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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New podcast dives into police-manufactured legislature bombing plot

Pressure Cooker presents a fascinating, deeply researched, and complex telling of the RCMP entrapment of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody

By Jimmy Thomson
September 8, 2022
Policing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New podcast dives into police-manufactured legislature bombing plot

Pressure Cooker presents a fascinating, deeply researched, and complex telling of the RCMP entrapment of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody

By Jimmy Thomson
Sep 8, 2022
Sarah Berman and Daniel Pierce. Source: CBC
Sarah Berman and Daniel Pierce. Source: CBC
Policing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

New podcast dives into police-manufactured legislature bombing plot

Pressure Cooker presents a fascinating, deeply researched, and complex telling of the RCMP entrapment of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody

By Jimmy Thomson
September 8, 2022
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New podcast dives into police-manufactured legislature bombing plot
Sarah Berman and Daniel Pierce. Source: CBC

“I know what’s up,” proclaims John Nuttall early on in the second episode of CBC’s new five-part podcast series, Pressure Cooker. 

Nuttall, it turns out, did not know what’s up; in that moment, of anyone on the planet, Nuttall was perhaps among the people with the least knowledge of what was up.

Nuttall was well into the process of walking into a trap set for him by the RCMP—a well laid-out maze that began with an innocuous request for help and ended in his being arrested for trying to bomb the BC Legislature on Canada Day in 2013. For Nuttall and his wife, Amanda Korody, the operation involved the police carefully isolating them from family, friends, and mainstream Islam—their newly adopted religion—and systematically removing the many otherwise immovable obstacles that stood between the feckless pair and their ability to carry out a violent attack.

Pressure Cooker, hosted by Daniel Pierce and produced by Sarah Berman and Rafferty Baker, is a jaw-dropping recounting of two plots: the bombing Nuttall and Korody planned, and the RCMP effort to walk the couple step-by-step through the planning process.

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“This is truly a case where the RCMP manufactured the crime,” BC Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce said in a withering 2015 decision, which the appeals court later upheld. That court called it a “travesty of justice.” 

The new podcast uses more than a hundred hours of police surveillance tape and CBC’s own interviews with the couple to walk the audience through that “manufacturing” process, in a captivating, infuriating, and informative story that at times veers into territory better suited to a black comedy than a documentary about one of Victoria’s most bizarre crimes.

‘Absolutely stunning’ surveillance tapes

Pierce first encountered the story through Berman’s reporting for VICE during Nuttall and Korody’s original trial. When he was looking for the subject for a film he could write, that trial came to mind—it was “a cross between The Wire and Fubar,” he said. 

The couple, freed up by the appeals court decision, agreed to speak with him, so he recorded an interview. And then he got the tapes: lawyers for Nuttall and Korody handed over more than a hundred hours of audio and video from police surveillance, which they had accessed before the trial. 

That was when he knew he had something special.

“As soon as I heard that I was like, ‘That’s absolutely stunning.’” 

The result of that tape is something more intimate than interviews alone would reveal. Listeners are privy to the couple’s private conversations as they discuss their fear of what they believe is a terrorist network (in reality, the RCMP) that’s pushing them toward a plot they’re ambivalent about pursuing. 

John Nuttall, left, and Amanda Korody, right. Photo: Dan Pierce / CBC (Submitted)

At times, it’s emotional and raw; at others, it’s downright silly. The contrast makes for disorienting listening.

“We’re talking about blowing people up, but we’re also talking about the most ridiculous way of doing it,” Pierce said.

More than once, Nuttall returns to an absurd plot to hijack a nuclear submarine “with like ten guys with AK[47]s,” in order to force Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to stand down. 

“Mind you, we had no knowledge of how to work a nuclear submarine,” Korody quips in an interview with Pierce.

“How hard could it be, honestly?” Nuttall asks between mouthfuls of pita.

“Probably pretty hard,” Korody suggests. 

The podcast underlines what Justice Bruce herself set out in her decision: “Their ideas were unrealistic, unfeasible and grandiose and it was quite apparent to the RCMP that [the couple] … would be incapable of carrying out any of their jihadist ideas” without significant help from the officers. 

That help took the form of endless pestering and cajoling from an undercover officer they believed to be part of an al Qaeda cell, and fruitless demands that they remain on task.

At one point, officers brought the couple to Kelowna to focus on researching and writing their shapeless, ever-shifting plot. Instead, they played round after round of video games. 

“[T]he constant direction and prodding they needed to accomplish their assigned tasks showed that it was the police who were the leaders of this plot,” Justice Bruce wrote.

A sinister explanation

Nuttall and Korody are unlikely heroes. At the time of their entrapment, they were on and off heroin, deep in poverty, and newly part of a religion neither had a good understanding of. They are on tape describing the (hypothetical) brutal murders of everyone from hotel staff to members of the Canadian Navy. 

Those comments, they now say, were part of “a show” they were putting on for the people they believed to be dangerous terrorists. 

“That is actually supported in the tape,” Pierce said. “You notice a striking difference between how they act when they’re with the officer, and how they act when they’re just with each other.” 

At one critical juncture, in Kelowna, the couple find themselves alone between meetings with the under-cover RCMP. Nuttall exhorts Korody to focus—their lives could be on the line. “If this doesn’t get done, we are done,” he tells her, sounding panicked. “We will be dropped. We will be deleted. Do you get it?”

Even today, Pierce says, the couple holds controversial, difficult views. They were avid devotees of conspiracy theories prior to the investigation and their three years in jail—“all of the classics—chemtrails, the Illuminati,” Pierce said—and those views have, if anything, only hardened now.

“[Nuttall] will always be drawn to sinister explanations,” Pierce said, but that instinct hadn’t protected him from the actual sinister plot that was taking place behind the scenes. Even during the production of the podcast, the couple seemed unsure whether Pierce and Berman’s work was just another trick by the police who had tricked them again and again for years. (Pierce doesn’t know whether they have yet listened to it.)

The RCMP themselves refused to participate in the podcast, though the Crown prosecutor did grant an interview in his own defence, arguing for the case the government lost, resoundingly in both provincial courthouses. To Pierce’s knowledge, no police officer was ever formally censured for the bungled operation. 

One major gap in the podcast—the involvement of security agency CSIS in the investigation—looms large as the series draws to a close. No representatives of the agency agreed to speak with CBC for the podcast, and attempts to clarify their agents’ involvement were denied. Pierce says an upcoming bonus episode may shed some light on that. 

As for the feature film Pierce had at first set out to create, he says the podcast could act as a roadmap, though now that he’s spent years diving into the mire of this story, he’s envisioning a five- or six-part miniseries. 

“I learned so much more about this case since writing that screenplay,” he said. “I just don’t know how you could cram this story into a feature.”

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Jimmy Thomson
Managing Editor

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