Martin Place: the greatest domestic intelligence failure in Australian history

The Martin Place siege report is an alarming read.

That’s not because of what it identified, which should give every Australian goose bumps anyway, but because it has actually covered up what should be described as the greatest domestic intelligence failure in Australian history.

There are only three sentences in this report that you need to read to understand this. They can be found on page vii:

“Monis was well known to security and police agencies. He had been investigated a number of times and successfully convicted on 12 postal charges. He had met with police and ASIO representatives on numerous occasions and these agencies, along with others, held hundreds of thousands of pages of information on him.”

These sentences demonstrate clearly, concisely and in no uncertain terms that the government spies knew about Monis. His collective file, as detailed in the report, is hundreds of thousands of pages long. If it was only 100,000 pages long, it would be at least 11 metres thick. Oops, my mistake. Each page is probably printed ‘double-sided’ to help ‘save’ the environment, so make that a more modest 5.5 metres.

Still that’s pretty sizable. But it did no good at all. In fact, the New South Wales police would have been better served by this file if they had used it to build themselves a bullet-proof barricade against the non-Islamic, Islamic State supporter. Or maybe they could have set fire to it and tried to smoke him out.

Alas, however, Michael Thawley, AO, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Blair Comley, PSM, the Secretary of the New South Wales Premier and Cabinet, would have us believe that there was no failure in the fact that these agencies held more than 100,000 pages on Man Haron Monis, even though not one of them identified that he was terror threat.

On page 52 of this report, they asked themselves a rhetorical question:

“A further question is whether the judgments about the threat he posed were reasonably made at the time.”

I say rhetorical because they had already answered it up at the front of the report on page iv. Here it is:

“Overall, the Review has found that the judgments made by government agencies were reasonable and that the information that should have been available to decision-makers was available.”

And a page later, reflecting on the assessments made about Monis:

“None of the results of these investigations, or the continuous assessment of information related to Monis in the intervening periods, provided any indication he had the intention to commit an act such as the Martin Place siege.”

Seriously.

Are we really meant to believe that a forest could be cut down so reports could be written on Monis because he wasn’t a threat?

And are we really meant to believe that some guy could clock up 100,000 plus pages of reporting and every security, intelligence and policing agency in the nation could still determine that he wasn’t dangerous or a priority?

Obviously, something somewhere has gone very badly wrong in the intelligence assessments.

In the week before the siege, 18 complaints were made to counter-terrorism agencies about Man Haron Monis. ASIO checked those reports and found nothing to worry about, even though Monis was on bail for helping to murder his wife, hung out with Hizb ut Tahrir and had just lost a court case where he was found guilty of sending offensive, menacing and harassing letters to the families of dead Aussie diggers. To carry out his crime, Monis had to find their addresses. That’s not a comforting thought.

Yet no alarm went off anywhere in early December and alarms are still not going off now.

However, two lives and almost 100 more pages of reporting into Monis later, the sirens should be blaring out a loud warning and flares should be sent high into the sky. It is an embarrassing fact that 18 members of the general public identified that Monis was a terror threat a week out from the Martin Place siege, yet the entire national security apparatus failed to come to the same conclusion when it was brought to the professionals’ attention.

That is a failure in any language.

It is unforgiveable that the Martin Place siege report has absolved the intelligence and security agencies for what is a clear failure.

And it is unforgiveable that the intelligence and security agencies are so clearly failing because they are not falling for a well-planned deception campaign. They are deceiving themselves because political-correctness has destroyed logic and moral courage.

The rot, as it always does, starts at the top.

The former boss of ASIO, David Irvine, gave a public address in August last year. It was one of his last public statements in his role. And it contained the following gems about the threat we face:

“Those involved seek motivation, legitimacy and justification for their use of violence (directed against “non-believers” or, more simply, anyone they perceive as being against them and their beliefs) from a self-righteous, twisted and, I suspect, hatred-filled interpretation of one of the world’s great and enriching religions – Islam. We have seen not dissimilar phenomena or distortions in other great religions over the centuries.”

and

“These terrorist organisations, which young Australians are joining, are willing to sacrifice young brain-washed souls in the name of a distorted, hate-filled interpretation of Islam.”

and

“In my experience the overall leadership of the community of Muslim Australians in dealing with these issues, always in their own quiet way, has been outstanding. In this sense, the Australian Muslim community has made, and will continue to make, its own valuable contributions to our national character, our national livelihood, our national security and to our national cohesion.”

and

“Let me reiterate, we are not fighting Islam, in Australia or anywhere else.”

I particularly like the fact that the Director General of ASIO has paid tribute to the ‘quiet’ way Muslims have dealt with these issues. Silent is the word I might have used, and it would not be a compliment. I also can’t help but chuckle at the fact that this community has been praised by David Irvine for its contribution to national security. But at least he’s acknowledging the reason ASIO has grown in size so rapidly over the last decade. Australia’s Islamic community is the best thing that ever happened for an empire builder at ASIO.

The only conclusion any ASIO intelligence officer listening to this speech could come to is that he’d lose his job if he made a critical assessment about the nature of Islamic belief on terrorism. He’d probably also conclude that logic is irrelevant at ASIO HQ.

David Irvine admits that there is a violent strain of Islam. And then he goes on to state that we are not at war with Islam. At all. Not even with the distorted, hate-filled interpretation that even he recognises exists.

Au contraire, my friend. That ‘violent, hate-filled’ ‘distortion’ has declared war on Australia. And that is why Australian jets are dropping bombs in Iraq.

The very fact that Irvine makes this concession about Islam means that he has a duty to ask the next question: is there something inherent to the nature of Islam that leads to the creation of the Islamic States and al Qaedas and Hezbollahs and Hizb ut Tahrirs and Jaish al Mahdis and any other number of violent groups?

To answer that, you must understand Mohammed. And if you read Mohammed’s life, then you will quickly come to the conclusion that the answer is yes. Mohammed was violent and his followers are too. Any student of history can attest to this.

Instead, Irvine goes on about an enriching religion without being able to offer any logical justification for his claim.

Like I said, logic and moral courage have gone. There is no starker contrast than this:

If you work in an intelligence agency and decide that you want to be a woman, everyone will take you at your word and believe that you are female, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.

But if you work in an intelligence agency monitoring a terrorist who states that they are Muslim, quotes from the Koran and then behaves in exactly the same manner as Mohammed, then everyone will dismiss the terrorist’s words and actions and try and find some other ‘deeper’ meaning for them.

And that is why ever larger intelligence agencies produce hundreds of thousands of pages of reporting that don’t help anyone. Fairy tales are believed and reality is ignored. It is as simple as that.

Unfortunately, the future is likely to show more of the same.

The Martin Place siege report also makes the following alarming finding:

“Monis was assessed by ASIO in early December 2014. On the basis of the information available at the time, he fell well outside the threshold to be included in the 400 highest priority counter-terrorism investigations. He was only one of several thousand people of potential security concern.”

There you have it. There are at least 400 dudes having coffee out there right now that intelligence and security agencies believe are more dangerous than Man Haron Monis. And there are several thousand more just like him.

ASIO is responsible for assessing domestic security threats and it only has just over 1,600 staff. As such, it is impossible for ASIO to adequately monitor this number of threats. The only assessment that can be made with any level of confidence is that an attack could be planned and carried out without any security or intelligence agency knowing about it. Actually, we have seen that even if the security agencies know about the Man Haron Monises, they can carry out their attacks anyway.

Over the next few weeks we are probably going to hear a lot about more powers and funding for intelligence agencies. And the whole debate will fail to address the key issue.

ASIO et al did not need any more powers, funding or officers to identify that Man Haron Monis was a threat. ASIO had everything that it needed, including the tip-offs. But they did not make the assessment that should have been made.

The Martin Place siege resulted from agencies failing to use the powers and resources that they had, not because they lacked any of these things.

I am not saying that extra resources should not be provided into the future. As I mentioned above, it is simply impossible to monitor all the known threats. But resources weren’t the issue with Monis. Monis wasn’t taken off the radar because a decision was made that scarce resources needed to be directed towards higher priorities; instead, Monis was assessed to have no intention of carrying out a terrorist attack at all. That is very different.

Furthermore, it must be understood that debates about laws and funding do not address the cause of the problem we face. We can’t just assume that we can simply increase ASIO’s size every second year and the problem will be controlled. That approach is unsustainable.

Instead of increasing the number of agents, we must look at firstly halting the growth of the number of potential terrorists.

To do this, we must understand what we are dealing with. It is an ideology. It is called Islam.

As such, any plan that calls for government funding to be spent promoting some kind of Islam over another is a waste of time and will only eventually feed the problem. The solution can only be found by removing Islam. That means no more mosques. It means no more Islamic immigration. It means no more foreign-funding for Islamic teaching. It means refusing to allow foreign fighters back into the country. And it means offering to resettle anyone who does not like these ideas back in the Middle East.

If we do this, we will solve a large part of the problem overnight. If we don’t, it will be because we don’t have the courage to defend ourselves, even after we have clearly been attacked.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of eight children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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