Dealing With Terrorism In A Globally Connected World
Jul 15, 2013

With the minds of the media focussed for the time being on options of the major powers to respond to the use of chemical warfare agents by authorities of the Assad regime in Syria against civilians, where several Middle East terror organizations on both sides are battling for power at the expense of 2 million civilian dead and refugees, it is indeed timely that we offer you some knowledgeable reflections in this issue on anti-terrorism. It is also timely that this issue follow the recent updates in the last two months on the state of the national anti-terrorism policies of the UK and Canada and the privacy vs security debate in the world of surveillance.

Our readers will find the articles interesting as they deal with our policies and compare other national approaches as well as propose some meaningful measures to face the evolving anti-terrorism challenges ahead. Terrorism is not new to Canada and goes back further than the consequences of 9-11. It is wise to remind readers that on June 23, 1985, Canadians experienced the worst terrorist attack in our history when a bomb on Air India Flight 182 killed all 329 passengers and crew members aboard, most of them Canadian. On this same date in 2011, the PM announced the Kanishka project, named after the downed aircraft, whereby a new 5 year $10M initiative has been invested in research on pressing questions for Canada on terrorism and counter-terrorism, such as preventing and countering violent extremism. Since that time three series of funded studies have been approved.

In 2012, the Government unveiled its Anti Terrorism Strategy entitled Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-terrorism Strategy. Our readers would be well advised to review the 2013 Public Safety Canada summary of its first report on the matter at (modified on 7 August 2013). Some keynote issues are worth repeating here.

First, a reminder of the framework on which the August 2012 strategic plan is based:

To counter domestic and international terrorism in order to protect Canada, Canadians, and Canadian Interests.


  1. Building Resilience.
  2. Terrorism is a crime and will be prosecuted.
  3. Adherence to the rule of law.
  4. Cooperation and partnerships.
  5. Proportionate and measured response.
  6. A flexible and forward-looking approach.

The Executive Summary of this year’s anti-terrorism assessment and government actions report also bears repeating:

Global violent extremists, particularly al-Qaeda and its affiliates, remain the leading terrorist threat. Al-Qaeda has been in decline, but still provides strategic guidance to other global terrorist groups. Al-Qaeda’s official regional affiliates, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al Shabaab, pose a persistent threat. Some al-Qaeda affiliates withdrew from territories in Yemen and Somalia in 2012, but others made advances in Syria and Northern Mali. Although they often favour pursuing regional goals, al-Qaeda and its affiliates still intend to conduct international attacks if the opportunities arise.

Terrorists are more active in Africa. Political transition and instability in Africa have in some cases created room for terrorists to control new territory or to increase the scale of their operations in support of old conflicts. As the terrorist attack in Algeria early in 2013 demonstrated, violence can spill across borders, undermining regional stability. Northern Mali is at risk of becoming a hub for terrorist groups, attracting terrorists from other countries to the region.

Syria is emerging as a major theatre of operations for terrorists. The civil war in Syria has already provoked a humanitarian tragedy. The war is also emerging as a cause for terrorist activities. Terrorists from around the world are travelling to Syria to join groups involved in the conflict. Prolonged conflict and regional instability will only serve to increase the terrorist threat. Of particular concern is the prospect that fighters will return from Syria to their home countries to radicalize others or conduct terrorist attacks.

State support for terrorism is an ongoing concern. Canada “listed” both the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran as state supporters of terrorism in 2012, facilitated by the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. Canada also listed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force as a terrorist entity under Canada’s Criminal Code. State support to listed terrorist groups like Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas is an ongoing concern for the Government of Canada. The Government is also concerned about the prospect of terrorist groups acquiring Syrian chemical and conven- tional weapons.

Homegrown violent extremists pose a threat of attack. In Canada, homegrown violent extremists have been involved in attempts to recruit supporters, raise funds or acquire other forms of support. Authorities in several other countries, particularly in Europe, disrupted plots or made arrests in 2012. The majority of these cases involved individuals influenced by the ideology of al-Qaeda. However, terrorists supporting a variety of causes and issues continue to challenge local authorities around the world. To help resolve this problem, the Government of Canada is taking additional steps to address individuals travelling abroad if they intend to facilitate or participate in terrorist activity.

Our Government will take all appropriate actions to counter terrorist threats to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world. The Government of Canada takes a principled approach to the threat of terrorism. Its efforts remain grounded in respect for the rule of law and human rights. Canada has taken a stand against state-supported terrorism. It will monitor emerging global threats and list new terrorist entities when appropriate. It will also continue to explain as openly as possible what these threats mean for Canadians. The Government will take measures to counter the terrorist threat, whether a threat within Canada, support for violence abroad or activities that undermine Canada’s efforts to secure international peace and security.

Things are similar but seemingly more advanced elsewhere, such as the UK, as indicated in the comprehensive article on CONTEST, the UK Counter Terrorism Strategy, by Angela Gendron. Among their many initiatives, we would be well to heed such concepts as the role of a National Security Advisor and other such structural coordination measures with authorities at all levels of government, as well as the development of serious security standards for critical private sector infrastructures.

In the U.S., the challenge of “home grown” terrorism was there for all to see around the world at the last Boston Marathon. In his article on Policing Terrorism after the Boston Marathon, Mathieu Deflem points to the American perceptions on terrorism and how they also have changed and imposed corollary adjustments to policing in the United States. Many similarities with Canada will be recognized in this article as well.

In my interview with Senator Hugh Segal, Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism, I believe that our readers will be interested in his reflections, particularly on such issues as cyber security and the absence of “any legislative oversight, whatever, on national security and defence activities”.

In the security vs privacy debate, Professor Gabriel Weimann brings us a sober world look from Israel at the fastest- growing threat, the presence of the “Lone Wolf” terrorist and how they operate in today’s wired world.

Likewise, Leah West Sherriff offers us a knowledgeable taste of the dilemma of security and surveillance in the Wireless World of cell phones in the criminal and terrorist environment. The security versus privacy dilemma rings loud here as well. Some very timely reflections are offered as, alarmingly, all new technologies are quickly assessed by criminal elements for their abil- ity to disrupt a peaceful society. We have seen many examples of this at work.

The oft-repeated “follow the money trail” all too often leads back to what are often described as “lesser” crimes such as the smuggling of contraband goods. Simon Smith brings perspective to our continuing monitoring of the criminal involvement in Contraband tobacco and pleads for more dedicated resources to police and shut down these lucrative and unhealthy operations that serve to springboard youth into a lifestyle of crime.

Finally, expressed with his typical well-cloaked tact, Associate Editor Scott Newark gives us a direct, logical and bluntly honest assessment on fighting “home grown” terrorism. Let the debate begin!

Comments always welcome!

Clive Addy, Executive Editor
© FrontLine Security 2013