|Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent|
Testing ... one, two ... April Fools!
Because of the date on the story, I thought it was this year's April Fools' Joke. Remember the you-beaut terrorist-attack loudspeakers that were installed for APEC?
The way the communication system was presented to the public was farcical enough. To the casual observer the implementation seemed about as coincidental in timing as the acquisition of Sydney's new water cannon. The fact that the system was not trusted to be operational may well belie a truth that nobody cared about it after Bush left. Anyway, we were assured that, like the cannon, the communications system was part of long term strategy. Has anyone heard of the water cannon of late, by the way? Has it been of use since APEC? So now I'm wondering if the "ghetto blasters" were ever working in first place, or likely to fail through neglect at a time of a dire crisis?
A couple of things to consider:
Let's say, for argument, that something did. Around this time the New York City Council were disseminating information about the effects of a dirty bomb attack, how the majority of resulting chaos would be because of community fear and ignorance of the comparatively harmless radiation levels. Sydney Council, on the other hand, were sending out information on preparing Go-Bags, informing the public what to have ready-prepared to take with them if an attack occurred. It's a pity that the New York information wasn't spread around, here, but never mind, they could be told through the loudspeaker system, couldn’t they?
Picture this: It's a sunny Sydney Saturday Arvo. The AFP are busy at Hyde Park, merrily clearing camera-unfriendly protesters before the Chinese APEC contingent arrives at the nearby Sheraton. As the helicopters whir overhead, and Keelty's boys bang their riot shields and march on the post-APEC-march partyers, the boom of an explosion rocks the world, and a gigantic plume of smoke arises from the Opera House. The attack, carried out by adding a payload of low-level radioactives to one of the rockets previously stolen from the Australian army, has succeeded because of the intel blackout created by the Bush's Osama publicity bungle. Speaking of blackouts, guess what has happened to the electricity in this hypothetical?
The AFP and NSW police, envisaging a riot/looting situation if they leave the protesters unattended, gas and club all and sundry for luck before turning to head towards the explosive flashpoint.
How long before the obedient Go-Bag clutching public, gathering around the emergency information speakers, waiting for the words of wisdom (or at least a calming chorus of We Are Australian) that never come, disband in panic and clamber over each other in their haste to run away? How long before the first terror-caused heart attacks, the cars crashing through barriers at 150k in their desperation to escape?
Meanwhile, 20 operatives with suicide bombs are pulling up in taxis at Sydney Airport's departure lounge, reckoning that their combined blast force might impact Air Force One, or at the very least cause Dick Cheney to change his trousers......
It's a loose scenario, but quite feasible. My point is that if the Emergency Warning System was genuinely intended to be used in both short and long term, as part of a planned dissemination of vital information to the public in times of vital need, surely it would have been made foolproof?
Between the counterterrorist’s Achilles Heel exposed at Sydney Airport last week by the biker brawl, and the failure of the communications system installed at Sydney's most-ever likely time to face a terrorist attack, is it possible to maintain faith that other counterterrorism systems and practices are going to work as and when they're supposed to?
At the other end of things ... all these new CCTVs that we've had shoved in front of us over the last few years: are the rest of Sydney's systems as bad as Sydney Airport's? Five kinds of system and nobody able to do an emergency (or even within 24 hours) download from them makes you wonder about the system-compatibility across the city. What about the country?
What if, as was feared at Sydney on the APEC weekend, an identically-timed attack had occurred in Melbourne, perpetrated by members of the same al Qaeda cell who'd done the Sydney job, and faces needed to be identified before they slipped through the airports, travelling home on false passports? Would anyone have been able to pull the necessary CCTV facial recognition footage together on time? Sadly it's a possibility that it have been quicker to send the negatives to Kodak.
At any rate, I lost faith in the Australian counterterrorism system around September 11 2005. That was when the AFP, in yet another of their bungles, surrounded a holidaying US activist in a Melbourne coffee shop, locked him in solitary confinement while ASIO "leaked " vilification. Scott Parkin was deported on the basis of a file containing nothing more substantial than the improper distribution of peanut butter sandwiches. You could read about it in the US version of Newsweek, but neither the AFP nor ASIO could (thanks to the non-divulgence agreements between international intels) ever tell you even if they wanted to.
Many Australians, given that the arrest appeared in the September 11 Sunday papers, would have believed that the AFP had been successful in capturing an international terrorist, and in my opinion this was all that mattered. However in the long-term the result of Parkin's treatment and deportation has been a publicity failure, like the many Federal Police counterterrorism operations that have followed.
Say, weren't the AFP involved in interviewing Australian prisoners in the pre-Guantanamo torture camps? David Hicks? Mamdou Habib? I read a report to the UN a couple of days ago (Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights development, submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on Feb 3 of this year) in which I particularly liked point 25:
I wonder how this sort of statement, from such a respected authority, will be received in a court of law? Now to point 37:
Do I hear the ka-ching of compensatory cash for David Hicks? Habib's claimed AFP visits in Pakistan? Possibly, and maybe even a couple of commiseratory jars of Vegemite for Scott Parkin, even if we can't tell him why. Let's go to point 40:
Of course, Australian intelligence gatherers wouldn’t be involved in such practices, would they? Bear with me, this might be going somewhere. A salient remark (an early Easter present for SA Attorney-General Atkinson?) in point 55:
There's a good one here, too, covering the AFP/ASIO handling of both Scott Parkin and Hicks in point 56:
Hmm, would that cover illegally-retained Pentagon files handed over by the White House to tarnish the reputation of Cheney's most active "business enemy" ? Or use of rendition-gathered evidence to incarcerate someone in a South Australian prison?
Pardon the rambling, and have a look at this little show-stopper in footnote 68:
Compare such a sentiment with AFP Chief Mick Keelty's assessment of Habib in 2005, based on interviews with the Pakistani prisoner by AFP and ASIO
Keelty has admitted that he did not follow up Habib's claims of Pakistani torture
I wonder if Mick's read the UN report? If Keelty has heard as little about it from the Australian media as I, it's a fair bet he's looked it over, if you know what I mean. It makes his performance appear, at the least, extremely negligent policing.
Look, I know the Sydney Emergency Communication system wasn't under AFP control, but the situation portrays the sad ineptitude of our counterterrorism methodology as a whole. This from The Australian:
Have any of the anti-bad-guys devices and "Deputy Sherriff" tactics introduced into Australia since September 2001 truly been effective at anything other than a media portrayal of successful Border Security? If you answer yes, need I tell you what I consider you?
And now that everyone's awake to the fraud, how long before a letter appears on Keelty's desk requesting his resignation? Perhaps Mick's reading it this morning, wondering if someone's trying to be funny, even though all around him have long since stopped laughing.