August 28, 2003


The Mounties are backing away slowly from earlier claims that an immigration fraud ring they've busted is anything more than just that. Quoth Canada's senior Mountie:

"I can assure you there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there's any terrorist threat anywhere in this country related to this investigation."

That leaves Immigration Canada alone and swinging in the wind with the "Al Qaeda sleeper cell" allegations.

One suspects the Mounties were originally trying to seed the media clouds with the idea that this scam COULD have been, a conduit, someday, for potential terrorists to enter Canada. I don't believe even they were stupid enough to intimate to their friends in the press that it already had become one. But the National Post picked up and ran with it (yesterday's front page was a giant picture of the "threatened" CN Tower) and the Mounties are now risking getting pinned to the board by their own earlier rhetoric.

The final outcome of this one will likely be zero criminal charges, and a bunch of Pakistani immigrants deported for fraud. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But this National Post treatment (cited by Instapundit in toto) is just unconscionable:

Members of the group were caught at the Pickering Nuclear Power plant at night...

Actually those in custody only KNEW a couple people who were once caught on the beach in front of the plant at night. The two actually involved in that incident have not been arrested.

...while another flew over the reactor while training at a flight school in Durham...

There is no restricted fly zone over the reactor, and the individual's flight instructor has said he never went near there. The actual Immigration Canada allegation is that, from his airport, he COULD have flown over Pickering if he had chosen to... a very different thing.

Other members were linked to the theft of radioactive material...

Wrong again... the actual allegation is that one or more members COULD have had ACCESS to industrial cesium gauges. No theft is currently alleged.

and one had ties to a fundraising front for al-Qaeda.

As I understand the allegation, one member knew someone who knew someone who worked for an organization that has been accused of sending funds to the Bin Laden organization. This, of course, all happened before Sept. 11, when people cared less about these things.

Hey, it's remotely possible there's still something here that investigators could turn up. But the accumulated evidence they've made public thus far is worth exactly zero by any reasonable legal standard, and as the RCMP head rightly says, doesn't come close to establishing there's actually a would-be terrorist in the lot.

Note to non-Toronto readers: the Post's Stewart Bell, who's running with this one for them, is a hack, plain and simple. The Globe's Colin Freeze seems to have remained suitably skeptical, but if you really want to trust one version of this story, look to anything bylined by the Star's Michelle Shephard, possibly the best young crime reporter in the country at the moment. I'm glad she's been assigned to this one.

UPDATE: How'd you like to have the guy who said this[immigration adjudicator William Willoughby] as the judge the next time your freedom is at stake: "Just because there's no evidence presented doesn't mean there's no reason to have a reasonable suspicion."

Posted by BruceR at 03:00 PM