A recent article by Warren Reed is a case in point. I first met Reed at the filming of a Geoffrey Robertson Hypothetical program to celebrate the anniversary of The Bulletin, one of Australia's most read news and current affairs magazines. Reed appeared on the show as an intelligence analyst and operative working at the Australian embassy in the fictitious country of Nirvana. Reed has close links to the intelligence community, having served as ASIS station chief in Cairo.
Reed's recent analysis in NewMatilda of the Federal Government's failure to adequately protect Australians from terrorist attacks is well worth reading. Here's a sample ...
... the Government distorts the truth, or deliberately ignores it, in a
quest to gain political capital and to avoid responsibility for ineptitude ... a
large number of people working in the intelligence community are really worried.
To them, the Haneef debacle is a microcosm of what’s gone wrong, but broader
issues drive their concern.
True, the Government’s spent a fortune on new staff, training and hi-tech
gadgetry. But without good management this can be badly misdirected, if not
squandered. The most limited resource, after all, is experienced human talent
and that can’t be bought with money ...
Sadly, the Howard government has politicised Australia's intelligence agencies. Instead of hiring experienced spooks, the Howard government is content to appoint people with little experience in domestic or international intelligence.
The nation’s two prime intelligence agencies, the Australian Secret
Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Australian Security Intelligence
Organisation (ASIO) are both run by bureaucrats with a Foreign Affairs
background. Few countries where governments have a genuine interest in national
security appoint people with no operational experience to run their overseas spy
agency and their domestic security service.
Both ASIS and ASIO were established in the decade after World War II from a
British blueprint. ASIS is simply the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service, commonly
known as MI6) with an ‘A’ added, while ASIO is copied from MI5.
And what are the British doing?
They’re sticking with the proven tradition of appointing professional
career spies to these top jobs. In 2006, long-term spy Sir John Scarlett
replaced Sir Richard Dearlove as the new chief of MI6, while in April 2007
Jonathon Evans took over as head of MI5. Evans had been Deputy Director-General
of MI5 for two years and a career officer for 27 years.
Reed is also concerned about loss of morale in the Australian Federal Police (AFP). He points the finger at John Howard and Alexander Downer, both of whom humiliated Australia's top cop after he dared to question whether Australia's involvement in the Iraq war made us any safer. Downer went to the extent of describing Mick Keelty as an al-Qaeda propagandist.
Of course, our decision to participate in the Iraq war has hardly made the country more stable. Instead, al-Qaeda is thriving in Iraq. And neither Iraqis nor Australians are any safer.
© Irfan Yusuf 2007