Nut at all a bad outcome

A Vancouver jury found John Nuttall and Amanda Korody guilty of terrorism yesterday after three days of deliberation (see Globe story here).

This is good news from several perspectives

a) it shows that terrorism cases can successfully be prosecuted through the court system

b) our security and law enforcement agencies (CSIS was the first to detect the pair and provided intelligence to the RCMP) are doing a great job

c) to date these agencies have been able to place assets (human agents) into cells to gather intelligence/evidence: this is by far the best method

d) entrapment has not been an issue

Or has it?

In what confuses the heck out of me, the jury returned guilty verdicts but the judge wants to hear entrapment arguments after these verdicts.  Huh?  Isn’t that what trials are for?  Am I missing something here?

More importantly, the jury correctly, in my opinion, found the pair guilty despite a litany of “issues” raised by the defence and the collected wisdom of the blogosphere.  What “issues”?  Well, they were drug addicts, they were mentally ill, they were disenfranchised….  The defence described them as “poverty-stricken heroin addicts manipulated by police”

All of which may be true (although I doubt the mental illness claim and reject the police manipulation assertion) and all of which are irrelevant.

People from all walks of life can radicalize to violence.  No one is exempt: rich/poor, educated/uneducated, economically well-off/impoverished, stable backgrounds/broken families…  You get the point.

I am continually disappointed that everytime we see a case of radicalization in Canada the same tired phrases are hauled out.  These people must be crazy or disenfranchised or alienated or deprived or come from disadvantaged families.  And no matter how many times qualified researchers and former practitioners say there is no data to support these claims, they keep appearing.

Do we need to believe that these people are abnormal?  Does this make us feel better?  Does it allow us to distance ourselves from them?

The simple truth is that ordinary people do extraordinary things (thanks to University of Waterloo’s Lorne Dawson for this phrasing).  And they will continue to do so.

One last scary point.  John Nuttall and his wife were not terrorism’s A team – far from it.  But they were able to assemble pressure cooker bombs based on instructions Nuttall found on the Internet.

If they could do it, others could.  Let’s hope our security and law enforcement agencies continue their stellar counter-terrorism work.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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