So we segue now from Alex Gabriel’s musings about Winnipeg and Louis Riel to, naturally, a scene at the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre (ITAC)!
So if you’ve never heard of them, the ITAC is a real life entity made up of representatives from multiple police and intelligence services that can be brought together to bring multiple perspectives and information sources to bear on a particular security problem.
They were actually in the news recently when it was revealed that they had been closely following the (distinctly non-violent) Idle No More movement, to the point of where there was serious talk about raising the national threat level. This particular article (and the book that it discusses) raises further concerns in that the ITAC was working directly with Indigenous Affairs and at one point a private corporation (SWN Resources Canada) that was confronting a native blockade in New Brunswick around the same time.
This is problematic as hell. While there may be a good reason for ITAC to at least keep an eye on a movement like Idle No More, Indigenous Affairs was risking a lot working with them (at least so long as the movement was staying peaceful). Indigenous Affairs has a long term mission to be an honest broker between the government and the First Nations. Cooperating with a security agency to confront a movement of non-violent protest can directly undermine this mission for a generation.
As for government security agencies taking sides in a dispute between a corporation and citizens? Well, that’s something that’s had a long and ugly history in North America (and a good chunk of Europe too). While in some cases the disruption of essential services might necessitate government to step in as an arbitrator, so long as the dispute is peaceful the government of Canada should not be taking the side of a for-profit business against the demands of her citizens.
I’m bringing this up because in the upcoming sections of the novel Bland is going to portray this very same organization as helpless before the all-consuming forces of Political Correctness. While Bland’s portrayal paints of picture more of incompetence then liberal-enforced helplessness, it’s important to remember that in the real world, the power dynamic usually runs in the other direction.
So on with the story! If you’re wondering why the ITAC suddenly showing up here, a hundred pages into the novel…well that’s a good question. They’re not actually going to show up again for the rest of the novel, and none of the characters named here are going to have any role in future events. But they’re going to take up a considerable amount of real-estate here, summarizing a bunch of stuff we already know and wringing their hands about just how helpless they are in the face of political correctness and evil native radicals.
Fuck, I wish I was joking.
The rest of this chapter of Uprising flashes back and forth between a conference at the ITAC and Col Stevenson’s HQ in Winnipeg. From the looks of things, it seems as though Bland is trying to work a kind of back-and-forth mirror image juxtaposition kind of scene that most movie goers would be familiar with: The hero descends the stairs while the villain climbs upwards. Neither one knows the other is drawing near, and the audience is treated to a back and forth cutting as each man gets closer and closer.
Like many other scenes in this novel, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this as a concept. In the interest of economy it might have been smarter to include Col Dobson as a character in order to tie it more tightly in with the already established characters. But overall, not a bad concept. The real problem here is with the execution, and what this seems to say about Bland’s concept of threats:
Eliot Quadra tapped his pencil on the shiny table with increasing impatience. In front of him, down both sides of the table in the most secure conference room inside the ITAC, sat the best intelligence officers he could assemble from the Canadian intelligence community. They had been assigned to the analysis section because they were both experienced and intuitive. Each of them had the rare ability of being able to extract the essence of a security problem from masses of data. They all possessed that rare and vital analytical quality, insight-the capacity to find the hidden truth in complex situation. Yet here they sat, after an hour of discussion, with no clear idea of how the Native People’s Movement was organized and, more to the point, what their leaders were planning now that they had openly attacked Canadian Forces bases and armouries and collected a worrying range of deadly weapons.
Today the only questions were about internal security, and the prime minister was asking the questions. “I want,” he had told Quadra directly, “some solid, credible intelligence on the threat facing the government from the so-called aboriginal radicals. And I want something other than what the military is telling me.”
Oh no! Political correctness and weak-kneed liberals are interfering! Now we’ll never have a chance to defend ourselves against the natives! Seriously though, this particular portrayal really defies belief: At this point they have a man dead, gunfire on two other bases, and a shit load of weapons stolen, but the Prime Minister calls them ‘so-called radicals?’
I mean, really? We’re supposed to buy this? I mean I could believe radical-fringe-that-doesn’t-represent-First-Nations-as-a-whole, but Bland’s Prime Minister is going to pretend that they’re not even radicals?
When we meet the PM in a few pages, one of his first responses to the NPA will be to reach out to the established First Nations leadership in an attempt to undermine the Movement’s legitimacy. That is a plan that actually makes sense, and is something I would expect from a 21st century left-wing Canadian government. Not only is Bland portraying the government here as being pathologically out of touch, but this scene makes them unconvincingly stupid as well. Pretending that the NPA isn’t a radical movement is going to look pretty clueless when those stolen weapons (including anti-aircraft missiles) start getting used. You’d think a party that can win at least two elections would have more tactical sense.
As for showing the deliberations of the intelligence community, well from a literary standpoint it’s not a bad idea. Bland can show the government blindly groping for information, piecing together details that we, as the readers, have already figured out while contrasting this against the Movement with their plans already in motion. It would go a long way towards underscoring Bland’s main premise; that the CF, crippled by political correctness and limp-wristed liberals will be quickly outmaneuvered by a rag-tag band of Real Men®.
Unfortunately, rather than trying to imagine the scene as a tragedy, we get another Org Chart description of yet another NDHQ department, followed by a re-cap of information we already learned in earlier chapters.
“Let’s go over it again,” Eliot said to the assembled intelligence officers. “We have a sketchy idea of who’s who in the Movement and where they’re mainly located. We know they have cells operating on many reserves and in some cities, especially on the Prairies. We assume, and let’s go right on assuming, that these raids were not spontaneous, but part of a deliberate plan to destabilize the government and encourage native uprising in various parts of the country. We assume also that the main area of interest is Quebec. And we know that getting inside the Movement and developing intelligence contacts is difficult, to say the least, so we don’t have and aren’t about to get reliable new information from that direction. Agreed so far?” Heads nodded around the table.
Already this isn’t making a whole lot of sense. Here we are three days into the Uprising, with a man dead and shootouts happening in CFBs across the country, and all we’re getting is a bunch of senior analysts sitting in an office rehashing information from Day 0. I think the idea is to present the Movement as just so very crafty and cunning that a conventional military force has no hope of confronting it, but if that’s the case Bland seems to have an inflated idea of just how effective his rebel plans really are.
They’re probably right in assuming that getting a man on the inside would be difficult (although certainly not impossible), but what about the outside? We’ve already discussed how vulnerable The Complex on Akwesasne would be. Why hasn’t an Army Electronic Warfare (EW) section set themselves up in the town of Cornwall (which is right next to it) to monitor the radio and cell phone signals coming out of the Reserve?
The people at the table are supposed to include representatives from the police services. Since we’ve seen that Real Soldier® Will Boucanier is being openly followed by Bob Ignace up in Chisasibi, are we going to see a report from him? Bob Ignace already caught on to Will’s fascination with beaver dams while he was scouting out the Highway leading south. He may even know about the four communities that Will visited as well. There’s a lot of information that could be gleaned just from one man’s report.
Then there’s the fact that a lot of the communication with James Bay is happening by cell phone. Has anybody contacted Bell Canada or Rogers to see if they can get a read on what’s being said?
For a bunch of Int guys, Bland’s ITAC doesn’t seem to know a lot about finding out information.
These men are supposed to be the nerve centre of the Canadian intelligence gathering community, but in two days they have developed no new information! They don’t even have a plan to develop any new information. It’s not like they’re waiting for assets to get into place or to hear back from their eyes on the ground. To hear Quatra talk, it sounds more like a group of old men pondering a poorly worded newspaper article.
The purpose of this scene is to make the Movement look dangerous, and make us hate the politically correct civilian leadership for getting in the way of the Real Soldiers® and dooming the country in the process. But really, it just makes the ITAC officers look dumb.
“Okay, let’s review what we don’t know. And if anyone has any Rumsfeld-style thought on ‘what we don’t know that we don’t know,’ please chime in. Otherwise, Maggie, give us the assessment in the West for a start.”
Of all the people to bring up, Douglas Bland decides to invoke Donald Rumsfeld. I mean, given that he just portrayed the Prime Minister as pressuring intelligence to come to a pre-determined conclusion about the NPA raids, I figure one of the architects of the Iraq debacle might not be someone he’d want to mention in a positive light.
Well, let’s hear from Maggie. No, she’s not going to get a last name.
The lean, intense blonde woman to his left swept the table with her eyes as she began a staccato recital. “My people think there something big, maybe a type of intifada, building in the major cities across the West. A couple of my officers believe it’s even bigger, possibly a large-scale, well-organized uprising aimed at governments at all levels. What’s particularly supportive of both these ideas is the presence of senior members of the Movement in the West, especially in Winnipeg, including a couple of experienced ex-military officers, including at least one deserter. We’ve identified, for instance, ex-Special Forces Colonel Sam Stevenson, and we think a deserter-he may very possibly have commanded the Petawawa raid-a former captain named Alexander Gabriel, who served under Stevenson, we think he’s there too.”
“We don’t know anything about their plans, but-worst case-they actually might organize natives in the northern communities and invade the south. Stevenson’s service record shows a consistent pattern of thinking big, moving against established ideas, and getting his opponents to look one way before coming at them from another direction. That argues for us looking in that other direction, outside the major cities. And also, let me emphasize, this intelligence suggests we’re wrong to assume the main area of interest is Quebec. There certainly seems to be trouble brewing there too. And folks, if something significant is happening in Quebec and out west, we can’t avoid the conclusion that what’s happening is very big and well organized.”
I’m not sure how somebody speaks in a staccato recital for a briefing among colleagues (I’m suddenly picturing a Soviet-era government speech where the local aparatchik reads directly from his prepared remarks and nothing else). Regardless, she’s the one at the table who reveals that ITAC knows about Stevenson and Gabriel being in Winnipeg, and that Gabriel ‘may very possibly have commanded the Petawawa raid’ (Why do I get the feeling Bland may have used this same sort of vague language when he was a staff officer).
For starters, Maggie doesn’t specify how she knows any of this. Is she relaying a report from the Winnipeg Police Service? Did the MPs get a lead on Gabriel when he boarded his flight? For that matter, why is her agency keeping tabs on Stevenson who, as far as we know, retired from the CF legitimately?
Hell, we don’t even know who Maggie works for! Is she military or civilian? Intelligence service or police? Which agency is she representing with her blonde intensity? Although she’s never given a last name or any description other than ‘intense blonde,’ we know she can be trusted because she sings the praises of the Real Soldiers® fighting against them.
He’s just so cool you guys! Intense Maggie seems convinced that anywhere Stevenson’s at must be the main event. What is she basing this on? Stevenson was a Colonel in the CF, but has that status carried over to the Movement? What do they actually know about the composition of the Movement and NPA leadership? We know that Molly Grace considers the NPA to be the real power while the Native People’s Council is more of a front. But does the ITAC know this?
It’s not clear what Bland’s aiming for with this passage. We already know that Will Boucanier’s recce of James Bay is supposed to be a diversion, so does that mean that spotting Alex Gabriel in Winnipeg and connecting him to Stevenson is an intelligence coup? Are we supposed to read this part and think ‘Oh wow! The government’s on to them!?’ I’m not sure. And without a discussion about intelligence sources, it’s hard to know exactly how significant these sightings may be, or how much weight they should be given.
Whatever the case, it still doesn’t explain why they don’t try to alert local authorities or gather information about being targeted (fake or otherwise).
Since Bland is the one to invoke Rumsfeld as an authority, it’s worth bringing Sept 11th into the picture.
It’s gratifying to see that the 9/11 ‘Truthers’ have largely fallen into obscurity, but there were some massive failures of Intelligence, which were outlined by, of all people, Al Gore in his 2007 book ‘The Assault on Reason.’
The TLDR version: Between the CIA and FBI the Feds had sixteen of the twenty key names in the 9/11 hijackings, and local police in Florida were trying to pass up reports about a group of Saudi student pilots who didn’t seem particularly concerned about landing. The Feds didn’t necessarily know that these people were explicitly working together on one single, colossal attack, nor did the local cops in Florida realize that the weirdos they were reporting were on government watch lists. The whole picture wasn’t there, but a lot of pieces were.
Now it’s debatable whether the plot could have been perfectly deciphered if these agencies had come together to share what they knew, but they were never given the chance. The reason for this was the agencies themselves. Basically, the FBI didn’t talk to the CIA, and the CIA refused to talk to the FBI. This divide was actually informally called ‘the wedge’ within the intelligence community and was commonly seen as insurmountable. Perhaps more frustrating that this was the fact that neither of these Federal agencies liked to share information with Local Police for any reason.
A bunch of the pieces were there, and both agencies were filled with bright, committed people who might have cracked the case. But a culture of insularity prevented these people from ever having the chance to make these connections. It had nothing to do with an evil conspiracy by Dubya and his government of warhawks, and was in fact a catastrophic bureaucratic fail.
If Bland was trying to create a scenario like this, the confusion by Mike Liu (another member of ITAC and also possessing a last name) might make more sense:
“Well, I agree with most of Maggie’s assessment. [Mike Liu said] But she suggests a great deal of sophisticated planning and coordinated operations, and I don’t see it, at least not yet. If the regulars in the Movement are in charge, which I admit we’re not sure is true, then this isn’t a military coup, it’s a political movement. If we think they are planning what Maggie suggests, or that someone else has taken charge and is planning something that big and that military, then we ought to try to imagine answers to the why, what, and how questions. I’m thinking why the West; with what possible objectives; how would they carry out the operation? We haven’t been able to answer these questions, and since these people aren’t stupid, I assume it’s because they’re not planning that type of activity.”
So maybe a legitimate question of ‘Why’ and ‘How?’ leads to confusion? Well intentioned officers get distracted by a legitimate question, preventing them from piercing the veil of the Movement’s top notch deception plan?
Okay maybe. Except, if they need answers and they know Gabriel is in Winnipeg, why aren’t they trying to have him arrested! Seriously, he ‘may very possibly have commanded the Petawawa raid!’ Even if you can’t make those charges stick, there must be enough to at least arrest him on AWOL charges!
Again, if this was the point of the novel, if Bland was playing this as a tragedy in which insulated Defence analysts become so obsessed with navel gazing and power-point appreciations that they fail to take very simple and realistic steps like alerting local law enforcement, then I could buy this. This kind of stuff has happened in the past, and could easily happen again. But the ITAC analysts are not the bad guys here. They’re not even the tragic good guys. They’re actual good guys, just like Bishop, and the only thing stopping them from kicking native ass and taking native names is supposed to be the hand-tying by weak kneed politicians and liberal Canada’s stubborn political correctness.
I don’t know. Do any of you see it?
***Today’s featured image comes from the Government of Canada’s webpage on national security. Currently the threat level is at Medium.***
 This organization has since be re-named the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre. I’ll be using the original for the purposes of the deconstruction.
 Idle No More was a grassroots-level movement of Indigenous protest that rapidly organized via social media and undercut a lot of the more establishment leadership of the First Nations. They were aggressively confrontational, and regularly engaged in actions like road and railway blockades, but they were non-violent.
 In and of itself, I don’t see a problem with a group like ITAC observing a movement like Idle No More. Although Idle No More was non-violent, such a movement could nevertheless attract followers who weren’t. It’s when observation changes to action that problems arise. My personal feeling is that you don’t want to crack down on the non-violent movement, for risk of empowering the violent ones.
 A proper backstory never gets provided, but reading between the lines suggests that the double-PC party has won the last two elections, given that the current PM is name-checked as the Minister of Indigenous Affairs in a flashback sequence from four years ago.
 Fuck. I wrote that sentence in 2015 when it actually seemed to be the case. But in the lead up to this year’s anniversary, my Facebook feed got flooded by a whole new wave of Truther bullshit, most of it looking like the work of Russian bots.