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Blissfully Unaware

It was a beautiful spring day at the Edina Art Fair. Some quite good and plenty of really bad “art” and the diet-blowing menu of brats, fried cheese curds, cherry lemonade, all ridiculously overpriced but oh-so delicious in the 84-degree sun. A perfect time to turn on my underused biological SIGINT capability and see what is on the minds of Joe and Jane Citizen.

Oddly enough, the discussion of the day wasn’t the recent terrorism arrest just a few hours north of here. Apparently a dozen Muslim half-wits (I’ll explain shortly) tried to buy 3 orders of the Tim McVeigh Special and got rolled up by the RCMP. The Mounties were helped by the CSIS (Go Beavers!) who not only snooped on the group’s communications; they broke the crypto they were using to hide their discussions. Shocker: you can intercept communications, find terrorists, and save lives without anyone getting up in arms about feeling “violated.” And in Canada of all places . . .

Why half-wits? Apparently they bought the ammonium nitrate they were going to use from an undercover Mountie. Dude shows up and says he’s got three tons of fertilizer bomb fixins’ in Calgary? Sure. Ontario? Please. That’s alarm number two. Alarm number one should have gone off about a month ago when the CSIS released a report starting that a terrorist attack against Canadian interest was probable. No specifics of course, and the focus leaned towards attacks overseas, but if you’re planning on doing something evil and you have half a brain you’ve got to be concerned about what the “opposition” is up to. As a Canadian with half a brain you would know that the CSIS is on the job at home and abroad; unlike south of the border where the work is split amongst many different agencies who would rather talk to Canadians than each other.

No, the talk of the day was on a lot of things, but it wasn’t on the pervasive threat of terrorism in the homeland. I say pervasive because frankly, the Ontario Twelve (did I just coin that?) are not an unusual bunch (Lackawanna Six, Portland Seven). At the risk of painting with too broad a brush let me say that the pool of potential recruits for groups who deal in violence is a lot larger than people like to imagine. Ever heard of the gang problem? The name Padilla ring any bells? Lindh? If I said, “Klebold and Harris” would you think I was talking about a law firm?

Dealing with preliminary reports is always dangerous but I think it is fairly safe to say that we’ll soon find out that none of these guys was a world-class bad-@$$. Their failure stems in part from the fact that they were the Jamaican Bobsled team of terrorists: they were motivated, they could perform the basic functions, but their lack of seasoning and pie-in-the-sky hopes doomed them to failure. The real problem is that in Canada (or the US) this is just one group of many, and every one that isn’t rolled up within the next few weeks knows two things: they’re not on anyone’s radar yet, and they need to re-assess their targeting strategy. While groups may get smaller as people get spooked from this weekends events the long-term implications are not all that encouraging; groups will be harder to ID and monitor, running stings will be more difficult, and the scope and scale of attacks will look a lot more like everyday Iraq than 7/7 London.

I wonder if the funnel-cake eating masses are ready for that?

* Point of Clarification: I have no idea how John leans. Based on email feedback I get I know that people interpret some of his analysis as more Nation than National Review, but that’s on them.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.