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Facta, non verba

The country’s news media are in a froth over the lurid, gory details of a bizarre murder case, certainly one of the most sensational in recent times. Luka Rocco Magnotta (a.k.a. Eric Clinton Newman), a 29-year old man from Scarborough, has apparently killed and dismembered 33-year-old Lin Jun, of Wuhan, China. Magnotta is alleged to have stabbed Jun with an ice pick, mutilated and sexually assaulted the cadaver, and then mailed bits of it to the headquarters of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties. Somehow a video of the murder and desecration ended up on a website specialising in “gore”; the site is owned by an Edmonton man, Mark Marek, but its servers are based in the United States.

I won’t bore you, dear readers, with a recitation of the litany one can find all over the internet and television; but in the churning torrents of spilled ink arrive a few tantalising bits of data that beg for elaboration.

The first is the tale of an American lawyer who claims to have seen the snuff video, notified both US and Canadian police about its contents, and been rebuffed. The lawyer was so affected by having seen the video that he attempted to contact every jurisdiction where Magnotta’s social media profiles indicated he had been, and Toronto was one such location. Our local police dispute the lawyer’s account of his efforts to notify them, and believe they acted appropriately based on the information they had at the time.

“Knowing what we do know now, perhaps we could have done more,” said [Kevin] Masterman. “But at the time, knowing what we knew then, we were satisfied with the response of the call taker.” […]

“He was trying to let us know about the video,” conceded Masterman, a Toronto police media and communications co-ordinator, who said Renville’s call came in at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

But Masterman insisted “the call was quite vague at the time.” A police switchboard operator spoke to Renville, recorded the call, and referred Renville to Crimestoppers, but did not transfer him to a police officer, said Masterman. He added police would not release any recording of the conversation.


Renville called Miami police (Magnotta appears in online photos in Miami), Denver FBI and police (Magnotta was believed to be a former roommate of a convicted prostitute killer in that city) and the national FBI crime and terrorism tip lines and got either no response, or bewildered responses. He admits it must have sounded like a “crazy report.”

He called Toronto police Sunday and says a woman took the call and transferred him to a man whom he understood to be an officer. “He suggested the video I saw must be a fake, it must be good special effects. It just didn’t make any sense for a fellow to videotape himself committing his crime, then load it on the Internet,” said Renville.

“I asked him to give me an email address to which I could send a link to the video and he said ‘no,’ they wouldn’t be needing a link to the video.”

Masterman denied Renville asked for an email address or offered to send the video link via email, suggesting Renville had spoken to so many others that he may be “confused” about details of his interaction with a Metro Toronto Police Services switchboard operator.

Masterman said Toronto police communications officials are “satisfied” with how the incident was handled, adding “in hindsight, there could have been other options, but knowing what they did at the time they’re satisfied with the response.”

— MacCharles, Tonda. “Luka Magnotta: Toronto police admit they “could have done more” when U.S. lawyer flagged disturbing video.” Toronto Star, 31 May 2012.

Optimistically, it may have been a missed opportunity; but apparently Mr. Renville did not express himself eloquently enough (nor provide enough probable cause) for the police to begin to connect the dots. It would not, in any event, have changed the outcome for the unfortunate victim, Lin Jun. But the really fascinating admission from police comes in the latter half of the Star article; and it’s interesting not because it relates specifically to this case, but to the future of policing and how the public interacts with them.

“We prefer that people call us. We don’t want to receive reports of crime over the Internet. We want to respond to reports right away. We don’t want the Internet as an alternate (sic) to 911.”

Masterman said the police service’s Facebook page is not monitored 24 hours a day seven days a week, and so if people try to report a crime in progress, “there’s no one there to talk to you right away.”

Renville says he also spoke to a receptionist at the Toronto Sun and emailed a Globe and Mail reporter, again to no avail.

“Frustrated, discouraged and distressed” by his inability to get it “on the radar of people who could do something about it,” Renville says he gave up Monday evening at his wife’s insistence, after three days.

— MacCharles, Tonda. “Luka Magnotta: Toronto police admit they “could have done more” when U.S. lawyer flagged disturbing video.” Toronto Star, 31 May 2012. [Emphasis mine]

The bolded part of the quotation is revealing, and not in a good way; it is nonsensical. Toronto police didn’t receive notification of the murder over the Internet, they received it via a good old-fashioned telephone call—which is, according to spokesman Masterman, their preferred avenue. Moreover, Mr. Masterman was being intentionally obtuse or disingenuous in his characterisation; Mr. Renville was not attempting to use the Internet as an alternate to 911. He was attempting to direct the police’s attention to the electronic record of a violent crime, not summon emergency services to intervene and save the victim’s life in the nick of time. Call me dense, but I think the police would be upset if you used 911 as your personal conduit for relaying evidence. Everything our emergency services have ever told us indicates that they’d like 911 to be reserved for cases where they might usefully respond to a real and present crisis, not an after-the-fact examination and dissection of evidence. This is exactly why the police fobbed off Mr. Renville on Crime Stoppers instead of 911; because they recognised that there was no emergency within their jurisdiction to be dispatched to.

The broader problem is that this particular case—featuring internet-based evidence of a violent crime—did not add up to something that smelled like probable cause, and that lack of cause suffocated any desire to spring into even modest investigative action. I understand the police’s attitude on this, and halfway agree that procuring good Net-derived evidence as the basis of probable cause can be fraught with frustration, delay and complication. Sifting through server and network activity logs, then coordinating your investigation with ISPs and IT staff at a dozen other nodes spread out across the country (and all its time zones) can be a giant pain in the ass. Add another layer of complexity if you have to deal with a foreign jurisdiction, its law enforcement entities and their dissimilar statutes and legal requirements. Add to that another significant hurdle; most law enforcement officers (and an overwhelming majority of their superiors) are not even remotely computer-savvy, so even a relatively modest challenge can appear to be as daunting as scaling Everest or K2.

But it’s a cold, hard fact that an increasing amount of our communication, commerce, productivity and entertainment takes place in the electronic ether—and that, dear friends in blue, will mean an increasing variety and volume of crimes whose evidence will have to be sourced from the net.

Now Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a million other social media sites might exist as long as IBM, or they might fold up shop and cease to exist within a decade. But what is inarguable is that the basic concept of social media (i.e. interacting with a global audience in near-real-time on the net) is here to stay; and net-connected mobile computing on small handheld platforms doesn’t seem like it is likely to vanish anytime soon, either. One cannot help but ask whether the police ought to be taking a head-in-the-sand approach to social media; surely adapting with the times is a strategy more likely to pay dividends.

I understand the reliance on tried-and-true infrastructure like telephones. They’re highly regulated, generally tied to a single individual (or at least a discrete physical location), and our emergency services infrastructure is designed to take advantage of this. If the call is from a traditional land line, the address/location of the caller will appear to 911 dispatchers, whether or not the caller volunteers that information. This gives first responders a certain degree of confidence that they are headed to the right vicinity where an apparent emergency is underway, and if the call is false or spurious, it can also be billed or fined accordingly. But even this has changed, and phone lines are certainly not immune to spoofing; an enterprising gadfly with modest telecom knowledge, access to a VOIP service and proxies can impersonate another telephone number without significant difficulty. This is why we now have the phenomenon of SWATting; making a spurious call to police that results in the dispatch of a tactical team to a residence whose innocent occupants pose no risk to public safety, and are unaware that their domicile has been reported as the scene of a violent crime. This potentially life-threatening prank has already occurred in Toronto and Langley, BC. Phones are not the be-all and end-all of citizen contact with police.

It seems to me that as the volume and variety of our net-based activity increases, the need for police to be able to conduct meaningful interaction (incident reporting, patrols, investigation and evidence collection) there will also increase. If I were a chief of police or senior superintendent, I would start to plan for that eventuality now—instead of trying to force the public back into the comfortable old way of doing things. Believe me when I say I am a curmudgeon and skeptic of every hare-brained “the internet will make life magic” scheme. It won’t. But in the developed world, the internet is to the 21st century as the telephone was to the 20th—essential, integral; woven into the fabric of daily life. Maybe it’s time that our police learned how to use it.

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La gloire de la France

National Post columnist Kelly McParland on IMF chief (and French presidential contender) Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s bizarre sex assault charge, and the French reaction to it:

3. Roman Polanski angle Has anyone else noticed how quickly all of France has concluded Strauss-Kahn is a filthy dirtbag, and deserves whatever he gets? Fine with me, but isn’t this the same country that insisted Roman Polanski was a brilliant director persecuted by ignorant American philistines just because he had a taste for raping 13-year-olds? So, France has two levels of justice (not to mention morality), one for film directors and another for boring old IMF directors?

— McParland, Kelly. “Full Comment: Some weird theories on Dominique Strauss-Kahn.” National Post, 16 May 2011.

(Via the Tiger on Politics.)

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Poisoned environment

The story of Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Tahrir Square is a sad footnote to democratic triumphalism following President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.  Logan is a CBS correspondent who was—just days earlier—detained (along with her crew) by Egyptian security forces as a supposed spy.  After her release, she and her crew returned to Cairo to continue covering the story, and there they were set upon by evildoers in the crowd.

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

— “CBS News’ Lara Logan assaulted during Egypt protests.” CBS News, 15 February 2011.

As always, the traditional bromides apply:  extrapolation is unwise, and blame should not be attributed beyond this isolated group of individuals, et cetera.  But it’s worth noting that even before this, Egypt (and Cairo in particular) had gained some notoriety in recent years for horrifying attacks on women during the days of Eid.  The perceived increase in harassment was feared to have a chilling effect on tourism, and a particularly shocking case of sexual assault had even been noted by the United Nations’ humanitarian news agency IRIN:

CAIRO, 19 February 2008 (IRIN) – Egypt was scandalised last summer when an 11-year-old girl named Hend Farghali was allegedly raped by a 21-year-old man. Petrified, the girl did not tell anyone until she was five months pregnant.

Such extreme cases involving children may be beginning to change attitudes to rape in general which, though illegal, has traditionally been seen as more of a family misfortune rather than a crime.

…”We want to change traditions, but it is not easy,” Rania Hamid, manager of the family counselling unit at the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), said. “These traditions are not 20 years old, they’re ancient. You have to change them bit by bit.”

Hend is one of 20,000 women or girls raped every year, according to Egypt’s Interior Ministry, a figure which implies that an average of about 55 women are raped every day. However, owing to the fear of social disgrace, victims are reluctant to report cases, and experts say the number may be much higher.

— “Egypt: Are attitudes to rape beginning to change?”  Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) / UNHCR, 19 February 2008.

Thanks to groups like the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), in-country attitudes toward sexual harassment were highlighted in media reports (such as this one from the BBC).  The ECWR report (Clouds in Egypt’s Sky, 2008) measured a sample of 2,020 Egyptian participants (half male, half female) and 109 foreign women living and travelling in Egypt; it paints a rather dreary picture, some of which I will excerpt here.  Any emphasis [in bold] is mine.  I believe the report is valuable because it illustrates my contention (previously outlined in this post) that Egyptians may want the efficiency, accountability and transparency of liberal democracy, but they are a long way from desiring significant social liberalism.

First we have a sample image of various women, differently attired.  Survey respondents were asked to identify the clothing choices they perceived as most vulnerable to harassment, while researchers noted the actual type of clothing they were wearing when surveyed.  I have added some survey results directly to the image, although the report’s original imagery does not:

General appearance of women who get sexually harassed: what women wear. (Clouds in Egypt's Sky—Sexual Harassment: from Verbal Harassment to Rape, 2008)

Participants’ views on the most important features of a victim of sexual harassment:

48.4% of Egyptian and 51.4% of foreign women that women of all ages are subjected to sexual harassment. However, the majority of the male sample 62.2% indicated that women in the age groups 19 – 25 years old are most susceptible to sexual harassment. This difference in the views of women and men may be due to the experiences that women have had with sexual harassment. If it happens to them, they are likely to believe that any woman at any age could be vulnerable to harassment, that it is not confined to young women and girls.

In terms of general appearance of the victim, 62.5% of the Egyptian women and 65.3% of men involved in the study stated that Figure 2 (see above) is the most common appearance of women vulnerable to harassment. 44% of foreign women rejected this notion, suggesting, rather, that all women are commonly harassed. They think that the female in Figure 2 will be subject to harassment, but they also thought that the women in Figures 5 or 6 were also likely to be harassed. Generally, foreign women agreed that a woman’s appearance is not a determinant of harassment.

These two points are interesting because they indicate a male-female divergence of perception (males thinking that only young women typically get harassed) and a domestic-foreign divergence as well.

Views  of  the  public  on  the  most  important features of a harasser:

Public opinion research showed that most harassers are young males, between 19-24 years old.

In terms of occupation, the study showed that male microbus and taxi drivers are the most likely to be harassers. However, the vast majority of foreign women emphasized that police and security personnel are the most likely to engage in sexual harassment.

The reaction of foreign women is notable because, of course, some of those uniformed worthies will be the very people now running “democratic” Egypt.

Manifestations  of  exposure  to  sexual harassment:

Results of the study found high rates of exposure to sexual harassment. 83% of Egyptian women reported exposure to harassment, while 98% of foreign women stated they had been sexually harassed while in Egypt.

Results also revealed that 46.1% of Egyptian women and 52.3% of foreign women are subjected to harassment on a daily basis.

According to the results of the study, 91.5% of Egyptian women and 96.3% of foreign women faced sexual harassment on the street and public transportation most often. Second most common were tourist destinations and foreign educational institutions.

This ought to be a major concern of the Interior Ministry and all of Egypt’s tourism/hospitality industries.  The convergence of police and security doing the harassing—with tourist destinations and expat universities being some of the likely areas for it to occur—ought to be an economic blight waiting to erupt.

General  appearance  of women who  get  sexually harassed: what women wear

31.9% of women who reported sexual harassment were dressed like figure 1, wearing a blouse, long skirt and veil. 21.0% of women were wearing a longer blouse, pants, and veil like figure 3. Figure 4 was third, where women were wearing a cloak and veil (20 %), then figure 6 (19.6%). These results disprove the belief that sexual harassment is linked to the way women dress (women are sexually harassed when dressed ?indecently? or are not veiled ? in the words of some participants), since 72.5% of victims surveyed were veiled.

…Participants believed that figures 2 and 4 would get harassed more than the others because these figures were not wearing the veil and were wearing short clothes, but the results prove that this is mistaken, as the majority of women we interviewed were dressed like the figures 1, 3, 4 and 5 – but still experienced sexual harassment.

How  the  Victim,  Witness and  Security  Officers  Deal  with  the Problem of Sexual Harassment:

…Only 2.4% of Egyptian women and 7.5% of foreign women reported the crime.  …Some police officers the mock these women or harass them as well. The vast majority of women – 96.7% of Egyptian women and 86.9% of foreign women – did not seek police assistance because they didn’?t think it was important or because no one would help them. …The vast majority of foreigners confirmed that many times the harasser was himself a police officer – further deterring them from requesting assistance.

Men and sexual harassment:

Results show that the vast majority – 62.4% of the male audience surveyed – confirmed that they have perpetrated and/or continue to perpetrate one or more of the forms of harassment. 49.8% being ogling women’s bodies, 27.7% whistling and shouting comments, 15.9% shouting sexually explicit comments, 15.4% phone harassment, 13.4 unwanted touching of women?s bodies, 12.2% following and stalking, 4.3% exposed or pointed out his penis.

The vast preponderance of inappropriate ogling is to be expected, as it is the easiest to execute without fear of significant consequences.  I am a little bit surprised by the non-trivial numbers of people engaging in phone harassment (97 out of 1012), groping (84), and whipping out the wang (27).

Results indicate that 53.8% of men blame men’s sexual harassment of women on the women. They interpret the cause of sexual harassment primarily as a result of women dressing indecently (unveiled). However, our study shows that most victims of harassment wear headscarves, illustrating the falseness of this claim. 42.4% of men also attributed harassment to women’s beauty.

88% of the sample saw someone harassing a woman. …The reactions of these to seeing such incidents where negative, but that 61.4% ignored the issue completely and failed to provide any assistance to the victim or separate the harasser from her. 29.4% sympathized with the victim and only 0.1% reported trying to help the victim (verbally, physically, or by helping the victim to file a police report).

Reasons that most of the sample ignored harassment and refused to help the victim included: 47.8% indicated that they don’t care, others said that women enjoy harassment, and others replied that since they harass women themselves, they have no right to prevent others from doing the same.

Blaming the Victim:

Most Egyptian women interviewed agreed that it is wrong for a woman to go to the police station to report harassment or to talk about being harassed. Some men in the sample both agreed and disagreed with these ideas.

Most of the Egyptian women and men agreed that women should be at home by 8 p.m.

As for the foreign women participants, we find that the vast majority rejected all these views. They do not provide excuses for the harasser to commit these behaviors, and reject blaming women for being harassed.

The Egyptian government’s own efforts to curb sexual harassment are of course mired in the belief that prevention and self-restraint are the duty of the woman—not the men that wish to pester her.  No image can convey this astonishing attitude as effectively as their own poster campaign:

2008's "Veil Your Lollipop" campaign. Poster text reads "You can't stop them, but you can protect yourself."

ECWR’s study ought to put paid to such notions, since it clearly demonstrates that modest dress is no protection from lascivious conduct.   But the myth persists and it’s not uncommon, both in the West and abroad.  I’ve encountered it in emails and comments discussing previous posts on Islam and the role of women, and the best response is probably that delivered by Susan Carland writing at AltMuslimah:

And as long as Muslims try to make the argument that hijab is the magical protection against sexual harassment and rape, then they continue to place the blame on the victim/survivor and are buying into the “she was asking for it by dressing like that” argument, and not where it squarely belongs: on the man.

— Carland, Susan.  “Sexual harassment, Egypt and the hijab.”, 15 February 2011.

Lawyering takes the fun out of everything

According to the Toronto Star, a 12-year-old girl has apparently been badgered off her otherwise all-male hockey team due to the machinations of another player’s dad:

For 12-year-old Kayla Watkins, the public humiliation was too much.

After learning a parent on her coed peewee hockey team — comprised entirely of boys except for her — called for restrictions on her ice time or her removal from the team unless her skills improved, she did the only thing she thought she could: She quit.

“I felt that if I went back all the parents would have been watching every move I made and always staring at me,” said the outgoing preteen, who has been playing the game since the age of four.

“To play hockey you shouldn’t have to go through what I went through. I was just looking to have friendship and play the game I love.”

— Cribb, Robert. “Controversy pushes girl off coed hockey team.” Toronto Star, 22 December 2010.

Welcome to the world of overly competitive, perspective-impaired parents, Kayla.

The father in question—lawyer George J. Atis—offers up an explanation at his own website.

At the risk of being overly simplistic (because that is, after all, what blogs and the internet commentariat do best), I have read between the lines and posit this scenario:

Kayla’s mom is apparently the team manager. Lawyer dad has personality conflict with Kayla’s mom/team manager, drafts his own team meeting agenda to highlight mom’s ineptitude, and tries to simultaneously drive in a shank by suggesting daughter is a piss-poor hockey player. Voilà, crushed adolescent ego and uncomfortable media spotlight.

No matter how things came to pass, though, one would expect that a player’s performance (or lack thereof) would be the purview of the coach, and not a toothless council of “concerned parents”.

KARMIC JUSTICE UPDATE: A commenter at Daimnation! notes that Kayla’s former team, the A-level Toronto Ice Dogs, had a 5-8-1 win-loss-tie record when Atis wrote his missive; now that Kayla’s moved to an all-girl squad, the Ice Dogs are 8-14-1 on the season.

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Abdication of Responsibility

When a state refuses to enforce its monopoly on violence—allowing others to arrogate that prerogative to themselves—that negligence destroys public confidence in its institutions.  This is precisely what has happened at Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates; whether the land belongs to the natives or developers and homeowners ought to have been a question of law and torts; instead it has given rise to a de facto dual standard in law enforcement.

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings has two excellent posts on the subject, the first being a lengthy and meticulous précis of the Caledonia affair, and the second delving into former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino’s failings as both a peace officer and the Conservative “law and order” candidate.

The Ontario government has created a precedent whereby it has tacitly accepted the right of certain ethnocultural groups to take up arms and oppose the Crown, which hardly seems like a long-term recipe for peace and amity in a province whose heterogeneity is steadily increasing.

The Khadrs

The National Post has done yeoman work by assembling a timeline of the Khadr family‘s activities. Some incidents stand out as noteworthy, when viewed in hindsight. The first is the December 1995 arrest of patriarch Ahmed Said Khadr, for his alleged participation in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan. The second is the January 1996 intervention of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (really no more than a request for proper habeas corpus), resulting in the elder Khadr’s release.

Reasonable people can disagree on Omar Khadr’s combatant status and treatment. For my part, I believe he was indoctrinated as a child into a hateful ideology, but also that that ideology is highly resistant to rehabilitation and now renders him a security risk to the nation.

What seems to be beyond dispute is that from 1996 onward, Ahmed Said Khadr and his wife Maha Elsamnah took some pains to move their family into close proximity with al-Qaeda leadership, and to have their young brood trained to fight.

One potential timeline item that is notable for its absence is any hint of prosecution or child welfare action against Maha Elsamnah. Surely a parent who encourages their minority-aged children to be trained as combatants in a treasonous cause ought, at the very least, to be considered unfit. How is it that none of the other Khadr brood were taken from their warped mother’s care?

Air Canada dissassembled dying boy’s wheelchair to ship it, but can’t put it back together

Air Canada found itself in the eye of Twitter storm Thursday after breaking a terminally ill boy’s $15,000 wheelchair on a flight to New York City.

Tanner Bawn, 10, of Vancouver, has muscular dystrophy and is immobile without the electric wheelchair.

…Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline took the chair apart for shipping and couldn’t put it back together again.

He said Air Canada has sent the wheelchair out for repair but doesn’t know when it will be fixed.

— Dempsey, Ann.  “Air Canada breaks dying boy’s wheelchair.” Toronto Star, 5 August 2010.

Smooth, fellas; way to gin up some positive PR for the airline.

I’m a little unclear as to why the wheelchair had to be disassembled for shipping.  If the intact article won’t fit inside one of the standard LD2 or LD3 ULD containers, jam it into a larger one and increase the price accordingly.  If it can’t be accommodated on the airframe coded for that flight, then either 1) refund their money and give your regrets, 2) tell them it will arrive on a later flight with a more capacious airframe, or 3) suggest they ship it FedEx or UPS directly to the hotel at the destination.

You don’t really want to be in the business of disassembling customer goods and then having to reassemble them at point of arrival (and all of this sans original assembly instructions).  It’s an invitation to create hassles.

UPDATE: According to a family friend quoted by ABC News, it looks like the decision to dismantle the wheelchair was an ad-hoc one made on the ramp.

NICE SAVE: Mapleflot has offered to fulfill young Tanner’s number-one wish to visit Disney World with his cousins. Hopefully they’ll avoid breaking his wheelchair on that trip.

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G20 Festivities

To Serve & Protect, originally uploaded by jen takes pictures.

Like many, I was a little bit cheesed off about the secretive way in which the provincial government expanded police search and detain powers prior to the G20 summit.  But now I am wondering why they didn’t also throw in a few billion bucks for a secret law enforcement project, like a platoon of ED-209s or a Blue Thunder prototype.  Something that might actually be useful downtown right about now.

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Strange threshold

The director of CSIS claims that cabinet ministers and municipal officials in two provinces are under the influence of foreign govenrments.

“We’re in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication that there’s some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries,” Fadden said.

“The individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality. All of a sudden, decisions aren’t taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country’s preoccupations.”

There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.

— “Some politicians under foreign sway: CSIS.”  CBC News, 23 June 2010. [Emphasis mine]

The director went on to say that he was in discussions with the Privy Council Office to determine what future action might be taken.

The wise will know that foreign influence of government officials is not a new phenomena; every country on the planet seeks to influence others—overtly or covertly—in order to advance its national interests.  No nation—and especially not a relatively wealthy Western one—is immune to such treatment.  Part of the role of any nation’s security intelligence apparatus is to monitor such activity and, if it seems like it may present a danger to the governance of the nation, to bring it to the attention of higher authorities (and eventually law enforcement) so that the damage may be contained and those responsible may be prosecuted.

It is odd, then, to see the director backpedal  two days later and reveal that he did not think the matter serious enough to bring to the attention of the federal government.

The statement by Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, followed an uproar over comments he made in a CBC interview broadcast on Tuesday night.

I have not apprised the Privy Council Office of the cases I mentioned in the interview on CBC. At this point, CSIS has not deemed the cases to be of sufficient concern to bring them to the attention of provincial authorities,” the written statement says.

— Bell, Stewart.  “CSIS head did not warn Ottawa of spy infiltration.”  National Post, 24 June 2010. [Emphasis mine]

First, the director stated an untruth on national television—he had not, in fact, informed the PCO.  And that omission was because his agency did not consider the degree of influence to be great enough to be brought to the attention of federal authorities.  Which makes one wonder why it’s of sufficient interest to mention to a television audience.

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Peter Principle

Minister of State (Status of Women) Helena Guergis arrives to appear as a witness at a at commons status of women committee meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday March 15, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

So, the Hon. Helena Guergis, PC, MP is rude and has clownish would-be puppeteers on her staff.

Dump her, please.

You could always dual-hat someone else with a small portfolio.  Oda, Ablonczy or Yelich, for example.

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