Regional Events

updated June 18, 2021

Local and regional events are organized throughout the year with funding assistance from CASIS. The following is a report of events planned or held so far this year:

Atlantic Region:

On March 12/13, 2005 Dalhousie University in association with CASIS hosted its 10th annual graduate student conference. The keynote speaker was Dr Scott Lucas, chair of the History department of the University of Birmingham. Dr. Lucas specializes in Canadian/American studies, US Foreign Policy and Intelligence and spoke on "Enduring Freedom: Political Warfare and Public Diplomacy from Cold War to the 'War on Terror'"? This keynote address linked US history and history of IR with ideas from cultural studies, sociology, and political science.

The Centre for Conflict Studies, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, in association with CASIS, invites the submission of proposals for its annual conference TERRORISM IN HISTORY: THE STRATEGIC IMPACT OF TERRORISM FROM SARAJEVO 1914 TO 9/11, to be held October 14/15, 2005.

The purpose of the conference theme is to answer the question: In what cases (if any), under what circumstances, and with what effects has sub-state terrorism ever exercised a decisive influence on the course of modern history? The kinds of impacts to be addressed in the conference papers could include causing: major inter-state wars; regional and/or global economic crises; major policy changes by important regional/global 'players'; the collapse of functioning states; or the emergence of a new state or government with major regional or global impacts. Proposals will also be considered for papers that show why certain terrorist groups, events or campaigns were unable to exercise a significant influence on global affairs. Following the conference, the papers will be edited into a proceedings for publication.

Ontario Region:

On Monday June 6th, the Toronto chapter of CASIS presented a talk by Dr. Timothy Naftali, author of Blind Spot: A History of American Counter-terrorism, on the first stage of his Canadian promotional tour. Dr. Naftali spoke to an audience of about sixty people at Trinity College, in the University of Toronto. Blind Spot is based in part on Dr. Naftali's work as a contractor to the 9/11 Commission, for which he wrote an internal study on US counter-terrorism between 1967 and 1993. He began his Toronto talk with a discussion of the book's genesis and research, which included interviews with several former CIA directors and FBI chiefs. Dr. Naftali then turned to a brief history of American counter-terrorism. He pointed out that within the context of the Cold War terrorism was simply not a major priority for decision-makers in Washington. Consequently, counter-terrorism had no real focus, drew little financial backing, and failed to attract the "best and brightest" of government personnel.

Moreover, Dr. Naftali argued that right up until 9/11 there was no real political will to deal with terrorism. Pentagon officials resisted attempts to make the U.S. military responsible for counter-terrorism operations. Congress refused to take terrorist threats seriously and dragged its heels on issues like airport security. The media and American public failed to realise the potential for terrorist activity within the United States. The events of 9/11, of course, changed all that. However, Dr. Naftali argued that even with the impetus of 9/11, the politics and bureaucracy of the so-called "war on terror" present serious challenges to, and may in fact compromise, US national security.

In the question period following Dr. Naftali's talk, many interesting points were raised. He was asked, what in his opinion was the most significant current threat to the United States. He was also asked to comment on the methodology of counter-terrorism employed by the Bush administration, the linkages between counter-terrorism and American foreign policy in the Middle East, and the relevance of American counter-terrorism strategies within the Canadian context.

CASIS hopes to organise additional talks in Toronto on relevant security and intelligence issues. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and would like to be notified of such events, please contact Dr. Arne Kislenko, at [email protected]

Reporter: Dr. Arne Kislenko, CASIS Ontario Representative.

National Capital Region:

On Tuesday June 7th, the Ottawa chapter of CASIS and the Centre for Security and Defence Studies of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, were hosts to Dr. Timothy Naftali, author of Blind Spot: A History of American Counter-terrorism. Dr. Naftali spoke to an audience of about 45 people at the Naval Officers' Mess, in Ottawa.

Blind Spot is a book that documents and explores American counter-terrorism from its World War II era success, through its decline in the Cold War, to its spectacular failure in the Post Cold War era. Dr. Naftali was contracted by the 9/11 commission, to write an internal study on US counter-terrorism between 1967 and 1993, the results of which Dr. Naftali was able to use as the foundation for his book.

Dr. Naftali maintained that it was the lack of political will in Washington that caused the decline of American counter terrorism (CT). This was compounded by a lack of interest in Congress and several departments of government. For example, the US military wanted no part in CT affairs because they disliked low intensity conflict where the enemy was not in uniform. Similarly, Congress disliked CT because of its hazy legality. In fact, it was US policy until 1986 not to retaliate for overseas killings of Americans. However, it was not solely distaste for CT at policy levels that contributed to its decline. It was also the almost complete lack of public interest in the security and terrorism vulnerabilities of the United States.

It was only the release of sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system in 1995 that finally convinced the US of the gravity of potential terrorist actions on US soil. The Clinton Administration began to focus on combating terrorism, and especially Osama bin Laden, who was labelled a direct threat in 1998. However, with the arrival of George W. Bush in the White House, there was a shift in security priorities and, once again, counter terrorism was seen as less important. Non-state terrorism was considered not to be as dangerous a threat as the threat from "rogue states". Thus, Dr. Naftali concluded that Americans have shown themselves to be very good at counter-terrorism, the system has been very biased against counter terrorism being done professionally, cooperatively and efficiently.

In questions after his talk, Dr. Naftali explained that which has changed, or rather, hasn't changed post 9/11. He said that very little has actually changed, in terms of immediate effects. The new Homeland Security Department consists of 22 different agencies, which makes it impossible to establish proper command and control, as well as cooperation. He also noted that there are several important security positions that have not yet been filled by the Administration. Thus, the Department of Homeland Security is a gargantuan bureaucracy which is not any better equipped to deal with counter terrorism than its predecessors. In addition, in his view, the American public as a whole is not any better prepared, psychologically or practically, for counter terrorism. Thus, the US reforms are not likely to reverse the CT slide of the Post Cold War period.

Reporter: Dave Heintzman, Dalhousie University.

British Columbia Region:

On March 10, 2022 Dr. Andrew Preston, BC representative of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies, hosted a dinner seminar at Samuels on the Park, Queen Victoria Inn, for members and non-members of the Association. Guest speaker was Gregory Fyffe, Executive Director of the International Assessment Secretariat of the Privy Council Office in Ottawa. He spoke on "The Limits of Intelligence".

On May 30, 2021 The Victoria Chapter of CASIS in partnership with the School of Public Administration of the University of Victoria and the Masters in Human Security and Peacebuilding Program of Royal Roads University hosted a dinner presentation and discussion led by Margaret Purdy, the Special Advisor on Security to the Federal Deputy Minister of Transport. Previously, she was Coordinator of Security and Intelligence in the Privy Council Office and Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence. She spoke on "Transportation Security as a Mirror: Challenges and Lessons for Security and Intelligence in Canada". The event was held at Samuels on the Park, Queen Victoria Inn for 35 CASIS members and non-members.