Recording device failed at key time, cop tells accused terrorist hearing

TORONTO — A secret recording device somehow failed during a key interaction in which a Pakistani man discussed blowing up buildings in downtown Toronto, an undercover RCMP officer testified on Wednesday.

The officer, who said Jahanzeb Malik was serious about carrying out the attacks, said he only learned days later of the failure.

“It was never clarified to me why, how come,” the agent told the immigration hearing. “I just knew that it did not record.”

After that, the agent said he began carrying two recording devices, both of which apparently failed on another date, once again without explanation.

The federal government wants to deport Malik, 34, who arrived in Canada as a student in 2004 and became a permanent resident in 2009, as a security threat.

In testimony at the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing, the officer said he initially knew nothing about Malik, but he was tasked with hiring him to do flooring in a “prop house” and then getting him to live there.

“I just followed my handler’s instructions,” the agent said.

In various conversations, Malik repeatedly expressed support for the Islamic State and al-Qaida, the officer said. Malik played videos showing Islamic State atrocities, such as mass executions and beheadings.

Malik told him the killings were justified given western attacks on Muslims in the Middle East and Canada was complicit in those attacks, the officer testified.

“Any terrorist action would be justified in Canada,” the agent cited Malik as telling him.

“He said there are no civilians in Canada, only enemies, because all Canadians pay tax, and the tax dollars are used to buy the planes that are sent to Syria and Iraq and are used to fund the military.”

On Oct. 28, 2014, Malik asked the officer, who pretended to be a veteran of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia, by writing on a piece of paper whether he could make explosives. The agent said he could.

“What do we need?” Malik wrote, the officer said.

“I wrote back: Target?” the agent said.

“Mr. Malik wrote: ‘Doesn’t matter’.”

The agent said he needed more specifics to calculate the explosives required and Malik responded, “The American embassy, financial district, Bay Street.”

After the exchange, the agent said, Malik burned the paper on the stove.

In another conversation, Malik expressed bemusement at the outpouring of shock and grief at last year’s murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the national war memorial in Ottawa.

“How come that the public feels sorry for one fallen soldier but they don’t care about the women and children that their soldiers killed in Afghanistan,” the witness said Malik asked.

“He said, ‘You shouldn’t be surprised that something like this is happening’.”

The officer, who cannot be identified under an extensive publication ban, said he was unaware that some of what Malik told him about his past wasn’t true.

For example, Malik told the agent about having participated in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi in 2012 when it could be shown he was not in Libya at the time.

Lawyer Anser Farooq asked whether his client’s fabrications would make any difference to the officer’s view that Malik was bent on carrying out terrorist acts.

“No, not really,” the officer replied.

Malik was clearly trying to indoctrinate and recruit him, and was serious about his terror plans, the officer testified.

Malik has been detained since his arrest in March, and watched the proceedings via video link from a prison in Lindsay, Ont.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press