Middle East Quarterly
Canadian Intelligence: Americans Must Beware of Islamists
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service issued its ninth annual Public Report in June 2000, "a brief overview of the current global threat environment." 1 The report deals with every sort of challenge to Canadian public safety, including weapons of mass destruction, modern telecommunication threats, and transnational criminal activity. Of particular notice—and in contrast to the more euphemistic presentation of American officials—the report frankly discusses "Islamic religious extremism … as the preeminent international terrorist threat" and discusses its potential danger to the United States.
While state-sponsored terrorism continues to pose a significant threat, one of the prime motivators of terrorism today is Islamic religious extremism. In the past few years, Sunni Islamic extremism, exemplified by terrorist financier Osama bin Laden, has emerged as the preeminent international terrorist threat. At the forefront of this extremism is an international ad hoc coalition of terrorists, with no specific national allegiance, who share a willingness to use serious violence to effect political change. As countries tighten security against Islamic terrorist movements, radical groups are increasingly relying upon their international networks to help plan and execute attacks.
Representatives of these networks have expressed the intention of causing harm to Americans and their allies; arrests made in various parts of the world at the approach of the new year were frightening reminders of their determination. The December 1999 arrest of Ahmed Ressam and some of the subsequent apprehensions in the U.S. of Canadian residents with suspected links to Islamic terrorists are indications that Sunni extremists have intensified their activities in North America. While previously limited to support activity, efforts by Sunni extremists in Canada and the U.S. appear to have escalated to coordinating attacks on North American soil. Not only do the arrests underline the threat from terrorism to Canada's security but also the impact of shared threats on Canada-U.S. relations. The [Canadian Security Intelligence] Service has escalated its already extensive investigation of this threat in order to meet its commitment to public safety in Canada and elsewhere.
1 Available at http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/publicrp/pub1999e.html.