we warn that true security will never be achieved with harsh laws - or
We are responding to this 'review' of ASIO's questioning and detention
regime only because of our deep concern at the escalating onslaught on
our basic civil rights which, in the wake of September 11 and the Bali
bombings, are being eroded at an alarming rate. This is happening despite
the strong laws already in place to deal with violent acts against the
past three years alone, at least 20 new complex and detailed laws giving
ASIO unprecedented tough powers to secretly investigate, detain and interview
people - including four at the end of 2004 - have been passed by the federal
parliament with minimal debate and almost no media coverage, giving Australia
the dubious distinction of having one of the most draconian raft of anti-terrorist
laws in the western world.
might argue we need strong laws, but surely not at the expense of the
very freedoms we are claiming to protect and which, in the long term,
will permanently damage our society as a whole.
the legislation purports to provide checks and balances for Australian
citizens caught up in these powers, it clearly does not. Justice and fairness
don't get a look in.
dubious nature of this belated parliamentary exercise is exemplified by
the fact that according to a quote from ASIO's report, three warrants
were issued during 2003-2004, but that is the only information we are
not know whether the detention of the three individuals was justified
or not, considering they were detained on the highly subjective basis
that there were 'reasonable grounds' that they 'may' alert someone involved
in a terrorism offence. An obvious question is who decides what are 'reasonable'
grounds'? Who defines what is a 'terrorism offence'?
leadership of a covert body which sets its own budgets and guidelines
and which, through a range of secret international agreements, is an appendage
of the US security network?
politically neutral nor a source to inspire confidence considering that
these same people relied on a plethora of distortions and straight-out
lies regarding 'weapons of mass destruction' to provide the justification
for an invasion and war against the citizens of a sovereign nation. In
any case, how on earth can an outsider judge whether the grounds are 'reasonable'
when there is no mechanism to ensure that even minimal safeguards are
being observed, bearing in mind the total secrecy that surrounds such
the committee should heed the words of Justice Hope in his first Royal
Commission on Security and Intelligence, when he found that:
- ASIO's management was not as good as it should be.
- Information from ASIO proved to be neither the quality or reliability
one might have wished.
- There was 'little evidence in ASIO that the qualities of mind and expertise
needed were recognised or available in any large measure'.
- There were departures by ASIO from principles of propriety and legality.
Hope repeated his concerns years later during his inquiry into the Combe/Ivanov
debacle, which once again revealed numerous cases of ASIO's cavalier attitude
to the truth.
Orwell would have got a laugh out of one ASIO dictum that truth, in ASIO's
minds, is what it creates in its files!
of its 'errors' fell into this category.
- Combe and his wife's trip to the Soviet Union was incorrectly claimed
by ASIO to have been paid for in total by the USSR government (transcript
page 626). ASIO hadn't bothered to check. - ASIO Director-General Barnett
asserted in evidence that the film 'Allies' had input from the KGB and
was financed from the Soviet Union (transcript page 425).
He was later forced to retrace this statement, which was not a 'mistake'
but was a typical ASIO surmise based on pure bias (transcript page 3518-3519).
ASIO hadn't bothered to check.
made other wild accusations against unspecified ALP members whose association
with Ivanov 'may have been quite legitimate but ...' ASIO again had no
facts to back up its allegation (transcript page 619).
Attorney-General Gareth Evans was forced to admit that Barnett's presentation
had 'an element of dramatisation'. For instance, Barnett claimed that
Paul Everingham, Northern Territory Chief Minister, had been 'visibly
shaken' when confronted with the awful news of Coombe's association with
Ivanov when in fact he was 'about as shaken as the desk (transcript page
operatives were behaving like that in a relatively benign political climate
when there was no real threat to Australia's security, clearly they are
now far more likely to be breaching the law and people's civil rights
across the board in the current environment of manufactured fear and hysteria.
the security horse had completely bolted, there are a number of serious
questions you should address as a matter of urgency, because as you say
in your covering letter '...this review by the Committee may represent
the only opportunity for detailed parliamentary scrutiny of these powers',
and you then list seven isssues that the Committee might wish to examine.
if you genuinely want a considered response, we want to know how we can
respond so that you can respond to ASIO's demands when we - and that includes
you, despite being the elected representatives of the people - do not
have, and it seems can never have, the necessary and relevant information
to do so.
how can outsiders have the slightest idea about what was achieved when
we don't even know who was arrested.
In fact, we are told, according to ASIO, that 'no-one was arrested'.
In reference to Point 3, we can only assume that 'any problems encountered
in the use of the legislation' would be anyone questioning the validity
of these powers.
as we don't know what aspects of the legislation have been used, we can
hardly comment on aspects that haven't yet been used!
And even if we did have such information, it would come from sources inside
the agencies, which independent people would not consider reliable.
are just a few of the fundamental contradictions and absurdities which
arise when dealing with the actions of the secret intelligence establishment
in a democratic society.
recent article, respected UK commentator on security matters, Phillip
Knightly, makes the point that western agency spying is far more complicated
than might appear.
had spoken with a long-time CIA agent who blew the whistle on the way
his agency evaluates reports, probably mirroring the modus vivendi of
our lot, with ABCD designated for reliability and 1234 for accuracy.
the source was impeccable while D4 indicated the complete opposite. In
nine times out of ten, the designation was C3, said the CIA agent, meaning
the source was 'usually reliable' (dubious?) and the information ' possibly
this means that the usually reliable source was sometimes reliable and
that the information described as possibly true could just as possibly
of this, the 'source' can find themselves under pressure to present what
their political masters want rather than what they believe to be true
in an 'intelligence briefing'. Hardly grounds to inspire confidence in
Phillip Knightly: 'It is almost impossible in the intelligence game to
blame anyone for anything. No matter what goes wrong, the intelligence
community always has a plausible excuse ... Inquiries into the intelligence
services produce little.
are only two certainties about such inquiries: the services will emerge
with larger staff and a bigger budget. Oh yes, and nobody will resign
and some may even be promoted.
with all the shortcomings of the secret services, its supporters reply
that it would be unthinkable not to have a secret service, forgetting
that we (UK) did not have one until 1911.
is better than nothing. But is this true? According to a study by the
Royal Institute for International Affairs, western intelligence success
in predicting Soviet moves was no better that that of America's think
intelligence community does everything it can to avoid assessment of its
efficiency, usually by falling back on the unanswerable statement:
have had some marvellous successes but we can't talk about them because
reality is that the intelligence game is a vast confidence trick.
Kondrashov, a retired KGB chief of counter-intelligence, told me at a
conference in Germany that if the KGB was forced to choose between a Russian
mole in the US administration and a subscription to The New York Times,
he would take the New York Times any day.
from the issues listed for the committee to examine, we urge that it should
also investigate a disturbing situation that has come to light about the
extended use of questioning and detention powers not covered by any Australian
legislation, but which are clearly in use and clearly relevant when passing
judgement on this question.
considering that Australian citizen Mamdough Habib, accused of training
several of the 9/11 hijackers, was transferred to Egypt after being incarcerated
in Guantanamo Bay, where he suffered months of torture before being released
have been a spate of recent articles in the US and UK press about this
practice of 'rendition', which transporting abducted 'terror suspects'
to third countries notorious for their brutal interrogation methods, a
form of torture by proxy.
was originally carried out on a limited basis against a discrete group
of suspects, a practice begun during the Clinton administration, but after
September 11, the programme extended beyond recognition to include a wide
and ill-defined body of 'illegal enemy combatants', many of whom have
never been charged with any crime.
York's University School has estimated that a hundred and fifty people
have been 'rendered' since 2001, the most common destinations being Egypt,
Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, all allied with the US in the
fight against terror and all cited for gross human rights abuses, prepared
to ride roughshod over the UN Convention Against Torture and all international
also been claimed that UK airports are operational bases for executive
jets to carry out 'renditions' of terror suspects. As a close ally of
the United States, is Australia also involved?
for the committee.A
parliamentary investigation in Sweden found that the CIA had seized two
Egyptian nationals from that country in December 2001.
The two men - Ahmed Agaza and Al Zery - were grabbed by CIA agents wearing
black masks and taken to the police station at Sweden's Bromma airport
where, while shackled hand and foot, they had their clothes cut off in
of an unknown kind inserted into their rectums'.
in diapers and dark overalls, blindfolded and hooded, the men were flown
to Cairo in a Gulfstream 5 jet.While
all this was going on, Swedish police were kept apart in the outer public
section of their own station, powerless to intervene.
Sunday Times (UK) gave even more details about the mystery Gulfstream
5 jet, registration number N379P, after obtaining the logs of some 300
flights showing its movements.
by agents from the US Defence Department and the CIA', the jet 'always'
departs from Washington and 'has flown to 49 destinations outside America,
including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and other US military bases'.
Gulfstream made at least seven trips to Uzbekistan where, the Times stated:
'the secret police are notorious for their interrogation metnods, including
the alleged boiling of prisoners'.
article quoted Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan,
who stated on Swedish television:
come across many cases of rape in front of family members who they wish
to extract information from and I have post mortem photos of a corpse.
These show that the person was boiled to death.'
so clearly, as an entire system has been devised to bypass normal safeguards
of detention and interrogation, where does that leave your inquiry?
The entire edifice relies on the assumption that secret agent personnel
are people of integrity with the well-being of our country at heart.
the war in Iraq and the practice of 'rendition' show the very opposite.
Belief in the integrity of secret agencies, such as it was, now lies at
the bottom of the sea, along with the children who were thrown overboard
by their parents. Instead of expanding their powers and turning a blind
eye to their abuses, now might be a good time to close the spook industry
down. And yes, we know that's about as likely as the Pope building minarets
in Vatican City.
For the umpteenth time, we warn that true security will never be achieved
with harsh laws - or bombing runs. They only make things worse, as we
can see from the expanding horror of Iraq.
Unless we address the growing poverty and gross inequalities bedevilling
our world, then we will continue to reap the consequences.
Before rushing ahead to accept legislation which is turning this country
into a police state, we urge you to heed the words of eleven Nobel laureates
who attended a Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium in Oslo in December
2001. They stated: 'The most profound danger to world peace in the coming
years will stem, not from the irrational acts of individuals, but from
the legitimate demands of the world's dispossessed.'
The sad irony is that thirty years ago, the world's richest nations pledged
0.7% of their GDP to help the world's poorest. It has now slumped to 0.22%.
We rest our case.
Joan Coxsedge Joancoxs@tpg.com.au
Gerry Harant Gharant@primus.com.au
I reckon that powerful
media moguls and the security establishment (who warble from the same
song sheet) learned a hell of a lot during the Vietnam War. They learned
how to 'manage' dissent; how to cut us down and ignore us as if we weren't
there. Not as savage as the treatment meted out to the 'disappeared' in
Latin America, but the intent was the same. We are being 'disappeared'
in a media blackout to deny us the oxygen of publicity.
My Balwyn election
campaign coincided with a far more important political initiative when
a few of us from the anti-war movement who had suffered at the hands of
the snoops kicked off the Committee for the Abolition of Political Police
(CAPP). In March 1973, our small group started campaigning outside ASIO's
former HQ in St Kilda Road, by photographing the snoops as they went in
and out of the building.
Over a period of
time, by devious means, we found out who they were and where they lived.
I remember putting out our first ASIO recruiting poster with three names
and addresses, with a general appeal to readers to contact the trio if
they wanted to join, but we always backed up our stunts with hard information
Although we managed
to get quite a lot of publicity for our stunts, we rarely did for our
serious stuff. In 1974, we published a couple of booklets and God knows
how many pamphlets and letters giving details about our spy agencies -
who they were and who they were working for - and putting the abolition
I find it rather
ironic that we were publishing material about these unknown secret agencies
and secret treaties more than 30 years ago, raising issues that are still
unresolved, and yet media commentators behave as if this information is
new and fresh and has just come to light. A question for those who believe
we live in a democracy.
If you have secret
(and therefore unaccountable) agencies which hugely influence what goes
on in our foreign and domestic affairs without anyone knowing who they
are or what they do, how does that square with democratic ideals? Which
was why we decided to pull all our material together in a book 'Rooted
in Secrecy', which came out in 1982 and is still selling because the arguments
we raise are fundamental and even more relevant today. We certainly managed
to raise the hackles of the secret agency brigade.
We were continually
attacked by these characters via letters and articles as being in the
pay of Moscow and working for the KGB, when in reality we were against
all secret agencies everywhere, which we reckoned represented the greatest
threat to basic freedoms.The
problem was we were ahead of our time.
... One day, Australians
will wake up and find they haven't got any freedoms. Will they care? In
Nazi Germany, people went on their way while people were shovelled into
concentration camps. Guantanamo bay is a concentration camp, a torture
centre, just one of many run by 'our' side. If our US allies can indiscriminately
pluck people from their countries - as they continue to do - and then
have the gall to say 'If they're found to be innocent, we won't release
them', where are we heading? If that's not a fascist philosophy, then
I'm hoot the flute.
In our troubled world,
there must be a place for unstructured groups such as the Committee for
the Abolition of Political Police. Despite our size, we managed to get
under the skin of very powerful bodies, using ridicule and a sort of organised
anarchy. We were small and flexible and able to act quickly with people
we trusted. We didn't have to go through endless meetings, but went bingo!
We certainly took
risks. After all, we weren't taking on a mother's club, but were still
able to generate laughs against decidedly unfunny people. So perhaps activists
should start working in less hierarchical ways.
It helps if you have
good connections. We had strong links with trade unions and other activists,
giving us the opportunity to distribute information to a much wider range
of people. For many years, I managed to persuade the Victorian ALP to
have the abolition of ASIO and Special Branch as its official policy.
I would argue against 'reformers' like Gareth Evans and win out, because
I put arguments that members understood.
ASIO POWERS TO COUNTER TERRORISM BILL
Simon Crean, Leader of the Opposition,
Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600,
7th February 2002
Dear Mr. Crean,
Re: Upgrading Counter-Terrorism Capabilities
There can be no acceptable
alterations, there must be no fiddling with minor detail. These proposals
must be voted down because no short-term emergency warrants the withdrawal
of citizens rights.
- the right to privacy
- the right to immediate legal representation
- the right to remain silent
- the right to the assumption of innocence
- the right to freedom of assembly and organisation,
will be compromised by the enactment of this legislation.
These rights are
our most potent defences against terrorism and totalitarianism from whatever
Acts of terrorism
are already illegal in Australia and a perceived threat of terrorism is
a bad excuse to diminish citizens' rights or to deem normal activities
suspicious or necessitating surveillance.
response to perceived terrorists threats since the World Trade Centre
bombing [much as we abhor those acts] is reminiscent of the 'reds under
the bed' hysteria of the 1950's, when organisations or people advocating
social or political change were assumed to be either fronts for the Communist
Party or having been infiltrated by it [an assumption made about the U.A.W.].
Naming the perceived
threat was used to justify limiting civil rights and thwarting careers
in the name of the common good.
Then the perceived
threat was labelled communism, now it is labelled terrorism. The Cold
War and what was inflicted on citizens is now looked upon with shame by
historians and public alike. But the same process is about to begin again.
There has been no
declaration of war against another country. Declaring war on terrorism
is not a sufficient reason for removing civil rights. Freedom must be
preserved despite perceived threats to freedom or democracy.
We must not fight
terror with terror. The modus operandi of a fascist state cannot preserve
either democracy or freedom. Authoritarian governments never relinquish
their powers once they are gained.
and individuals as threats to security, the society or the common good
is how Jews and Socialists were marginalised through Goebbel's public
relations campaigns in 1930's Germany. First they were named, then they
were vilified, then removed, then liquidated.
The Proposed Legislation
provides the groundwork to begin this process.
There are sufficient
powers to detain and prosecute under existing laws. The proposals to be
tabled are a gross over-reaction to events overseas.