Was the arrest of prospective terrorists in Canada a case of entrapment?

The delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate to a group suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in southern Ontario was part of an undercover police sting operation, the Toronto Star has learned.

The RCMP said yesterday that after investigating the alleged homegrown terrorist cell for months, they had to move quickly Friday night to arrest 12 men and five youths before the group could launch a bomb attack on Canadian soil.

Sources say investigators who had learned of the group’s alleged plan to build a bomb were controlling the sale and transport of the massive amount of fertilizer, a key component in creating explosives. Once the deal was done, the RCMP-led anti-terrorism task force moved in for the arrests

I’m afraid I can’t find it in me to be quite as happy as some are about the operation. Of course, I’m glad that the group was not able to pull off a terrorist attack. But it seems to me that there are several distinct circumstances. The most serious threat would be from those who are intent on doing us (or the Canadians) harm. As we have seen over the last five years identifying and dealing with those is a very difficult task.

Perhaps I’m making too fine a distinction but it seems to me that identifying and dealing with those who might do us harm once we’ve put the means into their hands ourselves broadens the scope of an already difficult task pretty substantially.

Am I seeing distinctions and problems where none exist?

UPDATE: The Counterterrorism Blog has been posting up a storm on the Canadian arrests. In this post they have an extensive collection of media links. In this post they speculate that the Pickering nuclear plant may have been the intended target of the group.

ThreatsWatch.org has a good recap of the story.

1 comment… add one
  • dgf Link

    Am I seeing distinctions and problems where none exist?

    Nope, you’re not. So far the authorities have been very close-lipped about the pertinent facts, including the involvement of the State itself in the alleged terrorist conspiracy. Entrapment ? Who knows ? (I don’t even know if there’s any such defence under Canadian law, tho you’d think any reaonable criminal justice system would have at least a rough equivalent thereof).

    But in any event, to the extent that the involvement of the State was crucial to the actual and serious threat which the arrested are alleged to have posed, it is more than fair to view the entire affair in a somewhat different light than is currently being celebrated. Stay tuned, I guess.

    – Regards

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