Posts Tagged ‘Mohamed Haneef’

Still not sorry

Phil of the Dead:

My view is that one should not apologise for seeking to ensure that matters that tragically occur that involve terrorist acts are thoroughly investigated to see whether or not there are any implications for Australia.

You know what? I agree with Phil.

But there’s just one problem with his argument about why an apology is not appropriate – it doesn’t apply to the Haneef case. If the “matter” had been “thoroughly investigated” before Haneef was charged and his deportation ordered, nobody would have a problem. Dr Haneef would probably still be working in an Australian hospital, and the AFP and our Government wouldn’t owe him an apology.

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Today, we have two stories that illustrate how a Government can render itself blameless:

  • Here at home, the Clarke Inquiry has found that Mohamed Haneef should never have been charged, but that Kevin Andrews did not use the Haneef case for political advantage and acted out of “grave suspicions”. But, as much as some might claim otherwise, this is not a vindication of Andrews or of the Howard Government’s use of terrorism fears as a political instrument. As Mercurius notes at LP, the finding that Andrews did not corrupt the process shows that the process worked exactly as it had been set up – the Government put in place an anti-terrorism regime that encouraged the AFP to act on the slightest suspicion, created immigration laws that allowed the Minister to act on the slightest suspicion, and in the Haneef case both the AFP and Andrews simply followed the framework that had been set up. But Kevin Andrews is not to blame, because he was just using the laws as they had been implemented – never mind that they were implemented by the Government he was a part of.
  • Meanwhile, across the Pacific, Vice-President Dick Cheney has stated that the Democratic leadership was involved in a meeting that gave unanimous approval to continue the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance of US citizens. Now, this definitely places an obligation on the Democrats who were involved in the meeting to confirm or deny Cheney’s account. If it is true, then it will reflect very badly on them. But even if it is, does that absolve Cheney and the Bush administration? They still made the decision to initiate the program. Even based on Cheney’s account, they had already begun it without Congressional approval. But Dick Cheney is not to blame, because when he got around to telling Republicans and Democrats from the Congress about it, they (allegedly) didn’t tell him to stop. Because they didn’t apply the checks and balances, it’s their fault that he tipped the scales right over.

The only positive I can take from watching these governments play these games to avoid blame is that, within a month, both of these cases will relate to former governments. Now I just wish we could have complete confidence that our new governments and governments to come won’t do the same.

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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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They also have every confidence that Santa Claus is going to bring them a My Little Pony playset for Christmas:

THE Federal Government has declared its full support for Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty, who is facing mounting pressure over the Mohamed Haneef case.

What strikes me about this is that it comes before the inquiry into the Haneef case has concluded. Wouldn’t it make sense to actually wait and find out what happened before deciding it’s nothing to worry about?

The most cynical part of me wonders whether the issue is that directing any blame toward Keelty might reduce the extent to which it can be thrown at Kevin Andrews et al. I hope that’s not it. And I do accept the point that Keelty and the AFP shouldn’t be judged by the Haneef case alone – there have been recent successes in federal law enforcement relating to drugs, child porn, etc.

But this was a case that had a stink to it from the start. It then fell to pieces. And then it took more than a year for the AFP to officially conclude their investigations of Haneef, while they attempted to keep their explanations away from the public and information from other agencies conflicted with their assertions. And Keelty appeared to be at the front of the investigation and communication about the case, until it fell apart. As I noted last week, he hasn’t taken the same approach to dispensing with Haneef as a suspect.

It deserves thorough scrutiny, and it would seem appropriate for the Government to hold off on making any proclamations of support or disapproval until the evidence is in.

ELSEWHERE: Tim Dunlop wonders what it would take to lose the Government’s confidence. There’s also a piece in Crikey today suggesting Keelty has to go.

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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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What’s the story now?

Not that I like suggesting that discussion of petrol prices should not be our major concern, but perhaps this little revelation could be the subject of sustained investigation by some self-respecting journalists:

DOCUMENTS have revealed the department of former prime minister John Howard became involved in the Mohamed Haneef affair less than 48 hours after the Indian doctor was arrested in connection with a British terrorist attack last July.

Documents obtained under freedom of information by Dr Haneef’s legal team indicate officers from the Prime Minister Department met to discuss options for handling the matter with counterparts from the Immigration and Foreign Affairs Departments on July 4. Dr Haneef was arrested on the evening of July 2.

But Dr Haneef’s team says it has still been denied access to documents revealing who was at the meeting, and to an options paper drawn up the next day, July 5.

Mr Howard has denied any involvement in the handling of the Haneef investigation.

While his electorate might already have taken care of the job, the notion of responsible government needs to be reinstated in this country – and a thorough investigation of whether the Prime Minister’s Department considered it appropriate to politicise a terrorism allegation would be a good start.

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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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Team Howard must be wishing they had sent out a memo asking all Commonwealth Government departments to lay low for a while.

First, Mick Keelty emerged from the woodwork to say he never thought there was much of a case against Mohamed Haneef:

Asked if he had told the DPP of his concerns, Mr Keelty replied: “Oh, yes.”

However, that was why the DPP existed, Mr Keelty said – to be independent of police in pursuing prosecutions. “Mine was an opinion that I expressed to the DPP, but I understood all the time that the prosecutor was independent of me and independent of the investigation and needed to come up with a view for himself.”

Which doesn’t quite explain why he was out there noting that Haneef may still be charged after the case had already fallen apart and Haneef was on his way back to India – although Slim at the Dog’s Bollocks has a plausible hypothesis.

Then, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has blocked a freedom of information request from Peter Garrett on political grounds:

“In my view, given the current political context in which this request was made, it appears likely the documents have been sought by the applicant to assist with his political campaign in the lead-up to the impending federal election,” Fiona Macdonald, executive director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said.

So, we have one attempt to create new scrutiny of the handling of the Haneef case, and one attempt to block scrutiny of environmental management. Neither of them are good news for Team Howard. Add to that the ongoing questions about the Howard-Cheney arrangements regarding David Hicks, and Team Howard is very close to losing control of their message during this second week of the campaign.

Keep it up, Commonwealth Government.

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Prolonging the stupidity

The Government has lodged its appeal against the Haneef visa decision.

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