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National Suicide

Submitted by John, Feb 23, 2016 02:44

It is very small comfort to know that we Americans aren't the only electorate either stupid enough or perverse enough to choose a leader who is hell-bent on committing national suicide. Wasn't it the British historian Arnold Toynbee who once said that great civilizations don't die; they commit suicide?


US-Canadian Security and Canada's Syrian-Refugee Influx

Feb 10, 2016 17:20

There is much that is good in this article, including its qualifying as "political" the Canadian government's electorally based decision to open the country's doors to an enormous influx of 25,000 Syrian refugees. (Some say that this was to win over the votes of a Canadian Muslim population that had doubled in a decade.) But it is surprisingly inaccurate to declare with such finality, in relation to the Canadian government's security screening of its Syrian newcomers, that, "In short, appropriate security measures have been taken to address the legitimate concerns created from a politically-motivated policy."

To be sure, this is the position embraced by Canada's Trudeau government, in its Washington Ambassador's January 20, 2016 letter to the US Senate Homeland Security Committee, and by the Obama Administration, itself. (President Obama is pushing for a US intake of 10,000 Syrians, so the latter position would be expected.) Nonetheless, it is unclear why the article accepts at face value assurances in the Ambassador's letter that extensive Canadian screening of refugees and querying of databases will provide reasonable guarantees of safety for Canada and, by extension, its southern neighbor.

Intelligence specialists know better. Those accepting the Canadian government's line miss the entire point of the long-running discussion about the relevance of databases in the screening of people coming from countries, like Syria and Iraq, where record keeping is non-existent, deceptive or similarly unreliable. As FBI Director James Comey famously pointed out in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, last year, if you are trying to screen someone who has left behind no "ripple in the pond" – no record – you will have intelligence gaps. A few gaps among 25,000 people could mean a lot of trouble, especially should those people be rushed into Canada in the planned four months.

This issue was discussed extensively by US border services' union representative Dean Mandel, Canadian immigration and refugee lawyer Guidy Mamann and Canadian national security and intelligence specialist David Harris, in their recent appearance before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Consistent with the norms and thinking of informed intelligence professionals, all three expressed misgivings about the pretense of reliability of screening in the Syrian context. In fact, the debate immediately spread into Canada, where the hearings, and these witnesses' views, were widely reported and the subject of vigorous national debate – a key reality not reflected in this article. The hearings were even covered in Britain, which country, much more populous than Canada, is to accept fewer Syrian refugees, and those, over a period of years, not months.

Likewise, the article seems to invoke the Canadian Ambassador's claim of US-Canadian intelligence cooperation on the Syrian refugee file, as though this were a game-changing, tailored innovation clinching the security question. However, an informed look at the Ambassador's list of cooperative efforts suggests little that is profoundly different from what has been the long-developing US-Canadian intelligence practice.

Finally, the article asserts that Prime Minister "Trudeau made a wise choice in selecting Harjin Sajjat as Canada's new defense minister." Leaving aside the fact that his name is actually Harjit Sajjan, those genuinely attuned to operational Canadian defense, security and intelligence, would know that there were adverse rumblings, from the beginning, in the bowels of Canada's Department of National Defence and elsewhere. Some of this would have been unfair to Afghan-vet Sajjan. In fact, a good deal of this reaction may have to do with the fact that the Prime Minister had appointed as his defense minister, an individual who had only just retired from a military position considerably lower, in rank, than those senior officers who would wind up reporting to Minister Sajjan. It is probably reasonable to say that, whatever Sajjan's credentials, the issue of "jumping-up" raised fundamental questions among military professionals about the prime ministerial judgment that made the promotion of this "wise choice" possible.


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