We are facing 'terrorism threats of the sort we have not faced before ... outgoing security adviser Richard Fadden says
39 years of intelligence service places Fadden's entry onto the scene at the same time Al Qaeda surfaced. In fact, his career and the rise of violent regime-topping Islamic militancy run along an identical timeline.
... the myth that legends are made of
Most find the world that our intelligence operatives and managers live in either exhilarating or mystifying. We are exhilarated by the material from which filmmakers and the writers of thrillers use to weave tales of intrigue and espionage or, we are mystified by the utterances of politicians and government officials as they suggest, in terms that are more often than not contradictory, who our friends and who our enemies are.
After nearly four decades of cloak and dagger training and experience in some of Canada's most secretive services, the former deputy clerk of the Privy Council Office, director of CSIS (2009-2013), and outgoing national security advisor to Stephen Harper and for the past several months Justin Trudeau, is retiring from the most private of the public services. And, he is retiring with a somber precautionary note for his successors, as the advent of radical Islamic terrorism and insurgency looms, 'we are facing terrorism threats of a sort we have not faced before.'
Notwithstanding its discouraging tone, that statement must be taken in context. And, that context is also sobering not so much for what it reveals, but for what it shadows. The recent revelations that for decades hundreds of prominent wealthy Canadians used off-shore accounts (Panama) to subvert the tax system, an occurrence the Fadden-headed intelligence and security services seems to have been blind to, must be considered in relation to his assertions concerning China and their program in his words 'to unduly influence government decisions.' In fairness, Fadden has on occasion stated that there were budget and manpower constraints on whether the intelligence services pursued espionage as opposed to other threats to the national security of Canada.
39 years of intelligence service places Fadden's entry onto the scene at the same time Al Qaeda surfaced. In fact, his career and the rise of violent regime-topping Islamic militancy run along an identical timeline. And yet, like so many of his Cold War counterparts in the US and Europe, the threat posed by Islamic radicalism never reached the level of top priority until the 11th of September 2001. It was at that time Fadden assumed the role of deputy clerk of the Privy Council Office, that branch of the Canadian government that serves the prime minister's inner circle. It was Fadden's responsibility to devise Canada's response to the 9/11 attacks on the US. In a phrase, to confront the reality of global radical Islamic terrorism and insurgency, directly.
A rude awakening for Fadden, who quickly sought to join in on the Patriot Act frenzy sweeping the US Bush Administration at the time. But, at the same time, there was no fundamental rethink of the unceremonious way in which those who had seen the mounting threat of international Islamic radicalism and sought to bring it to Fadden's attention, were pushed out of the intelligence and security services. While Fadden, upon considering what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant, lived in his dream state of being part of the conquest of the world, and the slayers of the big, bad, threatening bear.
Richard Fadden, again like so many of his US and European counterparts, bought into the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the USSR as the end of history. And, with the preeminent and predominant foe, the bear, less of a threat to world security, like Alexander the Great, Fadden looked out upon the expanse of what the West now controlled and concluded that there were no more worlds to be conquered. The 1993 attack on the World Trade Center Towers did nothing to shack Fadden and his colleagues from the self-induced, European ancestry victorious sleep into which they had fallen.
And, some will find this unnecessarily harsh, but this is not a glowing tribute to an accomplished public servant, one can read that in the National Post, but an analysis of the factual on-the-ground realities that the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, must possess to make rational decisions about the next heir to the throne of intelligence and national security matters and the nature and purpose of the Canadian civilian and military intelligence and security apparatus, or management bureaucracy, if you will.
Nothing, it is said, spurs poor judgment on into the realm of self-righteous certainty, than when an eminent authority says the same thing that one believes to be true. Some argue that Fadden had a right to his opinion, and again you can read that conclusion in and among the laudatory mutterings of the daily press and broadcast media, but in reality, he did not. What the Canadian people have a right to is security, life and liberty. The kind of security that results from the application of the cardinal rule of intelligence management, that is, to look at everything on its merits without regards to custom, practice or drill.
The moment of affirmation came for Fadden with the 1998 Paris-based Le Nouvel Observatuer's publication of an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser. The contents of which were passed around the breath, width, and depths of Fadden's inner circles of spies within the upper chambers of Canadian intelligence and security with an air of glee. This is hardly what one would expect from the top spy described by Harper as "completely unfazed by anything."
Brzezinski was asked the following:
… do you regret having supported … Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?
“What is more important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”
Some stirred-up Muslims? But it has been stated repeatedly that Islamic fundamentalism represents a worldwide menace today (1998).
“Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam.”
Brzezinski went on to suggest that if we, “Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers (today in excess of 2 billion). But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.” (The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan, Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 1998)
The fallacy of Brzezinski's thinking and by implication Fadden's is clear. What they have in common is an element of radical Islamic revivalism that is organized globally around a singular goal.
The problem with Fadden's Islamic threat blind spot, which extends from 1977 until 2001, is that those who did not buy into the 'we are just dealing with some stirred-up Muslims' viewpoint, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the USSR, either got on board 'the West has won bridge to nowhere' or you were reassigned or drummed out of the services for daring to challenge the geniuses, like Fadden, who were now in charge of our intelligence and security services.
Fadden led that charge within the Canadian civilian and military intelligence and security services.
Perhaps the most revealing of Richard Fadden's comments during the CBC Radio interview with host Carol Off, relates to Fadden's notion that on the one hand "we are facing international terrorism threats of the sort we have not faced before, and second that, Parliament has decided it needs some extreme tools."
First, there is no firm indication that the new government or Parliament have decided that curtailing civil liberties in the name of increased security is warranted, in fact, the outcome of such a debate, at this juncture, is more likely to answered with a no, rather than a yes.
Second, there is no practical significance to whether one understands the current circumstances vis-a-vis the use of violence against civilian populations by radical Islamic operatives as meeting the legal definition of war. There is undeniably a conflict going on, and that conflict has been acted out on Canadian soil and against Canadian citizens. Canadian citizens whom intelligence directors and advisers are sworn under oath to protect, and against all foe foreign and domestic.
But the most basic critique of Richard Fadden lies in his lack of appreciation for the kinds of things one learns in war college, such as, that in any conflict the odds of success are half and half if one knows oneself, but not the enemy.
Basic to success in any conflict, whether military, economic, political or diplomatic in nature, is the necessity to know one's own capabilities as well as those of one's adversary, that is, to know the real situation on both sides. Neither of which is an easy task. But without that knowledge the odds of success are half and half, if one knows oneself but not their adversary. And, certain failure follows those who know neither oneself nor their adversary.
There is little evidence that Richard Fadden has ever come to know the radical Islamic adversary. And therefore, if that was his only shortcoming, he could fade from the scene to the sound of one hand clapping.
It is possible to reject Fadden's statement that, 'Parliament has decided it needs some extreme tools,' out of hand.
Surely, Fadden is not suggesting that the sibilation choir leader of the opposition, Ambrose, has a sufficient understanding of the present conflict, or of the will of the Canadian people as regards the notion that they should trade their sacred liberties for the promise of increased security, to make such a monumental decision. When the only guarantee in that trade off is a certain curtailment of liberty which is concrete, while increased security is at best hope against hope. The opposition's contribution to the parliamentary debate over the use of CF-18s in the Syrian campaign stands as testament to Ambrose's delft leadership in matters of grave national concern. And, your suggestion therefore that this parliament is requesting that the intelligence and security services be given extreme tools, defies rational discernment.
Therefore, Fadden's statement as to Parliament requesting extreme tools, if there is any merit in it, or value to be derived from it, lies only in the sounds that the words make he used in it.
As we still have one hand clapping, that presents the opportunity to look at the other side of the conflict equation, the state of the nation as it were, and the half and half chance of success if we understand properly the strengths and weaknesses of our own cultural and material resources that we bring to, or withhold from the conflict or the battlefield.
There should be no doubt that Richard Fadden is a prototypical example of those who head the civilian and military intelligence and counter radical Islamic insurgency efforts in the West, and as such, as we shall discuss, that fact, explains largely the lack of success of those efforts in countering the threat of international radical Islamic violence.
Which begs the question; what is it that the intelligence and security chiefs in the West like Richard Fadden have not come to grasp (what they do not see) that is important to mounting a realistic effort to contain radical Islamic terrorism?
To investigate that question, I invite the reader to revisit a time when Fadden's career was just taking shape, at an age that political scientists tell us, that we learn and form our political opinions and our worldviews becomes an established part of our reactions to events and the circumstances around us.
However, unlike the general and panoramic view of the whole of human history, beginning with the magnificent trek from the dungeons of Egypt to the second half of the 20th century on which Dr Martin Luther King took those assembled that night in the Masonic Lodge, I invite Richard Fadden to revisit just one 24 hour period of his life, beginning on the evening of the 3rd of April 1968. The location Memphis, Tennessee.
Fadden on that night would have heard Martin Luther King when he stated ... the masses are rising up and whenever they are assembled from Johannesburg, New York or Memphis (or Attawapiskat, where there has been no potable water at the tap for more than two decades) the cry is always the same, we want to be free. If, something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed ... and it will no longer be a choice between violence and non-violence in this world, it's non-violence or non-existence. But we would not stop there.
During that same 24 hour time span we would find our way to the Middle East, to the city of Jericho on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Gathered in a school auditorium are Palestinians and Israeli students locked in a heated debate about whether violence or non-violence should be the way forward. This meeting followed a series of such gathering that had taken place in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa and in Ramallah. This author and a french Canadian friend had met Prime Minister Golda Meir, and asked her how we could help, and she responded, work for peace, and in response we set a series of debating sessions in motion. They were well attended, and the debates were lively and meaningful, and their importance grew as the debating series moved from city to city.
And on this occassion, in the late morning of the 4th of April, at the time of the formation of the PLO as a political entity, and El Fatah and Hamas as militias (these groups on the West Bank and Gaza were associated along the sames lines as Sinn Fein and the IRA in their conflict in the British Isles). It was also the year the Group of 77 nations formed and aligned themselves against Israel.
There were two individuals in that auditorium that morning that remain important to the civilian and military intelligence and security services and police forces of the West unto this day. One a 27 year old named Abullah Azzam and the other a 17 year old Egyptian student activist. The association between the highly political Azzam family clan and the al-Wazahiri family is well document. And, although 10 years apart, both Azzam and al-Wazahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood when they were about the age of 14 (an object lesson for those wanting to stem the tide of youth radicalization); Azzam in the mid-1950s in the territory administered as the Mandatory Palestine, and al-Zawahiri in a very troubled Kingdom of Egypt in the mid-1960s.
The young 17 teen year old who was present in Jericho that day had known Sayyid Qutb, and after Qutb's execution for conspiracy against the sovereign Kingdom of Egypt, al-Zawahiri then 15, and several other secondary school students formed a secretive organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the government of Egypt and the establishment of an Islamic State in its place. A group that had, at that young age come to embrace the teachings of Sayyid Qutb and the wrtings of the Muslim Brotherhhod founder Hasan al-Banna, which brought them to the understanding that .. to restore Islam and to free Muslims (the cry is always the same, we want to be free), a vanguard of true Muslims modeling themselves after the original Companions of the Prophet had to be forthcoming. This was to become the battle cry of Islamic Jihad that we know today. Those young students organised into a group that would be known as al-Jihad.
Most of those assembled for the debate that day were in the vernacular of the West Bank in the 1960s socialists, and were steeped in secular traditions concerning the organization of civil society. Azzam and al-Wazahiri looked like they had just walked out of the desert, a powerful piece of Islamic symbolism.
Azzam did not believe that the debate should be violence or non-violence, but what did it say about the state of affairs when either choice meant that there would be those who would have to, and for a considerable period of time, spend their whole life fighting for what their lack of freedom kept them from glimpsing. And, further agitating to share power was a false premise, since power is not something that some can give or take from others. The exercise of power, he argued, was everyone's right, and no one had the right to stand in the way of another's ability to exercise it.
However, al-Zawahiri, told those assembled about research work a fellow student of world literature at the University of Cairo had undertaken. The student of world literature was doing work that today would be called a meta-analysis of Western literature to see how many times and in how many ways, Western writers had made reference to how cheap life was in the Arab World. Literature that al-Zawahiri had come to understand was replete with such references. Another student in the audience, my best reasoning is that he was Lebanese, tried to question al-Zawahiri about the nature and meaning of the research, but was having a difficult time phrasing his question in way that would illicit a response. Until finally, resorting to his native French language, he raised his hands in an imploring fashion and he asked al-Zawahiri directly, et dansquel but (and for what purpose)?
al-Zawahiri, without a moments hesitation responded, that they were about to learn that it is not true.
A gentleman entered the auditorium and walked to a position in the room, a place to stand where everyone could make eye contact with him, and yet he was standing with his back to no one. He raise his hands in front of him, as one does when one is about to speak, but no words came out. He repeated the gesture, but again no words were forthcoming. He took a deep breath and then said that he had some very distressing news, which the word sad did not begin to convey. A few hours ago, he said, now misty-eyed and straining to speak, a few hours ago Martin Luther King, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
There is a sound that a group makes, upon hearing such news unexpectedly, when everyone suddenly draws air into their lungs through their mouths, and at the same time.
But we will not stop there, our twenty-four hour journey is not yet complete, our next venue is Indianapolis, Indiana.
Robert Kennedy, amid the tragedy of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King arrived in Indianapolis for a scheduled campaign rally during his bid for the 1968 Democratic nomination for president. Kennedy had only learned of King’s death when he arrived by plane at Indianapolis where he was to address a large gathering of African Americans.
Tellingly, Kennedy was advised by the local Indianapolis Chief of Police against making the campaign stop, since it was to be held in a part of the city the police chief described as a dangerous ghetto.
One can only imagine how that description was indicative of the way the Indianapolis Police Force patrolled that area of the city of Indianapolis and the nature of the interaction between the chief and his police force and the residents of that part of Indianapolis. We can apply that same criteria to sections of Brussels; Paris; Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland; Toronto, Edmonton or Vancouver.
But Kennedy insisted on going.
Robert Kennedy walked onto the makeshift stage and asked if those gathered there knew – and then, realizing they did not know, he addressed them:
Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you for a minute or so this evening. Because ...
Because, I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. And, he died in the cause of that effort.
On this difficult day, in/at this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.
For those of you who are black - considering the evidence that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.
We can move in that direction as a country, towards greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another.
Or, we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
But, we have to make an effort in the United States … we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another.
And, a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
So, I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that's true.
But, more importantly, to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We have had difficult times in the past. And, we will have difficult times in the future.
It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness, and it's not the end of disorder.
But, the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our lives, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago:
To tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world …
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."
Before returning to the essential logic of war college training concerning the utter necessity to avoid employing extreme measures and tools in conflicts, let me state in unequivocal terms, why the Western (US and European) intelligance, security chiefs and advisers, of which Fadden stands as our prototypical embodiment, have failed miserably in coming to grips with the use of indiscriminate violence against civilian populations by the adherents of radical Islam, and have not to date, devised a means of doing so.
One of the benefits of the public or open letter, as it were, to address a member or members of the upper echelons of intelligence, is that it permits the use of language that is in keeping with the cardinal rule concerning secrecy, that is, no not rely on it.
That said, to introduce the next thread of the critique of the genre or ilk of Western (US and European) intelligence chiefs, of which Fadden is a prototypical embodiment, I will use dialogue from the 1967 screenplay, In the Heat of the Night, in which Sidney Poitier portrays an African American homicide detective (Virgil Tibbs) from the northern United States (Philadelphia) and Rod Steiger (Gillespie) the local southern states Chief of Police of the fictional Mississippi town of Sparta.
In the heat of the night:
Dialogue between Sidney Poitier (Tibbs) & Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
I hear they're gonna hire a thousand men. Half of them'd be coloured.
Know what that means?
Sidney Poitier (Tibbs):
Probably got him killed.
Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
That's what Mrs. Colbert thinks. She wants us to catch her a killer. No killer, no factory.
Well, it's a lotta jobs for a lotta coloured people. You follow me?
Sidney Poitier (Tibbs):
I'm going home, man.
Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
They're your people.
Sidney Poitier (Tibbs):
Not mine-yours. You made this scene.
Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
What do you want me to do? Beg you?
Sidney Poitier (Tibbs):
Look, I've had your town up to here!
Rod Steiger (Chief Gillespie):
Boy, it would give me a world of satisfaction to horsewhip you, Virgil!
Sidney Poitier (Tibbs): (After a bout of self-effacing laughter, Tibbs responds) My father used to say that, and ...
During the 1980s as Fadden rose within the intelligence services of Canada (US/Canada intelligence services) he actually crossed paths with the Al Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam. In the 1980s, Reagan and the CIA had solicited the assistance of the CSIS to assist one of the founding members of Al Qaeda, Abdullah Azzam, to travel across Canada to visit Mosques, where he told stories of the bravery of the Mujahedin, to recruit Canadian Muslims to fight in the American-led secret war to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. Azzam's travels in Canada were facilitated by CSIS operatives and RCMP escorts.
Given the nature and ties between US and Canadian intelligence and security, one could not and cannot rise (but Trudeau can change this) to head the Canadian intelligence services CSIS, unless that individual was considered by the heads of the intelligence services in the United States to be a good ol' boy (also good old boy) in the most negative connotation of that term it is possible to construct. And, in Richard Fadden, US intelligence services found a good ol' boy, par excellence. No diversity in the American services, meant no diversity in the Canadian services.
What does this all mean.
During a session between the War Department and the White House, Roosevelt (FDR) listened to an intelligence officer speak about our intelligence services plan to exploit the level of discrimination in an enemy area in the European theater to our military advantage. FDR was intrigued by the idea of 'exploiting the level of discrimination to military advantage' and asked his liaison between the War Department and the White House to invite that intelligence officer to the White House that evening. That same liaison became my major professor of political science and international relations and mentor during my college career, and beyond.
That evening as the three sat in front of the fireplace in the White House, sipping gin from the stock that Churchill had brought for FDR, the officer began to explain how the intelligence services were using what they knew about the level of discrimination in a specific foreign locale, when FDR asked him to what he knew about the impact discrimination had on US forces and the implications for our own war effort.
The intelligence officer suggested that an example might be the best way to explain, but first he wanted the president to know that military intelligence had accumulated a lot of information on this subject and given its importance would continue to do so, since increasingly such techniques would become of more and more importance in military strategic and tactical planning and operations.
The case (the example) he chose to share with the president was a situation he had investigated, the training of the Tuskegee airman, an all African American airforce fighter pilot training facility in the South.
He suggested that in final analysis, when all is said and done, the training of a fighter pilot is structured to give our pilots a momentary advantage over an enemy attack plane in a dog fight, and that second or so advantage is the difference between winning that fight, and by implication success in a battle and, in fact, an entire war effort could hinge on training our fighter pilots to achieve a one second advantage in a critical situation.
And, because of the, let us say the South, the intelligence officer continued, the wing commander and the other Caucasian trainers at that training facility cannot allow themselves to believe that that African American soldier, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, which includes the wing commander and other trainers being eye witnesses to the equal abilities of the African American and Caucasian pilots, they still cannot allow themselves to accept that the African American pilots are as smart and as talented as the Caucasian soldiers and pilots, so they do not push their training to extent to give them that one second advantage in battle.
Richard Fadden’s role will be filled by his erstwhile deputy, David McGovern, until a permanent replacement is named.
Welcome aboard, David McGovern. in process
a complete and authoritative account of the failings of western intelligence to comes to grips with radical Islamic terrorism. read 1st chapter free, no special App necessary.
Eric LaMont Gregory, an Oxford-educated diplomat, scientist and author, for more than four decades operated in the highly secretive corridors of the upper chambers of international intrigue and power.
The Ultimate Vanishing Act reveals how different the Middle East, Central, South and South East Asia, North Africa, Europe as well as the Americas would be today, had it not been for some rather monumental errors emanating not only from Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and other European capitals, but also from Moscow, Beijing as well as Tokyo and New Delhi.
The Ultimate Vanishing Act is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand current world events, and the onset and the assiduous surge of radical Islamic terrorism and insurgency on a global scale.