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The Canadian intelligence service monitored Internet communications to identify and track the homegrown jihadists rounded up in last night's raids, according to the Toronto Star. The investigation began two years ago when agents cracked passwords and gathered communications from the group:
Last night's dramatic police raid and arrest of as many as a dozen men — with more to come — marks the culmination of Canada's largest ever terrorism investigation into an alleged homegrown cell.
The chain of events began two years ago, sparked by local teenagers roving through Internet sites, reading and espousing anti-Western sentiments and vowing to attack at home, in the name of oppressed Muslims here and abroad.
Their words were sometimes encrypted, the Internet sites where they communicated allegedly restricted by passwords, but Canadian spies back in 2004 were reading them. And as the youths' words turned into actions, they began watching them.
According to sources close to the investigation, the suspects are teenagers and men in their 20s who had a relatively typical Canadian upbringing, but — allegedly spurred on by images of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and angered by what they saw as the mistreatment of Muslims at home — became increasingly violent.
Police say they acquired weapons, picked targets and made detailed plans.
The group had developed a list of targets, according to the Star's sources, and an impressive list at that. With their three tons of ammonium nitrate, they could have selected the Canadian Security Intelligence Service offices in Toronto, Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, or any of the nearby population centers for maximum casualties. They appeared to have particular interest in the CSIS due to media reports of racial and religious profiling. It comes as one of the war's most pungent ironies that these Muslims got captured by the very people they targeted and offered more proof of the wisdom in considering Islam an important review criterion.
The issue of Internet monitoring has some in the US uncomfortable about breaches of privacy. However, the terrorists use that as a decentralized communication method, and a willful refusal to investigate these communications is sheer folly, as this raid attests. Should the Canadians have eschewed their investigation -- and waited until this group killed hundreds or thousands of people before knowing anything about them? The Internet is not a private network, as some could argue the phone systems provide. Communications are not point-to-point but broadcast, and the expectation of privacy in Internet communications should have disappeared long ago.
If we want to catch these people before they strike, then we had better know when, where, and how they communicate for coordination and recruitment, and be prepared to stop them as the CSIS has apparently done today. (via Stop The ACLU)
UPDATE: ThreatsWatch notes this development as well, and reminds Americans that the CSIS is not unlike the NSA.Sphere It View blog reactions
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