Terrorism The Ottawa Shooting

Terrorism:The Ottawa Shooting


TheOttawa shooting that occurred on October 22, 2014 is one of theattacks that revealed several capability failures in the Canadian lawenforcement sector. Zehaf-Bibeau was the main suspect who killed twopeople and injured at least three. The intelligence unit of Canada,CSIS, provided intelligence that would have aided in preventing theshooting, but the information was too general to be acted upon.Canada has already formulated sufficient legislation that would haveempowered CSIS to prevent the occurrence of the shooting by arrestingall homegrown terrorist suspects (including Zehaf-Bibeau) before theoccurrence of the incident. The application of ineffective strategiesin gathering intelligence reduced the capacity of the CSIS to preventthe occurrence of the Ottawa shooting. The deployment of officersfrom different police units hampered communication, thus reducingeffectiveness when responding to the attack. Deployment of unarmedofficers to guard strategic places (such as the National War Memorialbuilding) was a risk to their lives and users of the building.

Keywords: Intelligences, capability failures, CSIS, strategic places,jurisdictional confusion.

Terrorism:The Ottawa Shooting

Livingin a secure environment is the desire of every person. However,recent trends show that acts of terrorism are increasing at a highrate, which suggests that the international security is at stake. Thecurrent threat of terrorism emanating from the internationalterrorism is rated as severe (Wilson, 2010). The Western World,including the United States and the European countries as well astheir allies has been the major target of acts of terrorism. The factthat the threat of the international acts of terror comes fromdifferent sources and planned by terror groups with establishednetworks makes complicates the process of collecting intelligence,responding to terror attacks, and prosecuting the culprits. However,the individual governments and the international community have noexcuse and should update their security strategies to address theemerging challenges. This paper will address the act of terrorismthat occurred in Canada at the Parliament Building on October 22, theyear 2014. Although the Ottawa attack was well planned, it is evidentthat lack of proper intelligence, law enforcement, and responsestrategies contributed towards the occurrence and severity of theattack.


TheOctober 22 attack occurred in the two strategic buildings (includingthe Parliament House and the National War Memorial House), whichought to have been under tight security, give the high rate ofincrease in terror threats. Zehaf-Bibeau, who was the main suspect ofthe attack used a Winchester Model 94 rifle kill two people andinjure three more in the two houses (Solomon, 2014). Zehaf-Bibeau wasa 32-year old Canadian, who was classified as a drug addict and ahabitual offender. After shooting officers guarding the National WarMemorial building, Zehaf-Bibeau used his car to escape beforeabandoning it and carjacking a parliamentary car hat he used toaccess the parliamentary building. Security officers who wereguarding the parliament house, unlike those guarding the National WarMemorial, were armed with loaded firearms that helped them fire backat Zehaf-Bibeau. Although it took a long time for the officers to gundown the attacker, the situation would have been worse if they werenot armed.

Lawenforcement capability failures in relation to Ottawa shooting

Thelink between general intelligence information and the October 22attack

Intelligenceis one of the most significant tools that the law enforcers use toprevent the occurrence of crime, including the acts of terror. Basedon this statement, it is evident that the quality of Canadianintelligence was questionable given that the same suspect managed toattack two separate buildings in a surprising way. Prior to theoccurrence of the attack, Canadians feared that there was apossibility of the homegrown terrorists traveling to Iraq in order tosupport the ISIS group, while other ISIS sympathizers planned toattack strategic places within the country (Ling, 2014). Therefore,it is evident that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had allthe reasons to stay vigilant and gather sufficient intelligence thatcould enhance the homeland, as well as the international security.This implies that CSIS had collected some intelligence, but it wastoo general to be acted upon by the law enforcement agencies. Forexample, the director of CSIS acknowledges that that the threat ofattack was real, but the agency did not consider it to be imminent(Ling, 2014). In essence, the intelligence agency, CSIS, failed toconduct an in-depth investigation of the threats and secure thestrategic infrastructure that was at the highest risk of attack.

Althoughthe majority of the stakeholders, including the public and thelegislators, have blamed the CSIS for the attack, there are somefactors indicating that the agencies had done part of its work. Forexample, it was reported that CSIS had managed to produce a list ofsome of the homegrown terrorists (including Martin Rouleau-Couture)who planned to travel out of the country to support other terroristgroups (Ling, 2014). However, it was not clear whether Zehaf-Bibeau,who had different names, was in the list. The capacity of theintelligence agency to produce a list of about ninety homegrownterrorist and the identification of their intention to launchdomestic and international attacks was commendable, the ability toprocess such intelligence into actionable information have beenquestioned severally. In addition, the fact that CSIS produced a listof Canadians who had already been radicalized indicates its failureto produce information that would have prevented such radicalization.This means that CSIS’s efforts to identify the homegrown terroristswere a reactive strategy, instead of using pro-active strategies asit would be expected.

Failureof the enforcement of the existing laws

Quitea good number of people feel that the legislators had failed toprotect the country by enacting laws that would address emergingsecurity challenges, such as the October 22 attack. For example,Harper’s government planned to expand the CSIS powers in order toallow it to investigate, arrest, and detain terrorists who arehomegrown (Ling, 2014). The same report indicated that CSIS hadintended to take advantage of the international intelligence agencyknown as “Five Eyes” and have more powers to keep track of theradicalized Canadians. This raises the question whether theintelligence failed to act because of lack of sufficient legal powersor lack of proper implementation of the available laws and maximumutilization of the powers that the agency had prior to the attack.

Theattempt made by the CSIS was a strategy to escape the blame and coverits incompetence. This is because the government had already expandedthe powers of CSIS prior to the terror attack on the Parliament andthe National War Memorial buildings. For example, the parliament hadpassed a controversial bill entitles “Bill S-7” in early 2013,which expanded the powers of CSIS with the main focus on its capacityto investigate and arrest the terrors suspects (Cohen, 2013). Thepowers crafted in the bill allowed the law enforcement agency toarrest and prosecute all Canadians who would make an attempt to leavethe country and join the terrorist organizations. This was a softmeasure to prevent the engagement of the homegrown terrorists fromengaging in the international terrorism. Given that CSIS had thepowers to attest and prosecute these suspects, one would ask why theagency had just listed the names of the Canadians who were suspectedof planning to leave the country and join the ISIS. For example, thelaw enforcement agencies have some clues that Zehaf-Bibeau was astrong supporter of the ISIS group and had requested for a passporton October 2, 2014, but CSIS did not utilize its powers to arrest andprosecute him (Lynn, 2014). It is evident that the CSIS did not failbecause of lack of sufficient laws, but it failed to take advantageof the available laws and powers. Therefore, the attempt to ask formore powers is a strategy taken to blind public and cover-up theincompetence of CSIS.

Theeffect of the informant game on the Canadian intelligence operations

Theintelligence units in the Western Countries, including the FBI andCSIS, have established a record of using the informant game toenhance their operation. The informant game involves the recruitmentof the mentally disturbed and the low-life criminals to serve asinformers of the intelligence agencies abroad and domestically(Helton, 2014). However, there is no empirical evidence to supportthe effectiveness of this strategy. A special report issued by the21st Century Wire, an international independent media voice,indicated that Zehaf-Bibeau was one of the low-criminals who werebeing persuaded to serve as the CSIS informers (Helton, 2014). Inthat report, Helton (2014) stated, “Zehaf-Bibeau had the perfectmodus operandi of a typical directionless loser who turned informant”(p. 1). Prior to the Ottawa shooting, Zehaf-Bibeau had been arrestedat least five times for violating the parole and drug possession. Inaddition, the reported indicated that Zehaf-Bibeau was one of the keyCSIS’s targets who could easily be recruited as the agencyinformers, but this was a risky venture because it was not known whatthe suspect could turn out to be. This gives a better explanation forthe fact that CSIS failed to arrest and prosecutes Zehaf-Bibeau inspite of the fact that the suspect had been classified as a high-risktraveler and his passport seized (Helton, 2014). Therefore, CSISfailed the citizens by applying the informant game, whicheffectiveness has not been proven.

Capabilityfailures in the normal security strategies

Thelaw enforcement personnel are expected to stay alert with or withoutthe threats of terrorist attacks. This is based on the notion thatsecurity agencies are given a full-time career to detect and preventthe occurrence of any security threats. Therefore, being caught insurprise is a clear indication of the capability failure on the partof the security agencies. In the case of the Ottawa shooting onOctober 22, 2014, there are two major capability failures thatcontributed towards the severity of the attack. First, the deploymentof security officers from different security units to guard differentsections of the same building a glitch that reduced the capacity ofthe law enforcers to respond towards the attack. According to Karimi(2014) the Canadian Parliament building is guarded by officers fromfour different security units, where the Royal Mounted Police guardsgrounds and the House security protects the building under the Houseauthority. The Senate security guards one section of the building andOttawa police protects the surrounding streets. The presence ofdifferent units of security agencies hampered communication thatwould have been instrumental in preventing Zehaf-Bibeau fromaccessing the interiors of the parliament building, thus preventingthe shootouts.

Secondly,the deployment of unarmed security officers to guard strategicbuildings was a serious mistake on the part of the management of theCanadian security department. The report shows that the securityofficers guarding the National War Memorial building had unloadedfirearms, which means that they had no capacity to respond urgentlyto the attacker (Duffey, 2014). This gives a better explanation ofthe fact that the large number of officers in the building wasovercome by a single attacker, leaving one of them dead, and othersinjured. Sending security officers with unloaded rifles to guard astrategic building was a risk to their own lives as well as the usersof the building.

Third,lack of proper coordination of security agencies is witnessed, notonly in the deployment of security officers in strategic areas, butalso in the process of conducting investigations following theattacks. In the case of the Ottawa shooting, initial phases ofinvestigation was carried out by different police units. The OttawaPolice Service investigated the memorial attack, while RCMO focusedon parliamentary building attack (Crawley, 2014). Apart from theinvestigations being conducted by officers from different units, allthe four units guarding the parliament at the time of the attack wererequired to submit independent reports to their respective, whichincreased the risk of jurisdictional confusion. This demonstrated thefailure of the law enforcement agencies to conduct coordinatedinvestigation in order to identify the cause and prevent therecurrence of such attacks in the future.

Recommendationson how capability failures can be remedied

Thepresent study makes five major recommendations that can help inremedying the capability failures associated with the Ottawa shootingthat occurred on October 22 in the year 2014. First, the SecurityDepartment of Canada should focus on enhancing the enforcement of thepresent legislation and laws instead of pushing for the formulationof more laws. For example, Bill S-7 already authorizes the CSIS toinvestigate terror suspects, arrest, and prosecute them (Cohen,2013). The enforcement of such a law would have prevented theoccurrence of the Ottawa shooting.

Secondly,the intelligence unit, CSIS, should apply strategies whoseeffectiveness have been empirically proven when conducting itsoperations. For example, the effectiveness of the use of informantgame strategy to collect information about terror threats has notbeen proven. CSIS should use trained professionals in collectingintelligence, instead of using mentally disturbed or low-crimesuspects.

Third,the Department of Security should deploy security officers from thesame unit to protect each of the strategic places, including thebuildings. In the case of the shooting at the Parliamentary building,the deployment of security officers from different units hamperedcommunication, which in turn reduced the effectiveness of thesecurity agents in responding to the situation (Karimi, 2014).Security officers from one unit receive orders and instructions froma single source, which improves operational efficiency.

Fourth,all security officers guarding strategic places should be properlyarmed in order to help them deal with any security challenge thatmight arise. The deployment of security officers with unloaded gunsto guard places that can be targeted by terrorist groups is a mistakethat should not be repeated (Duffey, 2014).

Fifth,investigation of crime should be done in a more coordinated manner inorder to ensure that the outcome of such investigations givesactionable recommendations. In the case of Ottawa shooting,investigation was carried out by different agencies, and this mighthinder the capacity of the security agencies in formulating effectivestrategies that can prevent the recurrence of such attacks in thefuture.


Zehaf-Bibeauhad planned the Ottawa attack carefully, but the lack of properintelligence, law enforcement, and response strategies contributedtowards the severity of the attack. Although CSIS had provided someinformation linking Zehaf-Bibeau with several crimes (such aspossession of drugs and associating with terror groups), theinformation was too general to be acted upon. For example, it was noclear whether Zehaf-Bibeau, who had different names, was in the listof suspects who intended to leave Canada and support terror groups inArabic countries. In addition, failure on the part of the CSIS toutilize the existing laws that powers it possessed at the time of theattack contributed towards the occurrence of the shooting. Moreover,significant capability failures were revealed in the normal policeoperations. For example, it would be expected that all policeofficers in the service should have loaded guns, but this was not thecase.


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