Introducing: 60 Minutes All Access Learn More +
Unlimited, ad-free viewing of 60 Minutes archives, Overtime and extras

Al-Qaida In Canada?

Former Intelligence Official Says Yes

A former high-ranking Canadian intelligence official tells Steve Kroft that there are at least 50 terrorist groups, al-Qaida among them, operating in Canada whose members could easily slip into the U.S. across the undefended 5,500-mile border.

The full interview with David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"We've established through our intelligence service and other means that we have 50 terrorist organizations now on our soil…They range in scope from the IRA to Hezbollah, Hamas…[and] certainly al-Qaida," says Harris, who has "no doubt" some of those terrorists are targeting America.

For several years, U.S. investigations into terrorist acts have turned up Canadian connections. Recently, U.S. officials searching for two al-Qaida operatives learned that the two North Africans had lived in Montreal. They both held valid Canadian passports and blended in with other immigrants in the city, which is only an hour's drive from the U.S. border.

Efforts to grow the Canadian economy require a large immigrant workforce and so Canada maintains one of the most open immigration policies. Ninety-five percent of foreigners claiming refugee status are immediately allowed to settle in the country, even though upwards of half of them have no identification. "We have the most generous refugee system in the world," says former executive director of Canada's Immigration Service, Joe Bissett. Bissett says Canada accepted 15,000 "refugees" since Sept. 11. "Of those 15,000, 2,500 come from terrorist countries, Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan…most of them, we don't know who the hell they are," he says.

Once in Canada, refugees have quick access to benefits such as welfare. A terrorist has it made, says Harris, "Canada has everything for the discriminating terrorist. It's a modern economy, so you can get money…channel it around the world, a vast migrant population so you can fit in," Harris tells Kroft.

This situation exists because Canada, like the U.S., is a free and open society, says Canada's Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. "[Terrorists] hide in Canada, the United States, Europe." Canada's domestic security policy is under review says Manley. "I think we have a grasp on [terrorists]; Is it failsafe? I'd be naïve to believe it was. Is it getting better? Yes. Do we need to keep improving it? Yes," he says.