NATIONAL SECURITY: by John MillerNews Weekly
Let our security services do their job
, August 2, 2008
John Miller, a former senior intelligence officer, asks: how can our police and security services combat terrorism properly when they are forever the target of suspicion and execration?Ever since its creation in 1949, ASIO has never been given proper credit for its operational successes. Although ASIO was originally set up by Ben Chifley's Labor Government, Australia's left-wing public intelligentsia and opinion-formers came to view it as a pliant tool of the Menzies Coalition Government, hell-bent on retaining power.
ASIO has been invariably pilloried for perceived failures and has been subject to two major royal commissions.
The first, the Hope Royal Commission (1974-1977), cast considerable doubt on the effectiveness of the organisation and its politicisation. There is much yet to be written on the recently declassified confidential papers from this inquiry.
In 1983, as a result of the Combe-Ivanov affair, a second royal commission basically acknowledged that ASIO had got its act together, but the findings were lost in a sea of adverse publicity.
It is axiomatic that ASIO has never enjoyed the public confidence accorded to its overseas counterparts, Britain's domestic security service MI5 and the US's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
More recently, the Australian Federal Police has experienced the sort of obloquy that ASIO has long suffered. The media have been swift to seize on any shortcoming of the AFP without acknowledging its overall professionalism and good reputation.
The baying of critics for the head of AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty grows louder with the passing of every day. The net result of such denigration can only be an increasing lack of confidence in the AFP and a reduced willingness by members of the public to cooperate with both it and ASIO.
Certain members of the legal fraternity, as well as a number of academics and media commentators have joined in the fray, heaping criticism and opprobrium on the Australian intelligence community - ASIO and the AFP in particular - for the perceived failed and controversial cases of the Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef and the Pakistani student Izhar ul-Haque.
No credit has been given to our security services for the apprehension and jailing of Faheem Lodhi and Willie Brigitte, not to mention several members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Currently before the courts in Melbourne is a trial understood to be connected with Operation Pendennis, a joint AFP-ASIO covert effort which culminated in November 2005 with the arrests of 29 suspected terrorists in Melbourne and Sydney.
The prosecution has presented its case, and an informant from the group allegedly plotting terrorist action has been publicly identified.
The defence, for its part, has followed what appears to be a common or pro forma approach overseas, by seeking to trivialise the charges and to undermine the credibility of witnesses.
It is of course a cornerstone of a civilised society that the innocent should be protected. However, many misguided members of the West's intelligentsia go out of their way to misrepresent as an assault on civil liberties their governments' totally justified measures to tackle the threat of terrorism.
Too many academics and self-styled civil libertarians routinely cast Islamic fundamentalists as innocent victims and democratic governments as oppressors.
Some law school academics are so obsessed by the imagined "fascism" of counter-terrorist legislation and the need to protect rights of individual terrorist suspects that one must fear for the impartiality and qualities of future law graduates.
The Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of New South Wales proclaims that it "plays a prominent, independent role in public debate on issues vital to Australia's future: including bills of rights, the reconciliation process and native title, and the challenges of responding to terrorism". However, I have yet to see one article emanating from that distinguished institution that supports counter-terrorist activities and laws."Islamophobia"?
In our universities the fastest growing industry is the subject of terrorism studies, which practises the postmodernist techniques of "deconstruction" and places the blame for terrorism on Western society's "Islamophobia".
In short, our society, with its freedoms and tolerance for diverse views, is somehow cast as the real villain in its civilisational clash with fundamentalist Islam.
The success of our Federal Government's much-maligned terrorist hotline is striking, but, with so many prominent identities railing against Australia's "oppressive" counter-terrorist laws, attracting recruits to perform intelligence work and find sources of information among target groups will become increasingly difficult.
Too many naïve Westerners display a greater willingness to embrace our enemies than to defend our allies or uphold the values of a free society.