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A good decision by the Crown to appeal a terrorism guilty verdict reversal

One of the more ‘interesting’ terrorism cases to develop in Canada over the past few years is that of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, two converts to Islam who planted pressure cooker bombs on the grounds of the BC Legislature in Victoria on Canada Day 2013 with a view to punishing average Canadians for their government’s perceived aggression against Islam.  The couple was found guilty by a jury in 2015 but a BC appeals judge ruled in 2016 that they had been entrapped by police and threw out the guilty verdict.  The Crown (i.e. the prosecution in Canada) has just announced plans to appeal the appeal.

Good for them.

I have to confess an inordinate bias in this case.  I worked at CSIS while the parallel CSIS and RCMP investigations into these two were going on and so I am deeply versed in what they were up to and what they were capable of doing.  I have never been comfortable with Judge Bruce’s decision to throw out the guilty verdicts and her claim that the RCMP agents ‘created terrorism’ where there was none.

No, there is no question that the pair were not the sharpest pencils in the box.  Their knowledge of Islam was minimal and they did come up with zany ideas for terrorist attacks such as rushing the Canadian naval base at Esquimalt.  In the end, though, the idea to use pressure cookers to conceal explosives was theirs as they sought to emulate the successful attack by the Boston Marathon duo of Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev a scant three months before their own plot.

The appeals judge erred in ruling that the couple would not have been capable of carrying out a terrorist attack without the assistance of the RCMP.  If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that anyone can be a terrorist.  All it takes is a car and a crowd of people.  The construction of a bomb using a kitchen device is not that difficult either as there are handy recipes available online.

In addition, the RCMP agents posing as co-conspirators did what good agents do: they support their targets with a view to seeing how far they will go.  Another point that was missed in all of this was that having an agent aware of the duo’s every move is a brilliant police operation.  At no point was anyone in real danger since control was maintained at all times  What do people prefer – having terrorists plan and execute attacks without our knowledge?

I am sure that there are cases where entrapment is a legitimate concern.  This is not one of them.  John Nuttall and Amanda Korody we’re heavily radicalised individuals who sought to kill and maim hundreds.  The casualty toll would have included women and children as the bombs were timed to detonate during Canada Day afternoon festivities on the lawn of the legislature.  If it had not been for the work of the RCMP (and earlier work by CSIS), they could very well have succeeded and everyone would still now be demanding why our protectors did not stop the attack.

Here is hoping that the appeal works and that the original jury verdict is applied.  John Nuttall and Amanda Korody deserve to pay for their attempts to kill innocent people.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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