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Beyond the expected

Spooks spooked?

By johnboy - 4 January 2011 8

As Canberran’s watch, jaws agape, the Gestapo HQ go up, up, up in the shadow of Mount Pleasant the SMH brings word that the to date unbridled growth of intelligence services might be coming to an end:

Intelligence has been flush with cash over the past decade. For example, the size of ASIO – the domestic spy agency – has more than trebled, so there is every reason to take stock, decide what is working, and make sure the money is being well spent. In a democracy, the public needs regular assurance, too, given that the agencies mostly operate in the shadows and deal in secrets.

The review will be jointly led. Robert Cornall brings the typical background to such reviews – former public service mandarin from the Attorney-General’s Department, who after a long career is steeped in the ways of Canberra’s bureaucracy.

But working alongside Cornall is someone from outside the intelligence business, Rufus Black – a management consultant, academic and ordained minister of the Uniting Church. Having a specialist in ethics and theology working with the dark souls from Australia’s spy agencies will doubtless make for some fascinating exchanges and should help inform the public’s understanding of intelligence work.

No one in Canberra’s intelligence and security community is expecting more funding to result from this examination. In fact, cuts might be in the offing should areas of redundancy or overlap be identified.

Kicked off quietly just before Christmas we can only watch and wait for outcomes from this review.

What’s Your opinion?


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8 Responses to
Spooks spooked?
spinact 10:11 pm 05 Jan 11

“construction of their HQ in defiance of universal condemnation” Really? Pretty sure the vast majority of the Australian population outside of Canberra is either completely unaware of the new ASIO HQ or couldn’t give a rats. As for the rest of the world and universe……

LSWCHP 9:55 pm 05 Jan 11

“But working alongside Cornall is someone from outside the intelligence business, Rufus Black – a management consultant, academic and ordained minister of the Uniting Church. Having a specialist in ethics and theology working with the dark souls…”

A management consultant who is a specialist in ethics? Milk just shot out my nostrils. And I’m not even drinking milk right now. See almost any Dilbert cartoon for an in-depth analysis of the connection between management consultants and ethics.

An ordained minister who is a specialist in ethics? Arrrggh…more milk….

The only thing that the apparatchiks of organised religion know about ethics is how to behave in a spectacularly unethical fashion. Witness the long standing insanity from the crowd in Rome regarding the prohibition on the use of condoms. This clearly unethical mandate has resulted in millions of unwanted pregnancies, the spread of AIDs and other STDs and general misery all over the world. Yet they are so deluded that they actually believe that this is an ethical way to behave. Lunacy.

Mr Black may well be a perfectly nice chap, but two out of his three noted qualifications for this job actually disqualify him for the role in my view.

The cat did it 8:04 pm 05 Jan 11

Security services were given a freer reign, encouragement and resources by Mr Howard after 9/11- demonstrating that a serious threat existed from international terror was in both their interests. But times have moved on, and now they will have to back up any assertions with facts, rather than repeating mantras.

It’s been suggested that the High Court building was the result of Malcolm Fraser’s gratitude to Sir Garfield Barwick for providing ‘appropriate’ advice during the Whitlam dismissal; will the Review investigate whether the new headquarters were also the result of John Howard’s gratitude to ASIO for ‘appropriate’ advice’.

Does the building have an official name yet? Any suggestions, Rioters?

EvanJames 9:46 am 04 Jan 11

A-Gs is ASIO’s parent agency (A-Gs has the AFP, Customs and various other law enforcment bodies also).

It is interesting that they have set up a proper panel to conduct this enquiry. Quite different to how the doubling of their budget was decided, five years ago.

indigoid 9:45 am 04 Jan 11

I heartily recommend Malcolm Turnbull’s “The Spycatcher Trial” if you’re interested in this stuff. Also Peter Wright’s Spycatcher. Good reading

Rawhide Kid Part3 9:17 am 04 Jan 11

Dont worry, it’ll be on Wikileaks sooner or later.

Mathman 8:34 am 04 Jan 11

Robert Cornall brings the typical background to such reviews – former public service mandarin from the Attorney-General’s Department

Attorney-General’s has also been conducting a major power grab recently under the guise of ‘machinery of government’ – even to the extent of assimilating part of Centrelink.

Deref 8:08 am 04 Jan 11

WTF theology has to do with anything, particularly ethics, I’m damned if I know. Still…

The very nature of the work of these so-called “intelligence” agencies means that we’re not allowed to know what they do or what, if any, results they produce in return for the vast amounts of money we pour into them. This lack of oversight breeds an arrogance, of which the construction of their HQ in defiance of universal condemnation is a good example.

There’s plenty of evidence that we’re not getting much in return for our dollar – 11/9 and Balibo come immediately to mind. Of course they could be doing a great job; they may have protected us from holocaust many times over but, again, we’re not allowed to know.

Their self-justification was brilliantly parodied in an early ep of The Simpsons, where Lisa bends down picks up a rock from the ground and tells Homer that it keeps the tigers away. “How do I know it works?” asks Homer. “Well, you don’t see any tigers around, do you?” Lisa replies, at which Homer offers to buy the rock from her.

Because we’re not allowed to know what they do or what they produce, we rely on others who can, ostensibly, be trusted, to oversee them on our behalf – but quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who watches the watcher?

This review, at least the fact that there’s to be a review, by independent reviewers will be a Good Thing ™ – providing that we get to see its report. If not, we’re back to square one.

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