Triple system failure (or don’t mention the war)

Yesterday I wrote about what the Coroner found in his report into Man Haron Monis. Today I’ll focus on what should have been found. Triple failure and three key truths, that’s what.

This is first the truth about Man Haron Monis.

He was a high-definition train-wreck that occurred over almost 20 years on big television screens set up in the immigration, justice and intelligence systems.

The train-wreck was so big, so noisy, so obvious and so continual that these three systems, allegedly there to prevent such disasters, instead became comfortable living with all the indicators of impending tragedy.

And so nothing happened. Not even after the guns started firing.

This is the second, even more concerning truth about Man Haron Monis.

He was not an isolated example. The failures that allowed him to get away with murder are also clearly visible in numerous other cases. Ordinary Australians can see this. But the apparatus of the state does not.

Which leads to the third and most damning truth about Man Haron Monis.

Neither of the two key reports into his actions (the January 2015 Martin Place Siege joint investigation by the New South Wales and Commonwealth government and the May 2017 Coroner’s report into the Lindt Café siege inquest) has even come close to identifying the multiple systemic failures that allowed this complete cluster to occur.

Let’s go through these three systemic failures.

Immigration failure

The two reports detail a litany of concerns over Monis’ arrival in Australia:

  • Monis lied on his visa application that he was lawyer and there is no record of whether Immigration staff ever checked his claims.
  • On arrival in Australia in 1996, Monis changed his story and advised Customs that he was a carpet salesman.
  • A week after his arrival, ASIO received adverse intelligence about Monis and he was placed under investigation.
  • The next day Monis was placed on a ‘Movement Alert List’.
  • Despite these concerns, Monis applied for a protection visa shortly after arrival in Australia and was granted a bridging visa while he claim was investigated.
  • Immigration officers doubted Monis’ claims and credibility regarding his status as a refugee – upon detailed questioning his answers were not coherent and his story changed.
  • ASIO advised Immigration twice in early 1999 that Monis was a risk to Australian security – he should have been detained at this point but was not.

Despite all of this, ASIO changed its assessment on Monis and he was eventually granted citizenship in 2004. As the Martin Place Siege report notes, this occurred even though it appears that:

“…very few, or no, checks were made to ascertain the legitimacy of Monis’ application.”

Of interest, Amnesty International Australia supported his claim for protection and he was allowed to work as a security guard with access to weapons even after ASIO assessed him to be a security risk.

Given this background, you’d be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that letting Monis into the country was a mistake. But you don’t write the reports and you’d also be wrong.

The Coroner’s report detailed Monis’ immigration history but made no findings or recommendations as it was outside the scope of this investigation.

Incredibly, the Martin Place Siege report found:

“Decisions made to grant Monis visas and Australian citizenship were made in accordance with the laws”

Even more frustratingly, it also stated that:

“If the Monis situation presented itself again today, it seems likely that a visa and citizenship would still be granted.”

As a remedy, the Martin Place Siege report recommended that Immigration should ‘better assess’. That’s like telling a school kid to try harder – hardly useful at all. It also asked for policy and legislative changes that continued to ‘enable an open society’.

So don’t expect any change and don’t bother mumbling about learning from mistakes. Clearly that’s an offensive in our open, diverse and multicultural society.

It’s clear that there was an immigration failure with Monis. But it’s also clear that this is apparent to everyone but those running the joint. More importantly, the immigration failure did not occur due to a breakdown in the system – it occurred because the system doesn’t even work at all.

Monis was allowed in lawfully in 1996 and he would still be allowed in today. This train wreck was always going to leave the station.

And so have others. The immigration system continues to protect fake Iranian refugees who have holidayed in the nation that they claim to have fled from. And more than 7,500 asylum seekers living in Australia have not lodged any paperwork to support their claims. This systemic failure is draining the coffers and leading to bloodshed.

All this goes to show that the immigration failure over Monis was not an isolated case. It was standard practice.

Justice failure

Monis had a criminal record that takes some beating:

  • In 2011, he was charged with intimidating his ex-wife but the following year he was found not guilty. Monis later arranged her execution.
  • In 2013, he was convicted of 10 counts of using a carriage service to cause offence, menace or harass the families of dead Australian soldiers in Iraq and terrorism victims in Indonesia. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.
  • Later that year, he was charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. She was doused in petrol and stabbed 18 times by Monis’ girlfriend, Amirah Droudis. Monis arranged an elaborate alibi which included deliberately crashing into a police car at the time the murder was to take place.
  • Just before the murder, Monis insured his property. He then claimed damage from the fire that snuffed out the life of his ex-wife, although this claim was later abandoned. It seems no charges were ever laid over this attempted fraud.
  • In 2014, he was charged with 3 counts of sexual and indecent assault. This was later raised to 40 charges spanning the period 2002 (before he was granted citizenship) and 2010, with at least one charge relating to an assault that occurred while he was on bail for carriage service offences.

Unsurprisingly, Monis received legal aid to assist with his defences to all charges against him. Thank you for paying your taxes.

This money was well-spent if you think completely embarrassing the legal system is worth it, no matter the cost. It repeatedly allowed Monis to obtain bail and he remained on bail until the siege.

  • Monis was on bail throughout proceedings into the offensive letters he sent to the families of Australian soldiers (2009-2013).
  • He obtained bail in relation to the accessory to murder charge on 12 December 2013.
  • He obtained bail in relation to the sexual assault charges on 26 May 2014.
  • After additional sexual assault charges were laid against Monis, there was no attempt by the prosecution to revoke bail and he was not arrested.

Monis should never have been allowed to walk free after the accessory to murder charge. But he did. And then he did again after the sexual assault offences. And by then he was walking free so often that no one could bother going after him at all – the NSW Police gave up arresting him.

It was another systemic failure that allowed an out of control train to hurtle along at dangerous speeds.

To be fair to both reports, this failure has been recognised and recommendations have been made that will ‘hopefully’ address this problem.

I say ‘hopefully’ because it is obvious that the failure is not so much in the laws or processes, but in the culture and attitudes of the justice system. ‘Progressive’ and ‘compassionate’ judges continually let Australians down.

We’ve had the infamous case of Jill Meagher (raped and murdered by a criminal already on parole for rape). We’ve seen a magistrate throw out charges of child-abduction against a registered sex offender from Afghanistan on the basis of cultural differences. And we’ve groaned at the grossly inadequate four and half year jail term given to a Queensland man who was fundraising for the Islamic State.

He’ll be out on the streets before the war is over.

It happens over and over again.

It’s even in my family. My aunty is a Victorian judge who recently declined to jail an Apex Gang-linked Sudanese man after he used an axe to terrorise and steal more than $200,000 worth of jewellery from two Melbourne stores last year. Her reason: the robberies occurred after he had smoked ice for only the ‘second’ time and because he was supported by respected members of his community.

Most Australians would say so what. But judges take these things more seriously than the damage done to the community.

That’s why one can only hope that the Lindt Café reports will change things. The evidence so far is not encouraging.

Intelligence failure

Apart from the adverse assessments regarding his immigration to Australia and his criminal background, this is what the intelligence system knew about Monis:

  • In May 2008, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) monitored a report on his website advocating suicide attacks. The AFP went on to note that his extremist rhetoric was increasing.
  • Two months later, ASIO noted that Monis’ website may ‘inspire others to undertake acts relevant to security’.
  • Later that year, the NSW Police assessed that Monis was undertaking ‘nuisance activities’ that were likely to continue and may escalate.
  • Around the same time, the AFP identified that Monis appeared to be ‘moving beyond praise for terrorist acts to urging participation in them’.
  • In 2009, ASIO examined Monis’ letters and found that they may constitute a threat.

This was a full five years before the attack. Yet despite the fact that Monis’ website supported terrorist attacks and even appeared to encourage participation in them, the Coroner’s report notes this:

“In November 2009, the AFP in conjunction with the TIS, ASIO, and the ADF concluded that Monis did not pose a threat to national security’.

Strange as it may be for someone who is assessed as not posing a threat to national security, the monitoring continued. It is proof that the assessment was not worth the paper it was written on:

  • In 2012, a NSW Police report listed Monis on a 15 page list of individuals who may have posed a threat to a visit by the Prince of Wales.
  • The same year the AFP monitored Monis’ attendance at the first of many Hizb ut Tahrir protests or functions.
  • In 2013, the AFP identified Monis as having a potential connection to the conflict in Syria.
  • A year before the siege, NSW Police assessed that Monis had the potential to become a terrorist.
  • The AFP continued to monitor Monis in 2014, noting his ongoing connection to Hizb ut Tahrir.

Then, just a couple of weeks after Monis declared his allegiance to the Islamic State on his webpage, as the murder and sexual assault cases closed in on him and while the High Court was throwing out his last-ditch attempt to appeal the convictions for carriage service offences, a flurry of reporting arrived.

Between 9 and 12 December 2014, 18 reports were made to the National Security Hotline (NSH) about Monis and his Facebook page, as well as his general background and criminal history. It was a massive spike in reporting and, to be honest, must have been very close what a ‘Fixated Threat Assessment Centre’ report into Monis may have looked like.

ASIO is apparently not much chop at these so the Coroner has recommended a whole new intelligence centre be established to do them. I reckon the government should save some money and just outsource it to whoever it was in the community that provided this service for free.

The Coroner’s report states that ASIO investigated these reports and found nothing:

“These preliminary assessments concluded that the posts did not indicate capability or intent to engage in terrorism or politically motivated violence.”

It goes on to state that the AFP did the same:

“He concluded that nothing in the report warranted further investigation.”

It was much the same with the NSW police: the complaints were all tagged ‘Routine’ or ‘Information Only’.

The train had left the station. It was wildly out of control. Yet those controlling the emergency brakes from three separate agencies assessed the situation to be routine and not a security threat.

All up, by the time Monis sauntered into the Lindt Café with a shotgun, there were more than 100,000 pages of reporting on him.

The sheer volume is staggering, as were the assessments that he was not a security threat. And so were the findings of the reports afterwards. Essentially, it has been determined that the intelligence assessments about Monis were reasonable.

I’m not sure to who.

From the Coroner’s report:

“After the 2008 investigation, and during the period from 2009 to November 2014, the subsequent assessments conducted by ASIO relating to Monis, and ASIO’s consideration of Monis were in my view, adequate and appropriate.”

And:

“I consider that the treatment and management of the National Security Hotline reports by ASIO in the period between their first receipt and the siege, including their triage, was adequate and appropriate.”

And from the Martin Place Siege report:

“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.”

It is really something to ponder. And, almost as proof that the Coroner didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t even believe his own report, he then went on the recommend an entire new agency to conduct reviews of individuals like Monis: the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre mentioned above.

Implicit in that recommendation is an acknowledgement that even Blind Freddy can see: the agencies in place failed to make the right assessments about Monis. They had become so used to the warning signs that he was letting off at increasingly frequent intervals that they failed to provide the assessments that they should have.

If the reports are useful at identifying anything at all, it is that the threat of terrorism in Australia is so common that it is now merely considered routine.

Australians should be horrified.

Furthermore, given attacks in Australia and around the world are all too frequently carried out by those known to the authorities, what is the point of this knowledge?

Why on earth do we have an intelligence system that can clock up 100,000 pages of reporting on a guy and yet do nothing but watch as the train wreck unfolds. That is exactly what happened at the Lindt Café.

And it will happen again.

The three system failures outlined above have occurred for one reason: we are at war but no one wants to acknowledge it.

The immigration system is acting like there is no war and letting the enemy in. The justice system is trying combatants as if they were petty criminals and letting the enemy out. And the intelligence system is assessing that all of this is routine when it clearly borders much closer to insanity.

So now the government is chasing its tail to establish a new intel centre to provide a holistic assessment of an individual when ASIO should already do this and had all the reporting to do so.

It would be much better for all concerned if the government instead undertook a holistic assessment of the threat posed by the Islamic community. No one is doing that at all.

But until that occurs, expect more train wrecks headed our way…

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of seven 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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