Muslim Wire

Arrest of Canadian on terror charges rekindles concerns about U.S.-Canada border

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 29, 2009

WASHINGTON – A Canadian businessman will remain behind bars in Chicago charged with helping to plot a terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper – the second high-profile terror arrest in the United States in recent weeks with a Canadian connection.

A Chicago judge said Wednesday she needs more information before she can determine whether Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who owns an immigration services company with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto, can be freed on bond while he awaits trial or whether he poses a serious flight risk.

Rana, a Canadian citizen who was born in Pakistan, is the second terror suspect in a month with strong ties to Canada, although he’s lived in the U.S. for almost 15 years running his business and operating a slaughterhouse in rural Illinois.

Authorities allege that Najibullah Zazi, accused of plotting what might have been the biggest U.S. terrorist attack since 9-11, travelled twice to Canada in the months prior to his arrest. Zazi has family in Mississauga, west of Toronto.

The latest arrest is bad news for Canada, because it serves to confirm long-held suspicions among American law enforcement officials about Canadian efforts to catch potential terrorists, said one longtime observer of Canada-U.S. relations.

“If you guys had caught him, it would have been great, we’d be saying, ‘Well done!”‘ Chris Sands, who specializes in border issues for the Washington-based Hudson Institute, said Wednesday.

“But the fact that we found him and he’s a Canadian citizen may raise some concerns about how well Canada is monitoring the situation up there.”

There’s a “fresh set of eyes” in Washington that’s looking at Canada-U.S. border issues, Sands added.

“Unfortunately, they’re seeing what the last guys saw – that people can get into Canada, that there are sleeper cells in Canada. They’re wondering again if Canada is in a bit of denial about the situation.”

Border issues have long been a source of tension between Canada and the U.S. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, George W. Bush’s administration feared the Canada-U.S. boundary was porous and took measures to beef up security as Canadian exporters complained that trade was suffering under the weight of the new rules.

Since the election of President Barack Obama last year, Canadian officials have been repeatedly assuring the U.S. that Canada treats terror threats with deadly seriousness. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the point most recently during his Oval Office chat with Obama last month, assuring him that any threat against the United States was considered a threat against Canada.

Rana’s lawyer, Patrick Blegen, told Judge Nan Nolan on Wednesday that family members in Canada were willing to post “what amounts to their life savings” in order to get him out of federal custody as he awaits trial. Two of Rana’s brothers in New Jersey were also ready to post their homes as bond, he said.

Blegen added that the bearded and corpulent Rana, 48, suffers from an old shoulder injury that makes it difficult for him to push a button that operates the water faucet in his cell. Rana needs to see a doctor, Blegen said.

U.S. authorities allege Rana provided travel services and other help to another man charged in the case, David Coleman Headley, as Headley scouted out the offices of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper for a possible terrorist attack.

The paper outraged hardline Muslims by publishing a series of cartoons in 2005 that depicted the prophet Muhammad, something that’s strictly forbidden under Islamic law; the men allegedly had planned to target cultural editor Flemming Rose and cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Blegen suggested his client was duped by Headley, his friend since they both attended military school in Pakistan, and had no idea that he was involved in plotting the attack, which Headley had allegedly dubbed “The Mickey Mouse Project.”

“There is no proof that allegations of murder or blowing up a building would ever be tied to Mr. Rana,” Blegen said during the detention hearing.

Headley is a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani. He’s charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States.

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