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Issue #1657      September 24, 2014

Legalising torture

“Sydney under siege”, “Terror plot foiled”, “Islamic State horror hits home”, “Plot to abduct and behead Australians”, “The tentacles of terror spread”, “Evil within”. Headline after headline sensationalised the raids by 800 police on 25 homes in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday September 18. The raids and the recent announcement raising Australia’s terror alert to “high” – meaning a terrorist attack is likely – are part of the build-up to new draconian terror laws, including the legalisation of torture. They are also being used to justify the sending of Australian forces to war in Iraq and Syria.

The media ran page after page in a massive beat-up about home-grown terrorists while ultra right-wing columnists and radio shock jocks continued their efforts to incite hatred and raise anti-Muslim hysteria. Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie and Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi added their racist and anti-Islam diatribe. Their fascistic line is clearly gaining traction with a section of the community, diverting attention from the social and economic problems that people are facing.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott tried to isolate the people who joined a protest in the Sydney western suburb of Lakemba, against the heavy-handed methods used by police who they say terrorised women and children.

Abbott described the raids as “a show of strength … it needed to be a demonstration that we will respond with strength to any threat to our way of life and to our national security.” He described the protesters as “noisy” and said they were “utterly unrepresentative of Australian Muslims.”

Last Monday, former Coalition PM John Howard told the media he was “embarrassed” following revelations that the intelligence (presence of weapons of mass destruction) on which he based his decision to participate in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was inaccurate.

Independent Andrew Wilke, who at the time was an intelligence analyst in the Office of National Assessments, stated: “John Howard should be feeling a darned sight more than embarrassed, he should be feeling quite ashamed of himself. He should be feeling quite lucky that he hasn’t been charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder.”

Jacqui Lambie added fuel to the fire, stating that Islamic law “involves terrorism” and that the burqa is a “national security” risk. She said that any Australian Muslim who supports sharia law should get out of the country. Lambie, when asked by the ABC what sharia means, could not answer the question. “When it comes to sharia law, to me, it obviously involves terrorism,” Senator Lambie said.

Sharia law is a way of living based on an interpretation of texts, just as Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity all have their rules. Her position as a Senator gives her a platform to promote her bigoted and dangerous views.

Presumption of guilt

Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) spokesperson and barrister Greg Barns was highly critical of the handling of the raids and the media coverage. “The presence of media at this morning’s raids by police and ASIO on homes in Sydney and Queensland is an undermining of the presumption of innocence and fairness,” Barns said.

“Every time there are raids and arrests made by police and ASIO in so-called ‘terror cases’ the media is always there to film proceedings. This means that police, ASIO and possibly politicians are leaking out details of the raids prior to them taking place,” Barns said.

“Further images of individuals in handcuffs and of their homes are designed to create an atmosphere of guilt and suspicion.”

The media have shown no restraint in presenting the alleged plot as fact. Terror charges have been laid against one man; according to the media this followed the tapping of a phone conversation. Its contents were leaked to the media prior to any trial.

This alleged conversation did not mention beheading. In fact several media outlets noted that it was presumed that the reference to execution meant beheading!

Both allegations and pure fiction are being treated as fact by the media and politicians, undermining the basic democratic right of innocence until proven guilty. Barns said the safeguards built into the Australian legal system to ensure fairness before the law for all individuals were being damaged before people had the right to defend themselves in court.

On September 19, worshippers discovered the word “evil” was sprayed in yellow paint across their mosque in Mareeba, inland from Cairns in the far north of Queensland. The town’s mayor, Tom Gilmore, said the mosque had been part of the community since the 1950s and Muslims had been living there since 1920.

The word “evil” reflects the constant use by Abbott of the term “pure evil”. If the media and government continue to spread their sickening propaganda, the attacks are unlikely to stop there. Life has already become more difficult for Muslims as a result of the racism and hatred being fostered. The community is being divided; Muslims are becoming the Jews of 1930s Europe.

Legalising torture

The government has a series of bills to further restrict democratic rights, legalise torture, restrict overseas travel, and boost the surveillance, data collection and other powers of ASIO and other intelligence and security agencies. These laws would dramatically expand ASIO’s ability to invade the privacy of Australian citizens with no public accountability. They contain stronger anti-whistleblower provisions, a response to WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden’s revelations.

The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 2014 was first presented to Parliament In July; it still has to pass the Senate. It extends ASIO’s powers to access and collect information from computers and gives ASIO officers civil and criminal immunity for acts done in the course of special undercover operations.

Section 35K of the Bill, under the heading of “Immunity from liability”, states: “A participant in a special intelligence operation is not subject to any civil or criminal liability for or in relation to conduct if … the conduct does not involve the participant engaging in any conduct that: (i) causes the death of, or serious injury to any person; or (ii) involves the commission of a sexual offence against any person; or (iii) causes significant loss of, or serious damage to, property.”

Cross-bencher David Leyonhjelm, of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, raised the alarm bells: “If the bill passes, ASIO will have the power to authorise its agents to torture people as long as the torture does not involve murder, serious injury or the commission of a sexual offence against the person.”

“Temperature extremes, sensory bombardment, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, drugging and other psychological and physical torture techniques that fall short of causing death or serious injury will be allowed under this bill,” Leyonhjelm said. “Even electrical shocks may be permitted.

“Any torture would not be limited to a terrorist suspect but could extend to anyone associated with a suspect, including family members,” he said. “Victims of torture, their families, and journalists face 10 years imprisonment if they don’t keep the torture secret.”

Attorney General George Brandis described Leyonhjelm’s claims as “rubbish”, but facing opposition from Labor and cross-benchers in the Senate has agreed “to add an explicit prohibition in relation to torture so far as concerns special intelligence operations”: weasel words to get Labor onside.

Senator Brandis is also set to introduce more terror legislation this week, which includes banning travel to certain places unless there is an “innocuous” reason for that travel. The onus of proof is reversed, with the accused having to prove the purpose of the trip.

Australia is yet again at the service of the US as it yet again undermines the role of the United Nations and attempts to rule as Global Cop in pursuit of global domination. The Abbott government has offered up Australia as a willing pawn being used by the US, with the raids here neatly timed to assist Secretary of State John Kerry with an example to convince a reluctant Congress and public of the need to return to Iraq and bomb Syria, in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room.

“I don’t know how many of you saw it today, but the Australians today arrested a large group of people that they suspected of being ISIL members, supporters, sympathisers in Australia who were planning some kind of extravaganza of brutality in Australia,” Kerry said.

Behind the terrorists

The so-called global war on terrorism is as much a war on terrorism as the “war on drugs” was a war on drugs. Both titles serve as fronts for covert operations.

Professor Michel Chossudovsky explains the role of and those behind the Islamic State (IS): “We are dealing with a diabolical project: The architects of the Islamic State have informed the world that they are ‘going after’ their own terrorists as part of a counter-terrorism operation. (“‘Going After’ the Islamic State. Guess Who is Behind the Caliphate Project?”,, 12-09-2014)

“While these actions are undertaken under the banner of the ‘Global War on Terrorism’, the US has no intention to target its IS own terror brigades which are integrated by Western special forces and intelligence operatives. In fact the only meaningful and effective campaign against Islamic State terrorists is being waged by Syrian government forces,” Chossudovsky continued.

“Needless to say, US, NATO, Saudi and Qatari support and funding to the Islamic State will continue. The objective is not to destroy the Islamic State as promised by Obama. What we are dealing with is a US sponsored process of destabilising and destroying both Iraq and Syria. The campaign against the Islamic State is being used as a justification to bomb both countries, largely targeting civilians.

“The endgame is to destabilise Iraq as a nation state and trigger its partition into three separate entities.

“The broader US-NATO strategic objective is to destabilise the entire Middle East – North Africa – Central Asia-South Asia region, including Iran, Pakistan and India.”

The question of how serious the threat of terrorism might be is extremely difficult to judge when the basic rationale for going to war again in Iraq and bombing Syria is based on lies. However, there can be little doubt that sending Australia’s military to wage war in the Middle East in an illegal operation which will only drive many more people into the arms of the extremists and increase the risk of terrorist attacks.

The cannon fodder in today’s wars are masses of civilians: on top of those being slaughtered there are now more than 50 million displaced people in the world, and counting.

A mass anti-war movement must begin to be mobilised against the plans of the big powers for the destruction of state sovereignty and world domination. You are not deceiving yourself if this looks to you to be the unfolding of World War III.

Next article – Editorial – Planned break-up of Sydney rail must stop

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