Thank you very much. We'd like to thank Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness; the chairman, Daryl Kramp; and the public safety and national security committee for the opportunity to testify here today.
We consider this to be a particularly auspicious time, as Canada has recently shown itself an international leader in the effort to combat the global jihad movement.
By way of introduction, the Center for Security Policy is an American national security think tank in Washington, D.C., that was founded in 1988 by former acting assistant secretary of defense, Frank Gaffney. In the years since then we have focused on the greatest security threats to America and our allies.
My name is Clare Lopez, the center's vice-president for research and analysis. I previously served as a CIA operations officer and later served in a variety of contract positions within the U.S. defense sector. I've also served as an instructor for military intelligence and special forces on terrorism-related issues, and I'm honoured to mention my affiliation with the board of advisers for the Toronto-based Mackenzie Institute.
My colleague is Kyle Shideler. He is the director of our threat information office where he specializes in monitoring Sunni jihadist movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. He has briefed congressional staff, intelligence, and federal law enforcement officials on the history, ideology, and operations of the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly on its role in supporting terrorism.
Recent devastating attacks by individual jihadis on Canadian soil demonstrate the critical need for a better understanding of and appropriate tools to deal with the global jihad threat, specifically understanding that terrorism doesn't begin with a violent act itself but rather with financing, indoctrination, and propaganda. Stopping these elements is key to stopping the attacks themselves.
In particular, we applaud the decision to list as a terrorist entity the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy, an organization that was, according to available reports, engaged in financing the terrorist organization Hamas. We are hopeful that Canadian law enforcement and security services will be able to use information gleaned through this investigation and subsequent investigations to further hamper terrorist efforts.
It was also a Hamas terror-financing case that provided U.S. law enforcement with information regarding the true depth of the threat posed to North America. In that case, the Holy Land Foundation trial, U.S. federal law enforcement uncovered voluminous secret documents representing the archives of the Muslim Brotherhood in North America. Thanks in part to the evidence provided by these documents, the Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror-funding front was shut down and prosecutors secured multiple convictions on terrorism-financing charges. These documents come together to tell the story of a multi-decade long effort by the Muslim Brotherhood in North America to establish itself, create front groups, seize control of mosques and Islamic centres, indoctrinate young people through youth organizations in Islamic schools, mislead the mass media, conduct intelligence operations against law enforcement and security services, and influence politicians.
This carefully organized campaign of subversive activity forms the basis for what was called a “grand jihad” to eliminate and destroy Western civilization from within in the Brotherhood's explanatory memorandum uncovered during the Holy Land Foundation case.
There has been a tendency to divorce the physical manifestations of individual acts of Islamic terrorism, such as the recent attacks here in Canada, from the extensive support infrastructure provided by this global jihad movement, but the reality is that men and women do not seek to travel to fight in Syria or Iraq or engage in attacks domestically without first having been indoctrinated with an obligation to wage jihad. Such individuals have been instructed to put loyalty to a global Islamic ummah above loyalty to one's home country. They're educated to believe that Muslims have a right to impose sharia, a foreign source of law, upon one's fellow citizens. All of these elements of indoctrination must occur before an individual would ever express interest in al Qaeda or Islamic State propaganda. Providing the government an enhanced ability to target or take down propaganda that promotes a doctrinal command to wage jihad against unbelievers, or the call to use force to overthrow the government and impose sharia, in our judgment would be beneficial as it would help to disrupt indoctrination before individuals reach a stage at which they are considering attacks against a specific target.
Laying this ideological groundwork is exactly the mission and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has undertaken the mission to support movements to engage in jihad across the Muslim world, according to Muslim Brotherhood documents seized by Swiss law enforcement in 2001. Given this obligation to support, it is no surprise that terror recruits repeatedly have been traced back to an Islamic centre, school, or mosque established or controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, as was the case in our own Boston Marathon bombing back in April 2013.
Subsequently, organizations with ties to the brotherhood have repeatedly sought to undermine and oppose counterterrorism strategies that rely on aggressive police and intelligence work to disrupt plots and arrest those responsible, the kind of strategy currently under discussion here in Canada. We've considered how these policies under discussion would help Canada to address the common threat. It's necessary to address the whole host of activities that undermine the security of Canada, including: interfering with the capability of the government to conduct intelligence defence, public safety, or other activities; attempting to unduly change or influence the government by unlawful means; or engaging in covert, foreign-influenced activities. Likewise, we must address the full scope of jihadist operations, including indoctrination, propaganda, and subversive activities.
It seems to us that threats such as these, emerging in the pre-attack phase of the jihadist campaign, are exactly the modus operandi of the Muslim Brotherhood as it seeks to undermine constitutionally established western governments, including that of Canada, to the benefit of the global jihad movement.
We assess that legislation that would permit Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, to engage in actions to disrupt terror plots and threats to Canada would likely be effective in helping to thwart Islamic terror attacks in the pre-violent stage. Such a policy, provided due oversight, creates a necessary capability to intervene and undermine indoctrination and recruiting networks that lead individuals to become jihadists and either travel abroad to join jihadist groups, or conduct attacks at home—even without a definite connection to any terrorist group.
While we understand that there is a debate over how such capabilities could be overseen, the use of an intermediary review committee rather than direct parliamentary oversight has advantages when it is often the legislators themselves who are at risk of being targeted by these influence activities.
There has already been controversy in the United States over an appointee to the U.S. congressional House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence having received campaign funds from and having numerous associations with Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations in our country. Muslim Brotherhood organizations also have been aggressive in utilizing the media to target legislators engaged in oversight hearings as well as threatening to fundraise for their political opponents if they dare to examine issues related to jihadist indoctrination in serious detail. In our opinion, any oversight committee dealing with these issues risks being an immediate target for similar efforts.
Creating a buffer of intelligence professionals between CSIS and the members of Parliament may be useful, therefore, to preserve and protect important information and insulate MPs from aggressive influence operations to undermine their support for Canadian counterterrorism efforts, while also ensuring respect for civil rights and generating appropriate oversight that has a detailed understanding of the law enforcement and intelligence techniques involved.
Certainly, it is to be expected that the Parliament would be vigilant in examining the reports generated by the minister and that it would take full advantage of opportunities to examine and discuss the reported data.
In dealing with the threat posed by jihadist fighters living amidst our own communities, efforts have focused primarily on either methods to keep them from travelling abroad, or revocation of passports to keep individuals from returning.
The Center for Security Policy generally has been supportive of such measures as currently are under discussion in the U.S. Congress, which would take passports away from those who travel or seek to travel abroad to fight for terrorist forces. Likewise, changes and extensions to the current peace bond provisions here would appear to us to help to address the substantial difficulty faced by counterterrorism agencies, which is that in numerous recent cases we have seen, the terrorists who perpetrated attacks in the U.S., Britain, France, and Australia have been what terrorism experts in the U.S. have begun to describe as “known wolves”. That is, rather than being undetected and operating without connection to other jihadist groups—a genuine lone wolf—what we're seeing instead is that most individuals identified as lone wolves have, in fact, had ties with or at least a known proclivity to support jihadist ideology groups or terrorist networks, and frequently were already under some level of surveillance.
It is not a lack of awareness, but rather an inability to take preventive action or disrupt the plot, that all too often has resulted in these individuals successfully carrying out an act of Islamic terrorism.
In conclusion, the Center for Security Policy believes Canada is in a position to put into practice a forward-thinking approach that gives police officers and intelligence operatives the tools they need, not only to surveil and detect terror threats but to disrupt and dismantle the jihadist networks that seek to use terrorism as only one method among others to undermine and weaken the security of Canada.
Thank you very much.