Tag Archives: Terrorism

Mark Collins – Public Safety Canada’s Emergency Management May Suck

Just read between the bureaucratese at this report, damning stuff. The previous Conservative government cared little for this core federal responsibility; what about the new one? Not a sunny subject. From a January 2016 Public Safety Canada departmental audit:

Internal Audit of Emergency Management Planning: Leadership and Oversight

Executive Summary

Background

Under Section 3 of the Emergency Management Act (EMA [text here]), the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is responsible for providing government-wide leadership and oversight over the emergency management (EM) activities of federal institutions – including their emergency management plans, which include the following instruments:

– Strategic emergency management plans;
– Business continuity plans; and,
– Event-specific contingency plans.

Specifically, the Department is expected to:

– Promote a common approach to EM, including EM planning;
– Establish policies, programs, measures & advice for preparation, maintenance & testing of EM plans;
– Analyze and evaluate plans of federal institutions; and,
– Conduct exercises & provide education & training.

Public Safety Canada exercises its leadership and oversight role in this area through the Emergency Management and Regional Operations Branch (EM&RO [organizational and personnel details here, webpage here]). The Branch has been in existence since 2011 and has, since this time, undergone many changes to its structure, priorities and leadership [emphasis added]. The Branch operates in a complex environment characterized by multiple inter-dependencies, numerous stakeholders with competing priorities and, as noted, change.

EM&RO delivers its mandate through a range of specific programs, implemented by its directorates, which collectively are responsible for policy, planning, program development and regional service delivery. These programs are enabled by a management regime that supports the planning and allocation of resources and the oversight of performance. Collectively, this regime is referred to as a management control framework.

Audit Objective

The audit objective was to provide reasonable assurance that the core management controls in place across EM&RO Branch are adequate and effective to:

– support robust management and decision-making, in compliance with policy and legislation; and,
– fulfill the department’s roles in relation to EM planning leadership and oversight of federal institutions, in accordance with the EMA.

Summary of Findings

The point of departure for this audit was an examination of the EM&RO management control framework, which collectively provides a foundation for good management, program integrity and results. The audit noted positive efforts to strengthen governance through the establishment of formal management committees and through the introduction of strategic planning. While positive, the audit also noted that more deliberate and cohesive policy dialogue on the tenets and principles of EM as well as the roles and focus of EM&RO is needed to focus the directions of the Branch [emphasis added].

This, coupled with needed improvements to the planning and performance management regime of the Branch will lay a stronger foundation for priority-setting and targeted resource allocation, which were also concerns.

Specifically, the audit found that resource allocation processes are not sufficiently informed by priorities, expected results, risk and past performance. Efforts to enhance these mechanisms will have positive impacts, particularly given the current fiscal challenges being faced by the Branch. Finally, the audit noted that stronger leadership, including communication and management unity is needed to support the improvements in the formal controls.

The second major line of enquiry of this audit related to the adequacy and effectiveness of the practices that Public Safety Canada has in place to lead federal institutions in the discipline of EM Planning, as well as the mechanisms they have to oversee institutional activities and results, in accordance with Section 3 of the EMA.

Public Safety Canada’s leadership role is effected through the provision of guidance and through the establishment and management of fora for discussion and engagement with federal institutions. The audit found that guidance is provided to institutions in line with the EMA and Federal Policy on Emergency Management; however, opportunity exists to streamline and consolidate guidance, to enhance clarity and reduce unnecessary complexity. The audit also noted that government-wide structures are indeed in place, but, by most accounts, are in need of improvement – both from an efficiency and effectiveness perspective. These structures exist and provide a mechanism for information sharing from Public Safety Canada to federal institutions. However, in their current form and use, there is not a sufficient forum for substantive, government-wide engagement, direction-setting or signals-checking for matters related to EM Planning [emphasis added].

The Department exercises its oversight role through a variety of monitoring activities, including the assessment of institutional Business Continuity Plans, Strategic Emergency Management Plans and through National Exercises of selected contingency plans. The audit found that the monitoring of federal institutions’ EM planning is done in a fragmented and, in some cases, insufficient fashion [emphasis added]. Opportunities exist to strengthen the monitoring mechanisms by reinstating the assessment of business continuity plans, enhancing the robustness of methodologies, and examining opportunities for more streamlined and internally cohesive approaches.

In examining the national exercise program, the audit found that the national exercise calendar is developed, but concluded that the process for its development is not robust enough to ensure all necessary inputs are considered, particularly threat information [emphasis added]. As well, we identified opportunities to strengthen internal and external coordination and dialogue around the calendar’s development.

In light of the noted weaknesses in the monitoring of federal institutions, we are concerned that the Department does not have sufficient or effective mechanisms to appropriately gauge the readiness of federal institutions in the face of emergencies. As well, lack of monitoring limits the Department’s ability to gain insight into the strengths and challenges within federal institutions which itself should inform Public Safety Canada’s directions, policy and guidance [emphasis added].

Audit Opinion

In my opinion, the governance, risk management and controls in this area of departmental activity are not yet in a sufficient enough state of maturity to provide reasonable assurance that the objectives of Public Safety Canada will be achieved [emphasis added]. Opportunity exists to build on existing practices, some of which are already being enhanced, and to strengthen the adequacy (design) and effectiveness of internal controls…

Feel confident in the feds if a balloon really goes up? I had some experience with emergency preparedness and management with the Canadian Coast Guard; my confidence in things today is minimal. The country needs a single, dedicated, emergency agency, not a part (whose personnel are public servants coming in and out as they try to climb the greasy pole) of a department with many other difficult–and sexier (terrorism!)–responsibilities.

The feds, when I was on that job, once had such agency (scroll down here to “CANADIAN INITIATIVES”, cf. on a much smaller scale the US FEMA). But, for reasons I have never understood, our Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness was abolished soon after having been transferred (p. 3 PDF) to Public Safety Canada from National Defence in 2003. Its functions were then assumed within and as part of the broader bureaucracy. Not a good recipe for focus and success.

The government at the top of the Canadian food chain does not like thinking about, nor planning and paying for, emergency preparedness and response (hey, no Katrina here just that pesky 1998 central Canadian ice storm–where are the votes, eh?). So how much long-term dedication developing subject expertise might one expect from those greasy pole-climbing bureaucrats now on the, er, emergency job?

Related and very relevant at Public Safety Canada:

Canadian Government’s Crisis Ops Centre Sucks

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent vs the Kurds (plus ISIS/Syria)

This murderous terrorism,

Istanbul bombing: Terror attack death toll rises to 38 including 30 police as officials accuse PKK
PKK blamed for attack which is the latest in an escalating scale of violence in the country

will only make this worse–at the NY Times:

As Turkey Cracks Down, Kurdish Mayors Pack Bags for Jail

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — When Kurdish officials here in Diyarbakir, the biggest Kurdish city in the world, say they’ve been “unavoidably detained,” it is not just an excuse for lateness.

Even before I arrived, the co-mayors, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, were jailed on terrorism charges that rights groups say are trumped up. Interviews in prison are not possible because, officially, foreign journalists are barred from the city.

Ahmet Turk, 74, a Kurd despite his name and the venerable mayor of another Kurdish city, Mardin, was out of jail at the moment. But his press officer, Enver Ete, said that it would be hard to arrange an interview: “We can’t give a time since so many people are getting arrested we can’t foresee what will happen.”

Kamuran Yuksek, a Kurdish politician, was on the phone with a reporter when he was detained briefly — just after being released from five months in prison.

I could not see Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., the country’s third-largest, although he lives in Diyarbakir. He, too, was jailed, along with nine other H.D.P. members of Parliament, so I arranged to see his wife, Basak, instead.

She canceled, not because she was jailed, but perhaps because she worried she would be, and she had two small children at home.

Turkey’s crackdown on Kurdish politicians, officials, news outlets, schools, municipalities, think tanks and even charities has been so thoroughgoing that it has left those who remain free expecting arrest at any moment. “My bag is packed for prison,” said Feleknas Uca, an H.D.P. member of Parliament. “Everybody has a bag in their house for prison. Now, everyone can be arrested at any moment.”

The crackdown on Kurds is part of a broader assault by the government on Turkey’s democratic freedoms after a failed coup in July, even though hard-line Islamists, followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who are rabidly anti-Kurdish and hardly democratic paragons themselves, are accused of the overthrow attempt…

The crackdown on democracy has been nationwide, but on the political front it has been concentrated in the mostly Kurdish southeast, though there is no evidence, or even a government accusation, that Kurdish parties, legal or illegal, had any role in the attempted coup.

But a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., broke down last year, and since then fighting has claimed 2,393 lives on all sides, including civilians, according to a tally by the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Erdogan’s government had been stunned in 2015 elections when the H.D.P. decimated the ruling Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., in the east especially, winning six million votes, sending 80 candidates to Parliament, and becoming overnight a nationwide political force and the third-largest party. Critics accused Mr. Erdogan of deliberately rekindling violence in Kurdish areas to stir nationalist passions and reverse his flagging fortunes.

Since the coup attempt, the government has focused on jailing officials of the H.D.P. and its local sister parties, arresting at least 45 mayors of Kurdish towns beginning in late October. New arrests are coming practically every day. This year, 2,700 local Kurdish politicians affiliated with the H.D.P. have been jailed…

Kurds have borne the brunt of the crackdown, not just in politics but also in the news media and other areas. The publications and media organizations ordered closed by the government included nearly every Kurdish outlet, except for the government’s Kurdish television channel. Some Kurdish publications have begun publishing under other names…

Meanwhile the Kurdish complication vs ISIS in Syria:

U.S. to Send 200 More Troops to Syria in ISIS Fight

The military advance is complicated by the predominant role played by Kurdish militia members, who make up a majority of the 45,000 fighters and are the most effective American partner against the Islamic State in Syria. But the Kurdish militia fighters are viewed by Turkey — a pivotal American ally — as a terrorist threat.

Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known collectively as the Y.P.G., as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Kurdish rebel group that has sought autonomy from Turkey since the 1980s. Ankara has demanded that the Y.P.G. not take part in the fight to retake Raqqa.

Turkish forces in recent months have swept across the border into Syria to attack Islamic State strongholds, an offensive the Pentagon has applauded [e.g. recently: “Turkish Troops, Syrian Rebels Attack Key Town Held by Islamic State”]. But the Turkish advance has also served to blunt the Kurdish fighters’ efforts to carve out a contiguous swath of territory inside Syria stretching to the Iraqi border.

As Turkish and Kurdish forces repeatedly clashed, American officials and commanders intervened to curtail the fighting. Washington desperately needs the two sides to focus on fighting the Islamic State in Raqqa, not each other.

To that end, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has met twice in the last month with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, to consult on battle plans for Raqqa. American Special Operations troops were assigned to accompany Turkish troops in Syria, giving the Pentagon on-the-ground liaisons.

In another unusual move, Brig. Gen. Jon K. Mott of the Air Force, a senior operations officer from the Pentagon’s Central Command, was recently dispatched to the Turkish Army’s operations center in Ankara to help coordinate the war effort and defuse any conflicts with the Kurds.

Pentagon officials are also toning down their vocal support for Kurdish fighters to avoid further inflaming Turkish domestic political sensitivities about any collaboration between Turkish troops and Kurdish fighters…

Where it will all end knows only…Earlier (Operation Euphrates Shield— this from August):

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Canadian Government’s Crisis Ops Centre Sucks

No other way to put it, note main software UNCLASS only. The previous Conservative money wouldn’t put needed money into a core federal responsibility; will the current Liberal one?

Government crisis response centre outdated, inefficient and understaffed, audit warns
Facilities housing federal nerve centre deemed to be ‘inadequate’ and unable to handle multiple events at once

The federal government’s crisis response centre is outdated, understaffed and “inadequate” for co-ordinating emergency situations such as national security threats or natural disasters, a new audit warns.

In 2015, the Government Operations Centre (GOC [webpage here]) was called on to triage more then 5,000 incidents. Of those, more than 500 were deemed to be of national interest, requiring a risk assessment, planning and co-ordinated response, making it a vital nerve centre.

But a Public Safety Canada audit found persistent problems — even after a 2010 review revealed “widespread confusion and uncertainty” about the operation centre’s mandate and its ability to fulfil its role.

The latest audit assessed the policies, processes, controls and protocols the GOC uses to respond to and manage emergency events ranging from flooding and industrial accidents to acts of terrorism and cyber events. It was completed in October 2016 and recently published online.

Nerve centre relied on dubious reports
Government ops centre lacked staff, tech help
Crisis centre communications on day of Ottawa shooting

People interviewed for the audit identified challenges with communications, outdated technology and the ability to staff up quickly, the so-called “surge capacity” required to respond to emergencies.

But the interviewees cited the current physical infrastructure — the building, its fixtures, equipment and utilities systems — as posing the greatest risk.

‘Inadequate’ facilities, operational risks

Despite a long-identified need and business case for a new location, the review found the Government Operations Centre remains in facilities “that have been deemed to be inadequate.”

“From an operational perspective, the principal risk to the operation centre’s ability to fulfil its mandate is that current infrastructure would likely be unable to support the concurrent management of two or more events,” the report warns.

The audit found outdated technology is hampering work, including the main software system. While it’s intended to help share incident data and information among federal, provincial and territorial operations centres, it is certified only to manage unclassified information [emphasis added]…

Floods, earthquakes, industrial disasters

Under the Emergency Management Act, the minister of public safety takes the lead for emergency management — developing contingency plans for floods, earthquakes and industrial disasters, as well as co-ordinating various departments and providing personnel, goods and transportation for regions affected by an emergency [text from Act here].

Documents obtained by the CBC’s Dean Beeby earlier this year through Access to Information reveal a full cost estimate for constructing a new facility was completed in 2005 by Public Works and Government Services Canada, and updated again in 2009.

Information about which options the department evaluated were redacted.
The documents said the GOC serves as the “all-hazards national warning point” for the Government of Canada and led the response to the 2015 Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games, the 2015 fires in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the 2014 Ottawa shooting and the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak.

One undated document, stamped “Secret, Advice to the Minister,” issues a warning about the current facility’s ability to do the job.

‘Major corporate risk’

“Over the past four years, the Government Operations Centre’s facility has been identified as a “major corporate risk for Public Safety and poses a risk to the centre’s ability to deliver on its mandate,” it reads.

Management agreed with the latest audit’s findings, and laid out an action plan to improve operational performance, setting target dates for completion in 2017 and 2018. It is not clear if there is a specific plan to relocate.

Public Safety Canada spokesman Kevin Miller said the government is working to improve operations, but did not provide details…

Working how hard? How fast? What funding?

Then there is the troubled Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre, also in Public Safety Canada.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – “The Cyber Challenge: Final Summary Highlights from the CASIS 2016 Annual Symposium” Sept. 26

Further to this post, the document is here, “Table of Contents” at p. 5 PDF. The symposium is noted by the Globe and Mail at the latter half of this post:

Can Canada Reach a Real Cyber Deal With China?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Anyone Care about Canadian Intelligence Analysis? Plus C-22 and Parliamentary Review

In my view intelligence analysis is not a sexy or scandalous enough subject to invoke any serious interest amongst Canadian politicians or our media–unless we have our 9/11. But a former analyst makes a case for closer scrutiny, especially with regard to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service:

Where is the review of intelligence analysis in CSIS?
[and in the Canadian government as a whole]

Stephanie Carvin is an assistant professor of international relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, and a former national security analyst with the federal government [more here–what sort of analyst with what agency?]

In a week dominated by headlines alleging the FBI meddling in the U.S. presidential election, and police surveillance of journalists in Quebec, Thursday’s [Nov. 3] Federal Court ruling on CSIS’s Operational Data Analysis Centre (ODAC) likely heightened the uncertainty many Canadians feel over the actions of our national security services.

While much of the ruling refers to data collection and retention, it also speaks to the role of intelligence analysis within the government of Canada – a topic that has thus far not received much attention in discussions surrounding the national security review process, but should.

…there is no formal or consistent intelligence analysis oversight – or more correctly, efficacy review [but see “Strategic Intelligence” link below]. One can only speculate that had there been some form of regular review of CSIS’s analytical functions, it is unlikely that ODAC’s existence and activities would have been such a surprise to the Federal Court.

But this situation has led to other problems as well. For example, there is no accountability within the CSIS Executive as to the delivery of intelligence products, how those products are produced or whether those products are delivered in a timely manner.

Additionally, there is no way of knowing how intelligence products are used or if they adequately support internal operations or policy making.

Furthermore, there is no way of knowing if analysts have the proper tools and training.

In fact, it is not even clear what kind of analysis CSIS should be producing. ODAC’s role appears to be that of supporting operations, but there is no reason that the broader trends it uncovers cannot be used to support intelligence analysis that supports policy making.

But complicating matters is the largely haphazard structure of the Canadian intelligence community’s (IC) analytical branches. There is considerable overlap between several, including the Privy Council Office’s [Canada’s Cabinet Office] Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC [website here]), and CSIS’s analytical branches.

[The PCO section is actually now called just “Assessment Secretariat“–the listing at the link would seem to include only a few senior personnel of a much larger body.]

While having competing perspectives can provide a plurality of views for the government to choose, the lack of review means that we do not know how well the IC manages these relationships and/or collaborates…

As for the quality of the PCO’s intelligence analysis, see the second part of this post:

Strategic Intelligence Headline of the Day (plus inside Ottawa stuff)

The link for the first part is now this; my snarky comment on Canada at the start of the post itself still holds.

Earlier on the proposed parliamentary review committee:

Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee

Now note this Nov. 4 from public safety minister Ralph Goodale (in charge of CSIS, the RCMP, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, key members of our intelligence/security community [see here for the CBSA and enforcement and intelligence]):


The parliamentary oversight committee the Liberals are setting up — legislation to implement it, Bill C-22, is currently before the House — could offer a future safeguard.

It will have “extraordinary authority,” Goodale said, and unlike SIRC [the existing Security Intelligence Review Committee], could review not just past activities of security agencies but also ongoing operations.

“Timeliness is a critical concern here,” the minister said…

Any such real-time role would be an extraordinary development in Canada–see this piece by Prof. Craig Forcese of Ottawa University:

Functions of parliamentary accountability in national security

In conventional Canadian practice “oversight” has traditionally meant operational control and coordination of security and intelligence services, something that is very different than “review”. There is much misunderstanding, therefore, over who does or should do actual “oversight” in this classic sense. The general rule is: the executive. There is also a role for the courts to control security agency conduct through the warrant process.

We do have serious structural problems in terms of oversight in Canada — see ch 11 of False Security. But reform here means reforming the role of the courts and the executive.

Parliament and “oversight”

It does not mean giving Parliament an “oversight” role. Legislatures do not really do full oversight, in the command/control sense. And there are some good reasons for this. First, they would likely not be good at it [NO. FLIPPING. KIDDING] — a committee of parliamentarians signing-off on realtime operational decisions would create an unwieldy process at best. It would also risk politicizing the process [NO. FLIPPING. KIDDING]. And indeed, in relation to police operations, it would trench on a concept that in Canada has possible constitutional imprimatur: police independence…

What about other countries?..

The government better make some definitively clear decision about how much actual real-time “oversight” the new committee will be engaged in.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – MI5 Chief Highlights Big Bear Spooky and Cyber Threats, Jihadis

Further to this post,

The Lions’s Cyber Roar: UK Getting Really Serious, Unlike Canada

the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service gives an unprecedented interview:

MI5 head: ‘increasingly aggressive’ Russia a growing threat to UK
Exclusive: In first newspaper interview given by a serving spy chief, Andrew Parker talks of terror, espionage and balance between secrecy and privacy

Russia poses an increasing threat to the stability of the UK and is using all the sophisticated tools at its disposal to achieve its aims, the director general of MI5 has told the Guardian.

In the first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history, Andrew Parker said that at a time when much of the focus was on Islamic extremism, covert action from other countries was a growing danger. Most prominent was Russia.

“It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

Parker said Russia still had plenty of intelligence officers on the ground in the UK, but what was different now from the days of the cold war was the advent of cyberwarfare. Russian targets include military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.

The spy chief also:

– Said that 12 jihadi terror plots had been foiled by the security services in the past three years.
– Identified the size of the homegrown problem: there are about 3,000 “violent Islamic extremists in the UK, mostly British”.
– Said that budget increases would see MI5 expand from 4,000 to 5,000 officers [emphasis added–so total personnel considerably greater?] over the next five years [by comparison the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a total strength of some 3,300)].
– Rejected criticism that the investigatory powers bill, due before parliament this week, was going too far in enabling intrusive surveillance, arguing that it correctly balances privacy and security…

Parker said the Islamic extremist threat was also enduring and generational. He broke it down into three segments: a large homegrown problem of potentially violent extremists in the UK – most of them British – about 3,000 in number; members of Daesh (Islamic State) in the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq trying to incite terror plots against the UK; and Daesh trying to spread its “toxic ideology” and promote terrorism online.

Critics of the controversial investigatory powers bill, which went before the House of Lords on Monday, say it will offer the security services access to personal data, bringing a reality to bulk surveillance. Parker said the data was necessary in the fight against terror and he thought the government had reached the right balance between privacy and security [see “UK Security Services’ Successful Bulk Data Collection; Need More Powers (Canada?)” plus “Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee“]…

Whilst on the foreign intelligence front:

MI6: UK HUMINT Spooks Going Cyber, Including Social Media

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – ISIS, Islamism and Pakistan’s CT Failure

The very knowledgeable Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid (pieces for the NY Review of Books here) excoriates his country’s government:

Viewpoint: Pakistan’s Quetta attack blame game

The attack that killed 61 police cadets in Quetta has once again been followed by a government-led blame game. But the government has not faced up to its own failure to conduct a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy against all extremist groups.

Within a couple of hours of the attack on the Quetta police college on the night of 25 October, and even before sifting through the bloody evidence or taking statements from the 120 injured, government ministers immediately accused Afghanistan of helping the militants, who according to the government, belonged to an extremist anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

A few hours later, several groups claimed they carried out the attack but the most believable was the claim by so-called Islamic State (IS), as it also issued a photograph of the three heavily-armed assailants, who blew themselves up in the attack.

The authorities however are in a state of denial about the presence of IS on Pakistani soil. After IS released the photograph, the government claimed that IS had ”outsourced” the attack to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

It is not the first time the government has dismissed a claim by IS. In August, IS said it carried out the suicide bombing of a hospital in Quetta that killed 70 lawyers and patients – a claim that was ignored by the government.

Convenient scapegoat

The government claims to have eliminated LeJ in its two-year-long counter-terrorism operations. But the LeJ is still a convenient whipping boy when Islamabad is trying to deny that IS has political support in Pakistan.

Accepting that IS is prevalent in Pakistan would make a mockery of the government’s claims to have eliminated all terrorist groups that attack Pakistani citizens.

Denying that IS is in Pakistan has become standard operational procedure for the government.

However IS has a powerful presence just across the border in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. This week IS militants killed 30 civilians in Ghor province in central Afghanistan…

The government has also provided no evidence of its second major accusation that Afghanistan, with help from India, is involved in arming and training LeJ so that it can launch attacks in Pakistan.

Afghanistan is hardly in a position to orchestrate such attacks. And there is no evidence of any direct Indian involvement, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made no bones about his desire to see unrest in Balochistan in a tit for tat retaliation for Pakistan allegedly fuelling unrest in India-controlled Kashmir [see “Indian PM Modi Pours (RAW) Fat on Pakistan’s Baluchistan Fire“]…

For Pakistani authorities, passing the buck has become the standard response to any terrorist attack. Yet the government and army promised two years ago that its first task would be to cleanse Pakistani soil of terrorism, that it would set its own house in order.

The military has eliminated many groups that have threatened the state but two sets of extremist groups remain untouched.

Comprehensive strategy

The first are the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, whose leadership is settled largely in Quetta and Peshawar and now partly in Iran.

The Afghan Taliban come and go at will between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last year Islamabad made serious efforts to persuade them to open talks with the Kabul regime but that effort has collapsed.

However, the real threat is that many militant groups receive protection and sanctuary from the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. These include multiple Pakistani groups, including the highly toxic Pakistani Taliban as well as al-Qaeda and groups from Central Asia, China, Chechnya and elsewhere…

The second grouping is the plethora of Punjabi groups that live in Punjab province along the border with India. Their significance has risen in recent months with their repeated attacks on Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir that have created a heightened tension between India and Pakistan.

It is unclear if these attacks were carried out by militants already in Indian-administered Kashmir or from the Pakistani side. The Indians believe the latter, while Pakistan insists there are no cross border attacks [see “Oh, Oh! Indian Troops Raid Pakistani Kashmir“].

Pakistan clearly needs to deal with these two sets of groupings in a more mature, realistic and believable fashion…

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux.

Earlier and very relevant:

Pakistan: What Can’t Be Said [Mr Rashid one topic]
Carlotta Gall [more here]

Pakistan’s Monster
By Dexter Filkins [more here]

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – RCMP’s Anti-Terrorism Fight Giving Mob Increasingly Free Pass

Further to this 2015 post before the federal election,

Policing Terrorism in Canada: Feds Don’t Match Mouth With Money

the Liberal government is now not stepping up to its job properly to fund core federal responsibilities:

Terrorism investigations tax RCMP’s ability to fight Canada’s organized crime
Colin Freeze [very good Globe and Mail reporter]

The number of RCMP wiretaps on organized-crime groups is plummeting sharply as the force shifts its detectives to the fight against terrorism, according to statistics analyzed by The Globe and Mail.

In its federal policing role, the RCMP essentially has two major business lines – chasing mobsters and chasing terrorists. The priority the Mounties give to each of the two files has always been an issue, but the balance clearly shifted after the attack on Parliament Hill two years ago.

The RCMP has moved hundreds of officers from organized-crime probes to terrorism investigations in a bid to track suspected sympathizers of the Islamic State. This may come at a cost to other important RCMP missions, such as stopping human trafficking, getting guns off the street and curbing trade in illicit drugs such as fentanyl.

– Related: Guilty pleas end risk of revealing RCMP surveillance technology

– Related: Surveillance device used in prison sets off police probe

– Related: RCMP fight to keep lid on high-tech investigation tool

A spokeswoman for the police force does not dispute that a significant shift has taken place.

“The decrease in RCMP wiretap applications for serious and organized-crime investigations in the past year can partially be attributed to the shifting of a number of federal-policing resources to national-security criminal investigations,” Corporal Annie Delisle said in an e-mailed response to Globe questions.

…the focus of police investigations is clearly shifting.

In 2011, police sought wiretaps in hopes of laying charges for 82 Criminal Code offences that explicitly had to do with organized-crime. Only six such charges were contemplated in 2015.

Half of all wiretap applications still involve drug cases, yet the number of drug charges being pursued has plummeted.

In 2011, federal police were seeking wiretap warrants involving only three terrorism charges. In 2014, police were hoping to lay 97 terrorism charges. In 2015, that number was 68.

The Public Safety Canada electronic surveillance report is preliminary and the 2015 numbers may increase because police do not have to disclose data about all their investigations right away [the report is here]. Not every wiretap warrant of leads to an arrest or criminal charge…

Follow Colin Freeze on Twitter: @colinfreeze

Must be a whole lot nicer to be an organized gangster these days in the Great White North.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Increasingly Kinetic US Small Ball Military Engagement in Somalia

POTUS has been considerably expanding the limited American involvement in this splendid little war in accordance with his small ball approach to intervention abroad–excerpts from a major NY Times article:

In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993.

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as “self-defense strikes,” though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab…

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes…

The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.

The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”

In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”

American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”..

AMISOM’s official website is here. The mission is authorized by the UNSC but not UN-run. Just like the NATO mission in Afghanistan, see from 2011: “Afghanistan: News You Won’t See in the Canadian Media“. One would fall off the chair if our government got the Canadian Forces involved in any way with UNISOM; they seem to make a theological distinction between operations mandated by the UN and those actually run by the organization.

Still relevant from 2013:

US Droning On Ever More Widely

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Canadian SIGINT: “CSE: What do we know? What do we need to know?”

Excerpts from the start and end of a post at Bill Robinson’s essential Lux Ex Umbra blog:

A summary version of the presentation I made at the  Sécurité internationale, sécurité intérieure: connexions et fractures colloquium at Laval University on October 6th…

A broader question relates to uncertainties in the proper interpretation of the laws that pertain to CSE’s activities. In this respect, not even CSE really knows if it obeys the law. In many cases, the courts have simply not addressed these questions.

This could change as a result of the BCCLA and CCLA court challenges currently underway.

My final thought with respect to CSE and the law is, why wouldn’t we expect it obey the law (at least, as the agency understands it)?

There is every reason to believe that compliance with the law is a fundamental part of CSE’s ethos, and if the government wanted the agency to do something not currently legal, it could probably manage to make it legal. It’s the government that writes the laws after all, although that power is somewhat checked by the courts.

The question of whether the government will grant itself additional “lawful access” powers is currently back on the parliamentary agenda.

The question of compliance with the law is certainly important.

But, for me, the greater concern is what’s being done, or could be done, entirely within the law.

It may be that CSE’s activities related to Canadians are comparatively minor and tightly constrained. But they might also be quite a lot larger than the information that is currently public suggests. We just don’t know.

And the potential for excessive, intrusive surveillance will only grow in the future.

Which leads to my final question:

I don’t have a lot of answers to this question.

Maybe we can rely on “sunny ways”?


(The photo shows Prime Minister Trudeau addressing CSE employees at the Edward Drake Building in June 2016. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time a prime minister visited CSE.)

More seriously, a number of proposals have been made to improve the oversight/review mechanisms and reform the legal regime pertaining to CSE and other members of the Canadian intelligence community [See “Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee“].

I will now punt this question to people who know what they are talking about, such as Kent Roach and Craig Forcese.

Thank you.

A recent post based on Prof. Forcese:

“Canada’s Security & Intelligence Community after 9/11: Key Challenges and Conundrums”

More here on CSE.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds