With the trial of the Toronto 18 now underway, some of the predictable conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork, once again trying to insist that the so-called Toronto 18 were entrapped.
Entrapment is defined as a condition under which law enforcement officials encourage or coerce a person or persons to commit a criminal act in order to obtain an arrest.
As part of the charge on behalf of this particular claim is a film entitled Unfair Dealing: The Toronto Homegrown Terror Threat, appearing in six parts on Youtube.
In the film, Toronto-area broadcaster David Weingarten, who has a show on the University of Toronto's campus radio station, basically alleges that the Toronto 18 were entrapped as a result of an insidious conspiracy to push through Canada's anti-terror laws.
Unfortunately for Weingarten, his film doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In a film in which he claims a vast conspiracy is withholding the truth from Canadians, he himself goes to some remarkable lengths to conceal -- or obscure -- the truth.
A good deal of the film seems to depend largely upon the testimony of Tariq Abdelhaleem, identified as the father of Sharif Abdelhaleem, one of the terror suspects.
Unfortunately, for mr Abdelhaleem, however, he can't seem to maintain a coherent argument throughout his testimony -- this will become more and more apparent as the film progresses.
For example, Abdelhaleem doesn't seem to understand how an expressed desire to cut someone's head off can be taken "against the person". He claims his son didn't know any of the other terror suspects -- except as friends. Aside from that, the best defense he can seem to offer in this particular segment is the "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" defence.
He also insists there was "no group". But we'll see very differently later in the documentary.
To make matters worse for Weingarten, he wants to rely almost exclusively on the evidence that is still available for public discovery. However, ClearGuidance, the reputedly militant website on which two of the suspects are alleged to have interacted, has been removed. Even so, some of the comments made via that site have been preserved elsewhere, and they are not pretty.
Interestingly, Weingarten rushes over such comments, refusing to pay them little heed. But here's a brief excerpt of some of the comments made on this site:
"In future we will see more of this stuff until those drunk leave Chechnya. And even then, many of the Mujahideen have said they will pursue them on their own land to avenge the 400 years of oppression they hammered down upon us.
And eye for an eye.
The Russians owe as a mountain of eyes."
"All Praise be to Allaah. I ask: If the Taaghoot (example: a president of any Arab country today) were to send him on a special mission, for the sake of his own personal Taaghoot good and that of the regime... what you mentioned will happen to your parents if you go for Jihaad for Allaah's Cause... but for the Taaghoot nothing? Is the Taaghoot greater and more honored in their eyes than Allaah?!?
The answer: If Jihaad is Fard 'Ayn upon someone, there is no permission sought nor obedience of the creation in remaining behind, because there is no obedience of the creation in disobedience to the Creator. And Allaah Knows best."
"Considering that most of us live in lands where the kuffar gov's come after even those remotely related to the mujahideen, shouldn't extra care be taken by the brother going in the Path of Allah? ie. In preparing for the family some sort of protection, (and indeed Allah is sufficient as our Protector but we know we have to make efforts as well).
I don't think I'm alone in having heard of stories of the families of the mujahideen being abused (in the least) back home. I remember this bro crying for the families of the mujahideen, subhan Allah. It made me realise how we tend to forget about them in our du'as, may Allah forgive us.
So if there was anything that addressed this, do post it insha Allah. Because I feel that some may interpret the answer above as "heck care, just leave them". The irony being that part of the jihad is to liberate the oppressed Muslims and in the meantime, you expose your own family to such danger."
The site was clearly used as an online meeting place for individuals with a rather keen interest in jihad. Of course, Weingarten doesn't want this to be fully known, because of the implications for the argument he's trying to make.
Weingarten also makes an effort to dismiss the poem "A Little Muslim From Palestine", reportedly posted by one of the suspects on the site:
"'ll always be a contender
Yes, I know my bones are very tender
And by Allah you won't see me surrender
Look at my eyes? You'll see no butterflies
My home is filled with cries... due to all the lost lives
But I swear by Allah I'll never compromise
I'll still throw the stones even with my broken bones
Why can't I hear from you, don't you have any phones?
Ya I forgot, your not on the chase, try it out and put your self in my place
Soon I'll return to my lord , the one that deserves every grace
Oh you don't have to worry cause of me you'll find no trace
It really is to late, why did you wait?
You could have sent me at least one dinner plate
I guess it is my fate
And La Ilaha Illa Allah is my mate."
At first glimpse it seems like a rather benign protest poem to the "occupation of Palestine" by Israel. But two lines in particular stand out. The author is returning to his lord. You'll find no trace of him.
Perhaps as in a suicide bomber?
This piece of evidence, in particular, however, is largely speculative, and wouldn't be admissable in a court of law, except perhaps during the course of testimony on behalf of the suspect, who cannot be forced to testify, and likely would not be forced to answer the question even if he did.
Weingarten also takes aim at a Globe and Mail article that cites the following message written in a High School friend's yearbook: "Before us there were many... after us there will be none... we are the ones."
Weingarten then tries to suggest that the passage is taken from Jay-Z's "Encore". (The line is actually "what the hell are you waiting for? After me, there should be no more", and actually refers to what Jay-Z had promised to be his imminent retirement -- he has since returned to making music.)
He then notes that the line is actually a direct quote from Konscious Kings, an Atlanta-area rapper. It almost seems fair enough. But Weingarten doesn't mention that some of Konscious Kings' music demonstrates clear terrorist sympathies.
Once again, this particular piece of evidence is purely speculative, and inadmissable in a court of law. But Weingarten is clearly skimming over portions of the truth.
But Weingarten turns the conspiracy dial nearly up to full blast in the second segment of his film:
In the second segment, Weingarten basically suggests that, as early as 2005, then-Liberal MP (now Conservative MP) Waijid Kahn was hatching a plot with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to betray the Muslim community in exchange for a job as the as-yet-unelected Conservative government's Middle East advisor, and a seat in the government caucus.
Despite the fact that, later, in the same year, Kahn would run for election as a Liberal. Yet somehow he was an "agent of Stephen Harper," in Abdelhaleem's words.
He starts off by noting that it was Kahn who initially complained about a speech given at the Al-Rahman Islamic Centre by Qayyam Abdul-Jamal, an individual known to hold extremist views -- even by those within the Mosque.
"I'm not surprised by the raids," remarked Fahim Bukhari, director of Al-Rahman. "I knew his views."
His neighbours had also noted suspicious behaviour from Jamal. Again, this evidence is speculative, and inadmissable in a court of law.
"Did Waijid Kahn sell out his fellow Muslims as initiation? To prove he was the right man for the Middle East position?" Weingarten asks. "We can only speculate."
And boy, do they ever.
Weingarten also insists that the investigation was "uneventful" until the arrests. Yet the CBC Investigation Timeline that he himself cites in his film says differently.
In particular it notes the flagging of ClearGuidance (17 November 2004), the August 2005 arrests of pistol-toting Yasin Abdi Mohamed and Mohammed Dirie -- caught smuggling weapons into the country in a car rented by fellow suspect Fahim Ahmad -- the winter 2005 training exercises and the summer 2006 attempt to buy three tons of ammonium nitrate.
Weingarten and Abdelhaleem also take aim at Mubin Shaikh, one of the undercover operatives used in the investigation.
"Mubin is a confused person," Abdelhaleem insists. "His problem is he wants money, he's a drug addict, he has some good intentions inside him. He doesn't want to hurt many people. He wants to hurt people enough to get the money."
In the course of editing, Weingarten goes out of his way to make Shaikh sound like as shady character a person possible. At one point in the film, Shaikh says, "...we're the potheads out in the corner there, and just it was an easy life."
Unfortunately, Weingarten ignores the next part of the interview, wherein Shaikh admits, "I got burned out. That's what happened. I was living — the fast lane was too slow. I was living the passing lane."
But, in Shaikh's own words, his life changed dramatically after 9/11:
"After 9/11 happened, I remember I was on my way to work and I told the story that "Oh, yeah, plane hit a building," and just right after that, somebody else came on and said, "A plane hit a building," and I was like, "I just said that," and he said, "No, another plane."
So I go upstairs and I'm working for a company that contracts for the federal government. And I'm hearing the Pentagon and this and that and everything else, and I'm like, what the hell is going on? I felt really bad because now I knew that every Muslim male or female who was identifiable was now on the defensive. Now you couldn't go to buy eggs without somebody saying, "Hey, why don't you go back to where you came from." Or "Hey, don't you know this is Canada, you don't have to wear that here."
And I remember specifically being at that stage where I was ready to go to Chechnya, I was ready to go to Afghanistan. I wanted to do some jihad-oriented thing, but I was lucky that I was exposed to people who, you know, who I could talk to, who could, you know, correct my understanding."
Shaikh would actually know an Islamic fundamentalist quite well. Before recognizing the error of those ways, he flirted with becoming one himself.
When more of Shaikh's views emerge, the subtext between Weingarten's treatment of him and Waijid Kahn begins to take on an alarming subtext: that the views expressed by Islamic militants are perfectly acceptable, and that any Muslim moderate who tries to nip that militancy in the bud is a traitor.
In Shaikh's case, this is very unfortunate. While airing Abdelhaleem's claim that Shaikh was selling out the Toronto 18 in exchange for money, Weingarten unfortunately overlooks Shaikh's intervention with CSIS on behalf of Mohammad Momin Khajawa, the first Canadian ever charged under Canada's anti-terror laws.
From the Fifth Estate:
"I go to Syria 2002 to 2004. I come back in March 2004, and I read in the paper Mohammad Momin Khawaja is arrested on terrorism charges. I know the family very well. We grew up together. His father taught us when we were younger. And so we have a good connection with the family.
So what happened was I contacted CSIS. I phoned them and I said, "Listen, I know the family, I know this guy, Momin, is there some way that I can help, you know, give some information in that, look, I've grown up with him, you know, I don't know him to be like this or his brother, definitely not his family, like his parents are not extremists."
So they're like, "Oh, Momin Khawaja, first terrorism case, sure, we'll talk to you." The guy comes down, he was head of the unit supposedly. We met at Timmy's, and, you know, I'm wearing my pin, the Canadian flag and the Metro police pin, because I was also doing I guess you can call it ethno-cultural religious awareness with the Toronto police, and just to let them know, you know, different things that could be of use to them, and so I met with the CSIS guys, and they were very interested in me now. So basically, you know, they put to me the prospect of working with them, giving information on people, certain groups, getting to leaders of certain groups, talking to them, seeing what kind of views they had and reporting on those views because I am convinced that I'm the best guy for them to have to comment on the different groups, because I have a solid foundation in Islam, you know, I'm born and raised here.
I mean, Toronto's home. So I understand what concerns they have, but at the same time as a Muslim, I understand what concerns Muslims have. So I felt that I could be a link between the two sides."
This despite the fact that Khajawa's links to Islamic terrorism (or, rather, terrorism in Islam's name) turned out to be quite extensive.
If Shaikh has any particular biases, it's pretty clear that they aren't against Islamic militants.
Weingarten also does a clever job of editing the CBC interview to confuse the issue of who, precisely, asked Shaikh to conduct the 10-day guerrilla warfare training. The complete unedited video, however, is available on Youtube.
As such, it may have been possible that, as a recent factum filed by defence council suggests, that Shaikh had the only gun present at the training exercise. However, the ringleaders of the plot asked him to conduct it, and the participants probably went along knowingly and willingly.
Weingarten's response to all of this is that Shaikh was acting as an agent provocateur. It's only one small piece in his overall conspiracy theory.
Weingarten also takes issue with the fact that Shaikh, while working as a CSIS agent, was actually paid for his services -- apparently, he must imagine that all of Canada's police offers and intelligence operatives are unpaid volunteers. It's outrageous, he suggests. He was paid with "your tax dollars".
"He is a drug addict," Abdelhaleem reiterates. "And this was published at the time. ...He is a drug addict."
Abdelhaleem also brings up an assault charge filed against Shaikh by a pair of 12-year-old girls who taunted him by shouting "Look look look, it's bin Laden, it's Taliban boy, it's Taliban boy."
Shaikh -- who in a court of law is considered innocent until proven guilty -- insists the story is "fabricated and exaggerated grotesquely", and that the girl tripped and fell on her own.
"He's not highly educated," Abdelhaleem adds. "He could not have a regular job. That's what I keep telling people."
Apparently, Abdelhaleem and Weingarten's response to the challenge Shaikh's background and testimony presents to their argument is to engage in a protracted attempt at character assassination.
"Because there's a presumption of innocence in any free country," Weingarten insists, "we won't refer to him by sensational labels."
Like drug addict? Whoops. Too late for that one.
But character assassination is not reserved for Shaikh -- or Waijid Kahn -- alone. Weingarten and Abdelhaleem also take aim at the other informant involved in the case. He's currently enrolled in the witness protection program and cannot be identified.
Weingarten in particular focuses in on Globe and Mail reports that the informant is an Agricultural Engineer. Weingarten then notes that, according to the MacKenzie institute's John Thompson, "trying to buy three tons of ammonium nitrate will get you thrown into jail pretty quick."
Which, of course, makes it necessary that he also obscure the fact that the suspects started attempting to buy the fertilizer in late May, and were arrested on 2 June, 2006.
They got thrown into jail pretty quick.
Weingarten notes that the informant's Agricultural Engineering degree enabled him to buy the fertilizer without suspicion -- although he probably would have still had some 'splaining to do regarding the fertilizer's urban Toronto delivery address -- but what Weingarten can't seem to answer is this: was this particular informant planted by CSIS, or did he come forward after being recruited into the terror ring?
As it turns out, the informant allegedly asked CSIS for $14 million in exchange for his services. Odds are, he came forward on his own.
But Abdelhaleem, predictably, has a few things to say about the second informant. "He is not smart whatsoever," insists Abdelhaleem "He is not a smart boy. That spy? He is not smart. He is criminally smart. ...We established ourselves in this country. This guy came. He became a failure. He couldn't find a good job to work."
Abdelhaleem also suggests that he only paid various debts only under CSIS direction (despite his alleged multi-million dollar payday). Although a later slip by Abdelhaleem -- "he negotiated from 12 down to four million dollars -- makes one wonder how much of Abdelhaleem's on-camera testimony was fabricated.
After all, it isn't as if an informant rendered entirely anonymous by witness protection can defend himself against such claims.
With few further details about the informant's past, it's hard to know what his past was before his participation in the investigation. But if it's anything like Mubin Shaikh or Waijid Kahn's, one can imagine the subtext Abdelhaleem and Weingarten would push pretty quickly: he's a traitor for opposing Islamic militancy.
From this sad, sad display, Weingarten moves on to the review of anti-terror law.
Ah, yes. There it is: the centrepiece of the conspiracy: the review of anti-terror legislation.
But Weingarten really drops off the deep end when he starts using footage from Alex Jones'9/11 Mysteries: Demolitions (when selling conspiracy theories, one may as well go for gold, one figures).
In essence, he suggests that the Toronto 18 were framed so CSIS and the RCMP could maintain their level of funding.
In order to try and support this thesis, Weingarten cites, through Richard Cleroux, RCMP Operations Project Shock and Operation Thread.
Considering that his argument is that the arrest of the Toronto 18 was done only to ensure that CSIS and RCMP continued to enjoy pre-budget cut levels of funding, one would in fact find it curious that the RCMP had been so active in tracking and detaining terror suspects before the 2006.
He cites a 1999 speech given by CSIS director David Harris as somehow being evidentiary of it.
Weingarten at this point also decides to lace his conspiracy theory with vague accusations of racism, noting that, in the course of Project Thread, "only the Mohammads were arrested".
But he fails to address what some of the "irregularities" provoking the investigation in the first place were. Consider the case of Anwar Mohammad, who, in the course of pilot training, he chose the airspace over and around an Ontario nuclear plant for his training flights.
That's a pretty alarming "irregularity".
Weingarten even suggests that the terror arrests even benefited the passage of the Conservative government's budget, and plans by Stockwell Day -- allegedly years in the making despite the fact that Day had been in office for mere months -- to expand Canada's intelligence and security capabilities.
"It's the political agenda of the Conservative party in order to justify their subservience to the Bush administration and to send troops to Afghanistan to serve Bush," insists Abdelhaleem, despite the fact that it was Paul Martin's Liberal government that committed to the war in Afghanistan in the first place, as well as the current combat mission in Khandahar.
In part five, Weingarten really takes a page out of the self-aggrandizing Alex Jones' playbook, insisting that the Toronto bomb plot somehow qualifies as "false flag terrorism".
Weingarten chronicles numerous illegal activities committed by the RCMP intelligence agency that were committed in the course of fighting Quebec separatism and communism.
He even attempts to milk the Air India tragedy as an example of "secrecy and scandal", despite the fact that the Air India bombing actually proves that Canada was in need of greater intelligence and security capabilities.
Weingarten notes that the ammonium nitrate purchased by the terror suspects was delivered to a warehouse in New Market, Ontario, one of the few cities in Ontario where an RCMP detachment exists. Moreover, the warehouse was less than a kilometer from the RCMP detachment.
"We don't want to insult your intelligence by telling you how suspicious that is," Weingarten says.
The fact of the matter is that the suspects were doing something at that warehouse in order to be arrested there. And there just coincidentally happened to be three tons of ammonium nitrate -- or, rather, the white powder that it had been swapped for mid-transit -- there as well.
We don't want to insult anyone's intelligence by saying how suspicious that is.
However, according to Ken Kerr, who manages Magic Motorcycles, a motorcycle shop in the neighbourhood, he was told months later by the owner of the warehouse in question that "it was a set-up".
Weingarten insists that the RCMP must have rented the warehouse, although the building owners refuse to confirm or deny that.
Weingarten also notes that Shaikh -- the same individual whose character he went to such lengths to assassinate -- believes some of the suspects are innocent, pointing specifically to suspects Steven Chand and Jamal James.
However, this is by no means an admission -- implicit or otherwise -- that the arrests were the result of entrapment, but rather that some of the suspects, at certain stages of the plot, may have been unwitting dupes.
That is what we have criminal trials for: to ascertain guilt, and exonerate the innocent.
While the film does raise some important questions about who and isn't guilty in the Toronto bomb plot, the simple fact of the matter is that all of Weingarten's "evidence" that the plot was simply the result of a mass conspiracy between -- now, follow this closely -- Stephen Harper, Waijid Kahn, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, CSIS, the RCMP, George W Bush, Mubin Shaikh, Stockwell Day, Paul Martin and David Harris.
All of whom, according to Weingarten's feeble attempt at a slick editing job to conclude his film, are "terrorists", intent on leading Canada into "fascism".
Yet he can't even make his own case, and in the end has sold little more than another intellectually bankrupt Alex Jones-esque conspiracy theory.
Fortunately, the truth regarding the Toronto 18 will come out in a court of law. The reason why David Weingarten doesn't want that to happen will be harder to ascertain.