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CSIS, RCMP launch probes against possible Olympic threats

CSIS, RCMP launch probes against possible Olympic threats
Jeff Lee , Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, October 08, 2008

VANCOUVER - Security forces are predicting protests will escalate as the 2010 Olympics approach and have mounted a number of "intelligence probes" to counteract threats.

The information is contained in heavily censored documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP, the lead agency for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU.)

The "threat assessments" show police have identified several threats to Olympic security, including anti-globalization, anti-corporate and First Nations activists, as well as international extremist organizations like al-Qaida, which has already singled out the London 2012 Summer Games as a target.

Security remains one of the biggest concerns in the lead-up to the Games, particularly since the federal government has now acknowledged it underestimated the cost of providing security. The federal and B.C. governments have been in discussions over a significant revision to the current $175-million security budget, which may spread costs to participating municipalities.

An April 2007 threat assessment written by the ISU's joint intelligence group says organized crime remains "the most probable and immediate security risk" to the 2010 Games. Written by Insp. Alex Graham, the report said the unit's "current priority" is on the financial integrity of the Games.

But he also said the ISU is tracking a number of potential domestic and international threats and noted that Canada's increasing role in Afghanistan has changed peoples' perceptions of Canada as a peacekeeper.

In a section titled "Foreign Extremist Groups," the report notes al-Qaida operatives have warned Canada to withdraw from Afghanistan or risk attacks similar to 9/11 and terrorist bombings in London and Madrid. It also noted that the RCMP's national security branch in November 2006 said al-Qaida terrorists intended to attack Canada and that they recently called for strikes against Canadian oil and natural gas facilities.

"Canada is viewed as a priority target because of the country's high-profile role in Afghanistan and its close relationship with the United States in the war on terrorism," the report states.

All the current threat levels have been censored in the 51-page document, which broadly groups threats into financial security/organized crime, public order, emotionally disturbed persons, information technology security, terrorism and public health.

But it gives a hint as to the RCMP's concern about safety during the Games. In one section, it notes that the ISU "has or is conducting several intelligence probes" but does not identify the groups targeted.

It also notes that Vancouver's housing and homelessness crisis "has been the impetus for numerous contentious protests" and "protest activity is expected to increase as the Games near and international exposure grows."

The ISU declined to comment Wednesday, saying it needed more time to respond.

Several CSIS assessments linked vandalism against at least one Olympic sponsor, RBC, to protests against the 2010 Games. They noted a group called the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement planned to stop at 20 places in Eastern Canada and the U.S. East Coast to promote opposition to the Games. And they tracked public reports about a meeting in Mexico of 1,500 aboriginal delegates from North and South America who adopted an anti-2010 Olympics resolution.

"I think you get a very definite sense that this (Olympics) is a likely target," said David Harris, a former CSIS officer, now director of international and terrorist intelligence programs at Insignis Strategic Research. "Undertaking the terrorist calculus of interest for them, you come up with some fairly startling impressions of where 2010 would figure. Nothing that says Group X is specifically interested in and planning to do (damage to) 2010, but as a reasonable professional surmises, one would surely have to expect based on the evidence that this is a high risk."

Chris Shaw, a spokesman for 2010 Watch, a self-described independent watchdog of the Games, said he's not surprised to hear that the RCMP may be surveilling domestic protest groups, noting that the RCMP and other police have in the past infiltrated anti-globalization organizations.

But he says they're wrong in thinking such groups are a real threat to the Games.

"I think they're misguided because they are going after the low-hanging fruit," he said. "To look at us as security threats is to ignore the real threats."

Shaw, who has long been associated with anti-globalization issues and was one of the first to speak out against the 2010 Games, said no one in his group endorses violence, although there are some radical elements.

"I think the biggest threat these guys (anti-Olympic activists) pose is embarrassing the city in front of a global audience of three billion people."

© Vancouver Sun 2008


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