Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Monster on the Wall

I think I read that in a John Le Carré novel sometime last year, probably in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Honorable Schoolboy, both part of the famous Karla Trilogy. I don't remember the exact wording, but it had something to do with intelligence agencies needing to overestimate the capabilities of their opponents so that they could inflate their own importance and justify their existence. After all, what use are we if the opponent, rather than being this formidable enemy, is an incompetent idiot?

The more I look at the Group of Seventeen in Toronto, the more obvious it becomes that they were, at best, a bunch of misguided youth who probably represented more of a danger to themselves than to the Canadian system. Yesterday, La Presse, a Montreal-based French-language newspaper, had an interesting article on the subject, in which it revealed, among other things, that the group may have been "dangled," in the language of the trade, by a source who had infiltrated their group. In other words, at the behest of Canadian authorities, the said source may have encouraged the group members to aim for something bigger than they were capable of, or had intended to accomplish. In law-enforcement jargon, this is called entrapment—and it is illegal. Law enforcement officials cannot lead an individual to commit a crime only to arrest that person for committing that crime.

What better reason would there be for a publication ban on the whole affair than the need to keep those facts away from the public? If this is the case, then I extend kudos to the people who orchestrated the whole thing, for the dog was deftly wagged. A situation was facilitated—or worse, created—by the authorities, who all along had a full view of what was going on. How else could we explain that, despite being aware that they were under surveillance, the Group of Seventeen continued planning whatever it is that they had in mind? Is it just me or might they not have been led to believe that no action would be taken against them? Remember, these are impressionable youth we are talking about, and if, as the authorities suggest, they were credulous enough to swallow an ideology of hatred, then what was there to prevent them from also swallowing whatever it is that the source wanted them to believe? Credulous individuals aren't credulous for one purpose but not for another. If they buy something idiotic once, chances are that they will buy again.

As they were partly the architects of the so-called terror plan, the authorities could take their time and were able to arrest the suspects with relative ease, albeit with great media fanfare. If, as seems to be the case, there wasn't much of a threat to deal with, then how can you make it appear as if the very end of the world was upon us? By dispatching hundreds of police officers, deploying the SWAT teams, and putting helicopters in the sky—in other words, by making a show of it. There was no use whatsoever for such show of force. I wouldn't be altogether surprised if it were at one point revealed that the screenwriters and directors of the popular TV series 24 had acted as consultants to the whole thing! Terror was used effectively, but Ottawa certainly doesn't want to share the making-of with the audience. Better keep it a mystery, lest people stop suspending their disbelief. People have seen the gigantic shadow of a monster-like insect on the wall; what they didn't see, however, are the minute insect and the spotlight behind it.

The whole affair reeks of fabrication. The Group of Seventeen probably matter little to the authorities; they are, after all, disposable, and in the Anti-terrorist Act we have all the dispensations that make it relatively easy to do so. What matters to CSIS et al is the illusion that we are indeed facing a grave threat from terrorism. It justifies budgets and new buildings, and it inflates the ego. The analysts in those little offices need that, as does the management, which suffocates if it runs out of the helium that keeps it afloat. What may come as a shocker to some readers is that because of compartmentalization (see "Walls," June 13 below), the majority of people within the intelligence community are also being played, and they have no access to the information and no means to ascertain its veracity. In a way, the publication ban ensures that critical minds within the community are also shut out and unable to expose the lie.

Ultimately, the function of terror as illusion is two-fold: it keeps the masses in a state of apprehension which inherently makes them more malleable; and it convinces the spooks that there is a meaning to what they do, that they are not wasting away in those little rooms of theirs for no conceivable reason.


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