Stewart Bell of the National Post has obtained a declassified version of a threat assessment authored by Canada’s Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC), which pools together intelligence and analysis from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other parts of the Canadian government.
The assessment was authored in April 2012 and “provides an overview of terrorist and extremist threats to Canadians and Canadian interests at home and abroad.” The Canadians found that the “most significant threat” to Canada comes from al Qaeda-inspired terrorists, but they also highlighted the continuing threat posed by al Qaeda’s affiliates and the al Qaeda network in general. Like their American counterparts, Canada’s spooks have concluded that the threat from al Qaeda’s affiliates is now greater than that of the al Qaeda core. (The affiliates are not wholly disconnected from the core in Pakistan, however.)
As Bell reported, this part of the document is especially noteworthy:
Canada’s international profile as a potential terrorist target has been confirmed through an analysis of files captured during the 2011 05 02 raid on Usama bin Laden’s (UBL) Abbottabad, Pakistan compound. Canada is specifically named in the files, along with the US, Britain, Israel, Germany and Spain as targets for terror strikes.
The assessment does not say if there was any specific threat to Canada in bin Laden’s documents, or if he was just mentioning Canada as a target generally. No documents mentioning bin Laden’s choice of targets were released in the paltry batch that trickled out last year.
While some have argued that bin Laden’s documents show he was thoroughly isolated, there are numerous accounts of what was actually in his files that demonstrate otherwise. As we argued last year, we’d like to see nearly all of the documents be declassified and released to the public.
Here are some additional, noteworthy items from the Canadian analysis.
While diminished and “focused on survival,” the al Qaeda core in Pakistan still leads the global jihad:
AQ Core still leads the global jihad movement by providing ideological cohesion, inspiration and direction to affiliates, like-minded groups and individual extremists. In June 2011, AQ Core’s senior leaders released a video emphasizing the importance of individual jihad in the West and in February 2012, AQ senior leader al-Zawahiri released a video message in support of the Syrian uprisings.
Similarly, the document reads: “Globally, AQ Core, AQ Affiliates and Like-Minded Groups Remain the Primary Threat”; and “[t]he primary threat remains Islamist terrorists, in particular AQ and its affiliates based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa.”
The Arab Spring has opened up new opportunities for al Qaeda-style terrorist groups:
The threat implications of the “Arab Spring” in North Africa and the Middle East remain a concern, as terrorist groups attempt to take advantage of political unrest and replace current regimes with one[s] sympathetic to an extremist alternative.
The Canadians are particularly concerned about the threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Shabaab:
AQ affiliates Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab (AS) continue to represent elevated terrorist threats. Recent jihadist messaging and attack plotting indicate a move away from complex plots or, at a minimum, augmenting these plots with smaller-scale attacks against a broader range of targets.
The Canadian assessment was authored nearly one year after Osama bin Laden was killed and reveals that, in the opinion of its authors, the al Qaeda threat continues to evolve and remains very much alive.