Posts Tagged ‘Australian Federal Police’

Andrew Bolt is gunning for Krudd (if I may use the vernacular). He has been running a series of blog posts calling on the media to investigate “Rudd’s betrayal of Bush“. I have had several thoughts in reaction to this:

  • What a shame that Bolt apparently doesn’t have the skill or motivation to perform his own investigative work and has to rely on getting real journalists to take his ideas seriously.
  • Bolt flatly asserts that Rudd leaked the information. Isn’t this a terribly flawed assumption? The Bush administration has denied that Bush said what the Australian alleged. Rudd has denied that Bush said it and rubbished the notion that Bush isn’t well aware of the G20. What’s more, when asked whether the “leak” came from his office, has given an answer that approximates, “buggered if I know.” Yet Bolt still seems to be acting as though the “leak” gave information that would only be known to someone involved in, present during, or who had accurate information about, the Bush-Rudd conversation. If the information was false, then anyone could have made it up, so long as they knew the conversation took place and the general topic.
  • The phone conversation happened while there was a dinner party going on at Kirribilli house. Present at that party was one Chris Mitchell, editor of the newspaper formerly known as the Government Gazzette, currently known as the Opposition Organ, which has been using its editorial content to attack the Rudd Government’s policies and conduct. Now, this paper has published the “leaked” information. If the fact that it made Rudd look like a bigshot is enough reason for Bolt to conclude that Rudd himself was the “leak”, isn’t the fact that this made Rudd look like a blabbermouth enough of a reason to suspect Chris Mitchell?
  • If we take the idea of investigation seriously then, based on the information we currently have, someone fed the Australian false information about the Bush-Rudd conversation. Does the journalistic obligation to preserve confidential sources apply to a source who tells lies? Shouldn’t the investigation begin with the Australian revealing who gave them dud information?

Malcolm has been getting in on the act as well, and making some of the same errors of reasoning as Bolt. He says that the leaking of the conversation is embarrassing and a national security risk – which it might be, if the leak was accurate. Otherwise, it’s just bullshit spread by someone and believed by a newspaper who didn’t check the credibility of their sources well enough. But Malcolm adds in a call for the Australian Federal Police to head an investigation. Now I’ve never been shy about discussing the limitations of the AFP, but I would still contend that they are, in fact, a law enforcement body. So if Malcolm wants them to investigate something, should it perhaps be an allegation of some illegal activity? Just saying.

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If you didn’t see it, the Four Corners on the AFP is worth watching. It seemed to fit with some of the things I have said previously.

I think the general comment I would make is this: organisational blunders or corruption do not necessarily imply that the people involved are incompetent or evil. Sometimes all it takes is a set of competing but influential pressures that shift internal processes; like, for instance, a Government that attempt to direct a law-enforcement organisation to suit its political aims. This can induce a shift in the perspective people within the organisation take toward incoming information, in the way they define their goals, and in the way they interact with external bodies such as the media.

It seems to me that this type of distortion is exactly what has happened with Mick Keelty and his AFP. The institution requires reform and this probably includes refreshing the culture from the top, but we shouldn’t lose sight of where the problems originated – and in this, the segment on the Madrid bombings is very informative.

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The AFP has finally released a public version of its submission to the Clarke inquiry into Mohamed Haneef’s detention; The Oz has coverage, and the full submission is available [255kB PDF].

It’s a pretty good demonstration of how confirmation bias operates; the suspicion-arousing elements were fed into a theory that Haneef was connected to the crimes in the UK, while disconfirming evidence and alternative explanations were not given due weight. It seems to me that, if you look at the evidence described in the submission starting from a presumption that Haneef was involved with the terrorists, the selective attention and interpretation engaged in by the investigators is understandable. But it serves as an important reminder that investigators need to stop and consider how an innocent person might act in the same circumstances.


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I guess it was best that they said this before the inquiry finishes its job and says it for them:

The AFP has declared that the Indian-born doctor Mohamed Haneef is no longer a person of interest.

No shit, Sherlocks.

Mr Keelty must have been otherwise engaged – he was so open to holding press conferences when they wanted him charged, so surely he wouldn’t issue a mere statement unless he was ill or something?

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Fill in the gaps

The Commonwealth DPP’s office provides another sign that the Federal Police’s actions deserve serious scrutiny:

In its submission to the inquiry into the handling of the case, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) says one of its staff felt “extreme pressure” to assure police they could charge Dr Haneef.

The CDPP also says they were not given enough information by the AFP to correctly decide the strength of the case against Dr Haneef.

Now I don’t think this reflects well on the DPP either. The fact is that they made a recommendation – if they felt they had insufficient information to form an appropriate opinion, they should have said so. But it seems that the AFP were driven to ensure Haneef was detained and prosecuted – which brings us back again to concerns about political involvement in the process. Their apparent prognostication about what they would manage to discover is also a worry:

The CDPP now says prosecutors were wrong to advise the AFP that they could charge Dr Haneef, but their decision was based on assurances that gaps in the evidence would be filled by ongoing investigations.

Apparently the AFP does plan to release a public version of its submission – we’ll see what they have to say about it. Meanwhile, the available information about the inquiry can be found here.

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An e-mail obtained under Freedom of Information has confirmed that the AFP had communicated with the Department of Immigration about a contingency plan to detain Mohamed Haneef after he was granted bail [PDF of e-mail]. Kevin Andrews’ office denies that the Minister was aware of such communication, or of any contingency plan.

While Kevin Andrews’ knowledge, and the actions of his department, deserve the most thorough scrutiny in this matter, there is another fundamental concern that we should not lose sight of. A spokesperson for the AFP has stated that this plan to detain Haneef under migration laws once he was granted bail on the criminal charges was part of ‘normal operational contingency planning’. In other words, the AFP regards using migration laws to circumvent the outcomes of criminal proceedings as a form of standard operating procedure. And remember also that Mick Keelty asserts that he did not believe there was a strong enough case to proceed with charges. So, Keelty’s agency colluded with the politically-motivated Immigration Department to detain an individual who had been granted bail by the courts, despite the fact that Keelty himself says he did not think Haneef should have been charged in the first place.

Mick Keelty needs to tell the Australian people everything that he and his subordinates did and said in relation to the criminal charges against Haneef and the plan to extend his detention if bail was granted. It is bad enough that a law enforcement agency has had any involvement in planning to circumvent a decision of the judiciary by going beyond the criminal law. It is even worse if they are happy to do that, even when they are of the opinion that the individual should not have been charged in the first place.

ELSEWHERE: More on this at Howard Out and Blogocracy.

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Now that the Haneef prosecution has been dropped, those who previously thought everything was just fine have begun pointing their fingers at Kevin Andrews (even Mick Keelty – I wonder why he’s so keen to shift attention away from himself now?). Of course, a cynical (but, in my opinion, accurate) view is that those people are looking for a scapegoat to hang this all on – and while Andrews’ actions were reprehensible, he should not be the only one who feels they did not conduct himself properly.

However, the thing that amazes me is that Andrews is still running with the dodgy justifications that you might expect to see in a bad TV cop show:

His lawyers indicated to my department … that he wanted to get out of Australia as soon as possible. If anything that rather heightens, rather than lessens, my suspicions.

The bloke has been held for a couple of weeks without charge, then accused of supporting terrorists, then granted bail but told he would have to go to immigration detention instead, then told that even if he is not convicted of the crime (which carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment) he’ll still be deported, then released but not given an apology and told that his visa is still under review and that his place of residence is no longer available and his gear is in storage,  and his wife and newborn child (who he has yet to see) are in India.

I think I would want to get out of this country as well, under those circumstances.

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Support the troops

The involvement of Peter Beattie in the debate over the Mohamed Haneef case has certainly kept things lively. While the “Keystone Cops” comment was a fairly colourful way of doing so, I think we have reached a point where, on the information presented, there is good reason to ask some questions about how the investigation and the initial stages of the prosecution have been conducted. John Howard disagrees:

“It doesn’t help them in their very difficult task and they’ve got the task in the front line in the fight against terrorism,” Mr Howard told reporters in Perth.

“I think Mr Beattie should lay off the Australian Federal Police. He’s trying to score a political point and he knows it.”

The suggestion from the PM is consistent with a common response that comes up when concerns are raised about military operations – the government can suggest that the “troops” need our unified support and that to question how the affair has been managed is to undermine them. Terrorism is the gravest threat we face. The AFP are the front line force in the battle to prevent terrorist attacks on or soil. Therefore, criticism or even questioning of their operations is out of bounds.

The fact that there is an ongoing criminal prosecution should not be ignored and the principle of a right to a fair trial goes both ways. However, the reality is that this investigation has been exposed to the media from the outset – and Mick Keelty and Phillip Ruddock were out there fronting the cameras before Haneef even had legal counsel. Kevin Andrews chimed in by announcing that, from the information that was made available to him, Haneef was not of good character. The defense has been out there having its say as well. Regardless of the bleating of Alexander Downer, this case is in the public sphere. Since Haneef is being deprived of his liberty (i) despite being offered bail, (ii) on an apparently shaky case, and (iii) with the likely outcome of deportation even if the criminal outcome is positive for him, the notion of waiting until the criminal verdict is in has its own problems. Questions might well be asked now. But to suggest that they should not be asked at all is a sign of Howard engaging in the same political posturing he accuses Beattie of.

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