NATIONAL SECURITY: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
800 potential terrorists in Australia
, October 8, 2005
Australia's domestic intelligence services have taken four years to appreciate the threat posed by Australia's underground terrorist network, writes Peter Westmore.A confidential briefing by Australian intelligence services - that there were as many as 800 potential terrorists in Australia - convinced Australian state governments to back tough new anti-terrorism laws at the recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra.
It is an appalling indictment of Australia's domestic intelligence services - particularly ASIO which has the principal role in tracking threats to national security - that it has taken four years since the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and other targets, for the extent of the underground network in Australia to be uncovered.
As recently as July 2004, Andrew Metcalfe, deputy secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, gave a briefing in Canberra in which he indicated that the Government saw the threat as basically one originating from overseas, and in which the threat to Australians was principally abroad.
He said: "This threat from Islamic extremists is different to those we have faced in the past. It challenges us because it is completely asymmetrical ... There are networks of extremists and fanatics who fight this war with no restraint, who often do not value even their own lives."
He added, "Although there has not been an attack on Australian soil yet, innocent Australians have been killed in the attacks overseas. Ten Australians were killed on 11 September, one Australian was killed in the Riyadh attack last May , and we all know the terrible toll from Bali."
Contrary to earlier suggestions that the terrorist threat comes from overseas, it is now obvious that Australia, like Great Britain, faces a major threat from deeply alienated Muslims within Australia. As in Britain, we must accept that many of them were born in Australia of Middle-Eastern parents.
The failure is not simply one of the intelligence services. It is obvious that Australia's immigration program has failed, in not vetting immigrants for extremist views, however difficult that might be. The doctrine of multiculturalism which encouraged immigrants to maintain their ethnic identities, contributed to the formation of American-style ghettos in large cities where such ideas ferment.
Equally seriously, the Australian education system has failed and the curriculum needs urgent revision to reinforce the need for patriotism and a commitment to the Australian way of life.
It would be a grave mistake to believe that the solution to the problem of Islamic terrorism is merely one of more police powers.