How Dare They

“They are smart, they are creative, they are committed,” Admiral Harris said. “They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” NY Times, June 16, 2006, after it was reported that three detainees at the Guantanamo camp had committed suicide. They had hanged themselves.

You should know that the safety and security of your nation is in the hands of at least a few individuals who think like this Admiral Harris. The prisoners in Guantanamo are held without regard for any law governing the treatment of either prisoners of war or suspects of a criminal investigation. President Bush claims he has the right to hold them for as long as he feels like holding them. Can you tell that he is on the side of freedom and democracy?

Those clever detainees! Committing suicide just to make it look like they are being mistreated!

And it is apparent just how much a victory Bush gives Islamic extremism when he pays it the highest honor imaginable: fear wildly in excess of any reasonable probability of harm.

But I doubt American citizens deserve any better any more. They appear to have acquiesced on the issue of human rights. Just keep us safe from suicide bombers in South Holland and Grand Rapids and Iowa City and all those other places that we just know they would attack if it were not for things like Guantanamo Bay prison.

For comparison’s sake, rent a copy of “Dr. Strangelove” and look for the pep talk General Ripper gives to his men just before he seals the base. He warns them that the Communist has no regard for human life, including his own, and that Communist invaders may look or sound like Americans.

Don’t worry. This film will be really funny again in about 10 years.

Thought Crimes

We are Arresting People for Talking About Things, Thinking About Things…” Federal Prosecutor in Alexandria, Virginia

There are days I cling to the idea that maybe I haven’t lost my mind– maybe it’s just a huge number of politicians, religious “leaders”, and police and military that have lost their minds.

In many cities in the U.S., any citizen can buy guns, camouflage, books on Marxism or Fascism, Timothy McVeigh’s autobiography, or the Turner Diaries, or American Psycho, or Mein Kampf, or the ranting and ravings of any of hundreds or thousands of fanatics or religious zealots. All with impunity.

But if you are Islamic. If you are Arabic or Asian…

Have you read this one?

The police admit that they are prosecuting these young Islamic men for nothing. They have committed no crimes. They have not planned or plotted or carried out a single terrorist act, or act of violence. The police actually seem proud of the fact that in today’s political climate they are now free to lock up people they frankly don’t like. Because, if there is no criteria that involves any factual evidence, any actual crimes, or any evidence of genuine intent, then we are allowing the police to choose people arbitrarily and lock them up. They do not choose white militarists. They don’t choose Dr. James Dobson or Al Gore or Barry Bonds. They choose these Arab youths.

They don’t choose members of the NRA, the IRA, or the Israeli army.

Not a single white militarist or survivalist or radical has even been charged in the U.S. since Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City killing over 167 people on April 19, 1995.

Do you think that that is because they have all disappeared?

In fact, we now know with certainty, from the FBI’s own statistics, that more people in the U.S. were killed by domestic terrorists than Islamic terrorists in the past decade.

Exact Quote, from Washington Post, June 8, 2006: “We’re arresting people for talking about things, thinking about things, training for things,” said Andrew McBride, a former federal prosecutor in Alexandria. “I think you will see more of it as the government moves from a traditional criminal law model of post-event reaction to pre-event interdiction. But that’s where the civil liberties rubber meets the road.”

Are you Scared Yet and Lucky George: More on Canadian Jihad

On the CBC tonight, members of the mosque where Qayyum Abdul Jamal sometimes led prayer services and taught reported that he made inflammatory and “extreme” comments. Among other things, he said that Canadian forces were in Afghanistan to rape Moslem women. He criticized any involvement with politics because most politics involves corruption. He thought movies and television were filled with sinful ideas and images.

He almost sounds like Dr. James Dobson.

What was missing from these several accounts of Jamal’s teachings was any mention of violence, or an advocacy of violence against Canadian targets.

It’s not unreasonable to believe that he wouldn’t make such statements in public. But it is also very striking that the CBC decided to broadcast this piece. Why is the CBC trying to help the prosecution? Where is journalistic objectivity? Where is even one astute reporter to point out that many extremely conservative Christians and right wing militia groups in the U.S. have been making similarly contemptible speeches for years, but we haven’t seen many of them rounded up? They have, for example, called critics of the Iraqi war “traitors”. They have called pro-choice activists “murderers”. They have had even harsher words for rock musicians and film-makers.

One of the pieces of evidence against the seventeen “terrorists” is their participation in training exercises held in wilderness areas north of Toronto, allegedly with real bullets.

In California, there is a valley where gun enthusiasts can legally shoot off as many guns as frequently as they wish. In fact, the range is polluted with tens of thousands of casings– and beer cans and fast food wrappers. They can also go to rifle-ranges in almost any city in America, and they can carry the loaded gun, concealed, to and from the range in most states.

Ah– but they aren’t threatening to actually go out and kill anyone. Maybe. Or is it just that we assume that white people carrying loaded weapons around are okay, even if a few white people do end up committing murders, whereas Moslems doing the same thing are presumed to be terrorists.

Did the U.S. make any effort to infiltrate and control militia groups in the U.S. after Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing?

The hype and hysteria about this case is unbelievable.

The saddest part is that even the reporters who occasionally toss in a phrase like “of course, they haven’t been convicted” act as if overwhelming proof has been offered that there was a real plot and that these suspects were actually intending to carry it out.

Peculiarly, some of the members of this group are charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, while it is admitted that they had no connection to Al Qaeda. By inference, it seems they had no connection to any outside terrorist organization at all. In this case, the government appears to be saying they are guilty of belonging to a group of which they are guilty of belonging to. I’m trying to figure out if the government is really that stupid– okay, I hear a chorus of people saying, no, no, they can’t be– or if there is some angle on this that makes sense. How do you prove in court that they belonged to a terrorist organization? By showing that they were intending to act like a terrorist organization. But then you will have to show that they actually were plotting to commit terrorist acts. If you have proof of that, then you don’t need the charge that they belonged to a terrorist organization. You could simply charge them with conspiracy.

I suspect that when the dust settles, we will hear about some young, emotional Moslem men who said stupid things and dreamed of joining the battle against the decadent culture in which they lived, but didn’t actually have any definite plans for attacking anything or anyone.

I suspect we’ll find out that the ammonium nitrate for the bomb was not only provided by the RCMP, but may even have been suggested.

Someone says to me, how can you say that before all the facts are in? I say, you’re right. People shouldn’t make those kinds of hysterical charges until they know more facts about what actually is going on.

Just as public officials should stop congratulating themselves and each other on having stopped a terrorist attack when they have yet to prove that any such attack was really being planned.

Lucky George W. Bush! Why? Because this story has pushed the real story onto the back pages for a day or two, which is, that the political and military situation in Iraq looks worse, and worse, and worse. A comment from a woman in Baghdad: It’s as if they are just killing each other for sake of killing now…

The media coverage of the arrest of the 17 “terrorists” has been nauseating. Even the CBC, that alleged bastion of liberalism, seems to feel compelled to tour around Toronto showing its audience video of what a reporter thinks would be logical targets for a terrorist attack, including the CN tower, CSIS headquarters, and the Air Canada Centre– without any evidence that the “terrorists” thought this. None at all. Even the police haven’t leaked that information yet.

If you were a lackey of Stephen Harper’s and you wanted to scare citizens of Toronto as much as possible, you could not have scripted a more compelling presentation.

The CBC’s treatment of this story is worse than bad.  It is disgusting.


Years ago, the police would sometimes attack prostitution by sending a female officer out on the streets to solicit customers. She would approach a man who looked interested and offer him sex for money. If he said “okay”, she arrested him.

Eventually, courts began to dismiss these cases because of something called “entrapment”. The judge was not convinced that the suspect would have committed the crime had the police not proposed it to him.

That’s not fair, because the police can be selective about who they propose crimes to, and what kind of crimes they propose. What if the police targeted a convention of Baptist ministers? It’s not silly to imagine that they could easily round up a dozen or so suspects even from that pre-selected group.

For the same reason, if it is true– I don’t know if it is or not– that an undercover police officer offered to obtain the ammonium nitrate for the “terrorists”, there should be a serious problem with the case.

There should be.

Canadian Jihad

Well, well, it finally happened in Canada. Seventeen “terrorists” arrested in Toronto. And how do you react when you read and hear in the news that seventeen “terrorists” have been arrested in Toronto? Are you frightened? Let’s make a sure a few other key phrases get tossed into the mix: explosives. plotting. video. rented cars. travel. targets. And so on. Let’s make sure public officials act as if there is no such thing as the presumption of innocence. Let’s not have a single public official or reporter say, “maybe we should wait until the evidence is presented before we judge the importance of this raid”.

I haven’t heard the word “informant” come up yet, but it almost certainly will. And when it does, you will almost certainly see that the informant was on the hook for some kind of offence– usually immigration or check fraud or something– and is now “helping” the police. The only help he can provide, of course, is to identify terrorists. You don’t get rewarded for telling the police that you know some people who aren’t up to anything at all, that just talk big and boast, and say stupid things, and have foolish fantasies about joining God’s holy army.  [Update 2022: I was correct.  An informant was rewarded by the police for befriending the men and suggesting Jihad to them.]

You will almost certainly also see the evidence of foolishness and alienation among some Islamic adherents. Maybe boasting. Maybe naiveté.

The one thing I expect you will never see in connection with this case is real evidence of an actual plot. There have been numerous arrests and even convictions in the U.S. Most of them are the result of dubious testimony by small-time losers with Arabic or middle-eastern names who were on the hook for relative minor offenses, were threatened with severe prison sentences, and chose to cut a deal. In some cases the evidence used was so incredibly preposterous, it is hard not to laugh at it (like the video allegedly showing garbage bins at Disney World, which, authorities concluded, was an obvious attempt to find a location for a bomb.) They were given powerful incentives to exaggerate, distort, and misrepresent what they heard the others do or say. Frightened juries convicted these men on evidence which, if applied to a white Christian man charged with a felony, would be laughed out of court.

I’m sure we’ll see things that the authorities will tell us indicate a definite– or “real” in the words of police chief Blair– plot to do something. A map. A sketch. An address written in a book. What we probably won’t see is anything resembling an actual specific plan for a particular date and location with a particular method.

They got the words “ammonia nitrate” out there in a hurry. The police claim that they have confiscated three tons of it– more than was used in the Oklahoma City bombings. I’m betting that sooner or later we will hear that the “terrorists” did not actually have possession of the stuff. Then perhaps that they didn’t actually order it, and that it wasn’t actually three tons, and maybe that they were actually only talking about ordering, and that was in a foreign language, so we’re not even sure if he wasn’t just ordering fertilizer for his lawn, after all.

Or, we may discover that the “informant” is the one who suggested and even ordered the nitrate.

The most important thing to know about these arrests might be that they occurred shortly after Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day took office. The goal of this government will be to keep the public frightened and on edge so that they feel the need for a tough, authoritarian prime minister, who is eager to abridge civil liberties and privacy rights, but whose real agenda is probably to restructure the Canadian economy so that it benefits the wealthy and punishes the poor.

Just my guess– the police probably were prevented from doing raids like this earlier by the Liberal government which just didn’t get all hysterical quite as readily as Stockwell Day and Harper do. Well, that era is now over, God help us.

fragment from

The FBI affidavit also says agents found two CD-ROMs in the lining of Sadequee’s suitcase when he was leaving the United States. One disc contained pornography and the other was encrypted with a code the FBI was unable to crack, according to the affidavit. It also says Sadequee had maps of the Washington area with the discs.

Ehsanul Sadequee was arrested in Bangladesh by government security forces and illegally flown to the U.S., and is alleged to have been in Toronto organizing jihad with the alleged Toronto “terrorists”. It is possible that he became a suspect after posting a video to the internet.

The video had a building in it.

The building could become a target for terrorists.

Now, if a white, American, protestant had posted a similar video… like Timothy McVeigh, you mean?

Signs that another “terrorist” round up didn’t actually round up any terrorists:

  • no actual evidence of any assembled explosives or any actions – no bodies, no victims, no broken in buildings, no possession of actual explosives
  • lots of hearsay evidence from individuals threatened with incarceration for other unrelated crimes
  • no actual charges of committing any actual terrorist acts are laid
  • the alleged terrorists are charged with multiple counts of the most serious offenses even remotely plausible. BUT, once threatened with horrendous sentences for those crimes, they are bullied into pleading guilty to much lesser offenses.

Oh ho, Bill– so you want the police to wait until they actually commit a terrorist act before they are arrested?  You mean, the police shouldn’t have to wait for an actual burglary, or assault, or murder to happen before they arrest someone for burglary, assault, or murder?  As they do now?

No. Nobody has to wait until the actual act of terrorism is committed. It would be quite sufficient to prove that there was an actual conspiracy and real intent.

When we lock someone up, for example, because they were allegedly planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch, I’d like to know if the suspect actually thought he could do it, if the police thought he thought he could do it, and if anyone with common sense wondered aloud or to himself if any sane person would really plan such a thing?

I would like to be assured that we do not arrest everyone who ever says “I could kill you”.

Mayor David Miller, during an interview on the CBC, bizarrely compared the arrests of the “terrorists” to the arrests of bank robbers, and stated that the police don’t wait until a robbery has taken place before they arrest the robbers.

Well, ask yourself: if the police were told that a man was planning a robbery of a downtown bank, would they arrest him?  Almost certainly not.  Now, if he had a gun, and the gun was illegal, and a map of the bank, and gang of co-conspirators, and got into his car, and drove to the bank— yes, then they might arrest him at the front door and they would have good evidence to convict him.

But if he had merely written down on a scrap of paper the name that was the same as the name of a man who had once robbed a bank in different town?

What if an underground officer befriended the man and engaged him in conversation and said something like, “gee, wouldn’t it be great if we robbed a bank and got lots of money” and the man said, “sure would”, should he be arrested and charged with conspiracy?

Think about that.

When was the last time you read about a man or woman in Canada being convicted of planning a bank robbery, or belonging to an organization that planned bank robberies, or providing material support to an organization that supported bank robberies? On the contrary, it is a cornerstone of our legal system that to lock someone up in jail, you have to prove that they actually committed or attempted to commit  a crime– not that they thought about or planned to commit one.

We don’t usually arrest people for thinking about murdering someone, and then go– “look– he has a knife!” You think that’s only because we almost never hear about someone “planning” to murder someone? On the contrary, we do. In fact, the police will tell you that they quite regularly deal with estranged husbands who have threatened to kill their wives. They do it all the time. We don’t arrest them all and lock them all up indefinitely because we recognize that the vast majority of these men don’t seriously intend to carry out that threat. Even if a man enters a woman’s house and threatens her, he can only be charged with uttering threats, and that crime is treated far less seriously than the crime of actually assaulting or murdering a person.


The Fake Courage of Patriots

Few developments in politics in America have surprised me as much as the utterly sheep-like response to revelations that the government is tapping everyone’s phones. [I know– a purist may quibble. The government is actually only collecting all of the phone numbers you have called. They haven’t started actually listening in on the conversations yet. But why shouldn’t they? The idea has now been test-marketed. Nobody objects.]

Americans wax more effusively and eloquently than anyone else in the history of the world on precious freedoms and liberties. And then they trade them away in a flash for a handful of beans.

It is really, really very stunning. The one mitigating factor in the pantheon of disagreeable traits of Americans has always been the high value they seemed to place on freedom and democracy. Sure Americans can be loud and bombastic and ignorant, and sometimes supremely indifferent to the value of a community– but they always used to err on the side of civil liberties.

And I find it more than unfortunate to discover that none of it is true. It’s an absolute tragedy. It’s positively depressing. It may be the end of the biggest charade in the history of the world. Freedom is squat. The constitution is a hallmark card of fuzzy, effusive sentiments about human dignity and liberty. The Bill of Rights? If the government decides we need any rights, I’m sure they’ll get around to granting them.

I should have known. The support for a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning is a pretty clear indicator. Why don’t they just pass constitutional amendments banning atheism, homosexuality, and lustful thoughts while they are at it?

There are some other things I know I am going to find out in the near future.

1. Most Americans don’t really believe in God.

2. Most Americans don’t really believe that truth is better than lies.

3. Most Americans don’t really believe that it matters where Paris Hilton is sleeping tonight.

4. Most Americans really do like seeing nudity on television.

5. Most Americans would sell their own mothers for any of the following prizes:

  • an appearance on Leno or Oprah
  • tickets to front row seats at the Superbowl,
  • a Big Mac

I was also amazed, given my disappointment elsewhere, with the fact that the jury did not sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death after it was determined that he thought bad thoughts about the U.S. after 9/11. Then I found out that it was merely one juror of the 12. So the vote of one person was all that stood between an execution for crimes never committed and life in prison for crimes never committed.