Detained: Islamic Fundamentalist Extremism and the War on Terror in Canada by Daniel Livermore

Published date01 December 2019
Date01 December 2019
Book Reviews
Daniel Livermore
Detained: Islamic Fundamentalist Extremism and the War on Terror in Canada
Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018. 341 pp. $34.95 (cloth)
ISBN: 9780773555099
Reviewed by: Craig Forcese (, University of Ottawa, Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada
Law students at the University of Ottawa participate periodically in an intensive
national security crisis simulation at the Georgetown law school in Washington,
DC. Every year, at least one student team follows an unexpected path. A bit of
‘‘noise’’ in the data stream, placed into the storyline as ‘‘colour,’’ becomes a fix-
ation. The fixation becomes an obsession. The obsession leads to terrible mistakes.
There is a phrase that describes this phenomenon: cognitive bias. Students
anchor on a single piece of information and overestimate its importance because
it resembles some recent notorious event. New information is construed through
the lens of a now baked-in supposition, creating conformation bias. Group-think
among the small group precipitates a vicious circle. And so, within hours, an
innocuous report during the simulation about ‘‘two men drinking coffee in
Lahore’’ is passed between student groups like a hot potato, and culminates in a
drone strike.
In Detained: Islamic Fundamentalist Extremism and the War on Terror in
Canada, Daniel Livermore, a former director general of security and intelligence
in Canada’s foreign affairs department, tells the story of real-life cognitive bias in
Canada’s security and intelligence services after 9/11. In this exacting work, he
retraces the sorry history of Canadians maltreated in foreign hands, covered in
Canadian fingerprints.
This terrain has also been covered by the reports of the 2006 Arar and 2008
Iacobucci commissions.
And Canada’s conduct has spilled into court in assorted
constitutional, administrative, and civil litigation proceedings. Livermore urges,
however, that the story has not been fully told—courts decide only on the facts
before them, and commissions of inquiry are fettered by their terms of reference.
The broader picture—and especially the international dimension of the post-9/11
events—has remained untold. Livermore sets out to correct this omission.
International Journal
2019, Vol. 74(4) 612–627
!The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0020702019894996
1. Order-in-Council, P.C. 2004-0048 (5 February 2004) and Order-in-Council, P.C. 2006-1526 (11
December 2006).

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