TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT APPEARS TO BE IGNORING INTELLIGENCE ON TERROR THREATS TO CIVILIAN AVIATION
When asked this week if Canada was going to follow our closest allies, the United States and United Kingdom in banning electronic devices larger than a cellphone in airliner cabins from flights originating in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s response was that Canada was looking at the matter. This is the same Transport Minister who announced new regulations last week to cracking down on recreational drone users with new safety regulations forcing them to stay nine kilometers from any airport, near people, buildings, at night, and when first responders are on scene at an emergency. He did this because there have been several near misses of drones with civilian airliners which by all accounts could be catastrophic. But with the United States and United Kingdom taking steps over concerns with potential bombs disguised as batteries to the laptop or other large electrical device like an I-pad, the Minister vacillates.
Are we that out of touch with our “Five Eyes” intelligence community partners and our closest allies, not to mention plain reality, that we are not going to follow suit and ban these devices from cabins on flights originating in six countries.?
To be fair, some aviation security experts have questioned the cabin ban saying that a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft whether cabin or hold is potentially catastrophic. They have cautioned that smart phones can trigger bombs, and that Samsung Note 7 smart phones have a tendency to explode and must be kept turned off on flights, and or stored in checked baggage. Experts point out that guns disguised to look like smart phones that could be smuggled onto passenger liner flights are also a concern. Aviation security experts have questioned the rational for banning laptops and I-pads from the cabin, but not smart phones. Then there are human rights activists who again are charging that the ban only applies to Muslim countries. It has been speculated in the press that this could apply to permanent Canadian residents too. So perhaps the Minister of Transport and Trudeau government are right to be cautious.
But my spider sense is telling me something is up on the intelligence front and our closes allies and partners know, and we either don’t know, or are choosing to ignore new intelligence, that says terrorists namely, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and their allies, have plans to bring down passenger jets. It is exceedingly unlikely that intelligence of this sort would not be shared with Canada. In fact, the Minister of Transport has said that he has spoken to the Department of Homeland Security about the measures. The reported rational for the cabin ban is the 2015 Metrojet airliner that was believed to be downed by an insider who planted a bomb on the flight, and the 2016 failed attempt to destroy a Somali passenger with a laptop containing a bomb. In a sense this is not new. In 2001, we saw the so-called “Shoe Bomber” incident where an Al Qaeda bomber tried to blow up a flight from Paris by setting off a bomb concealed in his shoe. Then in 2009, we saw the so-called "Underwear Bomber" try to bring down a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb concealed in his underwear. Terrorist are very good at finding ways around security countermeasures and both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda have shown an interest in downing civilian passenger jets. The one thing that I know from my time in government is that intelligence is hard to come by, and tightly held, and shared sparingly, and this is likely a case in point. But this type of intelligence would quickly make its way to Canada and other close allies.
There may be a clue in the January 13th, 2017, French newspaper, Le Parisien, report that claimed that French authorities believed the Egypt Air 804 might have been brought down by a fire in the cockpit that was caused by an overheating phone battery. The report noted parallels between the position where the co-pilot stored his iPad and iPhone and flight data which suggested a fire on the right-side of the flight deck, next to the co-pilot. Do the British and Americans know something that the French do not in terms of what brought down Egypt Air 804 or is it something else that has not emerged yet in an open and transparent democratic society?
Either way, the Trudeau government and our Transport Minister have problems. The American Secretary for Homeland Security has stated publicly that there have been terrorist plots to bring down Air Canada flights. The government has demonstrated very clearly with the flow of illegal migrants that Canada is reluctant to secure our border and enforce the law. The perception is that if migrants can illegally cross our borders then the bad guys can cross our borders on the way to the United States too. Now, it appears, according to rumor, that the Trudeau government is intent on privatizing our airports to be announced soon in the coming federal budget. Standing by and doing nothing on the electronics ban in airliner cabins originating from six countries where terrorism is a concern, is a risk too big to take, and the British and the United States are not doing this to be overly cautious, ham-fisted, racist or difficult, they are doing taking these steps because they have crucial potentially life-saving intelligence.
Let’s hope that the Trudeau government does not ignore the Aviation security-related intelligence at Canadian travelers’ peril.