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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