March 21, 2005,
Let's hope Honduras is awash in American agents. Al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi reportedly has dispatched Islamo-fascist murderers to penetrate the U.S. via Tegucigalpa using Honduran visas to smooth passage into Mexico and onto the human highway known as the U.S.-Mexican border.
But American officials better eye the northern frontier, too. Canadians seem rather relaxed about some who inhabit the land nestled between Alaska and the Lower 48. While most Canadians are as friendly as Labrador retrievers, that attitude is not universal.
"I'm not afraid of dying, and killing doesn't frighten me," Algerian-born Canadian Fateh Kamel said on an Italian counterterrorism intercept. "If I have to press the remote control, vive the jihad!"
Kamel, who jet-setted among Afghanistan, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, was arrested in Jordan on December 15, 1999, and extradited to France. He was convicted of distributing bogus passports and conspiring to blow up Paris Metro stations. He was sentenced April 6, 2001, to eight years in prison.
But after fewer than four years, France sprang Kamel for "good behavior." (What is it about iron bars and German shepherds that mellows people so?) Kamel flew home to Canada January 29.
"When Kamel arrived in Montreal, the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] was not even at the airport to greet him," Canada's National Post reported last month. "As far as they're concerned, he is an ex-convict who has done his time and has committed no crimes in Canada."
Kamel now freely strolls Canada's streets. That's just fine, so long as he limits his violence to moose hunting and such. But what if he has humans Americans, even in his crosshairs?
Kamel is not alone. Canada crawls with terrorists, suspected violent extremists, and folks worthy of 24-hour surveillance.
"There have been a number of instances where Canadians or individuals based here have been implicated in terrorist attacks or plans in other countries, at least a half dozen or more in the last several years," Canadian Security and Intelligence Director Jim Judd told a Canadian Senate panel in Ottawa March 7. "There are several graduates of terrorist training camps, many of whom are battle-hardened veterans of campaigns in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere who reside here...Often these individuals remain in contact with one another while in Canada or with colleagues outside of the country, and continue to show signs of ongoing clandestine activities, including the use of counter-surveillance techniques, secretive meetings, and encrypted communications." Among other things, Canadian-based terrorists have aspired to whack a visiting Israeli official, bomb a Jewish district in Montreal, and sabotage an El Al jet over Canada.
On March 16, British Columbian Supreme Court Justice Ian Bruce Josephson found Sikh separatists Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri not guilty of planting a bomb that destroyed Air India Flight 182 off the Irish coast on June 23, 1985, killing 329 people. Two baggage handlers also were killed in a subsequent explosion at Tokyo's Narita Airport.
An acquittal is an acquittal. Just ask Robert Blake. Still, the testimony against Malik remains fascinating. One witness quoted him as saying: "We had Air India crash. Nobody, nobody can do anything. It is all for Sikhism."
For his part, Bagri reportedly told the founding conference of the World Sikh Organization: "Yes, there must be our handshake with the Hindus. We will shake hands. Where? On the battlefield."
"This verdict sends a message to terrorists around the world that you can get away with these kinds of acts in Canada," Liberal-party legislator Dave Hayer told the Vancouver Sun. His publisher father was assassinated after agreeing to testify in the trial.
Egyptian refugee Mohammad Majoub remains in a Toronto jail for now. Federal court justice Elinor Dawson has blocked efforts to deport him to Egypt for fear he may be tortured there. Majoub admits to working on Osama bin Laden's Sudanese farm in the 1990s and meeting with members of Canada's terror-tied Khadr family. Judge Dawson's thoughts on the "security certificate," which has permitted his detention without bail or charge since June 2000, highlight the logic that eventually could free someone like Majoub. "When reviewing the reasonableness of a security certificate," Dawson ruled, "at issue is whether there are 'reasonable grounds to believe' certain facts. The issue is not whether those facts are true."
Algerian-born Ressam, a failed Montreal refugee applicant and suspected Fateh Kamel protégé, was caught by U.S. Border Patrol on December 14, 1999, at Port Angeles, Washington after crossing the Canadian frontier in an explosive-laden car. He dreamed of ringing in the millennium by blowing up Los Angeles International Airport.
"CSIS was aware of him since 1995 and was surveilling him, but they never put him out of business," the National Post's Stewart Bell, author of last year's Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism to the World, told journalist Bill Gladstone. "On the other hand, the second he entered the United States, he was stopped, arrested, and turned into a very good government informant." In his book, Bell writes: "Canada has tried to smother terrorism with kindness...Its most valuable contribution to the war on terrorism may well be its terrorists."
Canadian Zaynab Khadr flew from Islamabad, Pakistan to Toronto February 17 with her daughter, age 4 1/2, and teenage sister. She joined her mother and brother, Karim, who returned to Canada last April. Karim was wounded when Pakistani forces raided a suspected al-Qaeda hideaway. Her Egyptian-born father, who was killed in that attack, previously had been arrested in Islamabad after a 1995 Egyptian embassy truck bombing. Another brother, Abdurahman, returned to Canada in December 2003. He told Canadian Broadcasting that he grew up in an "al-Qaeda family." (To be fair, he briefly worked for the CIA.)
"No one likes killing people," the burka-clad Ms. Khadr to the Toronto Star, referring to September 11. "But sometimes killing people can solve a problem, a bigger problem." She added: "A man doesn't just get on the plane and put himself in a building unless he really believes in something."
The Washington Times reported last September 24 that Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, an al-Qaeda cell leader with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, visited Canada in 2003 seeking nuclear materials for a dirty bomb.
Paul Martin, Canada's Liberal premier, attended a May 2000 dinner while finance minister. Its hosts: The Federation of Association of Canadian Tamils, a front for the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan terrorist group. It has killed at least 60 people, including two Americans, and injured more than 1,400 others, the State Department reports. Martin, and international cooperation minister Maria Minna, ignored security officials who urged them to stay away. Wooing Canada's sizable Tamil minority apparently was irresistible.
Canadian immigration agents admitted Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammad in 1987, despite his role in attacking an El Al aircraft in Athens in 1968. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine alumnus has foiled deportation through relentless legal tricks.
"There are known al-Qaeda cells in Montreal and Toronto," one congressional expert tells me. She nonetheless detects progress among Canadian counterterrorists. "They are very sensitive about being called a conduit for terrorism. Since September 11, Canada has been on the offense. The RCMP has some joint intelligence centers where both Americans and Canadians operate." Still, this aide sees areas of danger, from porous borders to vulnerable infrastructure. Detonating the Canadian side of the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, for example, could cripple the most economically valuable trade route linking our two countries.
The Capitol Hill staffer, who spoke anonymously, added: "Canada has stepped up their visa application procedures, but there are huge populations of people they have let in under refugee and asylum status and as immigrants who may be of concern. They are changing their laws to allow them to deport those people. But increasing that effort and deporting those people is something the United States would encourage."
Harvey Kushner, author of the hair-raising counterterrorism best-seller Holy War on the Home Front, is less sanguine. "It's quite disturbing that Canada's immigration policies have let this situation fester and grow," he says. "We do not have an electrified fence. When you have a neighbor who is not on the same page, it's indeed troublesome."
What can America do about all this? Pressing the Canadians to tighten up may require constant engagement. Amplifying the calls of Canada's Tories for stricter immigration and easier deportation would help. For starters, President Bush should broach border security when he hosts his North American counterparts at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on March 23.
The warm U.S.-Canadian relationship, illustrated by our 3,145-mile unprotected boundary, cooled somewhat when Ottawa recently refused to help Washington develop defenses against incoming nuclear-tipped missiles. But that modest dispute will pale beside the northward-flowing rancor that will erupt if a terrorist attack kills innocent Americans, and U.S. officials discover that the butchers slipped past complacent Canadians.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va.