When I left the Canadian civil service – more accurately the security intelligence world – in May 2015 I had some of the restrictions on what I can say and do lifted. Up to a point. I still cannot talk in detail about operations I was part of or intelligence I was privy to and those things will remain off limits forever. Some may say that is unfair: I am ok with it since I always knew this would be the case, ever since I signed on the dotted line my very first day at CSE (Communications Security Establishment) way back on July 13, 1983 (was it really THAT long ago???).
Nevertheless I also knew that I wanted to go public on matters surrounding intelligence and terrorism. I felt that I had a perspective that was at a minimum rare (not a lot of ex Canadian spies are interested in being part of the open discussion once they retire) and at a maximum somewhat interesting and perhaps even helpful. So I decided to go with writing blog posts. Oh, and books: my first tome was accepted for publication shortly before I left the government and weeks prior to my first blog (book #5 will be published by Lynne Rienner in December). For the record, that initial 500+ word blog piece was entitled “Heads I win…..” and looked at the pluses and minuses of when special forces take out terrorist leaders. By the way, I have averaged two blogs every three days since that first text.
Since that time I have stuck fairly closely to terrorist themes, straying occasionally into broader intelligence subject matter. There is little I have not given my two cents’ worth on. Many of the blogs were inspired by news stories. Some developed out of conversations I had with friends, colleagues and at times near strangers.
Some of the earlier blogs strike me now as a little preachy and a little snarky in tone. Sorry about that! Nevertheless I have not held back on criticism where I felt it was warranted and I hope that in doing so I have been fair and not too nasty.
A lot of you have been very kind in providing feedback: kudos once in a while, objections, disagreements and even the odd insult. I have tried to address comments left on what I write but if I failed to get back to some of you I apologise. I want to acknowledge every single person who took the time to read what I had to offer and especially those who took the time to respond. I have learned much from your feedback and I’d like to think it improved the blog over time. Many, many thanks!
At times I began to wonder if I was running out of things to write about. Was my blog becoming repetitive? Was it losing its edge? Should I call it a day and move on to something else (as an aside I have started a podcast as well and am up to episode 15: these are available less frequently, every two weeks or so)?
Unfortunately, even if I often find myself talking about similar aspects of terrorism there is no lack of terrorism to talk about. My blog began with the beginning of the end of the Islamic State (IS) ‘Caliphate’, moved on to other groups in other lands, devoted more time to other forms of terrorism other than Islamist (far right, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) and is now looking at Al Qaeda (AQ) 2.0 (or is it 3.0? I have lost count). And the sad truth is that terrorism as a phenomenon is not going away but is continually morphing and adapting both to the ebbs and flows of world interest and attention and counter terrorism measures. In other words, there remains much to discuss.
This blog used to be called ‘Terrorism in Canada and the West’ to reflect my particular interests and specialisations. It is now entitled ‘An Intelligent Look at Terrorism’ to underscore my contributions as that of a retired spy and not an academic or journalist (both of whom make great contributions to our awareness and understanding of violent extremism).
Every time I muse about putting down my pen I remind myself how much I enjoy writing these blogs and hearing from you. As a consequence I have decided to keep plugging away at it for the time being. The day when I no longer have anything left to add will indeed come. That day is not here yet.
Thanks again for your continued support. You the reader are the critical part of this endeavour. I hope you will keep reading and keep me on the right path.