Thursday, September 29, 2005

COMMENT: Introducing SATIC

Gerard Henderson once described unions and industrial commissions as being “The Industrial Relations Club”. Other allegedly conservative commentators frequently speak about “The Multicultural Industry”.

I’d like to propose the existence of the latest niche elite – “The Security & Anti-Terror Intelligence Club” (SATIC). And who are members of this club? Who are the members? How does one gain membership?

Well, I guess one set of members are the PM, State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers who form part of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Then there are the various national security and other law enforcement apparatus. Then there are the self-declared experts who frequently issue fatwas on the state of terrorism in Australia and the region.

And what is the currency of this club? Is it open debate on the state of the economy and the labour market? Is it open discussion on the merits of cultural diversity and government-funded programs to promote same?

Nope. The currency of SATIC is intelligence, secret briefings, selective leaks to journalists and information that just cannot be disclosed but which can be used to defame and prosecute just about anyone who happens to fit the profile of a possible terrorist.

So how intelligent is this intelligence? How reliable is the information? How expert are the so-called experts? And what sort of presumptions underlay much thinking within SATIC on terrorism and security?

Allow me to start with one simple proposition – that I am a terrorist.

I may have missed out on being born in Australia by around 5 months. I may have grown up in the Prime Minister’s electorate. I may have spent some 10 years attending Sydney’s only Anglican Cathedral School.

I may have been an endorsed Liberal Candidate in a federal election during the 2001 elections. I may have edited 2 conservative youth magazines during my decade-long membership of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. I may have been part of the right-wing faction which delivered preselection to numerous conservative MP’s.

But the fact remains that I am a terrorist. I fit the terrorist profile. I arguably have Middle Eastern appearance (despite having mixed Turkish and Kashmiri ancestry and parents born in Delhi). My name suggests some sort of Muslim background (even if a Pakistani Christian cricketer shares part of my name).

Every single organisation proscribed under Australian anti-terror laws has some link to Islamic religion or Muslims. Compare this to the US, where over 35% of proscribed groups have no relation to Islam or Muslims.

Every single person prosecuted under anti-terror laws has been a Muslim. Ariel Sharon may have described those opposed to his disengagement plan as supporters of terrorism. But in Australia, don’t expect to see ASIO kicking in the doors of such people.

It took just one briefing from intelligence and law enforcement officials to convince political members of SATIC to reach agreement on laws which have been described by some lawyers as laying the foundations for the creation of a police state. And what was their information?

SATIC experts frequently cite intelligence, most of which cannot be tested. Yet in August, the Weekend Financial Review reported that ASIO’s budget for Muslim informants had blown out. Why? Because many informants were happy to take ASIO’s money in return for useless information, most of it designed to send ASIO agents knocking on the doors of the informants intra-Muslim communal enemies.

Now the president of the national police union has asked the government to indemnify police from prosecution in case people like me decide to sue police officers caught engaging in racial profiling. Police on the ground admit that the new anti-terror laws will only work with racial profiling.

And who will be profiled? Just Muslim extremists? Just people openly declaring their Islam? Don’t think so.

I expect my good friend who works behind a bar and never met her Muslim parent to be profiled just because she carries an Arabic-sounding name. I expect my cousins who regularly drink (and one of whom married a non-Muslim) to be profiled because of their name and appearance.

I also expect thousands of Christians and Jews of Arab background or thnicity to be targeted. I expect one of my close friends, a Canberra-born lass with an Indian Hindu mother and devout Catholic father to be profiled. Already, she complains of getting funny looks when she catches the train to university.

And who will benefit from this hysteria? Who will be cheering SATIC all the way to the finish line? Who will be pleased to see the rule of law and civil liberties eroded? My guess is a Saudi civil engineer hiding in a cave sporting a white turban and large beard …

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf

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