Micheal Vonn

Micheal Vonn

Police tactics questioned in Canada Day bomb probe

Did Surrey suspects prepare terror attack on their own?

Civil libertarians want more detail on how police investigated the Canada Day bomb plot to see if officers came too close to entrapping the accused Surrey couple.

John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody were arrested July 1 on terrorism-related charges after the planting of disabled pressure cooker bombs outside the legislature in Victoria.

Doubts have grown about their ability to carry out an act of terrorism as more details spilled out about their impoverished life inside a north Surrey basement suite, where they lived on social assistance without a vehicle and got methadone treatment for drug addiction.

Police say they became “self-radicalized” to support the Al-Qaeda ideology and posed a serious threat to kill or maim people.

RCMP officers announcing the arrests said a “variety of complex investigative and covert techniques” were used to monitor and control the pair to prevent public harm.

Micheal Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the concern is that undercover officers may have interacted with the suspects to essentially advance the plot and provide assistance.

Much depends on the police assessment of the level of risk the two suspects posed to public safety in the early stages of the five-month investigation.

Vonn said an apparently urgent, genuine public danger would “arguably justify” undercover officers becoming part of the plot to derail it.

But she said the calculation should be very different if police judged they were monitoring two suspects who – regardless of what they may have been saying – wouldn’t or couldn’t make and plant bombs unaided.

“If we did have a case where police actively facilitated the planting of what were supposed to be explosive devices, then we are going to have to ask ourselves questions about fundamental fairness, the appropriateness of this and whether our legal system has a place for this,” Vonn said.

“Because then you’re creating a crime that otherwise would not exist.”

Vonn sees parallels to the ‘Mr. Big’ investigations where officers pose as a crime boss and his henchmen and goad a suspect to say or do incriminating things in order to become part of the organization.

Canadians should be vigilant about how authorities pursue terror cases, she said, adding there have been a raft of U.S. cases where agents have been deeply involved with suspects, who are unlikely to have done anything criminal on their own.

And she said British agents probing environmental groups in the U.K. have gone as far as to have relationships with suspects and father children with them as part of years-long covert surveillance operations.

Rob Gordon, director of SFU’s school of criminology, said police would have had to weigh the risk to public safety and security against their aim of allowing the Surrey suspects to generate enough evidence to get a conviction.

“Here, I think they got the balance right,” Gordon said.

Police claim to have had tight control over the bombs to ensure they were harmless.

Gordon said police could have used a different strategy – such as rushing in much sooner to disrupt the plotters before any bomb was built – but the Surrey duo likely wouldn’t have been convicted and any other co-consipirators might have dispersed and become harder to stop from hatching a new plot.

He cautioned not enough is yet public to draw conclusions as to whether officers’ actions came anywhere near entrapment.

“When you look at the two individuals involved you can’t help but be under-impressed and that makes me wonder about whether they really knew what they were doing.”

But Gordon said he’d be surprised if police actively encouraged or assisted the suspects.

He also noted the operations would likely have been guided in part by a federal Crown prosecutor, to ensure there were no critical gaps in the evidence being gathered.

Both Vonn and Gordon were critical of how the Surrey landlord let media into the couple’s suite – a clear privacy violation that may also have court ramifications.

“I think that could backfire,” Gordon said. “Defence could use it to argue that it creates bias in the minds of a jury.”

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen declined to comment further on the investigation tactics used in the Nuttall-Korody case.

“The details of the police investigation are going to become clear in the impending court case,” Thiessen said.

Just Posted

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read