News National Security failures putting ‘lives at risk’, warn experts

Security failures putting ‘lives at risk’, warn experts

parliament house canberra
An Australian Federal Police officer outside Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: AAP
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The poor coordination of Australia’s worldwide network of intelligence officers and their local headquarters is putting innocent lives at risk and wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars, say experts speaking exclusively to The New Daily.

They also claim that the fight against terrorism has left the nation dangerously exposed to organised crime, which costs Australia more than $35 billion a year.

With 70 per cent of Australia’s major crime targets living or having important links overseas, the money they make through drugs, guns and cybercrime can then be used to fund terror activities here and abroad.

Vulnerabilities abound

Former field officers who worked at Australia’s leading security agencies cite the example of the government’s failure to raise travel alerts despite being warned of a likely terrorist attack in Mumbai prior to the Taj Hotel attacks in 2008.

Further, The New Daily understands that, just prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a demonstration by British bomb experts showed that a toothpaste tube could carry enough explosives to punch a hole in a plane, provoking security alerts from both Russia and the US.

But the Australian government, despite having the information, took no action.

Terror experts say information spread by jihadists on how to attack airports has not been taken seriously by Australian authorities. A submission to a current Senate Inquiry on Aviation and Airport Security details lapses, including a lack of bollards which enables direct car and truck access straight into the passenger check-in area at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

Concerns are also widespread at all the country’s major airports over the continuing abuse of Aviation Security Identification Cards, which provide access to the entire airport. The cards can be easily transferred from one person to another.

‘Urgent action required’

Calls for a major overhaul of the ways law enforcement, criminal and national security intelligence are coordinated and handed to government are made in a new report, Optimising Our Criminal Intelligence System Overseas.

The report is co-written by Dr Phil Kowalick, the head of the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers, and Dr David Connery, the head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Policing and Law Enforcement Program.

Dr Kowalick, who served with the Australian Federal Police for 34 years, told The New Daily the new focus on terrorism meant traditional law enforcement issues like drugs and firearms had been relegated to second-order priorities.

“There is no doubt jihadi extremists are using crime to fund their activities,” he said.

“Lack of cooperation between traditional law enforcement and a new wave of national security operatives is leaving Australia more open.”

mumbai terror attack
A policeman at Mumbai’s main train station, the site of a 2008 terror attack. Photo: Getty

Dr Kowalick says the weak coordination of intelligence efforts for detecting and disrupting major drug importations and money laundering leaves Australia more vulnerable.

The report urges the government to give local intelligence gathering a higher priority, to create two new, high-level officials to better coordinate efforts and build five new criminal intelligence hubs.

“How much better would we be served if our criminal intelligence was properly informing the investigating agencies, freeing them up to do their work, which is locking up the crooks?” Mr Kowalick said.

Former Director of Security Intelligence within the Defence Department, Professor Clive Williams, told The New Daily that Australian law enforcement officers overseas were not being used properly.

sydney siege
Survivors flee the scene of the Sydney siege.

“Australia’s worldwide network of criminal intelligence officers and support staff is poorly coordinated to deal with the problem, leading to the waste of millions of dollars and poor law enforcement outcomes.

“Another limitation is that criminal intelligence, for a variety of reasons, often cannot be used to prosecute and convict in an Australian court.”

Roger Henning, head of Homeland Security Asia/Pacific, told The New Daily his company has found that making submissions to government inquiries on security reform was a fruitless process.

“What is missing in the present system, at all levels, is any real capacity to act on human intelligence,” he said.

“The new generation of intelligence operatives think everything happens on the internet. Until we dramatically increase human intelligence and improve the lines of communication so that governments actually react to the reports, we are really whistling in the wind.”

John Stapleton writes on national security for The New Daily. John Stapleton has worked as a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. His most recent book is Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost.

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