NATIONAL SECURITY: by John MillerNews Weekly
Re-thinking our response to terrorism
, September 16, 2006
Are Australians prepared for a terrorist attack on home soil? A former senior intelligence officer John Miller specifies several essential security measures Australia must put in place to defend itself.The violent events of the past two months or so, especially the war by Israel against Hezbollah and the British authorities' foiling of a plot by Islamic extremists to blow up several airliners en route to the United States has thrown the multifaceted problem of terrorism into a new light.
Recent opinion polls in Australia and the UK have shown that there is a growing and grave public concern about terrorism. And indeed, as the Sydney Daily Telegraph
(August 28, 2006) stated: "Most Australians believe we are locked in a losing war against Islamic terrorists and an attack on our home soil, most likely Sydney, is inevitable."
It would be easy to be pedantic and claim that an opinion poll of 572 people is unrepresentative but the information was derived from interviews of citizens in Sydney, Newcastle, country New South Wales and the ACT. The results of this poll closely mirror those conducted in the United Kingdom by YouGov
and widely reported in the British press.
The average Australian and British citizen appears to be more fearful of a terrorist attack; increasingly distrustful of the motives of Islamic migrants irrespective of country of origin and generally apprehensive about the capacity of the West to win the war against terror.
There needs to be a thorough rethink of terrorism and counter-terrorism in this country. A thorough re-examination of the way terrorism is regarded by the populace and the government should be extremely wide-ranging. Ideally, it would include a long overdue assessment of words that have taboo connotations, namely migration, multiculturalism and integration.
In addition, there needs to be a close scrutiny of dual citizenship, defining and questioning what it is to be Australian, especially where core values are concerned.
Much more should be learned about the dynamics of society and interaction between various migrant communities. The so-called race riots at Cronulla late last year may yield valuable insight to researchers.
|Terrorists from the July 7, 2005|
London bombings, captured on
closed-circuit television moments before they
board an Underground train
On the basis of the British experience, it can be demonstrated that a significant proportion of young Muslims suffer from forms of social alienation and become radicalized through the structures of the Islamic faith. Evidence suggests that at least some of those who are prepared to die for the cause and have made so-called "martyr videos" are intelligent and nominally integrated into society (their alienation being hidden). Understanding the psychological processes behind their transformation into terrorists requires a high degree of understanding of the Islamic faith, its radical elements and the characteristics of second-generation migrants - clearly a job for experts.
These issues are far too important and complex to be left either to the "shock jocks" of the rabid right-wing of the radio waves or to the simpering, moral relativists whose bankrupt anti-American - and, by extension, anti-Israeli - sentiments are aired regularly on ABC Radio National, promoted by the "usual suspects" who gravitate naturally around Phillip Adams, especially Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Robert Fisk.
Between these two extremes, Australia is filled by current affairs and news programs based on small sound bites or grabs and the "dumbing down" of serious issues.
Furthermore, there needs to be bipartisan and broad community agreement on a national counter-terrorism program and the organisation of defence. The subject is far too important to be left to politicians alone.
Space prohibits a digression on those topics in this article but as more people realise that this country is in effect on a war footing, such work cannot be placed on the back burner for too long.Basics of terrorism
We must examine some basics of terrorism and pose the question: "Are Australians (and governmental authorities) effectively prepared for an attack on our own soil?"
It is reasonable to assert that no open, democratic, modernising society can afford to permit the development of an exclusive counterculture in its midst - that is, a sufficiently large and self-sustaining community, which holds views or subscribes to beliefs that are antithetical to democracy. Clasping the proverbial asp to the bosom is to invite being bitten.
While cultural differences should be respected, no minority group has a right to claim special privileges and treatment to the detriment of others. Certain cultural practices - e.g., clitorectomy, the physical mutilation of a woman - should be banned because there are no medical grounds for such a procedure.Clearly, the attendant lesson is that a society must be alert to the dangers posed by terrorists, without being panicked but also being able to trust government and the security and police bodies who are charged with defending the country
. Therefore, it is pertinent to point out a few basics.
1) The objective of terrorism is to terrorise the general population.
2) Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is usually directed at iconic buildings or financial hubs which symbolise the "decadent" West - in this instance, globalising, modernising, open and democratic society.
3) To kill as many civilians as possible in any terrorist action is seen as advantageous. (See 1 and 2 above).
4) Terrorists have a concept of the value of human life that is totally different from our own - to kill people on a terrorist mission is a ticket to paradise, while we Westerners, in the main, regard the taking of human life as wrong or, in bygone days, even sinful.
5) While muzzling any form of media is undemocratic, hysteria whipped up by the uninformed and often fanned by those who make a living out of the academic pursuit of terrorism can cause panic and despair. A review of "D" notices or a similar system is probably overdue.
6) The whole population of this country will have to learn to be quiet but alert in the face of terrorist threat. Panic, anxiety, media-driven hysteria feed on themselves, which in itself is part of the terrorist objective.
7) Unfortunately, Australians cannot afford to be as confident about the capabilities of counter-terrorist forces in this country as the Prime Minister appears to be, even after the atrocities of Bali and other incidents around the world. Without mentioning each and every one of these attacks one would hope that the minds of our leaders would become more focused.
8) Short-term politics should mean that electoral sweeteners such as tax cuts are off the agenda, as we need to develop a new form of combined policing and counter-terrorism force.
The defence of Australia against terrorism lies not with privatised security guards at airports and invasive strip-searching of passengers. It relies on a high degree of co-ordination and control of the many police, security and intelligence bodies advising the Federal and State governments. It is a fact of life that each organisation seeks to justify and prolong its own existence and carve out considerable areas in turf wars.
In recognition of the growing role to be played by the Australian Defence Forces in the fight against terrorism, the government announced on August 26 a series of measures and expenditures. The aim is to arrest a decline in the total number in the ADF from 52,034 in 2004 to 50,653 in 2006. With 24 per cent of the ADF being deployed overseas in the past few months and more in transit, it can be adduced that when logistics are taken into account, the ADF is overstretched.
The buildup of the Army to eight battalions together with the purchase of modern weapons systems is a long-range and costly exercise - around $11 billion - and will bring land forces to 30,000 over the next decade.
Arguably in the forefront of the fight against terrorism, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) proved its worth in the aftermath of the Bali bombings and in cooperation with state police forces in last year's counter-terrorism operations. The AFP's International Deployment Group is to be increased by 422 officers raising the group's strength to about 1,200 personnel. A further organisational change will involve the creation of a 150-strong Operational Response Group, which would be critical in the event of a domestic terrorist situation. There are grounds for confidence in the AFP, but the true test on home soil has yet to come.
Forward planning and budgets for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) will take its numbers from the current level of 1,100 to 1,840 within the next few years. Since the now notorious "peace dividend" of the late 1980s - which saw a drop in the number of staff to just over 5,000 combined with the loss of arguably many of its brightest and best with the move to Canberra of ASIO headquarters - there has been a problem with attracting, training and retaining personnel. The problem has been compounded by the failure to retain experienced staff to act as mentors to new recruits, something that Director-General, Paul O'Sullivan, has mentioned quite recently (The Australian
, August 26-27, 2006).ASIO far different
ASIO has a predilection for recruiting to focus on generalist officers at the expense of specialists. As significant segments of ASIO's management have been drawn from the ranks of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade since the move to Canberra, ASIO is a far different organisation from what it was during the Cold War.
Terrorism as the major subset of ASIO's current functions should be encouraging specialisation in that area and not falling into the three-year rotation trap that pervades the notion of generalist officers.
This is no time to post recruitment notices for senior administrators at exorbitant salaries and remarkably generous allowances. People are needed on the street and mingling in the communities and we should determine which of those oppose the concept of a unified Australia.
There is a great deal to recommend technical penetration of all suspected centres of extreme activity.
We have to recognise now that police and security forces face probably one of the most difficult tasks since their inception. We are a target, not just because the Howard Government has taken our armed forces into Iraq and East Timor.
Senior Muslims around the globe have specifically named Australia as an enemy of Islam and the fact is that, like all modern Western countries, we are just that. Indeed, Australia has been very lucky so far, but Operation Pendennis
(November 2005), which rounded up suspects who are beginning to appear in court, provides some indication that the same terrorist psyche evident overseas is present in Australia.
Unfortunately, our intelligence organisations, over the past few years, have been turned into the form of an inverted pyramid, with a top-heavy layer of bureaucrats but, at the bottom, greatly reduced numbers on the street, doing the hard job of gathering intelligence.First line of defence
The point also needs to be made that the biggest risk with a far-flung bureaucracy is that in the event of a terrorist alert or incident, the first line of defence lies with state police forces. This matter deserves a great deal of examination to determine whether state police are sufficiently armed and trained to contain a terrorist scene in the way so graphically depicted in London.
On the day of his resignation in July 2005, former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr called for a conference of all state police chiefs to determine their approach to terrorism. This points to a disturbing lack of consultation which has hopefully been rectified.
It would be no doubt very reassuring to all state police forces that they will be given specific training and weaponry necessary to contain terrorist incidents until the arrival of the SAS and AFP.
Unfortunately, passing the parcel of blame in Australian government is all too frequent an occurrence. The state police forces deserve better than to be the fall guys should plans go wrong.Necessary steps
Australia must be prepared to face a clear and present danger and to take the necessary steps to ensure the nation's safety:
• There is a good case for the Prime Minister to present Parliament with a case for the suspension of any further Muslim immigration.
• We should establish a Department of Homeland Security (an ALP policy initiative), based on the U.S. model, with an appropriately qualified head. Counter-terrorism is too important a task to be in the category of "jobs for the boys", or military re-treads with political ambitions.
• We must review our ludicrously low level of security, ensuring our security and police forces are no longer an inverted pyramid dominated by bureaucrats.
• Security forces, especially those used for airport and dock facilities, should be employed by government and not subcontracted to private organisations. There is a need for professionalisation and training in this area.
• We should seriously examine the use of the laws of sedition, which have long been on the statute books.
• It should be clearly spelt out for those forces involved in the task of containment of an incident or attack, where responsibility lies. (Experience suggests that, in the event of a critical incident, a lot of bureaucrats are inclined to run around like headless chickens).
• We must ensure that our state police are suitably armed, trained and prepared for a terrorist incident and not leave the impression that they are the first response units on the scene but, in the final bureaucratic analysis, natural scapegoats.
• Distasteful and unpalatable though it may seem, in circumstances of doubt in dealing with multicultural matters, the Government must be seen to have all necessary power to deal with terrorism in all its aspects, from the Islamic school, reading room, madrassa through to the mosque.
The doublespeak exhibited by certain Islamic clerics should be identified for what it is - coded instructions for jihad
or support thereof, to say nothing of taqiyya
(religiously-sanctioned lying) which can basically be defined as disinformation and deception.
• New laws should be enacted forthwith prohibiting the distribution of radical Islamic texts. Bookshops should be judged on what is on the shelves and in the back rooms. Individuals convicted of inciting racial hatred should be stripped of their citizenship, jailed and then deported to whence they came.It is not a question of if but when one of our major cities is attacked
. The Opposition has shown that it is not automatically opposed to some tightening of security measures. This is clearly a case for bipartisanship.
As a senior British intelligence-officer-turned-commentator said following the planned bombing of airliners: "They [terrorists] only have to be lucky once; we have to be lucky all the time
."- John Miller.