Gas Week

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Wide police powers against terrorists used to snoop on groups critical of Fed Govt policies: intelligence gathering includes elections, Iraq war

Posted by gasweek on 20 September, 2007

Before the APEC meeting began, police and politicians repeatedly talked up the prospect of protests turning violent and boasted about how they would crack down hard, according to Brian Toohey reported The Australian Financial review (8/9/2007, p. 62).

Police scrutiny continues: “Few acknowledged that demonstrators, unlike terrorists, are not mass murderers,” wrote Toohey. “Nor did they seem concerned that the perverse consequence of this sort of moral equivalence is to imply that terrorism is just a more vigorous form of political protest.” To prepare for APEC, NSW police, backed by the Australian Federal Police, gathered information on the membership of student and other political organisations. Their interest did not end with APEC. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a December 2006 email from a police intelligence unit to a university security manager said: “Given that next year holds numerous events, including state/federal elections, APEC and the ongoing war in Iraq, there is a strong possibility that Interest Motivated Groups will become more active. Our main charter is to monitor these IMGs and identify current key members. ”

Police believe anti-war stance is sinister: “Although most Australians oppose the brutal war the federal government helped unleash in Iraq, the NSW police obviously believe an anti-war stance is sufficiently sinister to justify identifying those who hold such views,” wrote Toohey. “It is a profoundly anti-democratic impulse that police seem incapable of resisting when empowered to collect political intelligence. Dick Woolcott AO should be careful. He joined 41 other retired senior public servants and military officers in an ‘IMG’ that correctly warned in early 2003 of the pitfalls of invading Iraq.”

44 new antiterrorist laws: “Most state police forces now have units for snooping on groups critical of federal government policies,” Toohey wrote. “The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US provided the rationale for resurrecting the special branches and for giving the AFP a vastly expanded intelligence-gathering role. The AFP’s appalling incompetence in the Haneef case has in no way diminished the bipartisan political support it has for its growing surveillance role. There are now 44 new antiĀ­terrorist laws, in effect creating the means to subject innocent Australians to extensive surveillance. The ambit of these laws goes well beyond terrorism.”

Ordinary citizen willing to obey: “Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that they have been accompanied by an unquestioning willingness to obey commands issued by someone dressed up in a security uniform,” Toohey concluded. “The latest episode of The Chaser’s War On Everything showed Melburnians meekly going back up a lift when ordered to do so by a member of the Chaser team claiming to be with APEC security. A genuine security guard left when told he was outranked by a comedian. One man agreed to stay indefinitely in a toilet cubicle after the Chasers sealed it off as an APEC security zone. Sadly, the victim correctly assumed such a bizarre scenario could be real.”

The Australian Financial Review, 8/9/2007, p. 62

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