Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Will the SIS double down on Islamophobia?

Yesterday the government announced the terms of reference for a royal commission of inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attack. Among other things, the inquiry will be examining the failure of intelligence agencies in allowing a violent Nazi to buy weapons and murder fifty people, and whether there was "any inappropriate concentration or priority setting of counter terrorism resources by relevant state sector agencies" - in other words, whether the SIS was Islamophobic and focused on spying on the victims rather than protecting them. But as Scoop's Gordon Campbell points out, their likely defence strategy will be to double down on Islamophobia and smear the Muslim community some more:

What will happen is that the SIS (and presumably the GCSB) will attempt to defend and rationalise their actions in the light of the “Muslim threat” priorities set out in the string of SIS annual reports for the past decade or more. Again and again, those reports cite the over-riding threat to New Zealand from local and foreign jihadi agents, influences and social media recruitment efforts. That’s the dilemma. This Commission of Inquiry has been established in the wake of a horrific attack, amid a groundswell of public compassion for the victimised Muslim community in our midst.

If, however, the SIS is going to conduct a high profile defence of its concentration of time and resources on Muslim surveillance, there is an obvious risk that this process will result in the re-stigmatising of the Muslim community all over again.

A "blame the victims" strategy by the SIS would be absolutely indecent. A government agency engaging in hate speech against the people it failed to protect, echoing Nazi propaganda in an effort to cover their own arses and protect their jobs would be utterly vile. But I doubt it would go down well with the public, not least because it would effectively be an admission of guilt, a confirmation of what everyone suspects. The question is whether anyone in the national security deep state can recognise this, or whether they are that far down their own rabbithole...