Challenges facing N.Z. intelligence following Christchurch attacks

Since the World Trade Center attacks on 11 September 2001, there has been a renewed focus world wide on terrorism inspired by the Islamic religion in defence of perceived Islamic values.

Until 15 March, many New Zealanders thought there was little risk of terrorism of any sort happening here. The Green Party and other left leaning organizations regularly questioned the need for the Government Communications Security Bureau (G.C.S.B.) and New Zealand Security Intelligence Services existing. However, the opponents of these two agencies have never articulated a workable solution to abolishing them.

Now that there has been an attack and the two agencies responsible for our security failed in their job, New Zealand must ask itself whether its current arrangements are fit for purpose. If not, what would be better arrangements?

My own concerns stem from the security assets on New Zealand soil as we know them, working for a foreign Government instead of New Zealand and subject to a foreign powers. Two U.S. surveillance sites at Tangimoana in the lower North Island and Waihopai in the Wairau valley of the upper South Island. Both are signals intercept stations that can monitor peoples faxes, phone calls and e-mails.

A notable feature of the increased focus on this one particular source of terrorism as opposed to all other known or perceived sources has been the use by the Security Intelligence Service of informal conversations with young men of the Muslim faith. During those conversations it was claimed the S.I.S. applied pressure to these men to continue spying on their mosque.

It is debatable whether or not such a threat existed in New Zealand. The right wing of New Zealand politics believed such a threat existed (and still does), whilst ignoring the causes of much Islamic militantcy around the world such as American wars in the Middle East. These causes also include support of Israel even when the latter violates international law and their arming of nations such as Saudi Arabia to commit war crimes in other Middle East countries. In a setting where lawlessness caused by constant war that breaks down the security and judicial apparatus it is easy to become influenced by violence since it seems to be the only solution with currency.

During 2002-2004 an Algerian asylum seeker named Ahmed Zaoui tested New Zealand’s mettle after arriving in several European countries with no proper documentation. He was subject to unfair trials before being deported. He wound up in New Zealand and was jailed. Eventually he was freed. It was not because many people necessarily thought he was completely innocent, but because no charges were brought against him, so it violated New Zealand law to keep him imprisoned.

Few – if anyone – believed that an attack by anyone of far right persuasion was possible and when concerns were raised about groups such as the National Front and Right Wing Resistance, they were dismissed as flights of fantasy.

I attended a counter protest to a National Front rally in Christchurch in 2013. There was a clear tension between the two groups. The National Front members were out numbered probably 12-15 people for every one of their members. But they were dressed in uniform that appeared to match that of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (S.S.)and when their members left, they gave Hitler salutes. They distributed anti Asian/Muslim/minority propaganda. Their leader, Kyle Chapman was linked to the fire bombing of a Marae. They had a website which was listing job adverts for people with computer coding skills to bulid or enhance the site.

There is nothing that I am aware of which says the gunman was a member of either organization. He was a loner, a radical who saw extreme wrong in being a tolerant and diverse nation; in looking out for minorities; in viewing them as somehow such a threat that only violence would suffice as a response. But he and anyone who might have assisted him managed to go by unnoticed.

Clearly our national surveillance and security agencies missed the biggest threat to New Zealand since France blew up the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 – though I do not think we could have reasonably expected a Government whose nation N.Z. helped free in two world wars to appear as a terrorist threat.

Lessons of the Christchurch terrorist attack: An Introduction

On 15 March 2019 Christchurch was subject to a terrorist attack by a gunman and possible accomplices. Over the course of the attack, the gunman shot and killed 50 people. A further 42 were injured and at the time of writing this about 36 were still in hospital.

The attack happened in two stages at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, and at Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Prior to the attack the gunman played military music which continued as he entered the Al Noor Mosque and started shooting at around 1340 hours local time. He left Al Noor Mosque after about 6 minutes and continued shooting outside, before driving away at speed towards Linwood Islamic Centre. The gunman continued shooting there. He then started driving towards a third Mosque, during which the Police intercepted him. They rammed his car, forcing it to stop and arrested him. The car was found to have bombs in it, which the gunman was not able to detonate.

The five articles that will follow over the next several days will focus on:

  1. The implications for the New Zealand intelligence and surveillance programme
  2. The implications for firearms legislation (including the changes already announced)
  3. Supporting our Muslim community and individual victims
  4. Judicial overhaul and the need to revisit terrorism legislation
  5. Consequences for New Zealand’s foreign policy

This was an attack on the very values that New Zealand stands for. Unlike other terrorist attacks, such as the French Government sinking the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, the Christchurch attack was made by a person with extreme hatred of society. New Zealand and ultimate Christchurch was not attacked because we were conducting a war or other military activity that he disagreed with. Nor were we attacked for inflicting violence on a particular community or people. Nor were we attacked for discrimination or other xenophobic conduct.

New Zealand was attacked because in his eyes our crime was that we were NOT waging active war on Muslims.


Climate Strike: A New Zealander’s perspective

This was meant to publish on Saturday, but I concluded it was not appropriate in the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch to do so.

These are some thoughts on the Strike for Climate protests on Friday.

I am actually quite surprised that schools and principals are so aloof. Of all the people talking about children’s future, and having to prepare our youth for future challenges they do not seem to understand that this is a problem that those very children are going to have to face. Sure it is in school time, but is the media likely to pay nearly as much attention to a student strike outside of school time? NO.

My activist mates are understandably proud of what they see and hear today. For them it is the culmination of something that started when Greta Thunberg bravely stood before the politicians in Davos and told them what she thought. Except that it is not the culmination of something, rather a very impressive first Act. And from what I have seen it does seem quite well organized, which makes the offset of the schools and principals not being on board all the more stark.

The people who said that they will not achieve anything and should be in school are missing two key points. First, this was about making sure politicians understand that there is a real and abiding concern among students about what we are doing to the climate. Second, it is my generation that is having kids right now, some of whom would have been at protests today. When they have children 15-25 years from now it will be they who have to face whatever changes we have wrought on the planet through climate change.

There is a huge amount of disinformation out there. And the militant factions on both sides of the divide are actively contributing to it, which is just fuelling the division, encouraging the hardening of positions and the refusal to compromise. I respect the planners – present and former – caught in the middle, trying to make the best of two bitterly opposing groups and find some common ground.

For example, what do climate change activists envisage in terms of heating for houses – will it be L.P.G. gas cylinders like the one that powers the gas fire at my parents place, or will it be electricity. Having just said goodbye to my brothers in-laws who are starting the long journey back via Nelson to snow covered Minnesota, where the father-in-law is a builder, I am aware that the continental climate induces much harsher winters than what we get in maritime New Zealand.

But before they get back to Minnesota, they have to spend several hours in the air before they reach O’Hare airport in Chicago. Whilst in the air, the aircraft will be burning tons of aviation fuel. That raises another question – if carbon is as bad as it allegedly is, what sort of fuel is going to be the aviation fuel of the future? As New Zealanders, we love to travel a lot and many of us want to go places in the future, but planes cannot fly if they do not have fuel.

Unfortunately Greenpeace, Green Party N.I.M.B.Y.ism means that a lot of the best counter solutions are not able to proceed because people don’t want the infrastructure necessary to support those solutions in their backyard. People want wind power, but don’t like birds getting mangled by the turbine blades or there is noise or visual pollution. You cannot have it both ways and just as with the economic model that I am going to mention shortly, something has to give.

But also there are more fundamental problems. I am not saying capitalism is the answer, because it is not – greed and sustainability simply do not exist in the same sentence. The economic model is going to have to change. A lot of the deforestation and other environmentally destructive activities are in pursuit of two things: raw minerals or energy sources. The massive loss of biodiversity is caused by habitats being wiped out on a scale much larger than we can sustain.

Cows belching and the large scale burning of fossil fuels – oh, here we go some of you will be saying – make up significant sources of our gas emissions in New Zealand. Robert Muldoon might have been ahead of his time when he tried to get a biofuel plant established in Taranaki, but I think a more modest project could probably be established in south Auckland using material from the waste stream.

But I do not see either of the major political parties in New Zealand being terribly keen to enact changes that will make a meaningful impact. Labour and National are both beholden to the neoliberal economic model that has dominated New Zealand economics the last 40 years and seem quite happy tip toeing around the edges of major problems, such as waste recycling.

So what does all of this boil down to? The climate strike is really about a more sustainable future for the generations that are striking. They were not expecting to achieve that today, but any politician who thinks that this can be swept under the carpet has obviously not looked at the topography of the carpet in recent times. The impact on planet Earth is too much to ignore, and helps to contribute to the rise of the word “ANTHROPOCENE”. My geologically oriented mates might be the jury that is out on whether the Anthropocene is a thing, but to me the evidence is there and the real argument is when did the Anthropocene start?

Stand with Christchurch

Yesterday, Friday 15 March 2019, white supremacists committed acts of terrorism against multiple Mosques in Christchurch where people were peacefully going about their prayers. In the ensuing attacks, 49 people were murdered. Improvised explosive devices were found by Police near the scene of at least one attack.

This is NOT what Christchurch stands for. This is NOT what New Zealand stands for. We are horrified beyond belief that such utter cowardice could be perpetrated against people carrying out totally legitimate activities.

Because of that, Will New Zealand Be Right will not publish until Sunday 17 March 2019. Stay safe. Reach out to any any friends you have in ethnic communities. Give thanks to the Police for the magnificent job they are doing bringing these people to justice.


Brexit: Two weeks until…

On 29 March 2019, people the world over will watch the United Kingdom and European Union to see how Brexit unfolds. They will be watching something that British Prime Minsiter David Cameron, when he decided to put this to the vote in 2013, would have never envisaged happening. Mr Cameron would have been thinking no one will vote “LEAVE”. This was confirmed by his resignation from Parliament within a matter of weeks following the referendum.

Now, more than 2 years after that fateful day on which the vote to leave was held, Britain is teetering ever closer to the completely unknown. It has two weeks to figure out whether it wants a future, potentially crippled by E.U. restrictions; is going to call a hastily organized referendum on whether to continue or reverse course; or hastily rejoin. It has two weeks for Prime Minister Theresa May to salvage a deal from a field of wreckage from previous attempts at achieving a deal.

Two weeks.

But can it? Former Mayor of London, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and favourite of the British right wing, Boris Johnson has always been stridently in favour of just walking away from the European Union. The problem with this approach is aside from being criminally reckless, it is a major middle finger salute to the international and domestic laws, the treatises and other instruments of law that define the basis of the western legal system.

What does Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the U.K. Labour Party want? As a past Eurosceptic, Mr Corbyn has not always been warm to the idea of Britain continuing a leading role in the E.U. It was not until Mr Cameron put the issue of whether to stay or go to a vote that Mr Corbyn seriously swung in behind it. He has said that if Britain leaves the E.U. it cannot remain in the European Single Market. Mr Corbyn has stated many times that the E.U. imposes rules on British employers that would cramp their ability to trade. And despite protests from various members of his Labour caucus, Mr Corbyn has not seriously committed to a second referendum.

There is not much New Zealanders or anyone else in Europe living in the U.K. can do except watch the whole thing unravel and hope that cometh 29 March there are no major problems.

The only economic reassurance is that New Zealand would be high on the British list in terms of priority for a new trade deal should Brexit trigger.

Will Brexit be clean? If I had to guess, highly improbable if not outright impossible. There are simply too many unknowns in what looks like a horrendously complex calculus equation. The deal Mrs May is offering is quite shoddy, but now, short of a hard exit, the cold truth is that the U.K. Parliament and the European Union might have no choice but to accept it.

I have concerns. One of them is that the border between Ireland and the rest of the European Union will become a hard border with check points and guards, and that this might stoke any tensions still existing. What will it mean for other borders and the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel), the Schengen free travel zone and so forth? Good question.

With only two weeks until God knows what happens next, I am only confident that all of this must be starting to play on a fair few millions of peoples nerves both in New Zealand, in the U.K., in the E.U. and around the world.