Al-Qaeda and Mossad, Hezbollah and the CIA, don’t have much in common save for a demonstrated preference that the passport for dirty deeds is Canada’s.
Since the Cold War, Canadian passports have been desirable for spies, state-sponsored assassins, terrorists and just about anyone else seeking to be plausibly ordinary across a range of languages, ethnicities and religions.
That a Hezbollah bus bomber in Bulgaria should be bearing a Canadian passport is good tradecraft, whether or not he was an actual citizen from a deliberately multicultural society with a genuine travel document or just carrying a good fake.
Mossad, Israeli’s renowned and deadly intelligence agency, opted for Canadian passports when operatives murdered a Moroccan waiter in Norway in 1973 – thinking he was a Palestinian terrorist linked to the Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes. Ottawa’s outrage didn’t stop Mossad from opting again to use Canadian passports – taken from from Canadian-Israeli dual nationals – as cover for a 1997 assassination attempt of Hamas’s political chief, Khaled Meshaal, in Jordan.
Allies and enemies alike recognize the value of a Canadian passport, a visa-free entry in most of the world, even the United States.
Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian al-Qaeda foot soldier and member of Montreal’s notorious Islamic jihadist cell, applied for and was issued a Canadian passport in 1999 in the name of a long-deceased Quebec infant as he prepared for the Millennium bombing attack intended to blow up Los Angeles airport.
Canadian governments have sometimes been complicit in the false issuance of passports. In 1980, Ottawa gave a half-dozen passports to the CIA to extract U.S. diplomats from Tehran, where Islamic radicals had stormed the American embassy. In doing so, Ottawa reinforced the widely held view that a nice blue Canadian passport was the ideal document to get into, or out of, a bad place.
Last month, another Canadian passport turned up, this time on the charred body of an Islamic jihadi linked to al-Qaeda who played a leading role – according to Algerian authorities – in the hostage taking and murder of scores of westerners at a remote Sahara gas facility.