Terror is in the Eye of the Beholder: Alberta’s Counterterrorism Unit to Protect Oil and Gas Industry

Fri, 2012-06-15 12:56Carol Linnitt
Carol Linnitt's picture

Terror is in the Eye of the Beholder: Alberta’s Counterterrorism Unit to Protect Oil and Gas Industry

In January, during the week before Canada’s federal hearing on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Harper government and Ethical Oil Institute launched an unprecedented attack on environmental organizations opposed to the pipeline and accelerated expansion of the tar sands. Resurrecting Cold War-style ‘terrorist’ rhetoric, conservative politicians like Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referred to prominent environmental organizations as “radical groups” threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” while using “funding from foreign special interests groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

The government and Ethical Oil singled out environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, and the Pembina Institute, in an orchestrated effort to undermine the credibility of pipeline opponents and to cast doubt on their intentions for the Enbridge Pipeline hearings. 
 
The rhetorical campaign against these alleged ‘environmental extremists’ moved from propaganda to policy last week when the RCMP announced the creation of a new counterterrorism unit in Alberta, designed to protect Canada’s energy infrastructure from so-called ‘security threats.’
 
Counterterrorism in Alberta
 
The unit, called the K Division of Canada’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET), is part of an expanding National Security Criminal Investigations Program designed to “prevent, detect, deny and respond to criminal threats to Canada’s national security,” according to an RCMP press release.  
 
Alberta’s K Division is the only INSET unit created since the program’s initial groups were established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The unit consists of RCMP officers, the Edmonton Police Services, the Calgary Police Services, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
 
According to RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan, Criminal Operations Officer for the unit, “all law enforcement agencies in Alberta have an important role to play in preserving Canada’s national security.”  
 
“The establishment of an INSET team will enable the RCMP and our policing partners in Alberta to work more collaboratively towards the detection of criminal activity in this province that has the potential to impact security,” she added.
 
As the Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday, the RCMP would not say if the unit was created in response to specific threats or if it would focus its attention on specific portions of the province’s energy infrastructure.

However Greg Cox, media relations for the RCMP in Ottawa, did tell the Globe and Mail that there is “no indication that the threat level is higher” in Alberta, adding, “as in any part of the country, we need to remain vigilant.”
 
The RCMP states the creation of Alberta’s INSET was “prompted by factors such as a growing population, a strong economy supported by the province’s natural resources and the need to protect critical infrastructure.”
 
The Creation of “Terror Identities”
 
One month after the slanderous attacks against Canada’s environmental groups began in January, the Harper government released their new Counter-Terrorism Strategy which listed ‘environmentalism’ as a domestic terrorist concern. The Strategy, according to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, was intended to “promote an open discussion with Canadians on the threats we face.”  
 
Yet members of the environmental community saw this as another strategic move to silence, discredit and threaten environmental voices.
 
The report states that “low-level violence by domestic issue-based groups remains a reality in Canada. Such extremism tends to be based on grievances – real or perceived – revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”
 
Within the parameters of Canada’s new Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the kind of pipeline or tar sands development opposition the government faces can be labeled environmental extremism and thus considered a domestic terrorist threat. 
 
This kind of draconian strategy is designed to not only suppress terrorism, according to sociologists Jeffrey Monaghan and Kevin Walby, but is equally designed to legitimize surveillance and suppression of social movements.  
 
In a recently published article in the journal Policing and Society, Monaghan and Walby describe how the Canadian government has “blurred the categories of terrorism, extremism and activism” together under what they call an “aggregate threat matrix.”
 
In their paper, entitled “Making Up ‘Terror Identities’”, the authors describe the production of categories under which the government identifies potential security threats. Analyzing 25 classified reports from Canadian policing and intelligence agencies, gained through Access to Information requests, they uncovered the emergence of a new class of domestic threat in the country: Multi Issue Extremism (MIE).  
 
Moving to counteract MIE, the Canadian government has expanded their early terrorist concerns with “financial security and Al-Queda-inspired terror groups” to include “activist groups, indigenous groups, environmentalists and others who are publicly critical of government policy.”
 
Monaghan and Walby suggest that the government’s increasing concern with MIE is responsible for transforming what constitutes a ‘perceived threat’ in the country, leading to “slippages and inconsistencies of threat categories.”

For this reason, the government has created its own cause to cast the terrorism net wider than in previous times. 
 
As Monaghan and Walby describe the process, once a group is identified as a ‘domestic security concern’ the government establishes special task forces or “intelligence clusters” (like INSET) that engage in the construction of “terror identities.” 
 
By circulating information between agencies like the RCMP, CSIS, other government agencies and the mass media, these ‘clusters’ construct the perception of a threat, lending it a certain ‘facticity.’ Once the ‘terror identity’ gains currency it is short work for these agencies to justify “domestic spying campaigns that target grassroots social movements under the statutory responsibilities of Canadian law.”
 
How much more clearly could the attack on Canada's environmental and First Nation groups be framed? 

Surveillance of Tar Sands Opposition?
 
The creation of Alberta’s counterterrorism unit is an anticipated step in this spy-and-suppress process, as Monaghan describes it.
 
“It is very much in line with the trend of committing more and more national security and counter-terrorism resources without a corresponding basis in any kind of particular threats,” he told the Globe and Mail.
 
Even RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud agrees that there is no particular threat to respond to, although, given the oil and gas boom in Alberta, “one would be led to believe that there is an increased threat to the infrastructure.” 
 
“We are basically looking at any individuals or groups that pose a threat to critical infrastructure, to our economy, to our safety that is based on either religious, political or ideological goals,” he said.
 
Michaud suggested the unit was not created to spy on those opposed to the tar sands or its supporting pipelines, telling the National Post that “there has to be violence attached to their activities in order for us to pay attention to them.”
 
But he followed this statement by adding: “That being said, in our role of preventing these threats from occurring, it is important that intelligence is collected against the activities of groups before they become violent.”

Image Credit: Kris Krug
 

Comments

that the US military would be considered environmental extremists?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqBURjOdOG8

 

 

Its funny since so far the only attacks on oil and gas have been from a right wing nut job, Wiebo Ludwig. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiebo_Ludwig

He tried to run for Socred leadership... Preston Mannning's own father was the leader in the 60's.  Preston Manning went on to form the Reform party... Stephen Harper's party.

 

So please!  Keep these Right Wing nut jobs away from our oil!

 

(I note that Center Right is approximately where conservatives think they are right now... Same as Wiebo Ludwig.)

Wait, was Ludwig a "nut job" because of his religious views, or because he stood up to Big Oil?

When governments see groups like this one below they get very nervous.

Extreme Energy Network

http://frack-off.org.uk/fracking-protesters-lay-siege-to-cuadrilla-drill-rig/

Some of these radical fringe environmentalists may think they are having a bit of youthful 'fun' but they are really entering into some very scary confrontations with powerful government and industry forces that will remain on their records for a lifetime.

Would you want your kids to be part of a group like that? I certainly wouldn't!

Yes.. taking your kids to a local football game and a streaker goes across that field... "Daddy, is he wearing clothes?"  They get a fine and a record.

 

Ultimately getting a record is about as bad as it gets. (Its hard to travel.) And the punishment fits the crime.  In Canada you can get that record expunged, so its not a lifetime issue at all.  The laws were recently changed to prevent Child Predators from getting their record's expunged... Perhaps they can extend that to teen protestors to suit oil and gas interests?  Hmm?

Also, not a single company has asked me if I have a record.  (I don't, FYI.)  So this won't affect employment at all.

 

Perhaps you're thinking that maybe we should reinstate poor houses or perhaps cut off their hands?

[x]

When Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart filed an official complaint with Elections Canada, he did a lot more than question the implications of the Ethical Oil Institute’s collusion with the Conservative Party of Canada: he called national attention to the corrosive effect oil money has had on Canadian politics in recent years.

...

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