Terror plotters claim they were groomed by Mounties and were relieved bombs were fake: Exclusive W5 interview
Published Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:00AM EST
For the first time since they were convicted of terrorism related offences in 2015, then set free last July, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody are speaking out in an exclusive interview with W5’s Victor Malarek.
“We certainly didn’t want to hurt a bunch of random Canadians on Canada Day,” said Korody. “They’re just innocent people going through their daily lives.”
That is hardly how the RCMP and Crown Prosecutors see the couple, who they believe are dangerous terrorists. In July of 2013, the RCMP announced they had foiled a major terrorist plot to bomb the BC Legislature in Victoria.
John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, a Canadian couple who’d recently converted to Islam, planted three pressure cooker bombs outside the legislature on Canada Day. But the bombs never went off, and the RCMP reassured the public there was never a real threat. This was all part of a large scale undercover operation run by the RCMP called ‘Project Souvenir.’
“Nuttall and Korody were charged with four terrorism related offenses and a jury found them guilty of conspiring to murder persons unknown and making or possessing an explosive substance for a terrorist group, in June 2015.”
A year later, a B.C. court ruled that John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were entrapped, and the RCMP had manufactured the entire plot. The pair were set free.
“The whole thing was just so conniving from the very beginning,” said Korody.
“You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be a bomber,” added Nuttall. “These guys groomed us for six months to do this.”
More than 200 officers were involved in ‘Project Souvenir’. Documents obtained by W5 show that Mounties billed nearly a million dollars in overtime during the four month operation.
The undercover sting began when the RCMP got a tip in early 2013 from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that John Nuttall was a potential security threat. An undercover RCMP officer posing as a Muslim businessman from the Middle East made contact with Nuttall and Korody who believed that he had connections to a terrorist network.
The undercover officer befriended Nuttall and Korody, and over the course of several months built up a relationship with them. He took them for coffee, on trips out of town and even gave the couple money.
More than 180 hours of undercover video and audio, obtained from court records and reviewed by W5, show the evolution of the plot as the Mountie, identified as Undercover Officer A, won the trust of the pair and then led them into a terror plot.
“I loved him like a brother,” said Nuttall in the interview with W5.
But Nuttall and Korody’s lawyers argued the undercover operator worked to isolate their already marginalized clients. Nuttall and Korody were recovering heroin addicts living on government assistance.
“These were people who were already fairly socially isolated and became more so. They were unsophisticated, gullible and naïve,” said Nuttall’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford.
As the bond between the couple and their RCMP handlers grew, their conversations turned to jihad.
After months of Nuttall proposing absurd plans, like stealing a nuclear submarine, hijacking a Via Rail train that had stopped running years ago, or firing homemade rockets labelled with “Free Palestine”, the RCMP pushed Nuttall and Korody to come up with a feasible plan.
“Nuttall appeared to be someone who couldn’t stay focused on anything,” said lawyer Mark Jette, who represented Amanda Korody. “He seemed to have ideas, terrorist kinds of ideas, but they were fanciful.”
When Nuttall eventually suggested pressure cooker bombs, similar to the ones used in the Boston marathon bombing, the RCMP encouraged him to pursue that plan, and undercover officers promised to secure the explosives for the devices.
At different points throughout ‘Project Souvenir,’ Nuttall and Korody questioned whether they were doing the right thing. They asked the undercover operator to help them find spiritual guidance, but were dissuaded by the undercover officer posing as a devout Muslim. The couple were told to follow their hearts and that everything in Islam is pre-determined by Allah.
Omid Safi, director of Islamic Studies at Duke University, says that advice was wrong, and believes it was meant to keep Nuttall and Korody on the path to committing a terrorist attack. “Classic Islamic thought rejected the notion of: don’t worry about it because God has already decided it– as negating human free will,” Safi told W5.
As the plan to carry out a terrorist attack inched closer to reality, Nuttall and Korody talked about backing out. But Korody claims they feared they’d be killed by the undercover RCMP officer they believed was a terrorist.
“We thought that it was either follow through with the plan or take a dirt nap.”
On Canada Day 2013 the couple were secretly filmed placing their bombs on the Legislature lawn. A few hours later, in RCMP videos, they can be seen fretting over the fact that they might hurt innocent people, including children.
“What if it goes off during a time when children are there? What if it goes off now?”
Despite the ruling, Phil Gurski who was an analyst from CSIS at the time of the undercover operation, and who testified for the Crown, believes that the RCMP operation was professional and the couple were capable of committing terrorist activities. “I think that they were in fact capable,” Gurski told W5. “They certainly had the intent.”
B.C. Supreme Court ruling - July 2016