Stoop and scoop The Star got the scoop about the arrests but took care to note in a front-page story and accompanying two-page spread that Canada's intelligence services have been embarrassed before by unsubstantiated cases against alleged terrorists and that these latest arrests are "critical for Canada's international reputation." The implicit message: the cops and spooks would not let details of this one out of the bag unless all the t's were crossed and i's dotted. The Star is also the paper that broke -- and pumped -- the story of another alleged terror cell that ended up being nothing more than a routine immigration case.
The morning-after blur Police revealed at a press conference Saturday, June 3, that the 17 people arrested, five of them under 18, were allegedly plotting to blow up several targets in southern Ontario, including the CN Tower. A door allegedly riddled with bullet holes from a terrorist training session, a sample of ammonium nitrate fertilizer (which the police say was to be used to make bombs), batteries and cellphones (allegedly to be used as detonators), boots and a handgun were among the materials presented as evidence at the news conference. What the hell were the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service doing parading "evidence" in front of news cameras and leaking details to the press that they knew would prejudice the public's view and thus the view of potential jurors?
Ramping up the hysteria Did an image-conscious RCMP and CSIS, embarrassed by past terror probe snafus, go public with "evidence" to pre-empt a backlash from the Muslim community? Or was the show, complete with rooftop snipers, part of a grand PR design?
Getting murkier It's unclear to what extent the cops were involved in the purchase and delivery of the bomb-making ammonium nitrate. The Star quoted RCMP sources as saying police were "controlling the sale and transport" of the material. We hate to think that entrapment may have been involved.
The proof in the pudding Qayyum Abdul Jamal, the eldest of those charged and the suspect portrayed in media reports as the force behind the alleged radicalization of the young suspects, wasn't actually charged with recruiting for the purpose of a terrorist activity.
The legal wrench in the fireworks Because the suspects have been charged under Canada's anti-terrorism laws, the Crown will not have to divulge in court any evidence against the accused deemed to be in the interest of national security. This makes defending the suspects trickier, especially after everything that's been written in the press and broadcast on TV. Can these guys get a fair trial?
The curious part That crazy Star ad, a full-page reprint of a New York Times story about how the Star's coverage left the other Toronto dailies eating its dust. In it, Star editor Giles Gershon is quoted as saying there were times when he thought the decision to move reporter Michelle Shephard, who broke the story, to the national security beat had not been wise."There have been a number of cases she has covered that didn't amount to anything at all," Gershon says. What confidence, then, should the public have in her latest scoop? Defence lawyers should have a field day with that one.
The conspiracy theory We now learn from press reports that the RCMP have foiled a dozen other alleged terrorist plots over the last two years. Nary a whisper was heard about those cases, supposedly because there wasn't enough evidence to charge the alleged conspirators. Is it really likely those charged with protecting our national security would fail to lay charges in such cases? Or is this latest info just more PR bumpf?
A matter of convenience Could the arrests have come at a more opportune time for Stephen Harper, when support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low? Just asking.