From the Paris attacks to last week’s mass shootings in California, like many in the civilized world over the past month I’ve been trying to wrap my head around these attacks, and why under mass surveillance are they continuing to happen with greater frequency.
Last week the 42nd parliament resumed with no word or mention from the Liberal government in the throne speech on one of the parties biggest promises, which was to fix the Conservatives anti-terror bill C-51. On this past Sunday, US President Barack Obama took to the airwaves from the oval office, and told Americans that with the build-up of the Russian military in Syria, that the US fight against ISIL will remain an intelligence gathering and special forces mission. Could the Liberal government here in Canada be stalling on anti-terror reforms as a result of US pressure?
I recently watched an investigative report on ISIL’s recruitment of women in the UK. The investigation took almost a year to complete. The report detailed one undercover Muslim women’s journey to seek out and try to get accepted into an ISIL cell. After 3 weeks of baiting radicalized ideology exclusively and very openly on Twitter, she started getting re-tweets and reply’s back from known ISIL terrorists. Within a few months, she was able to penetrate an ISIL supported cell in the UK and record with hidden cameras the meetings with other female ISIL supporters.
ISIL is using social media very openly on Twitter and Facebook to recruit people to their cause. Obama stated in his oval office address that he expects social media companies to do more in dealing with radicalized individuals. Twitter for its part in the UK investigative report started suspending radicalized accounts including the undercover journalist, which can be counterproductive to the intelligence community. In Canada under our anti-terror law C-51 it is a crime to openly support ISIL. This type of law makes our collection of targeted intelligence against ISIL that much harder, as those communications move from a public forum on the internet, to more private one making it that much harder for our law enforcement to track. What the Conservative government did with C-51 is make Canada less secure.
Dealing with radicalized ideology very much needs to be countered. The answer isn’t mass surveillance, its targeted surveillance. France for instance, has one of the world’s top intelligence agencies which specialize in Middle Eastern, and African intelligence. Yet one cold November night Paris came under attack by radicalized ISIL supporters. The problem is that there is too much information coming into our intelligence agencies as a result of mass surveillance, that these intelligence agencies miss what’s happening in plain view. Many intelligence professionals took to the airwaves after the Paris attacks stating that mass surveillance is only useful after the fact, and not in preventing terror attacks.
How do we counter radicalized ideology? You can’t counter someone’s belief systems with bombs and killing, you counter it with facts, and common sense. Going back to that UK investigative report, what should have been done is that the Muslim leadership in the UK should be showing other investigative pieces as to what happens with women and girls once they are in ISIL controlled territories. PBS did an excellent investigative piece on this. Women and girls in ISIL controlled territories are continually raped, beaten and passed around like trading cards. Those women that are often loured by the extreme ideology of ISIL, find themselves trapped in hell (not utopia) and are often wanting to flee for their lives.
Canada needs to be a leader in changing the conversation away from mass Internet surveillance to one that is targeted surveillance. There is no need for C-51. Laws before C-51 very much allow for this to already be done within the scope of the criminal code of Canada. We need a national strategy that is inclusive among Canada’s Muslim community to deal with radicalization. The Liberals promised to base their positions on fact based policy making. We’ve seen no indication from last week’s throne speech that will happen with C-51, and with the past months events in Paris and around the world, I think Canadians expected the anti-terror policy to be at the top of the Liberals policy agenda. Instead it’s been excluded as a top priority, and was a top priority for the Liberals during the election. I don’t think Canadians can expect meaningful reforms to C-51 in the future, if the US is pressuring for more mass surveillance.