Foiled Victoria attack and counterterrorism tactics pique experts’ interest
Security analysts are asking serious questions about the relationship between two alleged B.C. terrorists and law-enforcement agents.
Scott Watson, a UVic expert in international security, told the Straight that RCMP statements at a July 2 news conference indicate that officials were likely in contact with John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody. The two Surrey residents were allegedly involved in an “al-Qaeda–inspired” plot to set off bombs at the B.C. legislature on Canada Day.
“It sounds as though they [the RCMP] were quite confident that they had control over those devices,” Watson said, “which leaves me to suspect they were quite heavily involved in providing the materials.”
RCMP assistant commissioner Wayne Rideout assured reporters on that the devices were “completely under our control”. When pressed on the question of whether officers had posed as collaborators in the attempted attack, he responded with a short laugh.
“It’s very difficult to discuss the actual techniques,” Rideout said. “I can say that as these devices were constructed, we were in very tight control.”
Stuart Farson, an SFU political scientist focused on security and intelligence, echoed Watson’s comments to the Straight.
“I think it implies that there must have been some sort of human-source involvement or very good interceptions of communications going on,” Farson said. “In terms of the actual control of the bombs, that would suggest human sources.”
Commenting on antiterrorism operations in the United States—which often involve undercover agents impersonating terrorists—Farson said that “entrapment is always an issue.”
In July 2011, the U.S. magazine Mother Jones published the results of an 18-month investigation that examined 508 terrorism charges. It found nearly half of those prosecuted involved the use of informants; 158 could be characterized as “sting operations”; and 49 were “plots led by an agent provocateur—an FBI operative instigating terrorist action.”
Pierre-Yves Bourduas, a retired Mountie who spent more than three decades focused on federal and international security, described undercover operations as “nothing new” and “the way it works”. But Bourduas stressed that Canadian citizens are better protected from the kinds of “false flag” operations discussed in the Mother Jones report.
“The checks and balances that we have in place prevent public officials from conducting these types of work where they would more or less lead the suspect into a certain direction,” he said. “There is different case law that clearly shows if you push it too far, then it becomes ammunition for the defence councel.”
The RCMP’s claim that the accused acted alone and “self-radicalized” has also been challenged on psychological grounds.
Writing in the Globe and Mail on July 3, Lorne L. Dawson, codirector of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, argued that it is extremely rare for individuals to truly self-radicalize without face-to-face contact with others who purport to share their beliefs.
“Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody could share their enthusiasm, and they could encourage each other. But would this be sufficient?” he asked. “Perhaps, with the assistance of a police informant posing as a collaborator, they were at least able to dream that their ‘heroic’ actions would be appreciated by others.”