Canadian Spy Arrested in Turkey Caught Smuggling ISIS Forces into Syria

Justin King
March 23, 2015

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(TFC) Amman, Jordan — In the latest of a string of incidents that call into question the West’s real intentions in the battle against the Islamic State, an alleged asset of Canadian Intelligence was caught red handed smuggling Islamic State sympathizers into Syria.

On Friday, the Turkish Foreign Minister (a person holding the equivalent office of John Kerry) publicly stated:

“The person arrested by us is someone working for an intelligence agency in the coalition.”

Later in the week it was specified that the suspect was working for Canadian Intelligence.

It is important to note that Turkey is one of the West’s key allies in the region and has been since the nation joined NATO in 1952. This is not an allegation the Turkish government takes lightly.

Turkish authorities are holding Mohammed Mehmet Rashid (AKA Doctor Mehmet Rashid and Mohammed al Rashid) after he was caught smuggling three teenage girls into Syria to join the Islamic State. He confessed to working for the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan. The bizarre claim was backed up with a computer and cell phone that are reportedly in Turkish custody that were provided by the Canadian government. When he was captured he also had in his possession the passport photographs of 17 other people, in addition to the three teenage girls he had just handed over to the Islamic State.

Rashid’s travel records indicate that he has bounced back and forth across the border more than 30 times since 2013, while most people have a hard time getting out of war torn Syria once. There was another entry on Rashid’s travel documents: a trip to Canada.

Rashid’s finances revealed another suspicious irregularity that confirmed his story. Payment for his services was made through a bank in the United Kingdom. The UK arguably has the strictest counterterrorism banking laws in the world. The laws are so broad that known legitimate charities have trouble transferring funds because of their work in conflict zones. Because of this, the Islamic State does not transfer money through banks, and certainly not banks in the UK. They use Hawaladors, which are paperless bankers throughout the world that transfer cash for a fee. Hawala is a literally ancient system of banking that is prominent in the Middle East and in Eastern Asia.

As an example, if I want to transfer funds from my location in Syria to your location in Uzbekistan; I contact my local Hawalador, hand him the cash, and tell him where I want it sent. He calls a colleague in Uzbekistan who will immediately hand you the money. Weeks later, the two men will settle their accounts. Both Hawaladors take a percentage as a fee. Although for the Islamic State they are probably conducting the transfers for free in order to keep their heads.

The important piece of information to take away from this is that Rashid was not being paid by the Islamic State.

On the other side of the espionage trail, we would have to identify Rashid’s handler. He confessed to working out of Canada’s embassy in Amman, Jordan. Handlers, more properly known as “case officers,” often work out of embassies under what are known as “diplomatic covers.” They take a position within the embassy and freely operate because if they are caught, they enjoy diplomatic immunity and are simply deported. Due to the prevalence of law students in the intelligence community, the most common cover position has been the office of the “legal attaché.” However, it was used so often that people immediately assumed every legal attaché was a spy, so intelligence agencies began placing officers in roles they weren’t qualified for so they could enjoy diplomatic immunity. When trying to identify an intelligence officer in an embassy, it becomes important to look for two things: someone holding a position they aren’t qualified for and someone who does not even pretend to fulfill the duties of their office.

One name jumps off of the Canadian Embassy’s roster: the Ambassador himself. Canada’s embassy in Jordan is a very special one. It handles Jordan, Iraq, and because the office in Syria is vacant, it handles that as well. One would think that given the current crisis, the Canadian government would want a top level diplomat assigned to the post. Instead, the position is filled by a man with no diplomatic experience. Literally none. He has never held a diplomatic post in his life. His background is certainly interesting though.

Bruno Saccomani’s prior experience is that he was a Mountie. Americans immediately think of a man on a horse wearing a funny hat and red coat when they hear the term. Of course, the reality of the situation is a little bit different. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the equivalent of the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and every state police force rolled into one. Saccomani’s most recent position was the Prime Minister’s chief bodyguard. In this position, he was required to have the highest security clearance Canada has because he was with the country’s leader during classified briefings and as he traveled overseas.

So what does Saccomani do at the embassy? Nothing related to diplomacy. The chief diplomat seems to allow various Ministers to deal with the actual diplomacy. A quick scan of the embassy’s press releases reveals that he doesn’t even sign his name to public statements from the embassy.

Rashid and the Canadian Embassy came into contact when he was seeking asylum. Once the Canadians became involved in his asylum case, he traveled to Canada for a brief period of time before returning and beginning his smuggling. He recorded his smuggling escapades. These videos were probably of intelligence value to the Canadian intelligence services. However, after two years it is still unclear as to why the Canadians were running the smuggling operation for the Islamic State in the first place. The intelligence value of knowing who is entering and joining the Islamic State’s ranks is not even remotely equivalent to the value of shutting the routes down.

This is just the latest in a string of bizarre incidents that have led many to believe the West is funding, arming, and assisting the Islamic State so the war continues to destabilize regimes in the area.

Historical context of incidents:

An Islamic State commander admits receiving funding from US.

In an era when the US can send a missile into an 18 inch window, it has repeatedly dropped arms and supplies to Islamic State fighters by accident.

The US hampered Kurdish resistance to the Islamic State until significant pressure was brought to bear by independent media outlets.

While all of this is certainly damning and generates the appearance that the West is actively supporting the Islamic State, there are no credible theories as to why the West would be subverting its own interests. It is possible that this was yet another example of intelligence agencies running amok without proper supervision. Given the volume of factual evidence and the continued stream of anecdotal evidence, we must also consider that the West is involved in a large clandestine operation pursuing interests its citizens are unaware of.


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