Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Terror threat for all police in Australia raised to high, in line with national alert level – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

01/20/2015 Leave a comment

See the below article link for more detail. The UK also raised its threat level a few days ago if memory serves.

FWIW, this is entirely unsurprising, as those I was chatting with in Europe and elsewhere in recent times while on conference junket would remember as the topic came up on more than one occasion. The rising threat to LEA and first responders more generally has been there for a while. The arrests in Belgium may have heightened the sense of immediacy in terms of active plotting but we’ve already had police officers stabbed in Australia. And let’s also not forget that direct operational guidance has been released by ISIS instructing that LEA and others be specifically targeted.  The guidance didn’t directly specify other first responders but when I read it at the timeI did wonder if this might mean we’d also see an uptick in attacks / hostage takings etc against other first responders, not only ambulance and fire, but also media arriving at the scene.

Obviously the threat is not only in relation to Australia, but is a broader trend.  What is interesting to me is that in the western context it is something that’s clearly come in large part from an interplay of ISIS operational guidance, demographics, and of course on the ground radicalisation dynamics. But in other non-western contexts other dynamics and groups are at play. I’ll try to update this post a little later with some more on why ISIS has chosen to focus on LEA as a target as well as some thoughts on another group I think are going to be increasingly targeted, and that’s the media.

There’s no corresponding ‘threat’ level for other sectors but I have often wondered if media fully appreciate how and why they could be targeted. There’s an awful lot of reporting on how things have changed in the terror landscape but very little introspection on the part of media as to what it means for them.

There is certainly a limited appreciation of how media reporting influences threat and outcome. You could try saying it until you turned blue in the face, (and I should clarify here that many do understand) but I think the only way that lesson is going to get learned in the broader industry context is when media is directly targeted — not for cartoons or anything to do with free speech but just because terrorists see media as a good target.  I wonder how many think their TV studio for example is something that could be targeted and for what reasons and by whom. That came up in an Australian context recently with some reporting relating to the Sydney siege, and it got me thinking about the broader implications and targeting patterns we might see in the future.

Anyway, this is just a think out loud post that I might update some more tonight once I finish my teaching prep work I had slated to do and if my supply of snacks doesn’t run out (-:

Terror threat for all police in Australia raised to high, in line with national alert level – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Categories: Uncategorized

Declaring the Sydney Siege as Terrorism for Insurance Purposes?

01/19/2015 Leave a comment

So, I’m a bit late in ploughing through all the reading I’ve stashed away, but the announcement a little while back that the Treasurer has declared the siege at Martin Place as a terrorist event for insurance purposes has me interested. For those outside of Australia, the background to this stems from the Terrorism Insurance Act of 2003. The Treasurer’s announcement was as follows:

Following the tragic events at the Martin Place Lindt Café in December 2014, I have today declared the siege a “terrorist incident” for the purposes of the Terrorism Insurance Act. Prior to making this decision, appropriate consultation was undertaken with the Attorney-General and a number of stakeholders, including the Insurance Council of Australia. The Government has taken this action to ensure businesses that suffered damages from the incident will not be denied claims due to terrorism exclusions in their insurance policies. The effect of this ministerial declaration is that insurers will be prevented from refusing claims from affected businesses on the basis that their policies exclude losses from acts of terrorism.

There is a really interesting article going into this from the insurance perspective, which you can find here. Anyway, I’m no lawyer, but this decision got me thinking about the precedent it sets, and the forthcoming government reviews about the incident, and potential liabilities or issues with precedent moving forward — because unfortunately the incident is not likely to be the last Australia faces. I was curious because (and I could be wrong here)  it did not seem as if the full CT apparatus was stood up or activated in response to the siege, presumably with very good reason. But yet, there’s this designation/declaration for insurance purposes.  That got me thinking about what might happen if there is fault found at some point in the reviews etc, relating to either preventability or response.

Maybe I’m totally off the mark here but declaring an event as terrorism, before the reviews are out, does seem to set a little bit of a precedent, and given the changes in the types of threats authorities are dealing with, I just wonder if all the future implications of this have been thought through. Anyway, this is more a think out loud post in which I may be eating a lot of humble pie for being wrong but I’m curious and so anyone who does have insight into this I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Meanwhile, I had been planning a post on legacy networks and reviews, inspired in part by an email exchange with Tim Holman @atgm2010. It is still coming but I have accidentally ended up on a somewhat distracting but ultimately very useful tangent–I’ve been re-reading the inquest witness statements from intel services in relation to the 7/7 attacks in the UK.  If nothing else they’ll provide some useful real work declass examples I can draw upon to better explain what I’m blathering on about in terms of groups, networks and methods of analysis framed in the Paris context and looking forward more generally. That’s keeping me occupied and what I’ll be posting on in relation to Paris. I have no interest in adding to the mound of stuff about ISIS and AQ in relation to this and as I’ve chatted about with several other people whose work I deeply respect, anyone who makes any definitive claim in respect to this is basically talking out of their behind. It means only what people make of it, and nothing of what actually is or might be, because simply put we just don’t know. Anyway, I might plough through that in time to post on Friday, which would make it my first cynical Friday post in a really long time. A happy week to you all.

Categories: Uncategorized

A few things

01/05/2015 1 comment


Hi all

I thought I might start the new year of with a post of a few things I’ve done over the past year or so, since I’ve been updating my records of what I’ve been up to (which is called avoiding the stack of reading I promised myself I’d get done over the holidays, and which has remained untouched).

First up I went to some amazing conferences and workshops.

I kicked off with Alliance 21 in Canberra in July, where I got to indulge my not so secret often confused inner realist with lots of good conversation and talks about the Asia Pacific region. The full videos are here


I stopped off on the way home to do a quick interview in Sydney with the 7:30 Report, which I’ll post later if I can find it.

Then in early August, it was back to Sydney for a visit to SBS studios to participate in an Insight episode on young men wanting to join the fight in Syria and Iraq.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.30.21 am


The full video is available here

For those of you overseas who might have seen the news of recent CT arrests… one of the main participants in this program (the young man on the bottom right) was one of those arrested.  I think his comments on the  program gave good insight into how young people can be so easily swayed but overall the program really didn’t do justice to the views of others on the show including but not limited to the wonderful efforts of the Australian Muslim Youth, members of whom were on the show and who do such valuable work in community outreach in what must at times be very trying circumstances It was good to see them have a voice, but I’d like to see mainstream media in Australia focus more on their efforts instead of giving political oxygen to those radicalised to extreme views.

After that it was a mad rush to get sorted to go to the inaugural VoxPol conference on Violent Online Political Extremism, at which I gave a presentation, but more importantly got to finally meet a host of awesome folks whose work I deeply admire starting with the lady of the moment responsible for it all, the rather awesome Maura Conway. I also managed to meet Thomas Hegghammer, Alex Hitchens, Peter Neuman, Shiraz Maher, Aaron Zelin and a host of others, talked an amazing amount of shop, accidentally consumed a few drinks also known as capacity building with these folks and otherwise had a great time.

capacity building


Then I moved on to do my field research and enjoy a little time out in Europe.

In November I was fortunate enough to attend the United States Studies Centre and Griffith University’s International Dialogue on Women in Leadership, which was an amazing and very inspiring event attending by some truly incredible women including our former Governor General, and the head of Oxfam Winnie Byanyima. I pestered as many people as I could for advice and came away with some great insights. It was a very welcome respite to be in a room almost solely filled by accomplished and successful women and I realised I have to get out more to events like this. I was also thrilled to get to finally meet Yassmin Abdel-Magied who I have long followed on twitter though sadly we didn’t get too much time for a chat.

A few days later I headed off to a foreign fighters workshop in Melbourne where I got to meet up with Thomas and Aaron again, meet Magnus Ranstorp, whose work was so important in influencing me to get into this field of study a long time ago, the rather awesome Tim Holman,  Clint Watts whose company we all really enjoyed, Dan Mori for whom I have nothing but admiration, Andrew Zammit whose work if you are not following you should and who I was so pleased to hear is going to pursue doctoral studies in this area, and the man of the moment who brought it all together David Malet. Here too I got to talk a ridiculous amount of shop and had a great time hanging out with the guys, in between juggling some other stuff I had to do whilst in town, having an accidental shopping bender and of course sneaking in a few not so accidental this time drinks with the guys.

So that was a fun filled, always informative group of conferences and workshops with some great people.

I’ve also done a little bit of media of late, mostly radio because I hate TV with a passion (you can’t do an interview in your PJ’s for TV, and with the time differences they’re almost always impossible to arrange anyway.) That said I did get talked into appearing on CNN, which will probably be my first and last appearance since I was tired and cranky owing to repeated efforts to link the Sydney siege to ISIS.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 2.26.53 am

I really enjoyed the radio chats I had with the folks over at Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Report, one of which was on al-Shabab and the other on the Sydney siege.

Lastly I didn’t get much research pushed out this year because I was tied up with book processes that felt like they would never end but we got there and I’m told the book is now in print and due to hit stores in the United Kingdom and United States soon.



I’m not sure about an Australian publisher yet, or elsewhere. That’s on my list of things to do but with amazon it doesn’t really  matter anyway.  I’m so grateful to Greg, Jason, Alex and Barnett Rubin for their wonderful endorsements. I’m also very grateful to Yassin Musharbash for his wonderful considered piece translated here from German that included an interview with Mustafa and I in Alexandria.

I did however manage to put out one substantive piece of research, working alongside Felix Keuhn and Alex Strick Van Linschoten. We produced an Expert Report for the Talha Ahsan case in the US which focussed on the groups and training that took place in Afghanistan, and radicalisation and recruitment trajectories during that time frame. You have to scroll through quite a bit to get to our report. Most of it was my research that fell out of my PhD and other research endeavours, or drew from Alex and Felix’s books or my forthcoming book. I was really grateful for the opportunity to work with the guys and it went a long way to killing off some of the issues with writing blocks I’d had.

Anyway, that’s about it for this past year. For the rest of it I’ve been busy teaching security studies, which has been a welcome respite from terrorism and insurgency all of the time. Over the break I sat down and planned out my research and teaching objectives for the next little while and so I’ll be posting some more about them soon and hopefully getting my new blog Securified ready to go live next month and figuring out a better way to manage multiple twitter accounts and a truly scary looking RSS feed.




Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been a while…

07/11/2014 7 comments

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged I spent the better part of a few hours tonight remembering how to use this site. Hence my grand plans to finish a longer return post discussing the issue of generational change in the militant milieu and targeted killing of terrorist leaders went a little pear shaped. I will get to it this week, however, alongside a longer update as to what I’ve been doing over the past few years, my book (which I still don’t have a confirmed release date for sorry to those of you who are asking; I’m asking too!) and my roamings around the world. It’s been an amazing and in many respects life changing journey. And it’s been deeply humbling. I got to meet a few tweeps I have interacted with over the years, which was a fantastic experience and I’m hoping to meet more in my travels later this year. I also totally lost control of my inbox so my sincere apologies to those of you who contacted me but who may not have received a reply. Several computers and email archives died in the course of my wanderings…Anyway, I digress.

The point of this little update is more about my indecisiveness about whether to continue this blog.  As you can tell I all but stopped some time ago. I was very burned out and disenchanted after a dreadful PhD experience with Monash, who even managed to be rude to my examiners. And beyond that I started to get disenchanted with the increasing competitiveness within the field. More specifically with the p*ssing contests and general huffy puffy going on (and while I was away I took a good hard look back at my own behaviour too).  I must say I’m not quite past either of these things. But withdrawing and staying silent on the latter issue doesn’t seem to me to be the answer either.

I’ve recently returned to teaching after a long break and I was disenchanted by the reluctance of some of my students to speak up, their lack of confidence in expressing their thoughts and ideas, and in particular how women, who are still so outnumbered in this field of study, often get marginalised. So, I figure I should get over myself and at least try to set a better example for my students and get back into the fray instead of withdrawing back when the huffy puffy begins, and to do so with a humility I feel that in my earlier years on the internets I was often lacking. Sometimes you have to fight so hard to get your voice heard or get equal footing that you don’t realise you are being equally aggressive. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over recent years and with the help and advice of some amazing colleagues and mentors I’ve learned other ways of dealing with these issues. In part a reason I am returning to blogging and writing is that I often feel like I let down those who went out of their way to support and encourage me, from thesis examiners through to tweeps I’ve engaged with over the years and the many people who have mentored me on my journey so far. Anyway, I’m hoping now having nearly climbed over the mountain of backlogged things I accumulated that I can push out some of my research in the coming months and do some writing, both here and in other publications.

Speaking of writing, I’m also setting up another blog which will go live soon. It’s on security issues more generally and is called Securified, a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to how everything is a scary existential threat and how we also invent such a wide array of fancy words in academia to describe and conceptualise security issues. The twitter account @Securified is already live, although I’m still tweaking how I will work that as it will be a more high volume feed of links. The primary purpose of both the blog and the twitter account is for my students but I figure a few other people might be interested. Anyway, there’ll be more about that and the other things I’ve got on the boil or have been up to recently in my longer update post which is next up to finish this week.

In the meantime, below is a link to a translated article written by Yassin Musharbash (@abususu) on his thoughts about covering terrorism related issues. It stemmed in part from an interview Yassin did with Mustafa Hamid and I in Alexandria last year.  The article originally featured in Zeit Magazin.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.


Categories: Uncategorized

Back on deck, finally…

02/08/2013 2 comments

Hey folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  My trip to Egypt after handing in my PhD turned into a little bit of an adventure, which is partly why posts were a bit thin on the ground. (For some reason the wordpress site didn’t often work on my Egyptian ISP and neither did an assortment of other random newsy websites. I could have posted via the phone but given my hatred of touchscreen typing you’d have probably ended up with a heap of cranky unintelligible posts and not much else, assuming of course the phone internet connection worked, which it often didn’t.)

Now that I’m  in Oz and recovered from the bugs that laid me out for the first few months I was home, it’s catch up time.

Once I’ve tied up remaining loose ends I’ll be returning to regular blogging and updating the blog with links to some things I wrote while I was away, as well as some new material.

Anyway, this is just a short note to thank you all for your readership and continuing visits.  I’m pleased to see the site is being used as a reference point, and for this I owe a hearty thanks to the National Library of Australia who asked two years ago to archive the site for reference purposes.

My goal this year for the blog is to spur debate and discussion about issues in counter terrorism and terrorism studies that have escaped critical scrutiny and the reasons why efforts at such scrutiny seem to be drowned out. This all feeds into one of the research themes I’ve had of late: “The Counter Terrorism Industry.”

If I can get back to the blog this afternoon, it will also be the subject of my first ‘Cynical Friday’ post of the year. Otherwise stay tuned next week.


Categories: Uncategorized

VII A Personal Prologue

05/26/2012 4 comments

Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI,

I’d like to finish this little series with a personal note, and an announcement, as by now it is probably clear to you that this subject, along with others related to it, is something I feel very strongly about.

Where I could I have tried to support some folks as they sought to build a new life for themselves, since there are no official programs they can tap into. Some have done so and persisted against all odds; others who initially sought my help have wavered, fearful of going against their families. When there is no official support, it’s not surprising they waver, and try to avoid angering the only other support they have, their families. They feel they are dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. In these cases, I have stepped back; the decision is theirs and it is not my place to pressure them.

Instead, what I plan to do is to keep learning and hold myself to a higher standard of neutrality. On the basis of this learning, I also plan to continue to speak out against labeling people, many of whom are trying so hard to leave their past behind, and to speak out against dehumanizing practices and actions in general. In my view these have become more predominant as counter terrorism has moved away from a law enforcement approach based on the rule of law and become increasingly more militarized and less accountable. This I might add is exactly what al Qaeda wanted and relies upon for sustenance and growth.

I recognize here that militarization is an inadequate word, and in part puts more blame on the military than it perhaps deserves, as a significant part of the problem comes from militarized elements of intelligence, which operate outside judicial scrutiny and oversight. This is why, as I’ve commented before, intelligence should never have control over counter terrorism; although here I’d add neither should the military. (Again, this is a subject for another blog post). Sadly, it seems support for these tendencies has also taken root in parts of what pass for counter terrorism studies.

For these reasons, as I mentioned on twitter recently, I do not wish my blog to be associated with the ongoing metastasization of what now passes for counter terrorism. Lest anyone accuse me of going rogue, I’d refer you to Australia’s National Counter Terrorism White Paper in which there is no support for dehumanizing practices and actions, with a lawful, proportionate and accountable response that upholds democratic principles and universal human rights instead advocated.


To be effective, Australia must pursue a principled and proportionate response that promotes and upholds the values we seek to protect. The Government does not support the use of torture or other unlawful methods in response to terrorism. Terrorism is a crime and the Government will pursue terrorists within proper legal frameworks and in accordance with the rule of law. A response based on our democratic values and universal human rights serves to undermine the narrative of terrorist groups that seek to portray our actions, and those of our allies, as oppressive…

I can’t tell you how many times in dialogues I’ve ended up with nothing else left to say in trying to explain the ‘war on terror’ except for “but we’re not like that,” “we don’t torture,” “my country does not support these things.” Because of this, I’d very much like to see both sides of Australian politics grow a backbone and speak out more strongly against those in the international community whose response has and continues to operate outside democratic values and universal human rights, and in doing so impacts upon the security of our country too. Sadly, I don’t see this happening any time soon.


For all of these reasons, I have for quite a while now toyed with the idea of taking the blog down, or finishing it because I don’t wish it to be associated with what counter terrorism is now conceptualized as, associated with, has become, and looks likely to become. But after some consideration I thought it best to keep it up, keep undertaking more research and to keep speaking out, and to do so with a new title for the blog; the rather unoriginal but pointed name of The Blog Formerly Known as All Things Counter Terrorism.


It may not mean much in the grand scheme of things. But it is what it is: the protest of one former analyst turned academic and public commentator, who’s sick and tired of watching what are in my view amoral, legally questionable, and counterproductive practices that go against democratic principles and universal human rights being justified and enacted as “counter terrorism.”

Categories: Uncategorized

VI Addressing this issue without exploiting already traumatized victims

05/26/2012 Leave a comment

Part I, II, III, IV, V, VII

I’ve already noted no support mechanisms exist for those wanting to leave, or for after-care following a successful exit. This is something in dire need of attention. But it must be done in a way that provides a safe climate for women and children to leave, and safe climate allowing them to rebuild their lives wherever they settle.

Owing to the tendency of most counter radicalization or de-radicalization programs to be focused on exploiting counter radicalization benefit from those previously involved in the milieu, I fear that as it currently stands there is a very real likelihood that any assistance programs developed would be conditional on those assisted speaking out—particularly if these programs originate in the West. The reason for this is political; support is unlikely to be found in the West for such an initiative without public disassociation being a pre-requisite for provision of assistance and/or support.

So it is worth making clear how counterproductive this would be by raising some important points about how the pressures and safety issues for those leaving these lifestyles do not necessarily end after they have left. Here I’d note that the higher the jihad pedigree of the family the more criticism children and wives are subject to for leaving and/or speaking out, and this just doesn’t stop once they have left. It is ongoing. This is why it shouldn’t be that the only way out would be conditional on participating in a counter radicalisation narrative and publicly condemning the actions of their families and friends, and the only support network they’ve ever known. It’s counterproductive at best, and dangerous at worst, owing to the factors I’ve described above, and would make it all the harder for others to safely leave and start a new life.

Besides, the simple act of leaving speaks more than thousands of words or statements ever could. And in this instance, the quieter it is done the better; because quietly is how al Qaeda and other groups do their internal business and react to internal pressures such as this.  Pressuring or forcing children and wives to speak out would thus be as counterproductive as labeling them, and draws from the same well of ignorance of both children’s situation within the milieu, how the issue of their leaving is dealt with inside these communities, and the impact pressuring them to speak would have on them, their willingness to leave, and their ability to do so safely.

Of course if they want to speak out they should be able to—but it shouldn’t need to be a pre-requisite for getting help. There is also much work to be done for creating safe spaces for them talk, if that is what they wish to do. It is worth remembering that those who have already left find themselves in a world where they and those they know continue to be dehumanized; a world that seems to reinforce what their parents and community have told them; that they would not be treated as human.

Consequently, in addition to creating a safe climate for them to leave if they wish, we need to address the issue of dehumanizing labeling. If we don’t, others watching who may want to leave will have their sense of being dehumanized and doomed reinforced and wonder “why bother, they hate us anyway.”  If we don’t, we only reinforce the narrative of those seeking to pressure people and in particular women and children not to leave, and make those who have left vulnerable to being made an example of in their former communities. This not only impacts upon their safety, but also the willingness and ability of others to safely leave.

Walking away is a tremendously brave thing to do. Those who do face great risk and danger, and are turning their backs on all they know, with little to no support and often equipped with limited education or skills for a trade they can use to build a new life. They might not like America’s actions, or Australia’s actions or the actions of the West, or a raft of other countries for that matter. Nearly all of them have had family members and friends die. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not something they celebrate, it’s something they mourn. Over the years, I’ve seen this first hand.

They may be deeply embittered at their treatment and that of their families while also feeling anger towards their own family for its treatment of them. So many are struggling with conflicting emotions and feelings born from a life they did not choose, and paying the price of the actions of their parents—those who were meant to protect them. They are traumatized. Couple that with being isolated, cornered and targeted, and if you do manage to get out seeing yourself and others you care about (the only people you’ve ever known and who understand what it is like) being dehumanized and it adds up to some very powerful forces for radicalization. In view of this, it is truly remarkable that so many of them still choose to leave this lifestyle and don’t hate us to the extent they want to stay and fight, or take up the fight if and when they get home.

When they do get home, they don’t want our pity or even necessarily our charity. As I’ve repeatedly been told, all they want is to be treated as humans and to try to live a normal life. We should show them tolerance and understanding, not ignorance. We should not dehumanize them, or scorn them. When we do so, we only prove their parents and community right, and fail to provide a safe environment for them and others to leave. These children deserve better than this. They deserve to be treated as humans. And for those who have managed to leave against the odds, well they deserve our respect and support for making such a brave decision.

Categories: Uncategorized

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