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Two decades of distractions turned tide in terrorist’s favour

By John Thistleton - 30 May 2017 13

Almost 22 years ago at the NSW Police Academy in Goulburn intelligence officers researching a new threat of a lone terrorist arrived at recommendations similar to those arising from the Lindt Cafe siege inquest last week.

They wanted to make more use of intelligence to target individuals, and bring in other agencies like health to stay ahead of a potential threat.

More recently, police have conceded they should have acted earlier to avoid the deaths of Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson and gunman Man Haron Monis in December, 2014.

Last week Coroner Michael Barnes raised concerns about how the Australian Federal Police and NSW police shared information and called for a review of their existing arrangements.

“Current arrangements for identifying and assessing the risks posed by self-radicalised and isolated or fixated individuals who are not necessarily committing crimes tend to be fragmented rather than holistic, piecemeal rather than coordinated, and not presently focused on fixated persons,’’ Mr Barnes said.

“The recent announcement of the NSW Police Commissioner, Mr Fuller, that he intends to create a unit to attempt to identify lone-actor terrorists is commendable. In my view, this unit should work collaboratively with NSW Health and have access to all necessary data.

“I recommend NSW Police Force in conjunction with NSW Health establish a Fixated Threat Assessment Centre to identify and gather information about fixated persons, assess the risks they pose and attempt to mitigate such risks through early intervention,’’ the Coroner said in his findings.

More than two decades ago 16 NSW police in the school of intelligence at Goulburn, focussed on using intelligence to turn hindsight into foresight to counter a new and more dangerous loner.

They had the Sydney 2000 Olympics in mind, and using intelligence to prevent violence “currently deemed unforeseeable.’’

The police wrote in November 1995, the latest generation of terrorist would likely strike in someone’s own street, or where they worked.

“Most often the perpetrator is an unhappy and partly crazed individual whose isolation is part of the reason for their dissatisfaction with life,” the officers wrote.

“Intelligence has traditionally been viewed within the police service as an aid to investigation. This approach in our view limits the value of the intelligence process considerably. It is our belief the major value of intelligence lies in its ability to predict likely future events.’’

From Sydney, Maitland, Lismore, Deniliquin, a royal commission and Olympics planning group, the police read extensive crime reports from New York, United Kingdom and Canada, mental health research and Royal Commission documents. They called for a line to be drawn so that when it was crossed they could use intelligence to target an individual.

“It is time that we change our way of thinking as well as our software. We should begin to work as one team, and not as individual groups who are inclined to hoard information.’’

Talks with national crime fighters revealed they were focussed on groups rather than individuals.

Twenty two years later, in the aftermath of Australia’s first terrorist hostage crisis their lecturer, who posed the lone terrorist scenario and role of intelligence to forecast potential danger, says their recommendations were noted, and that’s about it. “Time, motion, political imperatives take over the daily running of organisations,’’ the former detective sergeant said. “The ‘here and now’ issues become more important, rather than having your ‘head in the clouds and telling us what may happen’.”

Caption: NSW Police Academy in Goulburn. Photo: John Thistleton.

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13 Responses to
Two decades of distractions turned tide in terrorist’s favour
Consolidator 2:23 pm 05 Jun 17

bigred said :

Consolidator said :

During the years from 1948 to 1997 these agencies collected a variety of information that would potential provide police sufficient evidence to prosecute or prevent dangerous crimes. The agencies would regularly discuss cases and would only exchange information that thwarted thousands of potential incidents.
Political interference was again exercised when a federal politician raided the offices of ASIO in Melbourne. The NSW Special Branch at that time held large amounts of potentially damaging information on individuals within religions, unions, politics, Police and the legal profession, so they relocated a lot of their information away from their offices as they feared the politicians would one day raid them.
This prophesy was realised when the politicians orchestrated through a politically appointed Police Commissioner when he raided Special Branch offices and large amounts of selected ‘classified’ information was reclassified as irrelevant and subsequently destroyed. Members of the Branch were then wrongly targeted, reassigned and reputations were destroyed. The Police Commissioner’s wife was rewarded with a safe political seat.
The recent inside interference with the Lindt siege inquest starts with the redaction and non-disclosure of why the criminal Man Haron Monis was not held in custody. The politicians and legal profession always protect their own to the detriment of the police and the community by shifting blame of the siege outcomes onto the police and not the cause. It will take a lot more terrorism for the politicians to give police the ability to do their job and protect society they will do everything they can to prevent information sharing especially if it relates to them.

Sorry to say that this is a very selective revision of what happened in NSW during the 70’s and 80’s. With the introduction of robust electronic fingerprint systems outstanding first instance warrants for offences that had occurred many years previously in the vicinity of the El Alamein Fountain were joined up and it was discovered that the person who had previously provided names such as “Percy Pecker” or “Richard Head” following an arrest was in fact a luminary. It would seem that the duty beak in the historic Liverpool St Court never actually saw an alleged offender.

Remember a lot of the offences were being progressively decriminalised. And Nifty and his Attorney-General had just set up the Privacy Committee. Back then the computerised records were not even protected by so much as a password. What happened to the records was probably the best outcome.

Oh yes, many an aspiring future constable or detective learnt a lot about the hidden lives of the Countries then leaders when assigned to that dark place in Surry Hills. They were told they didn’t have time to read the details of the warrant cards, but …

Not even warm, your dark place in Surry Hills was the ‘showroom’ not the ‘clearinghouse’ Ryan, Whelan and Carr all dredged the wrong pond. The best information didn’t need ‘passwords’ as it was all in ‘shortwords’ far, far, away.

bigred 7:46 pm 03 Jun 17

Consolidator said :

During the years from 1948 to 1997 these agencies collected a variety of information that would potential provide police sufficient evidence to prosecute or prevent dangerous crimes. The agencies would regularly discuss cases and would only exchange information that thwarted thousands of potential incidents.
Political interference was again exercised when a federal politician raided the offices of ASIO in Melbourne. The NSW Special Branch at that time held large amounts of potentially damaging information on individuals within religions, unions, politics, Police and the legal profession, so they relocated a lot of their information away from their offices as they feared the politicians would one day raid them.
This prophesy was realised when the politicians orchestrated through a politically appointed Police Commissioner when he raided Special Branch offices and large amounts of selected ‘classified’ information was reclassified as irrelevant and subsequently destroyed. Members of the Branch were then wrongly targeted, reassigned and reputations were destroyed. The Police Commissioner’s wife was rewarded with a safe political seat.
The recent inside interference with the Lindt siege inquest starts with the redaction and non-disclosure of why the criminal Man Haron Monis was not held in custody. The politicians and legal profession always protect their own to the detriment of the police and the community by shifting blame of the siege outcomes onto the police and not the cause. It will take a lot more terrorism for the politicians to give police the ability to do their job and protect society they will do everything they can to prevent information sharing especially if it relates to them.

Sorry to say that this is a very selective revision of what happened in NSW during the 70’s and 80’s. With the introduction of robust electronic fingerprint systems outstanding first instance warrants for offences that had occurred many years previously in the vicinity of the El Alamein Fountain were joined up and it was discovered that the person who had previously provided names such as “Percy Pecker” or “Richard Head” following an arrest was in fact a luminary. It would seem that the duty beak in the historic Liverpool St Court never actually saw an alleged offender.

Remember a lot of the offences were being progressively decriminalised. And Nifty and his Attorney-General had just set up the Privacy Committee. Back then the computerised records were not even protected by so much as a password. What happened to the records was probably the best outcome.

Oh yes, many an aspiring future constable or detective learnt a lot about the hidden lives of the Countries then leaders when assigned to that dark place in Surry Hills. They were told they didn’t have time to read the details of the warrant cards, but …

Farmer Chunks 3:52 pm 02 Jun 17

That is a very good article and explanation by “Consolidator”. Thank you. Unfortunately Special Branch by the 1980s was starting to utilise staff who were not detectives, or were there for ‘other reasons’. While sharing information with ASIO, much of the intelligence sharing was personality driven and assessed on the integrity of Officers from both organisations. Sadly, much of Defence intelligence sharing (while maintaining stricter vetting) is also personality driven and the quality depends on the people, especially in conflict zones.
But no matter which way we look at the information about Lindt, and the research done 22 years ago, the fundamental piece is that strategic intelligence is vital for examining and resolving future issues. As Dungfungus has highlighted the geographic and criminal history of Monis, this should have been a strong indicator to experienced intelligence officers and investigators, that there was something on the horizon, and it needed to be prevented.
The bottom line from the research and the Coroner: Greater examination of lone individuals and the establishment of a unit to look at these people of interest. 22 years wasted.

Consolidator 12:19 am 02 Jun 17

During the years from 1948 to 1997 these agencies collected a variety of information that would potential provide police sufficient evidence to prosecute or prevent dangerous crimes. The agencies would regularly discuss cases and would only exchange information that thwarted thousands of potential incidents.
Political interference was again exercised when a federal politician raided the offices of ASIO in Melbourne. The NSW Special Branch at that time held large amounts of potentially damaging information on individuals within religions, unions, politics, Police and the legal profession, so they relocated a lot of their information away from their offices as they feared the politicians would one day raid them.
This prophesy was realised when the politicians orchestrated through a politically appointed Police Commissioner when he raided Special Branch offices and large amounts of selected ‘classified’ information was reclassified as irrelevant and subsequently destroyed. Members of the Branch were then wrongly targeted, reassigned and reputations were destroyed. The Police Commissioner’s wife was rewarded with a safe political seat.
The recent inside interference with the Lindt siege inquest starts with the redaction and non-disclosure of why the criminal Man Haron Monis was not held in custody. The politicians and legal profession always protect their own to the detriment of the police and the community by shifting blame of the siege outcomes onto the police and not the cause. It will take a lot more terrorism for the politicians to give police the ability to do their job and protect society they will do everything they can to prevent information sharing especially if it relates to them.

Consolidator 12:19 am 02 Jun 17

This discussion raises many issues of political and legal interference into the sharing of information between police agencies. The mentioned intelligence report only confirms the need for a secure system that already existed for more than sixty years only to be cut down by corrupt politicians, senior police and the complicit legal profession. In the early 1930s NSW Police Commissioner William Mackay created the Police Subversive Organisations Branch to collect a variety of indices covering, political, religious and criminal activities of individuals and organisation who potentially would be a threat to the order of a democratic society. During WWII the organisation was merged with other government agencies to form the Military/Police Intelligence Branch. At the end of the war the two agencies were split and the Subversive Organisations Branch was re-established until 1948 when all the Australian Police Commissioners agreed with Mackay that a national system should be introduced because the Commonwealth Security Service later ASIO had been politically compromised and infiltrated by known members of forth Column political and religious organisations and important information was being leaked to politicians, journalists and the legal profession for its unlawful use. The new Police information organisations were known in every state as ‘Special Branch’ and the heads of these organisations were drawn from the most intelligent, experienced, and honest undercover agents from the war period and working in the surveillance field and could not be influenced by power motivated or corrupt politicians . The Special Branch agents were mainly ex-Police Cadets who had been trained in all the technologies of the era and who had spent time in the secret ‘Shadowing Squad’.
‘.

bigred 3:00 pm 31 May 17

John Thistleton said :

Good point bigred. That’s why it is a smart move to get police working with health department, rather than having to shoot people suffering mental illness.

For sure. There is a need for a joined up response to such matters. From my observations, that is sadly missing.

John Thistleton 10:59 am 31 May 17

Good point bigred. That’s why it is a smart move to get police working with health department, rather than having to shoot people suffering mental illness.

bigred 8:24 am 31 May 17

I will also say good piece. There is a flaw in trying to label crazed individuals acting out an extreme event as radicalised lone wolf terrorists, being it ignores the failure of chronically under resourced mental health systems to intervene effectively to ensure community safety. These poor sods behaviour continues to escalate without appropriate intervention. The rights and freedoms of these folk need to be weighed against the communities’ right to move freely and safely.

John Thistleton 7:39 am 31 May 17

 Thank you Elias. You can imagine how the 16 police in this research group feel today. Their instructor says they were exceptional, rising to the challenge and did the research, all within a matter of two weeks.  “Long hours and maturely presented.  If they did not have the ‘fire in the belly’ as well, it would have been like so many other courses that ‘just do the work’.  Many of these police have now left the job, going onto other organisations where their skills and vision were better used. Some even went into their own business. “

dungfungus 8:50 pm 30 May 17

Elias Hallaj said :

Great reporting John. It’s even more saddening that the tragic events which unfolded and the necessary strategies to deal with crazy violent people like this criminal we raised, researched and presented to police so many years ago. He clearly should have been locked up well before the siege for his earlier violent crimes. Hopefully the important lessons will be re-learnt and similar tragedies prevented to save innocent lives in the future.

“We” didn’t raise Mans Monis as a criminal.

Monis had committed a number of “violent” and fraud-related offences before he fled Iran “in disguise” in 1996, according to Iran’s chief of police, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam.

At the time, Monis went by the name of Mohammad Hassan Manteqi. He fled first to Malaysia in 1996 and then to Australia, General Moghaddam claimed.

Monis applied for, and was in 2001 granted, refugee status in Australia.

Elias Hallaj 7:16 pm 30 May 17

Great reporting John. It’s even more saddening that the tragic events which unfolded and the necessary strategies to deal with crazy violent people like this criminal we raised, researched and presented to police so many years ago. He clearly should have been locked up well before the siege for his earlier violent crimes. Hopefully the important lessons will be re-learnt and similar tragedies prevented to save innocent lives in the future.

dungfungus 11:44 am 30 May 17

Given the declarations made by Monis before and during the siege regarding his allegiance to Islamic State it is wrong to describe him as a “self-radicalised individual”.

Our security agencies should read history up (books, not the internet) on what Islam is all about and and then apply strategies that are relevant to they way the terrorists think which is totally different to the way western civilisations think.

Here’s a clue. Would be Islamic terrorists that were prevented from carrying out their mission expressed no remorse or regret when they were interrogated. They said had felt blessed just before embarking on their missions as they were about to meet Allah and would see the martyrs in paradise. It is customary for some Islamic terrorist organisations to financially reward the family of the terrorist who becomes a martyr.

With those sort of mindsets and incentives at work there is little that can be done proactively to prevent the attacks continuing and we have to accept that the this will be part of life as long for as long we want to be in denial about it.

Farmer Chunks 11:29 am 30 May 17

With issues & recommendations raised some 22 years ago by experienced intelligence officers, and that report then circulated within the NSWP & AFP, one has to ask what level of negligence then falls on the senior management of the NSWP & AFP. With two victims having lost their lives – and emergency services placed into life threatening situations – all at the hand of a lone individual, who attacked in a workplace at the Lindt cafe. All predicted some 22 years ago – not by a fortune teller – but by experienced police looking to the future to make a change.
What will happen now: nothing. This media article will be read by a dedicated group, and no senior police management will call for a copy of the Intelligence Research. How cheated could the Coroner feel that some of his recommendations were raised by those within the Police Intelligence some 22 years ago. One can then only assume that many of the Coroners recommendations could now not be acted upon. Or do we have to wait for deaths of innocents at the hands of lone individuals before Police Management takes note of what their own people predict. Twenty-two years: how tragic.

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