and tipped the election into the hands of Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

One may then suspect that the RCMP's 'desperation' in mid-April 2006 had less to do with apprehension of an actual terrorist threat than it did with senior officers' awareness that while Mubin Shaikh was shepherding his group toward arrest, the evidence he had been able to produce amounted to little more than gossip and idle chatter of the kind that had first attracted CSIS agents to the internet chat-room postings of Fahim Ahmad and Zakaria Amara, who became labeled as leaders of the terror plot.20 The Canadian Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a case “involving how evidence was heard in anti-terrorism cases” in the second week of June 2006: is it altogether a coincidence that the high-priced and urgent labours of the second mole made it possible for the RCMP to make a mass terrorism arrest a week before this hearing?21 

* * * *

Perhaps we should a closer look at these two police moles. What, first, could have induced the parents of Toronto area youths—who in some cases were only fifteen at the time of their arrest—to permit them to take part in camping and paint-balling events organized by Mubin Shaikh?

By the time Shaikh took up employment as an RCMP mole, he had become a figure of some prominence in Toronto's Muslim community. He was active in 2005 in campaigning for legitimation by the Ontario government of sharia family adjudication courts—to the point that some members of the Muslim community urged him to desist. More important, one might guess, was his work at the Masjid El Noor mosque as a “conflict resolution specialist,” and his service under Liberal MP Alan Tonks as Multiculturalism Chair of the York South-Weston Federal Liberal Association. The riding association's website notes his training in “Alternate Dispute Resolution through the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor,” his interest in comparative religious studies, and his response to “the conflicts that rage in our world”—which was to dedicate himself “to inter-faith harmony and mutual respect for human rights as the only way forward towards peace and stability in our society.” The website also mentions his involvement throughout his teen years in the Canadian Army Cadets, where he rose to be Warrant Officer, Drill Sergeant Major, and Staff Instructor,22 and would thus have had substantial experience in supervising activities of a quasi-military nature for younger teenage boys.

This seems, in short, the kind of young man that parents would have no qualms about their teenage sons associating with—though the first two sentences of the web-page's description of him might, in retrospect, prompt rueful reflection: “Traveller, philosopher, theologian, Mubin Shaikh is not your ordinary Torontonian. At first look, one might think they've encountered an extremist but on second take, you realize you've been had!”23

Shaikh appears to have encouraged his young associates to make precisely this mistake—and for reasons that may have been less pure than the respect for Islamic law and love for his country that he represented to the media as his motives. The Liberal Party website neglects to mention that his past history includes a significant involvement with hard drugs, though as Shaikh acknowledged to Maclean's Magazine in September 2007, he has in the very recent past been a serious cocaine addict. By his own account, as transmitted by the Maclean's journalist, Shaikh was in his younger days “a partier, a pot-smoking tough guy who liked to drop LSD,” but he “quit cold turkey and rededicated himself to Islam” after high school. In 2006, however, “the burden of being Canada's most famous mole became too much to bear. And when it did, he turned not to God, but to hard drugs”:

“I spent some money on it, money that I shouldn't have spent,” he admits. “The stress of my involvement was so great. Nobody has been through the situation that I have been through, and because of its impact and importance and significance—that is one hell of a weight to realize is on your head. It got so bad for me, it just broke me. It just broke me.”24

Shaikh claimed that as a result of the stress he faced after publicly revealing himself as a mole in the Toronto 18 arrests, “I got back into my old friends, and I started doing s--t again.”25

Several aspects of this story, as passed on by Maclean's, raise interesting questions. First, quitting drug use 'cold turkey' after high school is suggestive, not of marijuana and LSD use, but of addiction to an opiate like cocaine or heroin. In drug argot, 'doing shit' normally refers to these latter drugs, so when Shaikh explains his cocaine addiction as resulting from renewed contact with 'old friends' who facilitated his “doing shit again,” he appears to be confessing to a return to an earlier cocaine addiction.26

One might well doubt the reliability of Shaikh's indications of time. He told the Maclean's journalist, presumably in early September 2007, that he hadn't touched cocaine “for a few months.” But Shaikh also told Maclean's that

he bought “a couple thousand dollars” worth of cocaine over a six-month span, and before long, a few casual snorts had ballooned into a full-blown habit. “There were a couple of times when I got real scared because my heart rate started blasting up and I had to call an ambulance,” he says. “I started realizing: 'Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?'”

He finally phoned his RCMP handlers and told them the truth. They checked him into rehab.27

Because addicts are notoriously unreliable about details relating to their illness, the defendants' lawyers will no doubt want to know when Mubin Shaikh had to call ambulances, and when he was checked into rehab. Was he telling the Maclean's journalist that his cocaine use lasted just six months? (In that case there's a minor contradiction between saying he used cocaine from mid-July 2006 until mid-February 2007, and saying in early September 2007 that he'd been clean “for a few months”: nearly seven months is more than “a few.”) Or was he saying that he became a serious addict only in February 2007 and used cocaine in about June of that year? In either case, can his claim that renewed addiction was caused only by the stresses of July 2006 be credited?

Shaikh is insistent that his history of drug use in no way invalidates his reliability as a witness: “They are going to say: 'You did drugs.' Okay, fine, I did drugs after the investigation. How does that affect at all what happened during the investigation? Zero.”28 During his late teens, however, Shaikh appears to have been heavily involved at the same time with drugs and with his army cadet service: it might be an exaggeration to say that the two were intrinsically linked for him, but they were certainly concurrent interests. It seems possible that his return to army-cadet-type activities in the course of his work as a mole may have been as responsible as any stresses resulting from that work for prompting his renewed addiction to cocaine.

Shaikh's drug addiction raises two further questions. First, although by his own account he himself initiated contacts with the police, it invites speculation as to whether his prior and possibly continuing involvement with drugs made him vulnerable to police manipulation. And secondly, as Edward Sapiano, one of the defence attorneys, has stated, “It provides extreme motivation for him to fabricate. A cocaine addict, what does he need? Cocaine. What does he need for cocaine? Money. What's this guy getting from the police? Money. Based on what? The quality and size of his information.”29

Even the most hostile of interpreters might be willing to acknowledge that Mubin Shaikh's behaviour has been marked by some flickers of integrity: he has, for example, maintained that two of the adult suspects, Jahmaal James and Stephen Chand, ought to be set free.30 (Small recompense, one might say, for the long months of imprisonment, much of it in psychologically damaging solitary confinement, that they and the other suspects have endured, not to mention their financial losses and loss of reputation.)

But the second mole appears to be, more simply, a scoundrel. This informant, whose identity is known to Maclean's Magazine and the Globe and Mail (but not published, since he is in a witness protection program), worked for Air Canada as a flight attendant for two years following his return to this country in 2000. He then launched a catering business, which failed. According to the Globe and Mail, “Records show his parents filed bankruptcy papers in 2003, declaring $4,000 in assets and $26,000 in liabilities. The son, who looked to have run up his parents' bills, tried to sweet-talk creditors into letting the family pay back something less than 100 cents on every dollar. The application was denied.”31

He then sought to launch an import-export business, but his partner in the plan “pulled out, citing his young partner's tendency to embellish. 'For example, if you'd ask him how things were going [financially], he'd say they were great, but you could see a few days later that he was short of money,' the former business partner said.”32 The informant did manage to start up two other businesses, one aimed at “help[ing] new immigrants adjust to life in Canada,” and the other a travel agency, which the RCMP, perhaps seeking to justify the very substantial payment it made to him for “loss of business,” described as “'expanding' and showing 'signs of future success.'”33

One may be permitted to doubt this assessment, given the accounts by the mole's own friends of his impracticality and extravagance. “He taught me so much,” one of them enthused. “He would go ahead with an idea that wouldn't work just to show you that it wouldn't work.”34 And his fondness for lavish expenditures may have worked to the detriment of his travel agency's cash flow. According to the Globe and Mail, “a couple of days after Christmas in 2005 ... the informant was trying to describe to a friend one of his favourite restaurants in the world. Realizing he couldn't do it justice with words, he decided—on the spot—to take his friend there.” On the next day, he and his friend flew to South America, ate at the special restaurant “twice in one day,” and had what the friend described as “an amazing time.”35

Maclean's Magazine offers a parallel anecdote of the informant's love of “the good life”: “Hotel suites. Tennis games. Fine dining. He and his friend once flew to Poland—for the day—just to eat duck. 'You don't understand how much he loves food,' says the friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'If you tell him there is good food in Fiji, he'll go.”36 Perhaps not surprisingly, “By the time the RCMP came asking for help, the man was more than “188,000 in debt, including a whopping $20,000 worth of unpaid credit card bills.”37

The government's case rests, then, upon the efforts and testimony of two men, one of them a drug addict whose attempts to cure himself by recourse to religious fundamentalism has not been conspicuously successful, and the other a wastrel with what his own business associates identified as a tendency to embellish. Without the work of Mubin Shaikh, it's arguable that nothing that could plausibly be identified as a “Toronto 18” group would have existed; and it seems clear that only the entrepreneurial intervention of the second mole made it possible to claim that members of the group were seriously planning acts of terrorism.

* * * *

Most journalists who covered the Toronto 18 story in its early phases found nothing out of the ordinary in the fact that after their arrests the men and youths were subjected to sleep-deprivation torture—confined in brightly illuminated isolation cells and woken every half-hour by authorities obviously desperate for evidence.38 Nor were they able to remember that three years previously another large group of Toronto Muslims had been arrested on suspicion of plotting similarly lurid acts of terrorism, which had turned out to be no more than products of the active imaginations of RCMP and CSIS officers, Toronto police detectives, and Immigration Canada officials. In that case, an investigation called Project Thread (and re-named “Project Threadbare” by skeptics) led to twenty-four men being arrested as members of an al Qaeda sleeper cell with plans to destroy the CN Tower, blow up the Pickering nuclear power plant, and set off a radioactive dirty bomb. The allegations were eventually dropped, and no charges were laid. And yet the men were held in maximum security detention for months, no statements of exoneration were issued, and seventeen of them were deported, in a manner marked by flagrant illegalities, to countries where the mere suspicion of terrorist affiliations could have very dangerous consequences.39

The prosecution case against the Toronto 18 appears to be collapsing in a parallel manner. In September 2007, having already stayed charges against three of the four juveniles charged in the case, the Crown abruptly halted the preliminary hearing midway through Mubin Shaikh's testimony (before he could be cross-examined), and announced that the case would proceed directly to trial. As Thomas Walkom wrote, defence lawyers were furious:

The whole reason for a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant trial and, more important, to give the defence a chance to hear the Crown's case. Defence lawyers say they made concessions in return for the right to cross-examine witnesses like Shaikh. Now they won't have a chance to test his widely publicized allegations until the trial.40

In another equally remarkable development in mid-April 2008, the Crown stayed charges against four of the adult suspects, thus acknowledging that it had no case against them (while still making them sign peace bonds with rigorous curfew and bail conditions). One of the four, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, who was forty-three at the time of the arrests, had been represented in court documents as the ringleader of the terrorist group. The proceedings against him turn out to be what he thought they were at the moment of his arrest—“a terrible mistake.”41

It appears we're now dealing with the Toronto 11—or rather, if we remember Mubin Shaikh's insistence that another two of the accused, Jahmaal James and Steven Chand, are innocent, with what will soon be the Toronto 9. Eight men and a boy, then, were planning to blow up and storm all those buildings, and behead all those politicians.

Andrew Mitrovica has commented in the Toronto Star that “The case is imploding.” He writes with due scorn of academic “security experts,” one of whom had told CBC Radio “that the police had necessarily cast their net wide and had likely ensnared a few blameless individuals along the way”:

That the police and spies have retreated into silence while these so-called experts do their bidding publicly is not particularly surprising. But their silence and the evaporating charges are instructive for a number of important reasons.

It says much about the sorry state of Canada's security intelligence infrastructure and the sometimes incestuous relationship between that powerful and largely anonymous apparatus and some compliant members of the media who regurgitated the state-cleansed allegations and effectively branded these men terrorists.

It also speaks to the need for Ottawa to finally dispense with the tired rhetoric that these security agencies are doing a fine job, and acknowledge the fact that our intelligence service, CSIS, and the RCMP have a long and disagreeable record of falsely accusing citizens of being terrorists.42

There is good reason then to suspect that the charges against the Toronto 18 are wholly fraudulent—that even if one or two of them are 'terrorists', they may belong to that category in much the same sense as do the Pakistani-American father and son in Lodi, California who, after being set up by a lavishly paid agent provocateur, were talked by FBI interrogators into confessing that they had attended an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan (or perhaps Afghanistan or Kashmir) which they located variously on a mountaintop and in an underground chamber where a thousand jihadis from around the world practised pole-vaulting.43

Or perhaps one or two of them might be compared to the dreaded “Miami Seven,” members of an oddly un-secretive “Sons of David” cult who are accused of having conspired with al Qaeda to conduct terror attacks “even bigger than September 11” against targets like Chicago's Sears Tower: the men, who had no visible means of carrying out such attacks, actually committed nothing worse than the thought-crime of swearing allegiance to al Qaeda—an oath that was administered by their FBI agent provocateur.44

One begins to notice how regularly these much-hyped terror threats dissolve into mist and confusion. The vaunted “UK poison cell” whose members planned to murder thousands of Londoners with ricin turned out not to be a terrorist conspiracy at all.45 The “red mercury plot” ended with another embarrassing but largely unpublicized acquittal: the 'terrorists', as John Lettice writes, “had been accused of an imaginary plot to produce an imaginary radioactive 'dirty' bomb using an imaginary substance.”46 The deployment of two hundred and fifty London policemen to shut down an equally imaginary chemical bomb factory in Forest Gate resulted only in the near-murder of a man who, though otherwise innocent, was indeed both Muslim and bearded.47 No less asinine was the huge international stir in August 2006 over a purported “liquid bomb plot”: most of the alleged plane bombers possessed no passports and only one had an airline ticket, and the bombs that someone in Pakistan had been tortured into saying they planned to make in aircraft toilets are a technical absurdity.48

Even in cases where large-scale terrorist atrocities have been perpetrated, there are serious doubts about the official accounts of what occurred. Take 9/11, Lockerbie, Madrid, Bali, London: in each case the official story of who perpetrated the crime is demonstrably a propaganda construct, and in each case there are lines of evidence which point to the conclusion that these were acts of state terrorism.

* * * *

The spectre of Islamist terrorism so successfully invoked by governments and the corporate media in the English-speaking world is perhaps especially alarming because of the spatio-temporal dislocations it implies. People who typically feel no distinct connection with, or responsibility for, conflicts in faraway places—even those stirred up or initiated by their own governments—find the more or less tranquil continuity of their lives threatened by the possibility that their familiar civic landscapes could be suddenly transformed into scenes of ruin and carnage. This experiential dislocation, involving a fear that safely distant horrors might unpredictably translate themselves into one's own most intimate space, is compounded by the thought that the appalling transposition would be carried out by people who are our fellow-citizens—but also, in secret, deadly enemies.

What the venomously dehistoricized ideology of the “war on terror” suggests is that religious and ethnic otherness must be, in the special case of Muslims, an ineradicable stain: immigrants of this kind, even if they have appeared, while retaining marks of otherness in their cultural or religious practices, to have attained complete social integration in the host country, are fatally susceptible to reversions into the radical otherness of their distant ancestral homelands—which are understood as places marked, in George W. Bush's memorable inanity, by a perverse inclination to “hate us for our freedoms.”

In the immediate wake of the arrests of June 2, 2006, Stephen Harper echoed this Bushian fatuity, declaring that “As at other times in our history, we are a target, because of who we are and how we live, our society, our diversity and our values—values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”49

The reality is of course quite different. The fraudulent and spurious 'war on terror', which is actually a war of terror, has led, as R. T. Naylor wrote in a book published in 2006, “to a set of legal atrocities in which the main evidence against the accused consists of media gossip, claims by 'national security experts' with ethnopolitical axes to grind, and fables spun by informants bribed or coerced into testifying.”50 Naylor might have been predicting the Toronto 18 case.

James Clark responds directly to Harper's empty rhetoric in an acerbic comment on the staying of charges in mid-April 2008:

How ironic that the values our political leaders claim they are protecting in supporting the prosecution of these men are the very same rights that have been sacrificed in the process. The men who have just been released—and effectively found innocent—have lost nearly two years of their lives and will likely suffer for years to come as they struggle to fully clear their names.

But that doesn't seem to matter to the Crown, whose supporters justify these tactics by evoking images of 9/11. The threat to Canadian society is not a bunch of Muslim boys playing paintball; it's an ideologically driven government willing to curtail our civil liberties.51

Perhaps it's time to turn a critical eye on the fear-mongers who have tried to separate us from such foundational principles of democratic jurisprudence as the presumption of innocence, the right of the accused to be fully informed of the charges and the evidence being used to support those charges, the right to cross-examine the accusers in open court, and finally, the obligation of the state to make known evidence in its possession that exonerates the accused.

And while we're at it, shall we also stop subsidizing Mubin Shaikh's drug dealers and the gluttonous fantasies of his fellow mole? I can think of better uses for my tax dollars.

It seems more and more obvious, as the prosecution's case unravels, that the “Toronto 18” case has been a propaganda operation concocted to shore up the fraudulent post-9/11 psyop of the 'war on terror'. The imminent collapse of the case will provide Canadians with an opportunity for reining in the political elites of all the major parties who have consented to Canadian participation in that fraud, both in Afghanistan and at home.




1  Tony Peyser, “17 Canadian Terror Suspects Arrested,” Buzzflash.com (5 June 2006), http://www.buzzflash.com/peyser/0606/pey06156.html.

2  Marjaleena Repo, “Canada: A Galloping Police State?” Centre for Research on Globalization (19 June 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index/php?context=viewArticle&code=REP20060619&articleid=2668.

3  The terrorist atrocity for which McVeigh was convicted and executed killed 169 people, 19 of them children. In May 1995, retired Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, a USAF explosives expert, distributed to members of Congress a report, “Bomb Damage Analysis of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building,” in which he concluded that McVeigh's truck bomb could have inflicted only superficial damage on the building, whose partial collapse was caused rather by “explosives carefully placed at four critical junctures on supporting columns within the building.” There is other evidence that the attack involved state operatives and state foreknowledge: see David Hoffmann, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror (Venice, California: Feral House, 1998). Hoffmann reprints Partin's report at pp. 461-74; the text is also widely available on the internet.

4  See, for example, “Canada man 'planned to behead PM',” BBC News (7 June 2006), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5054198.stm.

5  The hero of Baroness Orczy's romance The Scarlet Pimpernel, set in the period of revolutionary terror following the French Revolution, is an apparently effete and foppish English aristocrat whose boldness and mastery of disguise enables him to rescue many of his French counterparts from the guillotine; my reference here is to a silly little rhyme he recites mocking the vain efforts of the French authorities to capture him.

6  For an illuminating analysis of the Zarqawi phenomenon, see Michel Chossudovsky, America's 'War on Terrorism' (Pincourt, Québec: Global Research, 2005), pp. 171-97; and his articles “Who is behind 'Al Qaeda in Iraq'? Pentagon acknowledges fabricating a 'Zarqawi Legend',” Centre for Research on Globalization (18 April 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&codeCHO20060418&articleid=2275; and “Who was Abu Musab al Zarqawi?” Centre for Research on Globalization (8 June 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca./index.php?context=viewArticle&code=CHO20060608&articleid=2604.

7  Accounts of this disgusting snuff video agree that there was no spray of blood when the unfortunate Berg was decapitated. (Viewers of Kurosawa's classic film Ran may remember the beheading near the end of that film, which is marked by a spray of blood upon the wall—thus shockingly imitating the natural effect of blood pressure in a living body. Those who have seen the wretched recent Hollywood extravaganza 300 may remember, as a counter-example, the beheading by a Persian horseman of one of the leather-jock-strap-clad Spartans—whose headless corpse, in what one might read as a perverse homage to the Zarqawi video, emits not a drop of blood before toppling.)

8  See John Chuckman, “Terror in Toronto or Tempest in a Teapot: Canada's Chatroom Jihadis,” CounterPunch (10-11 June 2006), http://www.counterpunch.org/chuckman06102006.html; and Bruce Campion-Smith and Michelle Shepard, “Plan to 'behead' PM” Brampton court hears of plot to storm Parliament Hill and take politicians hostage,” Toronto Star (7 June 2006), available at http://www.yayacanada.com/toronto_torstar_chand_military.html. (The Yayacanada.com website lists parallels to the Toronto 18 entrapment: see “The Toronto 'Terrorist' Arrests: A rundown of related news reports,” http://www.yayacanada.com/toronto_terrorist_arrests_03-06-06.html.)

9  Omar el Akkad and Colin Freeze, “Online leaks get around publication ban: Case against 17 terrorism suspects becomes inadvertently public,” Globe and Mail (2 June 2007): A17.

10  “Canada: The Cell Next Door,” reported by Linden McIntyre, PBS Frontline (July 2006), http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/about/episodes/602_transcript.html. There appears to have been some confusion in news reports as to which parliament was to be stormed. According to Jackie Bannion, “The Radical Informant,” PBS Frontline (July 2006), http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/canada602/shaikh.html, Shaikh indicated that “the group talked about storming the provincial parliament in Toronto, holding MPs [or rather, MPPs, members of the provincial parliament] hostage, then beheading them one by one.” Provincial MPPs, of course, have no say in matters of foreign policy like Canada's involvement in the occupation of Afghanistan.

11  The distinguished Canadian economist R. T. Naylor writes in Satanic Purses: Money, Myth, and Misinformation in the War on Terror (Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006), p. 8, that “the al-Qa'idah legend must be one of the most useful political fantasies in history—since it has so little concrete substance, it can be (and has been) transmogrified and transplanted more or less at will to support agendas (many of them ugly) in virtually any and all corners of the world.”

12  See Michelle Shepard, “Informer wanted to protect Canada,” Toronto Star (14 July 2006), http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&call_pageid=971358637177&c=Article&cid=1152827412841; and Sonya Fateh, Greg McArthur, and Scott Roberts, “The Making of a Terror Mole,” Globe and Mail (14 July 2006), A1; available online at “The Infamous Mubin Shaikh Revealed as Mole in Terrorism Plot,” SAFspace (14 July 2006), http://www.safiyyah.ca/wordpress/?p=275.

13  “2nd mole played key role in bomb plot probe,” CBC News (13 October 2006), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/10/13/second-person.html.

14  Michael Friscolanti, “The four-million dollar rat: A star Muslim informant who helped bring down the Toronto Eighteen,” Maclean's Magazine (7 February 2007), http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20070212_140696_140696&source=srch.

15  Friscolanti, “The four-million dollar rat.”

16  See Jackie Bannion, “The Radical Informant.”

17  See David Weingarten, Unfair Dealing; this video about the Toronto 18 is available at http://youtube.com/user/UnfairDealing.

18  See Kady O'Malley and Chris Selby, “RCMP scandal deepens: Officers allege highest levels of force involved in coverup of pension fraud,” Maclean's Magazine (29 March 2007), http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20070329_091523_3204; and David Hutton, “PCMP Pension Scandal: How to Stop the Rot,” The Hill Times (30 April 2007), available online at Fair: Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform, http://fairwhistleblower.ca/news/articles/2007-04-30_rcmp_pension_scandal_how_to_stop_the_rot.html.

19  See Jack Aubry, “RCMP had 'negative' impact on Liberal campaign,” National Post (31 March 2008), http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=412828; Richard Brennan, “Greens seek probe into RCMP action,” Toronto Star (11 April 2008), http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/413524; and Guy Charron, “Canada: Report whitewashes federal police's intervention,” World Socialist Web Site (22 May 2008), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/may2008/rcmpm22.sthml.

20  See Omar el Akkad and Greg McArthur, “A grand existence among Muslims on-line: Behind the Toronto terror case,” Globe and Mail (19 August 2006), A4-A5.

21  “Canada Muslims condemn alleged bomb plot,” CNN.com (5 June 2006), http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/06/04/canada.terror/. This article quotes defence attorney Rocco Galati, who after noting the timing of the arrests is quoted as suggesting that “these men are being rounded up as part of a political move to affect the [Supreme Court] judges.”

22  See “Multiculturalism Chair,” York South-Weston Federal Liberal Riding Association (2008), http://yorksouth-westonraon.ca/liberal/federal/multicultural.html. The information on this web page has remained substantially unchanged since the spring of 2006.

23  Ibid.

24  Michael Friscolanti, “The Informant, Mubin Shaikh: The Mounties' man in the the Toronto terror bust admits a cocaine habit,” Maclean's Magazine (10 September 2007), http://www.macleans.ca/canada/features/article.jsp?content=20070910_109132_109132.

25  Ibid.

26  According to Jackie Bannion, “The Radical Informant,” Shaikh told CBC reporter Linden McIntyre “that he took all kinds of drugs” in high school.

27  Ibid.

28  Ibid.

29  Quoted by Michael Friscolanti, “The Informant, Mubin Shaikh.”

30  Ibid.

31  Omar el Akkad and Colin Freeze, “Police had second mole in terror plot: Informant expected to be key witness,” Globe and Mail (14 October 2006), A1, A4; quoted from p. A4.

32  Ibid.

33  Michael Friscolanti, “The four-million dollar rat.”

34  Ibid.

35  Omar el Akkad and Colin Freeze, “Police had a second mole,” A4.

36  Friscolanti, “The four-million dollar rat.”

37  Ibid.

38  Repo, “Canada: A Galloping Police State?”

39  See “Project Threadbare: One Year Anniversary of Predawn Raid,” Upping the Anti (6 August 2004), http://auto_sol.tao.ca/node/794; and also the Threadbare website at http://www.projectthreadbare.tyo.ca.

40  Thomas Walkom, “Terror trial proceedings troubling,” Toronto Star (25 September 2007), http://www.thestar.cpm/printArticle/260191.

41  “Former bomb plot suspect thought arrest was a terrible mistake,” CBC News (16 April 2008), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/04/16/jamal-invu.html.

42  Andrew Mitrovica, “Homegrown intelligence gap,” Toronto Star (17 April 2008), http://www.thestar.com/article/415289.

43  Alexander Cockburn, “The War on Terror on the Lodi Front,” CounterPunch (1 May 2006), http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn05012006.html. See also Veena Dubai and Sunaina Maira, “'Witch-hunt' in Lodi, California,” Not In Our Name (23 June 2005), http://www.notinourname.net/detentions/lodi-23jun05.htm.

44  One of the men also took a photograph of the Miami FBI headquarters—using a camera supplied to him by the FBI agent. See Bill van Auken, “Miami 'terror' arrests—a government provocation,” World Socialist Web Site (24 June 2006), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jun2006/miam-j24.shtml; and Tony Karon, “The Miami Seven: How Serious Was the Threat,” Time (23 June 2006), http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1207412,00.html.

45  See George Smith, Ph.D., “UK Terror Trial Finds no Terror,” National Security Notes: Global Security.org (11 April 2005), http//www.globalsecurity.org/nsn-050411.htm.

46  John Lettice, “Amazing terror weapons: the imaginary suitcase nuke,” The Register (31 July 2006), http://www.theregister.com/2006/07/31/red_mercury_trial.

47  John Lettice, “Homebrew chemical terror bombs, hype or horror?” The Register (4 June 2006), http://www.theregister.com/2006/06/04/chemical_bioterror_analysis/; and “Drowning in data—complexity's threat to terror investigations,” The Register (6 July 2006), http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07.06/_90_days_terror_law_analysis/.

48  Thomas C. Greene, “Mass murder in the skies: Was the plot feasible?” The Register (17 August 2006), http://www.theregister.com/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/; Craig Murray, “The UK Terror Plot: What's Really Going On?” CounterPunch (17 August 2006), http://www.counterpunch.org/murray08172006.html; James Petras, “The Liquid Bomb Hoax: The Larger Implications,” Centre for Research on Globalization (25 August 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=PET20060825&articleid=3069.

49  “Canada Muslims condemn alleged bomb plot,” CNN.com (5 June 2006), http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/06/04/canada.terror/.

50  Naylor, Satanic Purses, p. 11.

51  James Clark, “Canadians should be very afraid,” Letter to Toronto Star (17 April 2008), http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/415280.