Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One man's terrorist is another man's weapons case

Nowhere in any of the media coverage of Glen Gieschen's gun-toting, bomb-making plan were the words "terror" or "terrorist" ever used.

Scott Taylor, Wednesday, 12/03/2014 | Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper


Last week, there was a small news item out of Calgary about a judge lifting a publication ban on accused suspect Glen Gieschen. The CBC described Gieschen's alleged crime as "an attack plot on a downtown building," while the Calgary Herald referred to it as a "weapons case."

Gieschen is a 45-year-old former member of the Canadian Armed Forces who had been battling with Veterans Affairs Canada for more than a year regarding health care compensation claims.

Frustrated by the delays, Gieschen assembled a small arsenal of weapons and bomb-making equipment and formulated a detailed plan to destroy the Veterans Affairs office on the seventh floor of the Bantrel tower in the centre of Calgary.

In his possession at the time of his arrest, Gieschen had a semi-automatic hand gun, a .308 caliber rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a sniper scope, laser sight, night vision goggles, a gas mask, helmet, and two suitcases full of toxic chemicals.

According to detailed plans found on his laptop, Gieschen had conducted a thorough reconnaissance of the Veterans Affairs office to ascertain its security measures, office layouts, and emergency exits. During his attack, Gieshen first intended to disable the security guards using one of his multiple firearms before donning a gas mask and helmet, sealing off all access points, and planting explosive devices at predetermined points throughout the building.

But that's not all. Gieschen's thorough plans for destruction also included disabling the lighting system, pouring a mixture of bleach, ammonia, and bear repellent down the stairways, and then tossing smoke grenades to create a toxic barrier. Once isolated inside the Veterans Affairs office, he planned to destroy all computers and personal files.

Following that spree of death and destruction, he would then head to a rail yard in southeast Calgary, where he would use his rifle to puncture tanker cars loaded with dangerous chemicals. Also on his to-do list that day was to take out a gas pumping station and a gas line. The grand finale was to commit suicide on his parents' rural property.

What thwarted this diabolical plot was the fact that upon finding his suicide note, Gieschen's wife promptly notified the authorities. The RCMP found him sleeping in a utility trailer, where they proceeded to arrest him under the Mental Health Act.

What is astounding is that nowhere in any of the media coverage of this case were the words "terror" or "terrorist" ever used.

Gieschen planned to kill security guards, blow up a government office in the centre of a major city, create a chemical catastrophe, and produce massive fireballs to destroy vital infrastructure.

More importantly, unlike many of the other domestic terror plotters who were foiled before their plans could be actualized, Gieschen had the means and the necessary experience to successfully complete his intended mission.

Like the retired military man that he his, Gieschen had also conducted a thorough reconnaissance of his objective.

The Mississauga 18 had all sorts of wild ideas about cutting off Prime Minister Harper's head during a live broadcast of Peter Mansbridge's newscast on CBC, blowing up the CN Tower, and storming Parliament Hill, but they never had the wherewithal or expertise to even begin making a detailed plan.

Yet they were arrested, tried, and convicted as homegrown terrorists.

On Oct. 21, Martin Couture-Rouleau deliberately drove his car into two Canadian military personnel, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and severely wounding the other soldier. Following a high-speed chase, which caused the perpetrator to flip his car, Quebec police shot Couture-Rouleau to death. 

Since authorities knew Couture-Rouleau to be a radicalized Muslim, his targeting of Canadian soldiers was deemed an act of terror. Under different circumstances, this might have been reported as a mentally ill individual initiating a hit-and-run vehicular homicide, followed by a death-by-cop suicide.

Two days later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, attempted to drive his car onto Parliament Hill, was thwarted by the barriers, proceeded to car-jack a second vehicle, and then forced his way on foot into Centre Block.

With only eight bullets in his Winchester rifle, even in his deranged mental state, Bibeau would have known that his lone charge into one of the most secure sites in Canada would result in his own death. Although he was a career criminal and drug addict, Bibeau was also a radicalized Muslim, and hence his lone gunman rampage and death-by-cop suicide were also termed an act of terrorism.

Neither Couture-Rouleau nor Bibeau had military training, or a sophisticated arsenal, yet their actions constituted terrorism.

Gieschen on the other hand, a disgruntled former soldier, was simply involved in a "weapons case."

One can only imagine what the headlines would have been had Gieschen been a convert to Islam. 

Scott Taylor is editor and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine.