CSIS On Bin Laden: Spy Agency Thought Terrorist Leader's Death Unlikely To Dim Flame Of Islamic Extremism

First Posted: 02/22/2012 3:48 pm Updated: 02/22/2012 5:45 pm

Csis Bin Laden Osama
Just hours after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, Canada's spy agency predicted Islamic extremism would live on despite the al-Qaida leader's death. (AP/AFP/GettyImages)

OTTAWA - Just hours after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, Canada's spy agency predicted Islamic radicalism would live on despite the al-Qaida leader's death.

A newly released assessment by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says bin Laden — though important — was not the only ideologue advocating war between Islam and the West.

"The death of bin Laden is unlikely to have a negative impact on the ideology underpinning worldwide Islamist extremism," says the CSIS report.

"The narrative has shown itself to be flexible, adapting as circumstances change and events ebb and flow."

Bin Laden — whose terror network perpetrated the 9-11 attacks — was buried at sea last May after a covert U.S. team alit from helicopters, stormed a high-walled compound in Pakistan and killed him.

The CSIS assessment, written the day after his death, suggests groups inspired by the al-Qaida message might carry out attacks independently of the terrorist network's centre — pointing to an April bomb blast in a Moroccan square popular with tourists.

"These local groups may not have the logistic and operational wherewithal that the Core has (or once had), but they have executed a number of successful attacks."

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the report — initially classified secret — under the Access to Information Act. CSIS excised much of the content for security and confidentiality reasons.

The assessment expresses concern that the killing of bin Laden would be seen as yet further proof that "the West is targeting Muslims in a Muslim country."

"His death as a 'martyr' — as one jihadi website has already stated — will almost certainly reinforce his iconic image and the righteousness of the AQ cause."

The intelligence report reflects a prevailing view among western intelligence agencies that the leadership of al-Qaida mattered less than the strides the organization had made as a global network, said historian Wesley Wark, a security expert who teaches at the University of Ottawa.

"The real impact is that Osama bin Laden is gone, and there is no sign that the al-Qaida core has been able to regenerate itself, or that the idea of a global, transnational terrorist group has been reborn anywhere."

Though much attention has been focused on offshoots or affiliates of al-Qaida in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia, they have played a rather different role in the extremist sphere, Wark said.

"As far as I know, they haven't indicated any rhetorical desire or capability to try and step into the al-Qaida shoes and become that vanguard global terrorism organization that Osama bin Laden dreamed about," he said.

"Secondly, they don't really seem to have focus for their operations that extends much beyond the regional environment in which they're located."

At the same time, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who formally succeeded bin Laden last June, has "kept an extremely low profile," Wark noted.

CSIS spokeswoman Tahera Mufti said that even with bin Laden's demise, al-Qaida "remains one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world."

"I'm referring not just to the operational capacity of the group and its global affiliates, but also to its role in promoting hateful and extremist messages. The ideology unfortunately has survived the leader."

A federal counter-terrorism strategy released this month says violent Islamic extremism — including the possibility of young Canadians becoming radical followers — is the leading threat to Canada’s national security.

Wark said the government needs to be more precise in defining the threat to Canada from both the remnants of al-Qaida and homegrown extremism.

"Are we concerned about that from a Canadian perspective in terms of international insecurity? Do we think there might be links back to Canada? If so, what do they think those might be?" he said.

"The government is very much seized by this radicalization issue. But what is the real state of the threat in Canada?"

INTERESTING DISCOVERIES ON BIN LADEN COMPOUND
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  • Marijuana

    A stroll around the 20-foot-tall, barbed wire led CNN's Nic Robertson to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/05/osama-bin-laden-marijuana-crop_n_858301.html" target="_hplink">discover</a> a crop of marijuana plants just yards from the home. But whether or not bin Laden and his family were growing the weed for recreational purposes remains a mystery, and it has long been speculated that the Al Qaeda leader suffered from kidney failure, which would allow him to get a prescription for medical marijuana in many U.S. states.

  • Pornography

    As Reuters is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13/osama-bin-laden-porn_n_861664.html" target="_hplink">reporting</a>, a "fairly extensive" stash of "modern, electronically recorded" pornography was found in the compound, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

  • 'Natural Viagra'

    The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/osama-bin-laden-avena-sativa-syrup-natura_n_859436.html" target="_hplink">discovery</a> of Avena syrup -- a botanical product often used as "natural Viagra" -- at bin Laden's compound has raised questions about whether or not the Al Qaeda leader or his associates were trying to boost their libidos. Also known by the nickname "wild oats," Avena Sativa syrup has two potential uses: to increase sexual desire, and as artificial sweetener used for a sour stomach.

  • Diary

    Navy SEALs <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/215259/top-5-revelations-from-bin-ladens-diary" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> swiped the terrorist's short journal from his Pakistani compound. The al Qaeda leader is said to have mused about mass murder, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/13/osama-bin-laden-obama-_n_861598.html" target="_hplink">naming </a>his number one target as President Obama, followed by U.S. military leaders including the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Interestingly, bin Laden noted that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden "was not an important target because that position has less weight."

  • No Internet Access

    As the <em>Washington Post</em> is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/osama-bin-ladens-doting-wives-secret-e-mail-system-and-other-secrets-revealed/2011/05/13/AFTdOX2G_blog.html" target="_hplink">reporting</a>, the compound lacked Internet access, so bin Laden would communicate though an "elaborate pass-the-buck" system by typing a message on his computer which would then be saved to a flash drive and given to a trusted courier, who would drive it to far-off Internet cafes and return with incoming e-mail.

  • Soft Drinks

    Bin Laden may have hated the United States, but that didn't stop him from <a href=" Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1383429/Osama-Bin-Laden-dead-Marijuana-grew-near-luxury-compound-Abbottabad.html#ixzz1MG1HF265" target="_hplink">reportedly </a>indulging in plenty of Coca-Cola and Pepsi -- products that are often associated with the Western commercialism the al Qaeda leader is said to have despised.

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Filed by Michael Bolen  |