While Canadians mourn their two soldiers killed by radicalized, homegrown terrorists, the Canadian government is passing a bill to bolster intelligence-agency budgets by improving transparency and communications between Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) and the American National Security Agency (NSA).

The recent lone wolf attacks in Canada were a critical reminder of the need for law-enforcement organizations to work together to complete the task of combating homegrown terrorism. Neither the Canadian population nor the authorities were ready for such attacks despite their likelihood—considering the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan and Libya, and their special operations forces (SOF) operations in Africa.

The deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo couldn’t have been predicted, but Canadian intelligence services have been working tirelessly to counter terrorist plots in both national and international arenas. Sadly, in this case, the effectiveness of even a poorly planned attack by lone wolves prevailed.

The CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are doing everything they can, as are all the counter terrorism (CT) officers who are working tirelessly to uncover terrorist activities. Unfortunately, Canadian authorities need more comprehensive tools for a successful Canadian counter-terrorism campaign.

CSOR SF operator training Mali's military.
CSOR SF operator training Mali’s military.

ISIS Counterintelligence Strategy

While the entire planet’s attention was fixed on the tragic events in Ottawa, ISIS was also watching. The actions of the two radicalized Canadians undoubtedly provided valuable intelligence feedback to ISIS. Twitter feeds started going crazy only minutes after Corporal Cirillo (may he rest in peace) was shot, filled with people’s speculation that there were three to five active shooters on the scene. Later, we learned there was only one.

RCMP ERT snipers trying to enter the Langevin Block during the Ottawa shooting. Courtesy of the National Post.
RCMP ERT snipers trying to enter the Langevin Block during the Ottawa shooting. Courtesy of the National Post.

That confusion imparted a sense of ill preparedness—one that ISIS no doubt took note of. The police had to request that people not tweet or report live information about their whereabouts in order to protect their ability to safely counter the attack. Confusion was at its highest, and sadly, some members of the media and spectators continued to tweet live photos of where and how the police were operating, putting them at great risk and, again, giving ISIS valuable insight.

The fact that it was so easy to enter the Parliament building is troubling. Although security will be boosted from now on, the media was quick to tweet exactly where the prime minister and the opposition leader were, and in what rooms. The fact that the Parliament is accessible to everyone is also concerning. People might say it is the public’s house, but should we reconsider safety measures for Canadian leadership located in that building?

Canadians need to be more cautious when conveying information via social media. The media have done a dutiful job of covering events in Ottawa, and for that I am thankful, but the same argument applies to journalists and the media in general. They don’t realize they are offering themselves up as open-source intelligence (OSINT) resources for ISIS.