Intelligence-led Enforcement is the Right Approach
Since 2006, FrontLine Security magazine has promoted the concept of intelligence-led enforcement in a variety of operational applications including matters related to border security. The success of that approach is detailed in this edition with the article regarding the deployment of the Accipiter Radar automated, analytical surveillance systems in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. Not only does this mean informed and targeted interdiction efforts, which improve public security, but it is also a significant force multiplier and a cost effective solution rather than just the traditional ‘more security is better security’ approach.
Credit is due here not only to the innovative technology providers but also to the RCMP, USCG and Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and its Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) who chose to embrace this operationally driven and intelligence-led approach. Because of these collective efforts, we now have a proven model for effective inland marine (and low flying aircraft), coastal and Arctic surveillance which are essential security challenges to be met going forward.
That same intelligence-led enforcement strategy is also obviously needed to deal with the immediate and real security concern regarding the growing Islamist terrorist threat including who is coming and going from our country.
No one really questions the need to screen who’s trying to seek entry to our country as it’s recognized that the border is an artificial geographical “line” that creates a very real opportunity to enhance public safety and security. Indeed – as FrontLine Security has advocated for years – in Canada, and elsewhere, we are finally moving to deploy modern technology so as to increase the odds of detecting and preventing the entry of people who intend us harm and are even… gasp… prepared to use phoney documents to do so.
Thanks to the continuing efforts of a number of groups, and the informed and operationally focused leadership of the CSSP, there is now a pilot project underway to design and deploy a face recognition biometrics ‘bad guy’ lookout system. This project, which is led by CBSA, and supported by the RCMP and Transport Canada, will dramatically enhance our ability to detect and prevent entry of previous deportees, inadmissible criminals, and known security risks. While previously deported, non-citizen criminals seeking re-entry pose a long-standing challenge, this last category of security risks is especially important these days for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, Western countries, including Canada, are the subject of direct threats from the newest iterations of Islamist whackos who have taken time off from doing what they do best... killing each other... to urge would-be jihadis to wreak havoc “chez-nous”. They’ve even created a recruiting video tailored to Canadians. This threat is significantly compounded by the disturbing fact that, somehow, Canadians who have embraced jihad have managed to leave Canada and now, suitably trained and experienced, are returning ‘home’. Not good.
Another reality is that this same ‘returning jihadi’ phenomena is being experienced by several EU countries, the UK, the US and Australia… all of whom enjoy visa (advanced screening) exempt status for their citizens that come to Canada. This means that while all of us individually need to develop and deploy the bad guy biometric lookout system, we also need to fully share the digital images of each others’ suspected citizen jihadis. The same must apply to a common a jihadi ‘No Fly’ database. If we do it right, they’ll have to try and get ‘home’ from their new Islamic State… by bus.
But, doing a better job of detecting returning jihadis is an after-the-fact solution to a situation that calls for intelligence-led prevention. This leads us to the awkward question facing the RCMP and CSIS today… how did these radicalized people manage to leave Canada in the first place?
Consider the cases we know about… the three young guys from London Ontario, at least a couple of people from Calgary, one from Burnaby, two from Windsor, another from Timmins, one from Ottawa and, perhaps most egregiously, convicted Toronto 18 terrorist Mohamed Ali Dirie (who was supposedly under a special supervision order, with an arrest warrant outstanding). In all of these cases, it appears that authorities had some information that these guys were on the path to overseas jihad, yet, somehow, they got on a plane and went off to accomplish their ‘mission’ for Allah.
Could it really be that a convicted terrorist was not on the No Fly list, or was he simply able to defeat it with phoney documents? Either way, we clearly need to make targeted improvements… right away.
Although looking the other way as these wannabe ‘martyrs’ go to find their deaths has a certain allure to it, the hard reality is that such an approach inappropriately puts others at risk abroad and there is no guarantee the jihadis won’t return even more radicalized, and trained to harm Canadians.
After rational and self-interested reflection, it is clear that this new fanatical threat requires a targeted, intelligence-led rethinking of what’s necessary. It also needs to focus on exactly who is doing the radicalization and recruitment here in Canada, and what we need to do to stop it. That’s a complex issue which may require tweaking a few laws and developing a thicker skin to the inevitable ‘Islamaphobia’ accusations, but… it needs to be a priority. This rethink also needs to include a ‘de-radicalization’ component, which won’t be easy but is critical for long-term success.
This strategy needs to be carefully targeted on persons intent on jihadi violence rather than, for example, people who have decided they want to leave secular Canada for life in an Islamist society. Who could object if the Khadr family decided to move back to Afghanistan if their Taliban friends take over after the Americans leave? Thinking ahead, however, let’s also include Canadian citizenship revocation just in case the Afghan Welfare Program turns out not to be as generous as Canada’s.
This proactive security approach has thankfully been launched with the Harper Government’s commitment to the Entry-Exit initiative in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, as well as through Criminal Code amendments passed in April 2013 in S-7, which specifically criminalize leaving Canada to engage in terrorist activity or assist terrorist entities. What’s needed now, however, are specific operational reforms that result in an integrated Canadian and international jihadi database supported by face recognition biometric technology and full use of the s. 810.01 Criminal Code supervision order that authorizes the use of electronic monitoring. Breaching the conditions of the order, by the way, is itself a criminal offence with up to two years in jail as a punishment. For the unrepentant thugs who continue to ignore the law, I like to think of it as life imprisonment… on the instalment plan.
This admittedly new threat calls for an intelligence-led proactive detection and interdiction strategy that uses all the tools available. And it needs to happen… now.
Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer to the Canadian Police Association and a Security Policy Advisor to the Governments of Ontario and Canada.
© FrontLine Security 2014