Tuesday, December 09, 2014

We should be very, very worried

Parliament has just gone into urgency to pass the Key / Kitteridge Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. In his second reading speech, Spy Minister Chris Finlayson attempted to address the concerns about the application of the bill to those who travel overseas to e.g. join the Kurdish Peshmerga in defending the Kurds from ISIS. His response to these concerns? Basically to say that these people are terrorists.

We should be very, very worried at this. Why? Because clearly, in law, they're not. The new law applies only to those travelling to commit a "terrorist act". What's a "terrorist act"? The definition in the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 is phrased awkwardly, but its basically killing people or blowing shit up to either "induce terror in a civilian population" or "unduly" compel a government or international organisation. There's an avoidance of doubt clause to ensure that it doesn't apply to regular military action (and another one for protests and strikes).

Its difficult to see how that definition applies to the Kurdish defence forces. And if Finlayson thinks it does, it raises serious questions about both his ability to be spy minister (and Attorney-General), and about whether the spies he supposedly oversees are targeting the wrong people. And that's something which threatens all of us.