Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sydney, spies, and the police

That didn't take long: the Sydney hostage crisis was barely over and National party politicians were smearing themselves in the blood of the dead to "justify" their unjustified terror-law:

The MP who chaired the anti-terrorist legislation rushed through Parliament last week, Mark Mitchell, says the bill was "100 per cent" justified.

And he said he had had messages yesterday thanking him for the bill in light of the Sydney hostage crisis.

"It becomes a lot more real for people when it's three hours across the ditch."

(More similar blather from the PM here).

Because obviously, revoking someone's passport and restricting their freedom of movement for an extra two years without trial or any judicial oversight would have prevented this. As for the suggestion that additional surveillance powers might have, the hostage-taker was well-known to the police, who would easily be able to obtain warrants if they had had any inkling of what he was planning. This wasn't a lack of powers, but the fact that such attacks are pretty much unpreventable (or rather, the means of limiting them - massively better mental health care and massively reduced access to guns - are so long-term and mundane that they don't appeal to politicians). Sadly, those facts are no barrier to our power-hungry spy-servants in Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Sydney attack again made it clear who is primarily responsible for dealing with such matters: the police. And that would have been true even if the plan had been detected in advance. Which raises the question: why do we need spies, with special spy powers, when it is the police who keep us safe? Doesn't that simply create problems of pathological secrecy and failures of interagency communication which increase the chances of such an attack succeeding?

Public safety is a matter for the police. We don't need spies potentially endangering us by treating criminal suspects as an intelligence source. We should disband the SIS, and leave the job of keeping us safe to the people who actually know how to do it.