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Terrorism and its impact on security and privacy to be addressed at Calgary conference

When Air India detonated over the Atlantic, after departing from a Canadian airport, the illusion of Canada as a peacemaker also exploded in the minds of many.  

 


May 9, 2008
By Nancy Argyle

Topics

No longer could Canadians dismiss acts of terrorism as initiatives of other countries.  

“In essence, there are two types of terrorism ”“ homeland and homegrown
”“ and, recently, we’ve seen the emphasis shift from one to the other,”
says Stewart Bell, a senior national reporter for the National Post who
first became interested in terrorism when Air India was destroyed.

Prior to the events of 9/11, the Air India bombing was the most deadly
terrorism attack in the world and, as Bell points out, it originated
from Canadian soil.

“In the last few years, young Canadians are being radicalized”¦and,
today, many of the individuals being investigated by counter-terrorism
agencies are not immigrants but Canadians.”

“They are born in Canada, have never lived in an Islamic country and
often don’t know their own religion or culture very well,” says Bell.

While Bell notes that some members of the Canadian Muslim community are
working hard at negating the influence of extremist leaders, other
members deny that a problem even exists.

And, as that debate rages, terrorism continues to grow more
sophisticated, often using technology to further its goals. 
Ironically, even media attention serves to help its cause.

“We saw the events of 9/11 as a great tragedy for the victims but the
ideology of Bin Laden got a boost by all the attention it received,”
says Bell.

“Terrorists are very good propagandists and a whole generation of young people are now being fed a certain message.”

In that light, many would agree that the face of terrorism is changing
and, says Bell, it’s time for Canadians to re-think how they see world
affairs.

“Canada needs to harden its defenses but a big part of the solution is
having the intelligence information to deal with threats,” he says.

Bell has invested a consideration amount of time, passion and effort
into investigating terrorism.  As an award-winning investigative and
foreign correspondent, he’s covered conflict in the Middle East,
Afghanistan and West Africa.

He’s also written two books ”“ Cold Terror: How Canada Nurtures and
Exports Terrorism Around the World and The Martyr’s Oath: The
Apprenticeship of an Al Qaeda Terrorist.  They are both on topics that
make most Canadians squirm.  

While Bell poses a number of questions (and offers his own researched
answers), the one uncertainty that remains is whether Canada has lost
the opportunity to ensure its own safety, and that of other countries,
by trying to smother terrorism with kindness?

In response, Bell points the finger at a number of factors including
misguided political decisions, poor immigration laws and a generally
apathetic approach to securing our lifestyle.  But, as skeptics might
protest, do we really need to be alarmed?

“I prefer the British saying that we need to be alert, not alarmed,” answers Bell.  “Then, prepare yourself accordingly.”

While Bell says that homeland terrorism is always going to be an issue,
the recent shift into using technology to train and network terrorists
may be a turning point worthy of alarm.

“The Internet may become the engine that helps to propel the global terrorist movement,” he says.

“Today, there are virtual terrorism cells ”“ people who have never met
in person ”“ and virtual on-line terrorist training grounds.”

“They don’t need Afghanistan anymore.”

In his role as an investigative journalist, Bell subscribes to a
service that infiltrates and monitors chat room traffic and, he notes,
that critical infrastructure targets are being discussed along with
economic targets.

Once a target has been chosen, Bell says “they tend to keep going until the target is attacked”¦they don’t turn back.”

Unfortunately, industry, government and the general public may not be
prepared to prevent or even respond to an event of that nature.

“We have a number of issues working against us”¦a low rate of
prosecution, a lack of public awareness and an unclear understanding of
the risks,” says Bell.

However, he says, there is one thing that is crystal clear.

“There are people out there who would like to do us harm.”

Bell will be sharing more of his thoughts on terrorism as a speaker at
the TriLateral Security Conference, June 19-20, at Calgary’s Deerfoot
Inn and Casino.

Highlighting the theme of Terrorism and its Impact on Security and
Privacy, another speaker, Susheel Gupta, who is a special advisor to
the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, will also be speaking on
his more than seven years as a computer crime advisor and prosecutor.  Gupta was assigned to a number of unique cases in Canada including the
first “mod chip” case, the first “spam” case and the first “copyright
act” case that resulted in a jail sentence.

The conference’s special keynote speaker is Ronald E. Plesco, Jr., an
internationally renowned information security and privacy attorney with
14 years experience in information assurance/privacy, identity
management and computer crime law.  He is now the CEO of the private
sector and federally-funded National Cyber Forensic Training Alliance
Foundation (NCFTA) in Pittsburgh.

Another conference speaker, Patrick Gray, is a senior security
strategist with Cisco Systems.  As a result of his service with the FBI
and the Internet Threat Intelligence Center, he has first-hand
knowledge of the hacking community and its aims and methodologies as
they attack government, e-commerce, energy and financial entities.
 
Feedback from past conference attendees has been exceptionally positive
and the 2008 TriLateral Conference is shaping up to be no different. 
The conference promises to be a don’t-miss event that offers networking
opportunities, door prizes, raffles and dynamic presentations by
security professionals.  For more information, please visit
www.trilateralcalgary.ca



(Nancy Argyle is one of Canada’s most experienced disaster
communicators.  Based in Calgary, she is a university lecturer and
strategic communications consultant who writes on a variety of topics. 
Nancy can be reached at nancy.argyle@writersincorp.com)