- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

There are important lessons to be learned from the arrests of 17 Canadian Muslims in the plot to attack Ontario landmarks. Canadian prosecutors claim the men plotted to storm the Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, take hostages and behead Prime Minister Stephen Harper if the Canadian government refused to withdraw its 2,300 troops from Afghanistan. The group also considered bombing a nuclear power plant, taking over Canadian Broadcasting Corporation studios in Toronto, targeting the CN Tower and the Toronto Stock Exchange and attacking Canadian Security Intelligence Service facilitiles in Toronto or Ottawa.

As was the case with last July’s London subway bombings, the Canadian arrests remind us that the terrorist threat comes not only from foreign nationals who obtain visas to travel to the West, but from Muslim residents of Western societies who become inculcated with hatred and resentment toward their “home” countries. The latest arrests further undermine the dubious premise that killing or capturing senior al Qaeda terrorists like Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab Zarqawi (desirable as that would be) constitutes some kind of magic bullet that will defeat the Islamofascists.

The best news to come out of this case is that there is extensive U.S.-Canadian cooperation in combatting terrorism — cooperation that will be essential to preventing future attacks on North America. Canadian authorities learned of the existence of this alleged jihadist cell through monitoring radical Islamist Web sites through a surveillance program similar to the National Security Agency’s much-maligned system of monitoring foreign phone calls to the United States placed by persons with al Qaeda links. In the fall of 2004, Canadian agents noticed that some youths were spewing stridently anti-Western rhetoric in a chat room, and that some teens were posting to radical Muslim Web sites. By November, the investigators, believing they had obtained enough information to launch a criminal probe, brought in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In March, two Americans living in Georgia who had been communicating with the Ontario jihadists, took a bus to Toronto where they discussed possible strategic targets to attack on American soil. Those Americans are in federal custody.

As Canadian forces stepped up operations in Afghanistan, the group of jihadists discussed hitting a Canadian military base. Police decided to arrest cell members June 2, when they attempted to purchase three times the amount of ammonium nitrate that was used in the April 1995 terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City.

While the Canadians are to be commended for their vigilance in breaking up what appears to have been a major terrorist plot, there are storm clouds on the horizon: The most serious ones are that Canada is becoming a refuge for jihadists and that it has been making cuts to CSIS operations. Last month, for example, Deputy CSIS Director Jack Hooper told Canadian senators that about 90 percent of immigration applicants from Pakistan and Afghanistan have not been adequately screened. Janice Kephart, who led the team that investigated border security for the September 11 commission, says there are at least 350 known jihadists and more than 50 terrorist groups in Canada, and their members could cross the porously defended border with the United States at any time — moreover these jihadists speak perfect English and have no difficulty fitting into Canadian society.

The No. 1 lesson is clear: Despite the Canadian arrests, a huge security threat remains on our northern border.

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