Tag Archives: Lindt Cafe

Political leaders ask how gunman was on the loose

The Conversation

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

When Tony Abbott was asked what he’d say to people wondering how Sydney’s siege had been allowed to happen given gunman Man Haron Monis was well known to police, the Prime Minister said cabinet’s National Security Committee had posed that very question.

“How can someone who has had such a long and checkered history not be on the appropriate watch lists and how can someone like that be entirely at large in the community?

“These are questions that we need to look at carefully and calmly and methodically, to learn the right lessons and to act upon them. That’s what we’ll be doing in the days and weeks ahead,” Abbott told a joint news conference with NSW Premier Mike Baird after briefings on Tuesday.

There are two issues, involving different institutions and agencies.

First, why was Monis out on bail when the criminal allegations against him were so serious? He was charged with being an accessory to his ex-wife’s brutal murder and with multiple counts of indecent and sexual assault.

Second, given his extremist political views were well-documented, why did security agencies – ASIO and the police – not use their powers to keep track of him?

Like Abbott, Baird was posing questions. “We are all outraged that this guy was on the street,” he said.

“We need to understand why he was. We also need to understand why he wasn’t picked up and we’ll be working closely with the federal authorities together with our own agencies to ensure what we can do better.”

Pressed on the bail, Baird said that he had already strengthened the law – although on police advice the new law was not being implemented before the end of January.

In the end the bail issue came down to court decisions.

The siege was a “lone wolf” attack, the sort ASIO fears most, in that it is hardest to detect beforehand because it doesn’t involve the “chatter” and multi-person planning that can give away elaborate operations.

While he invoked ISIL, Monis was not part of it, or in the mould of the young people who set out to fight with it.

For the national security agencies, a person like Monis presents a particular challenge in assessing whether his known radical views are likely to translate into violence.

If they have that fear, the agencies then have to decide how to proceed.

Police can seek a control order to monitor or regulate the person’s activities – which requires making a strong case of links to the threat of terrorism to get judicial approval.

Telephone calls can be monitored – not of great help if the lone wolf doesn’t engage in “chatter”.

There is the option of surveillance – but that takes very substantial resources if maintained over time, and is no absolute guarantee.

Abbott himself said that even if “this sick and disturbed individual” had been front and centre on watchlists and monitored around the clock, “it’s quite likely, certainly possible, that this incident could have taken place, because the level of control that would be necessary to prevent people from going about their daily life would be very, very high indeed”.

What to do about someone like Monis involves a complex balancing by the agencies of risks, rights, and resources. It is not a matter of powers – the authorities already have enough of those, especially with the new security legislation and more in the pipeline – but of judgement. What is the likelihood of this person turning extremist views into extremist action?

In retrospect, we know the answer in Monis’ case and the horrifying consequences of that answer. We can say that more should have been done to watch and investigate him. The point can also be made that a possible link should have been intuited between Monis’ alleged criminal violence and the potential for politically motivated violence. But then hindsight can always give a clearer view of how agencies should have assessed and prioritised risks and allocated resources.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Republished with permission). Read the original article.

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As Sydney siege comes to an end, the questions begin

The Conversation

By Craig Mclean, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Police have now confirmed that the siege in Sydney has ended after the cafe was stormed by officers, but questions about how it happened, what the motives were and how Australia should respond are just beginning.

The man who held up to 30 people hostage in a cafe in the central business district is dead, along with two other people. He has been identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee who moved to Australia in 1996.

Monis was on bail after being accused of being an accessory to the murder of his former wife. He reportedly faced numerous sexual assault charges.

Man Haron Monis was known to police.

At this stage it is not clear whether Monis was acting alone, as part of a larger operation, or indeed whether he was simply using the symbols and language of radical Islamists to gain attention for himself. We must, therefore, tread with great caution.

But what is clear is that this gunman was attempting to associate himself with Islam, and in the past sent offensive letters to the families of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan.

The Australian intelligence services have known for some time that there has been an increased risk of a terrorist incident occurring. The threat of an attack was raised to “high” as recently as September. It now appears that the prime minister, Tony Abbott, was correct to argue that there are some Australian residents and citizens who “would do us harm”.

The location of the siege may be of significance. The Lindt Café is located opposite Channel 7’s studios, and a stone’s throw from the Reserve Bank of Australia and the New South Wales Parliament. If this transpires to be a terrorist incident – and that is still a large “if” – then it is one that would strike at the very heart of Australia. It would be a mistake to assume that the relative geographical isolation of the country has afforded Australia a degree of immunity from terrorist incidents in the past.

Indeed, it has suffered several atrocities. The Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 led John Howard to introduce some of the most stringent firearms legislation in the western world. The Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 have equally left their mark.

Nevertheless, if it turns out that the siege at the Lindt Café has at its root a radical Islamist motive, then it would be the first such successful operation of its type on the Australian mainland.

If such an event can happen in the central business district, where 99 CCTV cameras are in operation, this incident will certainly raise questions about wider security in Australia.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. (Republished with permission). Read the original article.

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