the terrorist attacks on new York and Washington revealed just how stretched the U.S. intelligence community is. But north of the border, Canada's security services are also coming to grips with their own intelligence deficit. Their problems were recently highlighted by the case of the alleged terrorist who was caught in December 1999 attempting to cross the Canadian border into the United States with a bomb. He lived undetected in Montreal for five years and even travelled to one of Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps. An embarassing little affair for our spooks.
So is our intelligence apparatus just incompetent? Dangerously underfunded and overworked? Or simply misguided? Probably all of the above.
But given the scope of the terrorist threat, you have to wonder about some of the dubious security campaigns our tax dollars have been bankrolling. Like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shadowing a noisy Toronto tenant activist and, would you believe it, Matthew Behrens, Canada's best-known guru of non-violent protest.
And consider the fervour with which the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have investigated lawful dissent in recent years.
Prior to the ill-fated 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, something called a "threat assessment joint intelligence group," made up of the local police, RCMP and possibly CSIS, assembled detailed dossiers on protestors and supporters. Mug shots of activists included then Green party leader Joan Russow. Police even went so far as to put together threat assessments on Greenpeace and Amnesty International.
But most ominously, on the eve of the B.C. Summit, demonstrator Jaggi Singh was literally picked up off the street and arrested by police on dubious charges. It turned out that they had been tailing Singh for months. Later, it was reported that CSIS had informed the Canadian government that there was no terrorist threat at the APEC Summit, just a likelihood of anti-Indonesian demonstrations.
Fast-forward to the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City this year. Prior to the event, the RCMP said they were bracing for terrorist attacks. Not to be denied, just prior to the Summit police cracked down on stone-throwers and smoke-bomb artists.
Of course, no summit security operation would be complete without bagging Jaggi Singh, who was again nabbed -- this time with teddy bears.
In their report to Parliament earlier this year, CSIS identified growing anti-globalization protests as a concern. But the horror of last week's attacks in the U.S. kind of puts the anti-globalizers into perspective, doesn't it?