MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Mar 11

  • Some alleged terrorist bad boys, University of Manitoba alum, are being sought by the RCMP. “A four-year RCMP national security criminal investigation, known as Project Darken, has resulted in arrest warrants being issued for two former Winnipeg residents on terrorism-related charges. RCMP investigators in Winnipeg have compiled evidence that two Canadian citizens, Maiwand Yar and Ferid Ahmed Imam, conspired to travel to Pakistan for terrorist training, with plans to later join the insurgency against NATO forces in Afghanistan. Ferid Ahmed Imam, age 30, is being sought on charges of instructing to carry out terrorist activity and conspiracy to participate in activity of a terrorist group. Maiwand Yar, age 27, is being sought on charges of conspiracy to participate in activity of a terrorist group and participation in activity of a terrorist group. Both individuals are known to have traveled to Pakistan in March 2007. The current whereabouts of Maiwand Yar and Ferid Imam are unknown. These charges are being laid in absentia and Canada-wide arrest warrants have been issued for both men ….” Even CSIS’s Prairie Region boss made a statement on this one (PDF, via Army.ca).  More from CNN here, Agence France-Presse here,   A reminder: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s constitution, guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • A few more details on one of the chaps, courtesy of the FBI “A superseding indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court yesterday charging Ferid Imam, also known as “Yousef,” with providing and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda, aiding and abetting the terrorist training of Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay, and Adis Medunjanin, and using a destructive device in furtherance of crimes of violence.1 The indictment was unsealed in coordination with Canadian authorities, who earlier today announced terrorism charges against Imam, who is a Canadian citizen. According to the Eastern District indictment, Imam aided and abetted Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin’s receipt of military-type training from al Qaeda when the three men traveled to Pakistan in 2008. Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin subsequently returned to the United States to carry out a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices on behalf of al Qaeda. This plot was uncovered and disrupted by law enforcement authorities in September 2009. Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on February 22, 2010; Ahmedzay similarly pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010 ….”
  • Canada on a No-Fly Zone for Libya We don’t reject the idea out of hand, but there’s no consensus among G8 members yet (plus we need a U.N. Security Council resolution).
  • Interesting where some of those weapons and weapon parts Canada’s been selling ended up: “…. Almost $1.1 million worth of military goods were exported to Yemen in the reporting period. Most of those exports were aircraft, unmanned airborne vehicles and other aircraft equipment “specially designed or modified for military use.” Another $80,000 was dedicated to “specialized equipment for military training or for simulating military scenarios,” while less than $1,000 was exported to Yemen for “ammunition and fuse-setting devices, and specially designed components.” In 2009, Libya received more than $85,000 in military exports from Canada, with most of that total -$80,000 -going to military simulators ….” The full DFAIT report is here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) The federal government is planning a campaign to “better inform” Canadians about the costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets, according to one Conservative MP. The upcoming campaign comes on the heels of a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office last week that estimated the 65 jets Canada is buying could cost $29.3 billion, not the $16 billion the government had projected. But Tory MP Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, said the government has “fundamental” problems with the PBO’s methodology. One of those problems is that the PBO’s estimate of the plane’s cost is based on historical data of cost-per-weight of other military aircraft. “We’re not buying a sack of potatoes here. We’re buying a high-tech piece of gear,” Hawn said. “That (methodology) may work well from a purely statistician, bean-counter perspective, but we don’t think it reflects the real-world actual costs of technology, materials or components going into the airplane. “That’s where we are coming up with our numbers, and we’re confident in them,” he added ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Meanwhile, south of the border where the F-35s are being tested/made, a government watchdog group says change is happening (but it’s also slowing things down)“DOD continues to restructure the JSF program, taking positive, substantial actions that should lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. Restructuring has consequences–higher up-front development costs, fewer aircraft bought in the near term, training delays, and extended times for testing and delivering capabilities to warfighters. Total development funding is now estimated at $56.4 billion to complete in 2018, a 26 percent cost increase and a 5-year schedule slip from the current baseline ….” (h./t to Mark Collins for this one).
  • How Canada’s Conference of Defence Associations reads the latest government spending plan for 2011-2012 when it comes to defence (PDF).
  • Private Thomas Lawless, 1889-1917, CEF, R.I.P. “Nearly a century after his death, Private Thomas Lawless, a Canadian First World War soldier whose remains were recovered and identified on January 10, 2011, was buried today with full military honours at La Chaudière Military Cemetery, in Vimy, France …. Private Lawless was born on April 11, 1889, in Dublin, Ireland, and enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Calgary, Alberta. He was a member of the 49th Battalion, CEF, who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Veterans Affairs Canada has provided support to the family members of Private Lawless and has also coordinated their participation in the interment ceremony ….” More from the Canadian Press here and Agence France-Presse here.
  • Repairing an aging federal air base in Labrador is not important for some members of the Canadian military, according to documents obtained by CBC News. “Infrastructure at Goose Bay would be an extremely low priority. Little would be accomplished at Goose Bay and infrastructure reduction measures would have to be taken,” wrote Major Nanette Fleissen in a February 2009 letter advising senior military officials about air base repairs. The internal Department of National Defence documents show the 5 Wing Goose Bay air base requires about $128-million worth of work ….” Again, I can’t find a link to any of the documents, so I guess nobody’s sharing them.
  • The national tax dollar watchdog is warning the feds not to get carried away with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 next year. And even if a recently reported figure of $100 million for the commemoration is wrong, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is still cautioning restraint. “They’re going to have to borrow this money, whatever the costs are. Let’s be clear about this, they don’t have this money kicking around in a cookie jar marked ‘Bicentennial War of 1812 Fund’,” said Scott Hennig, the federation’s national communications director. “The government needs to be darned sure this spending is absolutely necessary. And we’re not even talking about fighting a real war here, where you might be able to justify borrowing money to go into debt, we’re talking about re-enacting one.” According to a media report Monday, the bicentennial celebrations will include re-enactments of the war’s famous battles, repairs to monuments and plaques, a national essay-writing competition, a documentary, a new visitor centre at Fort York in Toronto, and a new website dedicated to the war between the U.S. and Canada that resulted in the White House and Capital Building being burned during a British raid on Washington in 1814. A government source denounced the $100 million figure reported Monday, saying the government was planning to spend “significantly less.” Officials at the department of heritage declined interview requests from QMI Agency, but a spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said the government would be announcing details of the bicentennial “in due course ….” What?  No puppets with South East Asian music re-enacting the battles?  I’m crushed ….

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 25 Feb 11

  • Whaddya do when you want to help Canadians GTFO Libya, but the insurance company won’t cover the charter plane you’ve hired go in? Send in the big honkin’ military plane instead! “Canada will send a military cargo plane to evacuate its citizens from Libya, where conditions are becoming more dangerous, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Thursday. The announcement came hours after plans to send a chartered civilian airliner on Thursday to the Libyan capital Tripoli fell through over insurance concerns. Cannon said nearly 200 Canadians had been, or were about to be, evacuated from Libya on planes and ships arranged by other nations. Cannon, speaking to reporters in the Canadian embassy in Rome, said a C-17 military transport plane with 156 seats was on its way to Italy from Germany and would fly to Tripoli as soon as Libyan authorities have permission. He also said a charter plane from Amman would arrive in Tripoli in the early hours of Friday. So far, 213 Canadians have expressed a desire to leave Libya ….” About the bit in red, if this is correct, I really hope a politician is not going to take up a seat in any of the planes flying out of Libya.  To be fair, I’ve also found this for his being there:  “…. Cannon is in Italy to discuss the situation in Libya and the region with his Italian counterpart….” More from CBC.ca here.
  • Other ways outta Libya: “…. Canada’s governor general …. has agreed to keep his aircraft on standby for possible use; he is due to be in Kuwait on Friday. Italy has also offered to welcome any Canadians trapped in Benghazi aboard its navy ships that have authorization to approach Libyan shores, he said. It’s not clear if and when the Italian vessels might arrive ….”
  • Here’s more on how the military does this sort of thing if the effort is cranked up further.
  • At least one observer with Canadian military experience is saying something more needs to be done about Egypt.
  • A Liberal and a Tory senator lay out how Canada can help in Libya. “…. Support from the international community, and Canada especially, should be offered for building Libyan civil society and the national institutions neglected and denied during Gadhafi’s four-decade, one-man rule.  Although the Security Council has expressed “grave concern” and called on Libya “to meet its responsibility to protect its population,” its issuance of a press statement is insufficient to communicate the gravity of the situation that Libyans face -namely, the threat of mass atrocities. Time is literally of the essence …. But strong words must be paired with strong action. Canada and the international community must stand by the people of Libya who, like so many others throughout the Arab world, seek the basic human rights that should be enjoyed by all who desire them. Whereas the protests elsewhere have led to relatively peaceful transitions or to dialogues for reform, Libya’s rulers have chosen repression and slaughter …. We have seen the cost of inaction, delay and obfuscation on innocent populations elsewhere. The Responsibility to Protect is about the world engaging when a civilian population is under attack -either from its own government or because its government lacks the means or will to protect it. Libya is one of the clearest examples yet of just such a circumstance.  Canada has an opportunity to help build a coalition at the UN for rapid engagement. This needs to be a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • The leader of Canada’s last battle group in Afghanistan says his goal to establish a presence in every town and village in Kandahar’s Panjwaii district may not be attainable. Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis said last month that it was his aim to be present in every Panjwaii community before Canada’s military mission ends in July. But St-Louis says that may have been overly optimistic. Still, he says the Canadian military and Afghan National Security Forces have eroded the insurgency’s freedom of movement in the violent district in recent weeks ….”
  • Taking a trick out of the Taliban’s play book to reassure Afghans. “The letter opens with a greeting seemingly ripped from a fairy tale: “Brothers and sisters, sleep soundly.” Beginning this week, Afghans in Kandahar province will wake up to those warm words posted on their front doors. The Canadian military is borrowing a Taliban tactic to counter the insurgency’s message, coming up with night letters of its own to be distributed in select communities in the Panjwaii district, where most of Canada’s battle group is based. The letter, written in Pashto, is an attempt to reassure locals that the Afghan National Security Forces are patrolling their villages at night. It also encourages them to report suspected insurgent activity, such as the planting of improvised explosive devices or stashing of weapons, and provides phone numbers where people can offer tips while maintaining their anonymity ….” More on the Taliban’s use of night letters here and here.
  • Poochie story o’ the week: “The Canadian Army has been employing sniffer dogs to detect mines and improvised explosive devices (IED) not only along routes, but also in buildings and vehicles. “We work with canine teams nearly every day, and the dogs form an integral part of our teams and sections,” explained Sergeant Alexandre Murgia, commander of a combat-engineer section of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group (1 R22eR BG) ….”
  • 23 Feb 11: The head of Canada’s public service gives a Twitter atta boy to civil servants working in Afghanistan. 11 Jan 11: The date of the speech by the head of Canada’s public service in Afghanistan, giving them an atta boy about working in Afghanistan. The good news: good to see government using social media. The bad news: a bit more immediacy (something less than 6 weeks) would keep this sort of thing more timely.
  • Oopsie…. “The cost to refit one of Canada’s trouble-plagued submarines is skyrocketing, according to documents obtained under an access to information request by CBC News. In the year 2010 alone, the Canadian navy spent $45 million on repairs to HMCS Windsor. It had budgeted to spend just $17 million, the documents show. It appears that every system on the British-built submarine has major problems, according to the documents, including bad welds in the hull, broken torpedo tubes, a faulty rudder and tiles on the side of the sub that continually fall off ….” Broken record:  any links to the access to information documents obtained?  Nope (again).
  • Tracking down the identity of REALLY “old” soldiers. “The Honourable Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, announced today that Department of National Defence has identified the remains of a First World War soldier found in Avion, France, in 2003, as those of Private Thomas Lawless of Calgary, Alberta …. In October 2003, two sets of human remains were found at a construction site south of Avion, France, in the vicinity of Vimy Ridge. Over a period of six years, the Casualty Identification section of the Directorate of History and Heritage, sought the identity of the soldiers …. The first soldier was identified, in February 2007, as Private Herbert Peterson of Berry Creek, Alberta. Through continued genetic testing using inherited genetic material through the maternal line (mitochondrial DNA), osteology, facial reconstruction, military history and finally, stable isotopes – the second soldier was identified as Private Thomas Lawless on January 10, 2011. Veterans Affairs Canada has made contact with the members of Private Lawless’ family and will provide on-going support to the family as arrangements are made and carried out for the final interment ….” More on how this sort of thing is done.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Attacks alleged in Kandahar, and the Taliban like what the Washington Post has to say.