Misuse of terror laws makes us all less secure

Yet again, a case which received a blaze of publicity over two years ago, adding to unrealistic fear and alarm about Muslims in Australia, has failed when it finally comes to trail – and providing Australia’s Muslims yet another reason to feel less secure and less trusting of our government and law enforcement agencies.

Even more worryingly, the judge in the case condemned the conduct of ASIO officers as “grossly improper”.

In a damning judgment, Justice Michael Adams said the two ASIO officers “committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law”.Their conduct was “grossly improper”, he said. Ruling all subsequent police records of interview inadmissible, Justice Adams also observed that the officers’ later explanations for their behaviour were defensive and, at times, untruthful.

“They were aware that what they were doing was unlawful. They were perfectly aware that they were not entitled to detain. Nor was there any suggestion of emergency that might have provided some mitigation for their conduct,” he said.

And it wasn’t just this case that saw a serious misuse of the wide-ranging powers granted under the so-called ‘anti-terror’ laws. The Australian reports that a senior counter-terrorism officer with the Australian Federal Police has testified that police were directed to charge “as many suspects as possible” with terrorism offences in order to test the new anti-terrorism laws introduced in 2003.

Bad luck if you got caught up in the police’s efforts to road test their new powers. But it will not have escaped the notice of Australia’s Muslim communities that it was only Muslims who were targeted with the laws.

Many people may feel that the fact our so-called ‘anti-terror’ laws provide such massive powers to government and police is a necessary price in the modern world. I have spoken in the Senate about concerns that giving such large powers with such poor oversight over how they are used opens up a real prospect of them being abused.  This not only creates an unjust situation for the person who is the target of the abuse of these powers – it actually risks making our society less, not more, secure. This is particularly the case if the laws are seen to be used to single out or target a specific group in the community – as is clearly occurring with Muslim Australians.

As Irfan Yusuf noted today in Crikey,

Most terror suspects find themselves in the dock thanks to information provided to the authorities from external sources. Well, not quite external sources. Generally the information comes from people within their congregations. People who attend their mosques. Muslim people.

Ordinary citizens who just happen to observe the requirements of their faith to some extent. And who regard it as their religious duty to ensure their families and neighbours and nation are secure from “fitna” and “fasad” (words used in Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and other languages commonly spoken by huge chunks of the Islamic world to describe chaos and terror).

I wonder whether they’ll be so willing after reading for months about the Haneef investigation that revealed AFP investigators having little or no understanding of basic aspects of South Asian cultures. AFP investigators who didn’t realise that Urdu (not “Udo” as they put it) was the name of a language. And now they find the prosecution of the future-Dr Haque has been thrown out after ASIO agents were accused of engaging in kidnapping and the evidence they gathered largely inadmissible. Add to this revelations that AFP agents were directed to charge as many people as possible with a view to testing the new beefed-up anti-terrorism laws.

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  1. “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”

    that’s one of two basic laws of political science.

    tyranny can only be contained when the people rule. when any smaller group has special power, they will use that power to get more. politicians have power they inherited from norman warlords, and there is no democracy in it.

    there is no restraint of parliamentary power in oz, save custom. custom can be bent, worn, eroded, and finally discarded. this is happening. muslim ozzies are getting practical demonstrations of what ‘police state’ means already, but all of you will join them soon enough. todays announcement that the police powers extended in nsw after the cronulla riots for two years are now transformed to permanent is a perfect example of subjection by stealth.

    i have been living in oz too long to expect ozzians to suddenly get off their knees and become free men. you will continue to drift into ‘1984’ because resistance has been bred out of you.

    the other basic law of political science is:

    “you get the government you deserve.”

  2. Andrew Bartlett, you said,

    ” …. an unjust situation for the person who is the target of the abuse of these powers – it actually risks making our society less, not more, secure …. “

    Just wait until the election is safely out of the way and the government [whether Howard’s or Rudd’s, it doesn’t matter which] follows the recent Japanese example and fingerprints all foreigners in or entering the country. That will be swiftly extended to everyone “just to be fair” and extended too, to the compulsory DNA sampling of everyone.

    Strict enforcement of anti-blasphemy anti-sedition laws? Reintroduction of the death penalty for treason and for lese majeste terrorism?

    Military conscription …. but only for the undeserving …. so as to boost our counter-terrorism capability?

    It looks like 2008 is going to be a real barrel of laughs …. for the goons but not for honest decent people. It’s sad, Australia used to be such a great, free country.

  3. al loomis,
    You are absolutely correct; people of Australia should have demanded the resignation of Phillip Ruddock long time ago. Instead, Howard was re-elected, Ruddock was promoted and the people were made to believe that the real danger was …islamic terror.

    Too much reading of Hary Potter?

    You are also right with the Norman Conquest (in 1066) but I think we have progressed, since.
    Our Liberals’ latest copy-cat role model is … Lyubianka. (Former KGB headquarters).

    And as to the police? In Victoria and elsewhere? Poorly trained, corrupted, badly managed, many on drugs, make a perfect tool in the blunt (sorry, ‘democratically’ pre-selected) government hands.

    And this is the crux of the problem: our governments are not ‘elected’. They are ‘pre-selected’ in the most undemocratic way.

  4. “But if you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to worry about”. This, in combination with what’s going on with the Vic police at the moment just highlight why we should be critical of police getting more powers.

  5. The so-called anti-terror laws were designed to prevent free speech, demonise a race of people, and instill in all of us fear, which then breeds ignorance and sadly, hatred. One of the over-riding reasons Howard and his ministers should be thrown out, is the adherence to the Bush/Blair/Brown attitudes and intentions in Iraq and probably Iran. We have been lied to on a grand scale, and the people of the US have a president who came to power on a group of lies. Evidence is revealed on an almost daily basis, that points to the fact, that regardless of 9/11, the US determined in Feb. 2001, its intenion to invade Iraq and Afghanistan for oil and gas, and to use Iraq as a military base for involvement in the middle east.

    The Caspean Sea has large reserves of oil and gas, and British and US oil companies planned a pipeline via Afghanistan. Over a million people have been murdered, maimed and destroyed. The case of the young medical student is chilling, due to the arrogance and abuse of human rights, and the apparent ability to even kidnap and threaten any person at will. Bush has even issued decrees that absolve Cheney, himself and others they used to enable their illegal, unjust and horrific abuse of power. I only hope, that with Howard removed, there will be investigations into many actions including SIEV X and AWB! A real Senate with real powers to force accountability, and force ASIO and the AFP to comply with professional decency and integrity. They have used our trust to behave in despicable ways, and only education and public demonstrations of the rule of law; resumption of the anti-descrimination act, and the separation of government the judiciary and police at all levels will return real democracy to us.
    The first step is the removal of Howard and his ministers. They are a disgrace to democracy! The over-riding imperative is a brave group of journalists who robustly seek the truth, and then inform the public. We must insist on it!

  6. Al Loomis, you said

    i have been living in oz too long to expect ozzians to suddenly get off their knees and become free men. you will continue to drift into ‘1984′ because resistance has been bred out of you.

    You might be right about the effect but you are dead wrong about the cause. It hasn’t been bred out, it has been bashed out. Just look at what happens to genuine dissidents in Australia. Yes, there are noisy ratbags who are splashed all over TV, usually they turn out to be a fake “spokesman for” and, more often than not, are unconnected with those active at the core of the issue; they are, at best, entertainers, not dissidents. Real dissidents face ruin and ostracism and everyone in Australia knows it.

    People here are on their knees not out of choice but because it is safer; they have seen how those who dare to rock the boat get thumped. That is why many native-born Australians will vote for a mediocre politician, Pauline Hanson, on Saturday; it is one way they can protest against the authorities without any risk to themselves.

    What sort of a democracy is it where ordinary people are made so reluctant to speak out in public on issues about which they hold passionate views in private?

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