No surprises here.Â The Left and Islam are brothers in arms – they are both totalitarian regimes that brook no opposition, and indeed believe in eliminating any opponents -often violently.
* Trouble is that this Islamofascist creep has already been in the country for ten years!
Andrew BoltÂ â€“ Friday, July 17,Â
What is it with Labor and radical imams? Paul Keating had hisÂ Jew-hating, jihad-preachingÂ Sheik Hilali:
Chris Hurford, immigration minister in the Hawke Labor government, tried in 1986 to have him deported after Hilali had overstayed a tourist visa in 1982 …because his reported utterances were dividing the Muslim community. But Hilali had two powerful Labor supporters on his side – Paul Keating and Leo McLeay – who would ultimatelyÂ help him win his quest for permanent residency.
THE federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, supplied a glowing character reference for a Sydney sheik accused of spying for Iran just months after learning ASIO had rejected his residency application on national security grounds.
Spying for Iran:Â Mansour Leghaei
The Australian can reveal that Mr McClelland wrote two character references in 1997 for controversial Iranian cleric Mansour Leghaei, who is accused by ASIO of engaging in “specific acts of foreign interference”.Â Sheik Leghaei has been fighting to stay in Australia for more than a decade, despite ASIO issuing two adverse security assessments against him.
Leghaei’s spying isn’t the only issue.Â His notebookÂ could have been written by Hilali himself.
- Terrific news:Â the number of Muslims will experience enormous growth from 340,389 to 1.055 million by 2020.
Hamas MP and Cleric on Swine Flu and “the Brothers of Apes and Pigs”– no doubt Mansour would agree with him:
Can’t get rid of him Westernresistance
The following interview with Sarah Ferguson has been erased from ninemsm.
We have saved it:
Sheikh Mansour Leghaei Sunday lifts the cloak on the secret operations of Australia’s domestic intelligence organisation, ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
With a $130 million funding boost, ASIO will double in size over the next four years. Intelligence insiders tell Sunday that such a rapid expansion will lead to mistakes.
Former Director-General of ASIO Alan Wrigley tells Sunday that ASIO’s mistakes have cost lives in the past: wrong judgments on terrorist groups have led to bombs going off in Australia and, on at least two occasions, Australians being assassinated by foreign agents.
Since the first Bali bombing, the focus of ASIO’s work has been counter-terrorism but ASIO is now boosting its counter-espionage capacity. Sunday has uncovered details of an ASIO operation against an Iranian cleric â€” Sheikh Mansour Leghaei â€” accused of spying on Australians. For the first time on television we will play a tape of an actual ASIO interrogation, as the ASIO officers try to uncover the Sheikh’s connections in Iran.
Sunday also uncovers details of the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack on Australian interests in the region.
The spying game â€” a revealing look at Australia’s secret spy network.
JANA WENDT: In response to the threat of terrorism, Australia’s often maligned domestic intelligence agency, ASIO, is about to double in size. It can’t afford to be taken by surprise again, as it was by the first Bali bombings. ASIO blames that failure on budget cuts that slashed its army of agents by 30 percent. But how competent is ASIO to protect us from terrorism? Sunday’s Sarah Ferguson has been investigating how ASIO works, and what she’s found may surprise you â€” a Sydney man with links to Osama bin Laden, an Islamic cleric suspected of spying for Iran, and fears of an imminent terrorist attack close to Australia. Her report is our cover story.
SARAH FERGUSON: It is 24 hours after the bombing of the Golden Shrine in Iraq. In Sydney’s west, 13,000km away, the Shi’ite community have gathered to grieve for the destruction of one of their holiest places. Nothing is greater than God. They are led by Sheikh Mansour Leghaei, an Iranian cleric who studied under the Grand Ayatollahs. There is no doubting his influence over these men and over the Shia community. He professes to be a moderate, but for more than a decade ASIO has watched him. Secretly at first, then openly. They traced his connections, examined his finances, rifled through his luggage and interrogated him repeatedly. They’ve concluded he’s a threat to Australia’s national security.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sheikh Leghaei, are you an Iranian spy?
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: I’m not a spy. I’ve never been a spy.
SARAH FERGUSON: Why does ASIO think you are?
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: In my conviction, they are 100 percent incorrect.
SARAH FERGUSON: Much of ASIO’s work involves penetrating ethnic communities. Since September 11, the clear focus is on Islamic communities. The operation targeting Mansour Leghaei demonstrates both the complexity of that task and the sensitivities. Later we’ll look in detail at ASIO’s investigation of the sheikh and the case against him, though much of it is secret.
PHILIP RUDDOCK, ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Now you’re talking about somebody whom I do know something about and whose case I’m not prepared to discuss.
SARAH FERGUSON: We’ll play you excerpts from an extraordinary tape of ASIO’s actual interrogation of the sheikh.
VOICE ON TAPE: Do you think it is possible that someone like him could be a co-optee of an Iranian intelligence service?
SARAH FERGUSON: Naturally, a secret intelligence organisation places a high value on its secrets. It protects its methods and its informants from public scrutiny. Its bosses generally leave it to the politicians to answer the questions. That makes ASIO a hard organisation to study. But in the world since the emergence of global terrorism, the agency’s role has never been so public. Today, as ASIO prepares to double in size, Sunday examines the agency we had to have.
WOMAN: We are reasonably safe to turn to questions to Mr O’Sullivan… The only time you’re likely to see ASIO’s new Director-General, Paul O’Sullivan, talking publicly is in Senate committees. Yet this is the man chosen to guide the agency through the most rapid expansion in its history.
PAUL O’SULLIVAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ASIO: By 2010, the organisation will look and feel quite different to the way it now appears.
ALAN DUPONT, LOWY INSTITUTE: The jury is out really on whether ASIO yet is up to speed in terms of being a world-class, 21st-century internal security organisation.
NEIL FERGUS, CEO INTELLIGENT RISKS: Paul O’Sullivan is relatively new to the helm, but whilst his predecessors had challenges, this really is a difficult phase.
SARAH FERGUSON: Last year, ASIO’s powers were strengthened by new laws. Raids in Sydney and Melbourne quickly followed on two groups linked to self-styled spiritual leader Nacer Benbrika. Twenty two men have since been charged with terrorism offences. Police believe the group was planning a terrorist attack in Australia. No-one inside Australia’s intelligence community believes the threat has been contained. They argue ASIO’s rapid expansion is in response to an unprecedented global phenomenon.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: We were talking about more than 10,000 people who went to Afghanistan for training in relation to weapons handling and planning terrorist acts and the like. Now the scale and enormity of that cannot be compared to any of the acts, the wanton acts we saw at earlier points in time in our history.
VOICE OVER: You see, under a communist government you’re pushed around and if you don’t like it, that’s just too bad, because you can’t change the government. But for decades after 1945, the threat of communism was seen by the same intelligence community as the greatest threat to democracy. Today in Australia, Reds openly preach their gospel, flout our laws and form a growing menace to the future of this country.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO undertook extensive secret surveillance of Australian communists.
MAN: Approximately 200 delegates attended from all States and about 90 percent have been identified.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DAVID McKNIGHT, UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY: The agency collected information by planting agents in branches of the Communist Party, by listening to its phones around the clock, by planting bugs in its offices, and many, many other things, some of which we still don’t know.
SARAH FERGUSON: The post-war migration boom brought not only cultural diversity, it brought ethnic divisions and old-country politics and foreign agents. It also spawned the first manifestations of domestic terrorism, a threat ASIO failed to deal with because the offenders were anti-communist Croatian nationalists.
MARK AARONS, AUTHOR: WAR CRIMINALS WELCOME: Their group was responsible for taking the young men to, usually remote locations in the bush, and giving them basic military training, training in how to handle weapons, how to construct a bomb, how to use a radio, how to use codes.
SARAH FERGUSON: It could be a description of young Muslim men training in bush camps in Australia in recent years. Back then, ASIO turned a blind eye. After all, these young men were training for the equivalent of jihad against communist Yugoslavia.
POLICEMAN ON MEGAPHONE: Those next to or near the consulate would they please move out of their homes and into the street. There is a live bomb in the consulate and it’s due to go off at any moment.
SARAH FERGUSON: But then bombs started going off in Australia.
MARK AARONS: They couldn’t ignore the series of bombings that happened at diplomatic headquarters of the Yugoslav nation. They couldn’t ignore bombs that were going off on a quite regular basis to try and disrupt, for example, travel agencies that promoted tourism in Yugoslavia.
SARAH FERGUSON: The Croats were highly organised, but not unique. Other international conflicts were played out here â€” Arabs against Jews, Armenians against Turks, white South Africans against black. While we now have a terrible manifestation of global terrorism, Australia has not been immune from terrorism.
SARAH FERGUSON: Neil Fergus is one of Australia’s leading experts on counter-terrorism.
NEIL FERGUS: I’m not just referring about the late-’70s Hilton Hotel bombing, I’m talking about the assassination of the Turkish consular general in Sydney, bomb attacks on the Israeli consulate in East Sydney, bomb attack on the Hakoah Club, bomb attack on the Yugoslav consulate in Melbourne, bomb attack on a Turkish consulate, the attempted assassination of African National Congress member â€” the list goes on and on and on. The list is about 120 events.
SARAH FERGUSON: Alan Wrigley was ASIO’s Director-General in 1986 when an Armenian group they had been watching exploded a bomb in the Turkish consulate.
ALAN WRIGLEY, FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ASIO: The body of the person who was apparently wiring up the bomb at the time was found as well.
SARAH FERGUSON: As with last year’s raids on Muslims, ASIO agonised over how to deal with the Armenian threat. In that case they misjudged it.
ALAN WRIGLEY: We had made the judgment that they were, if they were going to do anything, they were some distance away from it.
SARAH FERGUSON: Some migrants, having escaped oppressive regimes, were targeted by foreign agents sent to intimidate or, in extreme cases, assassinate them. Did it ever happen in Australia?
ALAN WRIGLEY: There was certainly at least one or two occasions when we had little doubt. A typical way of doing it â€” and this is almost worldwide, I think, in its operation â€” is that somebody from the home country would arrive in the morning, do the job and leave in the evening. This meant there was virtually zero chance of picking them up.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO believes that Sheikh Leghaei was infiltrated into Australia by the clerical regime in Iran. He came here on a business visa in 1994 and within a year was under surveillance by the agency’s counter-espionage unit. It was a time when ASIO was focused on Iranian threats.
NEIL FERGUS: I think it is quite clear that what it was looking at was Middle East-originating terrorism and the traditional sources of state-sponsored terror were still on the radar, and possibly still are on the radar, but in terms of Hezbollah’s activities, and particularly the external security apparatus of Hezbollah, the activities of elements of the Iranian intelligence community.
MARTIN INDYK, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: The purpose of the security services under the revolutionary regime, this clerical regime that was established by Ayatollah Khomeini, is to spread the revolution and to serve as an instrument of the state, which is under the control of the clerics.
SARAH FERGUSON: For his part, Sheikh Leghaei says he knows nothing about politics.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: Remember that I’m a religious person, I am not expert on politics. Please, when you ask me political questions, I have the right not to say anything, not because I don’t want to answer your question because I’m not an expert in that area.
SARAH FERGUSON: But like many young clerics, he was asked to serve at the frontline in the bloody Iran-Iraq war.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: A couple of times I participated in the battlefield as a sheikh, as a religious person. We were going to meet the soldiers and explain the religious questions that they had.
SARAH FERGUSON: Three years after his first visit to Australia, ASIO said Sheikh Leghaei was a threat to Australia’s national security, guilty of “acts of foreign interference”.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: I’m not going to give you a formal definition, and I don’t know the circumstances that you are describing and I can’t give you an offhanded view.
SARAH FERGUSON: What sorts of things are we talking about? What could it be?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Foreign states might well engage in clandestine activity in Australia that would be of concern to us.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: I have been interviewed according to ASIO reports or records eight times. They were interested to know how I would live my life, perhaps as a spy, I would be financially backed by the Iranian Government. If there is any record as such then that is an indication that I must be acting for them.
SARAH FERGUSON: On the basis of ASIO’s assessment of him, Sheikh Leghaei was refused permanent residency, which could have meant he was deported. But the Sheikh has wealthy backers in the local Shi’ite community who are bankrolling a challenge in the Federal Court. Under the rules of intelligence, set by an increasingly powerful ASIO, he is denied the natural justice of knowing what the allegations against him are.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: Imagine you are shooting in a dark room â€” they ask you to shoot, but you don’t see the other side and you don’t know how to defend yourself. You can just repeat yourself many times but you don’t know what the real allegation is.
SARAH FERGUSON: Nor should he, say intelligence experts â€” the stakes are too high.
NEIL FERGUS: It can not only lead to the disruption of ongoing intelligence operations, it can lead to the deaths of people who have been helping the intelligence services.
SARAH FERGUSON: Has this happened? In the Australian context?
NEIL FERGUS: There are reasons to think that some people have been hurt in the past that have assisted Australian intelligence, yes.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: His lips are dry, so naturally he grabbed a handful of the water â€” that’s what the historians have mentioned.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sheikh Leghaei is regaling his followers with the oft-told story of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the father of Shia Islam.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: He just severed his right hand, quickly, he’s holding the sword with his left…
SARAH FERGUSON: It is told, typically, with all the passion of an eyewitness to events that took place more than 1,000 years ago. Shi’ite Muslims in Sydney asked Sheikh Leghaei to set up a religious centre in the suburb of Earlwood six years ago.
HOSSEIN AZIMI: I say Dr. Leghaei is a person which could not be replaced.
MOHAMMED KHAKI: You know, we’ll lose a father, we’ll lose a brother, we’ll lose a friend, as well as losing a sheikh.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: Did you get your lunch?
SARAH FERGUSON: Leghaei could be the Prime Minister’s ideal Muslim cleric.
ABBAS ALI: It’s strange that you have a person who I think the PM would support as being the perfect role model for Muslim youth â€” speaks English, presents well, educated, community minded, and because he has some sense of intelligence â€” it seems we only want the sheikhs who are not intelligent to remain in Australia.
SARAH FERGUSON: Philip Ruddock endorsed the opening of his centre.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: It is with a great deal of pleasure to wish the Imam Husain Islamic centre a great future.
SARAH FERGUSON: You were happy to attend the opening of his centre as immigration minister?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Mmm. I was invited to it.
SARAH FERGUSON: And you attended?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Yes, I did.
SARAH FERGUSON: I have seen the photograph on some of our newspapers. This is a man who had been judged to be a threat to Australia’s national security.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, if I had been advised at the time that there was a risk to me, I would expect that that would have been a matter that would have been taken into account.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: If you want to ask me anything, ask me now, because once I have the water of Isfahan I’ll be stingy.
SARAH FERGUSON: One afternoon, not long after Leghaei’s arrival in Australia, an ASIO agent named Brian appeared unannounced at his front door.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: They ask if I am aware of any terrorist organisation called Ahl Al-Bayt, in France. That is the first time the name of Ahl Al-Bayt, was uttered by Brian, if I am not mistaken. Do you know of an Ahl Al-Bayt in France with terrorist connections? Never. I didn’t know anything about him then and still I don’t know anything about him.
SARAH FERGUSON: A few days later, Brian sent Leghaei a fax.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: His fax was anonymous. It didn’t have any indication that it was coming from an intelligence officer.
SARAH FERGUSON: The fax asked Leghaei more questions more about Ahl Al-Bayt, this time in Iran. Ahl Al-Bayt is a religious organisation run by the Iranian clerics to promote their brand of Shia Islam across the world through the revolutionary ideals of the Ayatollah Khomeni. Its web site includes a link to Leghaei’s centre.
MARTIN INDYK: I think it is unlikely that a cleric would act completely independently. It is not to suggest that a cleric in Australia is an operative of the intelligence services. The whole nature of the effort to spread the revolution by clerical means, by religious means, is a different kind of operation, in which the clerics are sent out to propagate the faith.
SARAH FERGUSON: July 1999. ASIO asked Sheikh Leghaei for an interview to review his case. On this occasion, he was summoned into the city.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: Told me from my memory to go to a level 21, 22, something. To an anonymous office on the 22nd floor of this building. Just a small room, very small office, with a desk. I was sitting on one side of the desk, they were sitting on the other one. They had a tape recorder on the side.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: I have to explain to you for the purposes of this interview that we are recording the interview.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sunday has obtained the audio of the interview. Very unusually, the transcript shows the surnames of the ASIO officers, which we will not reveal.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: There were two men. One of them was interviewing me and another one was just basically watching.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: Now what do you know or what relationship have you ever had with the Islamic Propagation Organisation?
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: Which is based in Tehran?
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: Which is based in Tehran and around the world.
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: No particular relationship, with the exception of just being there time to time.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: Have you ever personally claimed to be a representative of the Ahl Al-Bayt while you have been in Australia?
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: No.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: When you have been in contact with Iraq, have you ever been in contact with a person by the name of Mohammed Ali Taskhiri?
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: Yes. Ayatollah Taskhiri worked in the office of the supreme leader in Iran responsible for religious propaganda. He was the head of Ahl Al-Bayt.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: When you went back to Australia did you have any further contact with him?
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: Yes.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: Do you think it’s possible that someone like Taskhiri could be a co-optee of an Iranian intelligence service?
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: No, he is a very nice fellow.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sheikh Leghaei claimed to the ASIO officers that the ayatollahs in Iran are not involved with the intelligence services.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: You say that the religious organisations and the intelligence organisations are completely separate.
VOICE OF SHEIKH LEGHAEI ON TAPE: Yes.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: I let that go past.
MARTIN INDYK: The regime is a clerical regime and the intelligence services are acting in the service of the clerical regime. So you connect the dots.
SARAH FERGUSON: Hours passed in the interview. Sheikh Leghaei was worn down.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: And I hardly get emotional. I think they tried to ask me so many questions to really emotionally get to me.
ASIO OFFICER ON TAPE: Sheikh Leghaei, I see that you are getting a little upset about this. I understand that, because we have been asking the same questions over and over again in different ways and that is wearying to the spirit for that to happen. So please, if you would like to take a break, we can take a break. Would you like to do that for a few minutes?
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO’s views, have, if anything, hardened against Leghaei, although they do admit to making mistakes. As he returned to Australia from a trip to Iran, officers at Sydney airport surreptitiously removed a notebook from his suitcase, copied it and put it back in his case.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: So for about eight years I have no idea that they have taken this photocopy or anything about it. It had a single-word title.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sorry, that’s the word ‘jihad’.
SHEIKH LEGHAEI: That’s the word ‘jihad’.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO eventually released to Leghaei’s lawyers a photocopy of the book with a translation which he claims distorted the meaning of the text. And he says, “The enemies of Islam ought to be categorised under three headings.”
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: There is no such thing in the book.
SARAH FERGUSON: What about this â€” “It is a Muslim’s basic duty to wipe out these people.” Where does it say that?
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: This sentence doesn’t exist in the text at all. This is definitely added by the translator.
SARAH FERGUSON: He has actually invented a whole sentence?
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: Indeed.
SARAH FERGUSON:Â We had it translated and can confirm the offending lines are not there. ASIO finally abandoned their interest in the notebook, but there is nothing equivocal about ASIO’s most recent judgment on Leghaei from then director-general Dennis Richardson.
“On the basis of substantial information it is implausible that the specific acts of foreign interference he is assessed to have engaged in were done by anyone else. Substantial information and specific acts of foreign interference,” he says.
That is more evidence than just the notebook.
SHEIKH MANSOUR LEGHAEI: He is still a human and as a human he is entitled to making a mistake.
SARAH FERGUSON: The Leghaei family is living on borrowed time. If the legal challenge fails, the Sheikh will be deported before the end of the year. The Sheikh has been here for 12 years. His children have spent most of their lives here. Nine-year-old Fatima was born in Australia. Ali is in his last year in high school.
ALI: We know this place is our home. We have lived here all our life. All our friends are here. All our memories, every memory we think about is in Australia.
REZA: If he is a threat to Australia, is he a threat to me? I’m an Australian and whatever is a threat to Australia is a threat to me. The strain on the family shows.
MARZI: Of course it is very difficult. Sorry. Sorry.
SARAH FERGUSON: That’s alright.
MARZI: Just sometimes when I’m thinking about my family, they want to separate us, because if they deport my husband I have to go with him, with my daughter, but my other son, they have to stay here because they working and they are studying.
SARAH FERGUSON: So do these family connections count for anything in Leghaei’s case? Ian Carnell is the Inspector-General of the intelligence services, ASIO’s watchdog. They took those things into account in considering the issue of what degree of natural justice should be afforded to him. Carnell has reviewed the classified material in Leghaei’s case, the very material Leghaei is not allowed to see.
IAN CARNELL, INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY: Again, I have the advantage of being able to read the classified part. And having read those, that is a process with a lot of rigour. And there has been, you know, quite sufficient ground for the decision that ASIO had made.
SARAH FERGUSON: Carnell says the system for checking security assessments was tightened after ASIO made a mistake in 1999.
IAN CARNELL: The case that I mentioned in the late-’90s where there was difficulty was a case where they had uncritically accepted the views of a particular overseas organisation and had not independently corroborated it.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO had relied on inaccurate information from the Kuwaiti intelligence agency. They had to withdraw the assessment.
NEIL FERGUS: There are some organisations on the global intelligence stage that have reputations for being, well, unreliable may be a bit harsh, but having an unstructured and undisciplined way of managing information. And there are some other services, actually who have reputations for disseminating misinformation occasionally.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sunday does not say ASIO’s assessment of Sheikh Leghaei is wrong. It is impossible to do that when the evidence against him is secret. But we do pose the question â€” should someone with longstanding ties to the community, with Australian children, be deported without the chance to defend himself? After all, ASIO has made serious mistakes in the past. The first Bali bombings in 2002 not only shocked and revolted the nation, they shook ASIO to its core.
DENNIS RICHARDSON. FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ASIO: I believe there was the failure of ASIO, the failure of the Australian intelligence community, the failure of regional intelligence communities and others to identify the transition of JI into a terrorist organisation before late 2001. We’re paid to identify things like that and we didn’t do it.
SARAH FERGUSON: So how did ASIO miss the emerging threat under its very nose?
DENNIS RICHARDSON. FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ASIO: ASIO in particular, but to a lesser extent the other agencies, weren’t focused on terrorism more generally. Therefore Jemaah Islamiah got under the radar. Secondly, they didn’t have the resources to look at that because they were being tasked to do other things. So they were looking the other way when it happened.
SARAH FERGUSON: One of the main reasons they weren’t looking is because ASIO had been drastically cut back at the end of the Cold War. In 1992, the Labor Government wanted to extract a “peace dividend” from ASIO. Ironically, the man they chose to find the cuts was future ASIO director-general Dennis Richardson.
NEIL FERGUS: It was extremely demoralising at that time.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO’s staff numbers were reduced from 700 to 488.
ALAN DUPONT: There was some confusion about what ASIO’s role was. It was still kind of partially targeted against some of those Cold War targets but it wasn’t clear what they should be doing, and there was quite a loss of morale in the organisation. All those things conspired to put big question marks over ASIO and its effectiveness. In the same period in the 1990s, Jemaah Islamiah established a network in Australia.
SARAH FERGUSON: It wasn’t only JI. ASIO underestimated the threat of Islamic extremism and the small number of its adherents who came here claiming refugee status because of their religious views. Well, it’s clear that at earlier points in time different assessments were made about some of these organisations that we now know to pose a significant terrorist threat. Algerian Nacer Benbrika, who settled in Melbourne, was one of them. Now facing charges of leading a terrorist group in Australia, Benbrica argued to stay here because his fundamentalist views made it unsafe for him to return home. Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock was so worried he might have signed the paper that allowed Benbrica to stay, he had the case files reviewed.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: I did ask for some information in relation to it.
SARAH FERGUSON: To him in particular?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well, I mean, he is one case in which I was interested to know whether or not there was any involvement, mmm.
SARAH FERGUSON: So you have checked and you didn’t?
PHILIP RUDDOCK: That was the answer I was given.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sunday has learnt that another Muslim fundamentalist, one with family ties to Osama bin Laden, came to Australia in 1995. The man, named Ahmed, was accepted as a refugee the following year. Ahmed now lives here, in Sydney’s western suburbs. He asked us not to reveal his surname in order to protect his family. Ahmed fled from the Philippines, where he lived with his brother-in-law Kalifa â€” a relative and close associate of Bin Laden.
NEIL FERGUS: Kalifa went to the Philippines under instructions from Bin Laden but, critically, also received significant funding provided by Bin Laden out of the family companies, or the family revenues. Some of that money definitely went to support terrorist groups.
SARAH FERGUSON: Ahmed was questioned by Philippines intelligence about his connections to Kalifa and to Ramsey Yousef, who played a key role in the first World Trade Center bombing.
NEWSREADER: Ramsey Yousef, one of the men convicted today, had earlier been found guilty of plotting to blow up a dozen US airliners over the Pacific in two days in January 1995.
NEIL FERGUS: Anybody in that milieu, working with Kalifa, and knowing or working with Ramsey Yousef, should immediately be of some security interest.
SARAH FERGUSON: The Refugee Review Tribunal was clearly concerned.
VOICE OVER: The question arises whether the applicant was directly or indirectly responsible “for acts of terrorism.”
SARAH FERGUSON: But ASIO refused to give the tribunal any guidance.
VOICE OVER: Neither ASIO nor DFAT could or would provide any evidence to the tribunal in this regard.
NEIL FERGUS: The issue is to resolve the relationship issues because there should not be guilt by association. But certainly it should set some warning bells ringing.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: If ASIO has a concern about an individual they are advised when a visa grant is being considered and can give an adverse security assessment. I don’t know in relation to the particular matter whether or not such an assessment was considered.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO’s role in Ahmed’s case is unclear. But intelligence experts argue that at precisely the time al-Qa’ida made Australia a target ASIO was at its lowest ebb.
NEIL FERGUS: If, for example, you have an explosion of the terrorist-type targets that warrant covert surveillance, there is a massive increase in terms of personnel resources, and, indeed, money.
ALAN DUPONT: If you are going to carry out surveillance on someone you suspect of doing something they shouldn’t be doing you need to have maybe half a dozen cars.
SARAH FERGUSON: And how many people?
ALAN DUPONT: Well, obviously, you work out. You have at least six drivers. Four to six cars. You need communications. You may need to have people skilled as photographers.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO didn’t have the linguists either in Arabic or South-East Asian languages.
ALAN WRIGLEY: It is predominantly going to be information coming in, not from the field in general, but rather more, in most cases, from technical collection â€” telephone intercepts, listening devices. They would in effect have a choke point in the flow of information.
PHILIP RUDDOCK: You have an organisation that was populated by about 500 people. And you think about how many comprehensive investigations an organisation of 500 people can actually undertake.
SARAH FERGUSON: ASIO has chosen a new style of advertising for its massive recruitment drive.
NEIL FERGUS: There is a limit to how many people an experienced intelligence manager â€” middle manager in operational parlance â€” can mentor.
SARAH FERGUSON: So how do they overcome it?
NEIL FERGUS: I don’t really know. There will probably be a minor increase in the error, or the ‘custard factor’.
SARAH FERGUSON: The what factor?
NEIL FERGUS: The ‘custard factor’. What is that? The cock-up factor.
SARAH FERGUSON: Since Bali, everyone knows that intelligence failures can be measured in lives. Sources close to the Singaporean intelligence service now believe a major terrorist attack in the region is imminent.
DR. CARL UNGERER, FORMER ANALYST, OFFICE OF NATIONAL ASSESSMENTS:
They believe that this group is planning further attacks against Western interests in the region. And they think this group is on the cusp of doing something rather large.
SARAH FERGUSON: Australia remains a target of terrorist cells operating in South-East Asia, like this one. They talk openly on their web sites about how to make bombs and who to hit. Now monitoring of a terrorist cell operating out of Malaysia has picked up clear information, called ‘chatter’ in intelligence jargon.
DR. CARL UNGERER: Both the amount of discussion and the type of discussion that is being put around suggests that they are in late-stage planning for a further attack on Western interests in South-East Asia.
SARAH FERGUSON: Senior intelligence sources in Canberra confirm that Australian interests could be targeted. There is no question the agency we had to have is now looking in the right direction. They have no choice. It’s a dangerous environment for mistakes.