Toronto 18 terror plot architect wants more computer access, but may not have to reveal passwords to parole officers

Shareef Abdelhaleem has whined a lot about not having unlimited internet and being allowed only a single device granted day parole 10 months ago, records say

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While a key architect of the Toronto 18 terrorism plot to detonate truck bombs in Toronto is pushing for more access to electronics while out of prison, the parole board is worried that requiring him to give his computer passwords to his parole supervisor might violate his rights.


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Shareef Abdelhaleem was granted day parole 10 months ago and he gushed thanks to the Parole Board of Canada — “You will not be sorry,” he said in December, “you will never hear from me again.” Now, however, he returns to the board complaining over his computer access.

Using computers and the internet have been a steady feature of his awkward adjustment to life beyond bars.

He complained about restrictions on computer access since his release into a halfway house. He was dissatisfied he did not have unlimited internet access and allowed only a single device, either a mobile phone or a computer.

He whined about it. A lot. So much so, it annoyed people around him, parole records say. His complaints will now be heard at an upcoming parole board hearing after a successful appeal.


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The board will also be looking at whether he needs to tell his parole supervisor the passwords to all his devices and accounts — even though Abdelhaleem did not complain about this requirement.

Now 46, Abdelhaleem was one of 18 people arrested in sweeping national security raids in June 2006, accused of wide-ranging terrorist plots to detonate powerful truck bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, a Canadian military base, and Canada’s spy agency; there were other plans to storm Parliament, take hostages and behead the prime minister.

Abdelhaleem was the last to be convicted. In 2011, he was named a “key architect” of the bomb plot, convicted on terrorism charges, and received a life sentence without chance of parole for 10 years.


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Computers were an immense part of his life before he joined the terror plot. He was a software developer, earning a lot and spending a lot; he drove a BMW convertible and once dropped $5,000 on a jacket.

He hasn’t been a problem since he was granted release on managed day parole in December. His day parole was extended in June, allowing him to move into a less restrictive halfway house.

He hasn’t caused security or safety concerns — either over crime or with COVID compliance. He completed a program for parolees, where his involvement was “limited, but adequate.” He continues with de-radicalization counselling because of his radical jihadi past.

He started an online computer programming course to update his skills. It’s needed, as technology has significantly advanced since his arrest.


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He pitched easing his internet, mobile phone, and computer restrictions. At a hearing in June, the board was cautious — noting his computer competence likely exceeds that of the parole team tasked with monitoring him.

“The Board has considered the technology available at the time of your offences and the one in place today that could be used by terrorist groups. As such, the Board is of the opinion that your Internet usage and communication must be monitored,” the board said.

The board budged a bit in June, though, allowing him one mobile communication device and one computer — provided the passwords for both devices, as well as for all applications and accounts on them, were provided to his parole officer.

Last month, he appealed for a parole review, saying the revised condition allowing two devices was being ignored by his parole supervisors. He said it was unreasonable because computers didn’t have a role in his previous terrorist activities. He was radicalized by people he met when he attended a mosque, not online.


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Continuing to allow him only one device, according to his complaint filed with the parole board, “was more aimed at making the surveillance more convenient for Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) as opposed to addressing legitimate concerns about public safety.”

He also said he would need different devices once he starts working in the computer field.

The board noted that technology and its use has changed since Abdelhaleem was involved in his terrorism conspiracy. Mobile phones, encrypted communications, and internet radicalization are now an important part of the terrorist playbook.

The appeal board seemed content to let parole supervisors handle what devices he owns as they think is best, but the appeal panel found other concerns with the June decision: the requirement for him to give officials access to everything on his devices.


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Toronto 18 terrorist plot member Shareef Abdelhaleem, who received a life sentence in 2011, denounced the “blatant injustice” done to him.
Toronto 18 terrorist plot member Shareef Abdelhaleem, who received a life sentence in 2011, denounced the “blatant injustice” done to him. Photo by Alex Tavshunsky/File

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”

“Everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of their devices, and as a parolee, you have a reduced expectation of privacy,” the parole board’s appeal division panel said in a decision released this week.

“A broad search of your devices as described above may reveal more information than is reasonably necessary for the monitoring purposes of the special condition.

“In your case, the Board did not explain how the broad search power of your devices reflected a proportionate balancing of your right to be secure against unreasonable search and the statutory mandate of the CCRA,” which is the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The requirement might be justified, the decision says, but the board needs to show it is “no more intrusive than is reasonably necessary.”

And so Abdelhaleem will return to the parole board to re-evaluate his computer access and monitoring.

In the meantime, he doesn’t need to turn over all of his passwords, only his billing statements and phone records.

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