Jihad follies [updated]

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Waziristan training camp.jpg

An article in an on-line Asian newspaper has thrown the proverbial cat among already nervous pigeons. Canadian citizens are, even as we speak, allegedly training as jihadis in Waziristan.

The article also provides the names of some of the Canadian trainees, including a “Leman Langlois” and a “James Richards,” among others. The Asia Times Online article says the names provided by sources could not be independently identified.

The Globe and Mail reported that no Canadians by the provided names are known to be missing or being sought by police.

The name “Leman Langlois,” not the most common name in Canadian francophonia, did ring a bell. Aha!

Stéphane Leman-Langlois is a counter-terrorism expert. He even testified last year before a Senate committee:

Stéphane Leman-Langlois [is] a criminology professor at the School of Social Work, Laval University. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Surveillance and the Social Construction of Risk and is Research Director for the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Research Group at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology at the University of Montreal.

He is also a member of the Institut québécois des hautes études internationales, at Laval, and the Raoul-Dandurand Chair in Strategic and Development Studies at UQAM. His research has focused on justice during political transitions, policing, security intelligence, terrorism and new surveillance technologies. His most recent publications include, with Jean-Paul Brodeur, in 2009, Terrorisme et antiterrorisme au Canada, in 2008, Technocrime: Technology, Crime and Social Control, and, in 2007, La Sociocriminologie.

Professor Leman-Langlois’ remarks are in fact quite an interesting read, but that’s an aside.

My question is: could the newspaper in question, or its informants, be twisting our tail?

UPDATE: A sharp-eyed commenter notes that another of the names on the newspaper was “Jean Paul” — and that Leman-Langlois’ co-author on the paper cited above was Jean-Paul Brodeur.

UPPERDATE: And Professor Leman-Langlois himself weighs in, taking a swipe at the media while giving kudos to, ahem, this blog. After noting the same odd coincidence, and affirming that neither he nor his colleague have ever been to Pakistan, he points out that journalists missed what might be the most interesting part of this story, falling back on their gut reactions:

Là où cette histoire devient intéressante, c’est au moment où on commence à se demander quelle est la fiabilité, en général, de ce genre de journalisme …qui devient souvent la source de grands discours et de politiques gouvernementales, d’équipes de renseignement, et de bien d’autres sortes d’activités…

Les médias et les blogues reprennent cette nouvelle à qui mieux mieux sans faire la moindre vérification (une exception!). C’est que l’histoire correspond à un nombre d’idées reçues et à l’image que nous nous faisons du terrorisme international. Elle correspond également à l’histoire utilisée par le gouvernement du Canada pour vendre sa «lutte au terrorisme» en Afghanistan, à coups de milliards et de vies humaines: sans notre intervention, les terroristes vont s’y regrouper pour mieux nous attaquer. Enfin, elle correspond aussi à l’histoire servie par les gouvernements afghan, pakistanais et bien d’autres: aidez-nous à réprimer le terrorisme, sinon vous en ferez les frais.

Éventuellement, je ne sais pas quand, il va falloir arrêter de paniquer avec le terrorisme. Demain ne sera pas trop tôt, mais je ne suis pas optimiste là-dessus. Quand de tels rapports cousus de fil blanc se retrouvent à la une un peu partout, on en voit difficilement la fin. Pourtant, même si toute l’histoire était vraie et que 12 terroristes «canadiens pure laine» avaient décidé de s’attaquer à leurs concitoyens, ça ajouterait quoi à notre insécurité, statistiquement? Rien. Absolument rien. Les risques que nous soyons victimes d’une attaque terroriste resteraient mathématiquement insignifiants.

[At that point, when the story actually became interesting, is the moment when one begins to wonder about the reliability, in general, of this kind of journalism…which is so often the source of wide discussions and government policy, information networks, and many other kinds of activity…

The media and bloggers have been passing on this news, trying to outdo each other, without doing the slightest verification (one exception!). The narrative corresponds to a number of received ideas and images that we create of international terrorism. It corresponds equally to the narrative used by the government of Canada to sell its “war against terrorism” in Afghanistan, costing billions, and human lives: without our intervention, the terrorists will organize themselves the better to attack us. And, as well, it corresponds to the narrative served up by the Afghan, Pakistani and many other governments: help us to repel terrorism: if not, you will pay the cost.

Eventually, I don’t know when, it’s going to be necessary to stop panicking about terrorism. Tomorrow can’t be soon enough, but I’m not optimistic about that. When such cobbled-together reports are found all over the place, it’s difficult to see the end of them. Yet, even if the whole story were true, and 12 “pure laine” Canadians have decided to attack their fellow-citizens, what does that add to our collective insecurity statistically speaking? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The risk of our being victims of a terrorist attack remain statistically insignificant.]

UPPESTDATE: The anonymous commenter who identified “Jean Paul” has now found a third missing piece:

Further to “Jean Paul” being the co-author of Professor Leman-Langlois’ paper, the “James Richard” mentioned in the list of suspects must be James Richard Cross, the British diplomat kidnapped by the FLQ and mentioned in the paper on page 10 of the PDF.

MORE: From the Red Faces Department, here is an earlier report (January 14):

All are common English and French surnames, which Martin Rudner, a terrorism expert and professor emeritus with Ottawa’s Carleton University, said lends the report credibility because it fits a growing trend of young Europeans and North Americans converting to radical Islam and joining jihadi ranks.

H/t reader Holly Stick.

AND: the CBC’s Julie Van Dusen twigs.

H/t S. Leman-Langlois.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on January 15, 2011 5:20 PM.

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