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Terrorists are perpetual threat, CSIS says

Prison won't deter extremists dedicated to attacking civilians, report says

Terrorists will always be terrorists, and neither time nor prison can temper their probable plots to kill civilians, Canada's spy service says.

"Individuals who have attended terrorist training camps or who have independently opted for radical Islam must be considered threats to Canadian public safety for the indefinite future," reads a court-filed CSIS report obtained by The Globe and Mail. "It is highly unlikely that they will cast off their views on jihad and justification for the use of violence.

"Given the long planning periods typical of terrorist acts, extremists can remain 'under the radar' for months or years before engaging in operations," the report says. "Incarceration is certainly not a guarantee that the extremist will soften his or her attitudes over time: quite the contrary."

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is expressing a hard line on people with terrorist ties as one Afghanistan-trained mujahed garners sympathy for being detained in Syria and Egypt, months after U.S. border guards discovered him with a map that aroused their suspicions.


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The Globe reported that the document was actually a Canadian government handout, and now the truck driver's case is being questioned along with those of several other men deemed national-security risks. But in the report, CSIS, which watches hundreds of terrorist targets it has identified, rejects the notion that trained mujahedeen and other extremists can be rehabilitated.

The spy service says it must always be remembered that Islamic extremists believe "it is actually moral to commit acts of violence to fill one's religious obligation and the highest morality is that of a martyr."

These assertions appear in CSIS's June, 2005, report titled Islamic Extremists and Detention: How Long does the Threat Last?, which is now being filed in several deportation cases.

CSIS says yes, pointing to the cases of Afghan, Pakistani, Egyptian and Algerian terrorists who have spent years in prison only to launch new attacks once freed.

The Canadian government is trying to kick out five alleged Islamic extremists who sought refugee protection here during the 1990s. Fears that they will be tortured have confounded efforts to send them home.

This means that the men, locked up under Canada's security-certificate procedure, are spending years in provincial jails meant to hold prisoners for only a few months.

Defence lawyers say this is cruel and unusual punishment and that long detentions would make any terrorist activity difficult or impossible. A Moroccan who denies allegations that he attended Afghan training camps was recently granted bail for this reason in a highly unusual ruling.

"If there was an imminent danger, it has been neutralized," a Federal Court judge found in the case of Adil Charkaoui, who spent two years in custody.

Now the other detainees are making the same argument. Hassan Almrei -- a Syrian who travelled with the Afghan mujahedeen in the early 1990s, but says he led prayer groups and never fought -- is seeking bail after four years in custody.

So too is Mahmoud Jaballah, who has been in custody even longer, always denying allegations that he planned attacks for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

CSIS says such suspects will never cease to be a danger. "Violent beliefs of Islamic extremists will not fade with time, rendering these individuals a threat to public safety for years to come," the report says. It adds: "The service assesses that extremists will rejoin their network upon release."

Lawyers for Mr. Jaballah grilled a CSIS analyst this week about the report's conclusions. The spy said that at least 10 Guantanamo Bay detainees are known to have rejoined combat in Afghanistan after being released, but defence lawyer John Norris argued that dozens have been freed without apparently returning to violent activity.

Mr. Norris gave the CSIS analyst -- a PhD linguist who was identified as P.G. during the hearing -- recent Globe and Mail articles concerning a Toronto truck driver who was jailed for two years in Syria and Egypt.

Ahmad El Maati said he attended Afghan training camps and travelled with mujahedeen warriors in the 1990s, but the Kuwaiti-born Canadian insists he is no threat because his faction was never aligned with al-Qaeda.

The Globe account illustrated how the map found in Mr. El Maati's rig in 2001 fuelled bomb-plot concerns even though it came from the Canadian government. "It turns out there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for the map," Mr. Norris said. "Yes, there could be," P.G. said.

Mr. Norris is trying to poke holes in CSIS's credibility and prove that its targets are treated in highly different ways depending on whether they are citizens or non-citizens.

He argues that while Mr. El Maati was apparently a target of security agencies, his Canadian citizenship insulated him from the security-certificate procedure. The procedure, which can be used only to jail non-citizens, uses the low threshold of "probable grounds" to identify terrorists.

While the Criminal Code can be used to prosecute Canadians for terrorism, such prosecutions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt and evidence heard in open court -- unlike security certificate cases.

CSIS officials testified this year that the number of their terrorist targets is "in the triple digits" -- consistent with a CSIS claim a few years earlier that it is tracking more than 300 potential terrorists.

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