Keeping tabs on the world of terrorism
Monday, September 11, 2006
As morning transitions go, it's short and sharp. The train goes by professor Martin Rudner's tranquil Mooney's Bay home at 6:05 a.m. "If I'm still in bed, I'm late," he laughs.
Internationally recognized as one of Canada's foremost experts on terrorism, he catches up on the day's top stories with the 6:15 CTV Newsnet broadcast. Breakfast is blueberries (a memory-booster), mixed-grain cereal, yogurt and grapefruit juice. And he's out the door for a seven-minute commute (10 minutes if the single traffic light shines red) to Carleton University.
He heads to the tiny book-filled, box-stacked office where he serves as director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies and as professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.
By 6:45, he's at his desk, diet cola in hand, reading and filing dozens of overnight e-mails and media stories on terrorism and intelligence sent by colleagues around the world.
Then he goes on his own web search: terrorism, counter-terrorism, anti-terrorism law, terrorism finance, critical infrastructure protection and the role of intelligence-gathering. He is fluent in French ("je parle francais avec un accent affreux"), Hebrew and Indonesian and knows some Arabic and German.
To support his own research and his writings -- 169 book chapters, articles, reports and presentations -- he selects and files stories. He caps each with a pithy precis and sends them to his own enormous database. Free and freely -- he then sends them to hundreds of people on his "INTEL-LIST."
"This list is my own research that I need for myself and I'm happy to share it with others," he says. The "others" include academics, journalists and every major law enforcement and security agency in the democracies across the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. It also goes to senior public servants and cabinet ministers around the world -- "surprising, frankly," he says, "as they have their own sources."
This particular day, he's disseminated a Los Angeles Times feature about a Jewish university student in Paris and her Muslim extremist husband. As their relationship (kept secret from their parents) developed, she realized he was "going beyond words to deeds," says Prof. Rudner, "and beyond deeds to Iraq."
His interest went well beyond the love story to terrorism recruitment: "How it is that people in various societies in the democracies find themselves recruited, indoctrinated, mobilized by terrorist organizations?"
He reads widely, but focuses his research narrowly -- a very old habit.
As a boy in Montreal, reading his Golden Book Encyclopedia, he began a life-long fascination with Asia. He waited until his third year at McGill University, when he could finally major in eastern studies. In that first class in autumn 1962, professor Michael Brecher bemoaned Canadians' ignorance of Asia. He'd never had a student who could even name countries and capitals. Martin reamed them off, leaving out (unnoticed by the professor) the capital of Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur.) Martin looked it up later.
He kept on looking it up: a BA in economics, two masters degrees on Malay economics and politics and a doctorate on education and politics in Malaysia and Singapore. He evolved from international development and education (mostly for CIDA) to security and intelligence. On the way, he taught at Oxford University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Australian National University in Canberra before joining Carleton's faculty in 1982.
"I don't see this job as work. I see it as love. I would pay to have this job -- I won't say this to my employer," he laughs. "I'd work for free."
And he does mean work. During his sabbatical year, which ended in July, he spoke to a dozen conferences (from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to security groups in Turkey) and arranged two major conferences this year (in Dallas and Ottawa) on critical energy infrastructure protection. He also published five major papers.
On writing da ys, he starts in the early morning.
"The next thing I know it's 12 and if I don't get downstairs and grab my preferred sandwich (Mediterranean vegetable sandwich or a vegetable wrap), I might have to take a second best."
He's back at his desk and writes until 5:30 or 6 p.m.
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When there's a terrorist incident, dozens of calls from the media temporarily halt his production. He's appeared in Canadian media, BBC, Voice of America, the Washington Post, the New York Times and, once (live and uncensored) Radio Tehran. (Why, the journalist asked him, did Canada persecute Muslims? He described how it does not and asked some pointed questions of his own.)
If it weren't for his British-born mate, Angela Gendron, at home or in England waiting for an evening phone call, he'd just keep on working. A senior fellow in the same international affairs school at Carleton, and a British defence ministry specialist, she also teaches at Brunel University's Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies in London.
In a strange twist, he met Ms. Gendron when she was posted to Canada -- introduced by his second wife (also British), Susan.
Though he describes himself laughingly as "quite steady --on the whole, stolid," he falters momentarily as he speaks of two wives who died in their early 50s. Judy, his teenage sweetheart, mother of their child, Aliza, died of ovarian cancer. And Susan, a non-smoker, died of lung cancer.
"It only gets worse if you lose a child. As a male, we're supposed to be buried first." He says the two losses were "very, very humanizing."
His strictly rationalist view of human nature (and decision-making) widened to include emotions as an equally powerful factor.
"It's made me a better scholar and more understanding of the human condition."
Besides establishing an endowment in her name to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation, he serves as an honorary director of Ovarian Cancer Canada, for whose website he (and Angela) wrote a moving account of Judy's last six months. She died in 1995.
When Aliza learned of her mother's grim diagnosis, she reluctantly obeyed her mother's request to stay the course and continue working on her masters degree in Toronto. Though mother and daughter were together when Judy died, Prof. Rudner wrote Judith Levine: The Last Six Months for Aliza while she was away. He says that four million people have read this account of dying while keeping "quality of life and retaining love and relationships."
Susan was British, spoke perfect Indonesian and Malay, worked in Southeast Asia and at the end of her life was in charge of public affairs for the British High Commission in Ottawa.
Prof. Rudner and Ms. Gendron met later again at a British High Commission party. Athletic, she has shifted this bookish, stamp-collecting, Persian rug expert into tennis, canoeing, cross-country skiing, skating and Scrabble-playing. When she's in England, after work, he might read one of his naval histories and next-day British newspapers online and listen to music. In addition to these, on weekends, he goes to Saturday morning synagogue services and works in the garden.
He rarely does professional work on weekends or evenings, to allow time for hobbies. He follows strict time-management rules:
- Know what you want to achieve.
- Know what you want to do to achieve it.
- Know what you need to do and how much time it will take.
- And focus. "You concentrate. You don't allow yourself to be distracted."
Stress management comes from doing what he loves to do.
"My days are intense. I'm almost always doing something to which I'm committed to achieving. But I don't have ulcers and my body is not stressed. I'd hate to feel internally tense. I think I have a good sense of humour and I enjoy wit and clever turns of phrase and jokes."
Nevertheless, he cherishes solitude and thinking time. In a wonderfully unscholarly declaration, he says he divides people into two groups.
"There's the kind of person who will sit on an airplane with an empty seat beside him and wish someone interesting and nice would sit beside him. And then you have the other kind of person who hopes nobody will sit beside him. I'm in that category."
He also prefers "chatting to my soulmates" at home to dinner party conversation -- even if it's about national security.
"My view is, read my stuff. That's why I write."
Next week: Rudner's stuff on terrorism Donna Jacobs is an Ottawa writer. Her e-mail is
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